Tag Archives: Blessings

Personal PC Goals: A Review

It seems like ages ago that we made these goals, and indeed it was! A few have changed over time and a couple we didn’t quite finish, but it’s still fun to look back at how far we’ve come:

By the time we rang “the bell” to signal the end of our service in Peace Corps Nicaragua, we wanted to:

  1. Reach Advanced levels in Español
    • Andrés – 8.2014 Intermediate Low / 11.2014 Advanced Low /9.2015 Advanced Mid / 2.21.17 Superior
    • Emily – 8.2014 Novice Mid / 11.2014 Intermediate Mid /9.2015 Intermediate High / 2.21.17 Advanced Mid
  2. Learn some local slang: Dicho Doce
  3. Buy a Nicaraguan-made guitar: Meet Camilo
  4. Read a bunch in español
  5. Learn to cook some delicious Nica foods
  6. Visit all the departments of Nicaragua (sin R.A.A.N.)
  7. Join a basketball/volleyball league and/or yoga studio 
  8. Visit the houses of our counterparts: Ana Cecilia, Meysel, Regina, Cristina, Rolando, Zeily, Mariela
  9. Have all of our counterparts over to our house 
  10. Visit at least 20 Peace Corps Volunteer sites: Final count 32
  11. Host family/friends from the U.S. Best Surprise of My Life, The Payne Gang, Molding Memories in Nicaragua, Allen Christmas,Visiting our Peace Corps Family, From the Eyes of the Old Tiger,Cigar Tour with Adopted Family
  12. Run a 10/25 K: Taking Back the Run
  13. Start a new tradition in our family so that we can continue them for years to come, regardless of where we are in the world: 12 Days of [Nilsen] Christmas 2014, 12 Days of [Nilsen] Christmas 2015From May Day to May We, May We Reflect, Intentions for year dos, May We Aprovechar Peace Corps, 12 Days of [Nilsen] Christmas 2016
  14. March in a parade with our schools
  15. Climb/board/swim a few volcanoes. (Yes. You read that right.)
  16. Make Nica friends: It’s Nice To Meet You, EstelíEvery Nica Cloud has a Silver LiningSmall World, Big HeartsAdventure and Company30 Miles to IntegrationAndrew’s First NicaBdayOn Jack-o’-lanters and Histroy: Cultural Exchange Chasing Away the Darkness, #People: Photo Challenge, A Woman who is Changing My Life
  17. Follow a telenovela¡Mi Corazon es Tuyo!
  18. Start the STEP program in Estelí through Fundación Uno: What is STEP?, Permiso, Meaningful Work One STEP at a Time
  19. Return to visit our training towns/families: New Years in Masatepe
  20. Learn at least 5 songs together with some sort of fiddle/banjo/guitar/voice combo
  21. Learn the Nicaraguan National Anthem: Somos Voluntarios
  22. Swim in both Oceans
  23. Participate in Nicaraguan traditions (i.e. folkloric dance, holiday traditions, etc.): Home is where the holiday is, Easter morning, 30 miles to Integration
  24. Visit Ometepe IslandVisiting our Peace Corps Family, From the Eyes of the Old Tiger
  25. Kayak in the Rio San Juan: Adventure is Out There! – Rio San Juan Edition
  26. Visit Corn Islands
  27. Visit Indio Maiz Nature Reserve: Nil Sibs
  28. Facilitate the start of a Community of Practice with the English teachers in the Estelí area: Community of Practice in Practice, We Share a Passion
  29. Don’t adopt a pet, even though they’re so cute!
  30. Help run camp(s): ACCESS Camp 2015, 2016, and 2017, GLOW 2016, and CHACA 2016
  31. Visit the Community of Christ congregations here in Nica
  32. Visit the GU Winter term group 
  33. Go to a Real Estelí (futbol) game: Comparing Christmases
  34. Publish an average of 6 blog posts every month during PC
  35. Feel as comfortable in the Nica street market as in La Colonia:Produce Paradise
  36. Learn/create 10 different ways to braid my hair (Emily) 
  37. Challenge Donald Ugarte to a ping-pong match (Andrew): was challenged…but never was able to find a place/time for the match.
  38. Watch an Español based TV series from start to finish
  39. Buy a hammock: Meet Paz
  40. Visit and/or learn the history of all the sites on the (now old) Nicaraguan currency:
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Felices Fiestas from Nicaragua

Dearest friends and family,

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When we joined the Peace Corps in 2014, we never thought we’d be this comfortable and at home in a foreign country.  Yet throughout our 27+ months and extension we’ve slowly come to understand and embrace our Gringo Pinolero identities.

Like any year, 2016 brought it’s own ups and downs.

We grew closer to our friends and host families here, but we also greatly missed our loved ones back home.  So we visited home – once to IL (for a funeral) and once to OR (for a birthday/GRE).  And we hosted so many (11) different friends and family members! Showing them our Nicaragua has been an honor and we hope that they now understand a bit more why we love it so much.

We survived a hurricane, and zika, and the long recovery of chikunguyna.  Don’t worry.  None of them were as bad as they sound.

We experienced two national elections – of our host and home countries – through a lens we’ve never had before.  It was quite the experience to be abroad during an election year.

We said goodbye to our cohort since we extended our service, counseled/co-directed 4 camps this calendar year (ACCESS, GLOW, CHACA, and ACCESS again), and celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.

Gallo pinto is now a welcomed staple in our diet.  We learned a lot from teaching in a completely new setting.  We continued to immerse ourselves in Spanish and up our Nica street cred.

We worked hard and earned our keep.  One of our PC Nicaragua staff members says that the longer we’re here, the more qualified we’ll feel to dive deeper into our work.  Now that we’re almost done, we keep thinking of new projects that we could do if only we had the time.

And we’re starting to feel that pressure of time.  So we’re taking as many pictures as we can, celebrating small moments, and striving to live into the intentions we set to aprovechar our time left in Peace Corps.

Life is full of comings and goings, of challenges and lessons, of transitions and blessings.  We embrace what we can, while we can, and strive to have the lessons we’ve learned from our journey guide our way on.  That is what we wish for you this holiday season, and for ourselves in the (big transition) year to come.

Feliz navidad y prospero año nuevo.

Love and light,
Emily and Andrew

International Languages: Music and Laughter 

Hanging out with Los Vásquez is always a good time, but for Doña Edita’s birthday we decided to take it up a notch and gift them all nose flutes. If we’re honest, there may have been more laughter than music going on, but we wouldn’t have changed it for the world. 

In Joy and Pain

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This week was difficult for us and the teachers of Estelí; a beloved and hardworking district employee, and dear friend of ours, suddenly passed away.  Between attending the wake and funeral services, we were exhausted and knew the teachers were, too, so in efforts to be culturally sensitive, we canceled our Wednesday conversation group.

Almost immediately after sending the cancellation text, our phones rang off the hook!  One of my counterparts, Regina, got in touch with me and said, “You can’t cancel tonight!  We have a late-birthday surprise planned for Andrew.  We don’t care if we don’t formally have class, but you still have to come.”  So we resent the message, saying we’d have an informal class, for anyone who just wanted to come and be together.

Regina had cooked an entire, delicious Nicaraguan meal in honor of Andrew.  As she says, “he loves all the foods!”  Even in the midst of pain and loss, perhaps especially during these times, our friends have shown incredible care, affection, and love for us.  I hope we can learn from and carry their example with us for years to come.

5 Tuani Years

Today marks 5 incredible years of marriage.  We feel so lucky to be serving in the Peace Corps with our life partner and still think Two is Twice as Tuani.  May the next 5 years bring us even more wonder, growth, understanding, and adventure.

May We Aprovechar Peace Corps

In May 2014, we used the ideas of May Day to start a new tradition in our family: setting intentions for the following year together. Just as May Day has been a celebration of spring and new life growing, we wanted to plant the seeds of our intentions with the hope that they would grow over the year to come. And grow they did!

In May 2015, we began reflecting on those intentions, taking a deeper look at our journey into the Peace Corps, Pre-Service Training, our first few months at site and into our first year.  It took a bit longer than we anticipated to reflect on those first five intentions, and we set our “May Day Intentions” a little late (in August) last year.  We chose to focus them on the rest of our Peace Corps service.

Thus, to celebrate May Day this year, we are echoing these intentions and for duration of our time left in Peace Corps Nicaragua:

May we seek to empower others so that our service means more than 27 months.

May we continue to set healthy expectations for ourselves.

May we embrace the present as our time here is limited.

May we be as intentional in our relationships as we are in our to do lists.

May we realize that our Peace Corps Experience is what we make of it.


We’d love to hear from you, too.  What intentions do you have (or want to set) for yourself?