Tag Archives: Peace Corps

Web of Relationships – A Farewell to Portland

Savoring time with family and friends has become all the more important to Emily and me since we accepted our invitation to the Peace Corps. Thankfully, we were able to squeeze in some pretty epic adventures before leaving for our road trip. Some highlights include:

Guy's Weekend at Hosmer Lake with my dad and brothers
Guy’s Weekend at Hosmer Lake with my dad and brothers
Friend going away shindig at a gorgeous cabin on the Klickitat River
Friend going away shindig at a gorgeous cabin on the Klickitat River
Sibling adventures at Tamarack Fire Lookout
Sibling adventures at Tamarack Fire Lookout

There were countless smaller, but equally savory moments, such as tuna poke at Uwajimaya, campfires at the homestead, farewell potlucks at church and work, pinochle with the parents, and good wings and better conversation at Fire on the Mountain, to name a few. With our impending Peace Corps service, these interactions have been imbued with an awareness of my place in a rich web of relationships. Although it is not a surprise that I have many friends and family in Portland, my home since age three, I was repeatedly overcome by a sense of gratitude for the presence of so many awesome people in my life.

This appreciation, however, was underscored by the reality that I would soon be voluntarily extricating myself from my social support system to move thousands of miles away. I have vacillated between the sadness of goodbyes, the fear of starting anew in Nicaragua, and excitement for the new relationships that I hope to form through my Peace Corps service.  Through all of this, though, my gratefulness to the people who love, support, and ground me seeps into my daily activities. Thank you for the hugs and well wishes. Thank you for empowering me to feel confident in my abilities to craft new friendships in a foreign country. Thank you for making me feel that I matter.

I will miss you all over the next 27 months, but will never forget that I am because we are.


How I feel about being a Peace Corps TEFL teacher – Emily

Now that Andrew and I have received our full medical clearance (YAY!!!) we’ve shifted our focus to our online TEFL trainings provided by the Peace Corps.  Following is an essay that I wrote about how I feel about being a TEFL teacher:

As someone who struggles to remember the 20 different passwords to her various accounts, I found one this past year that helped me not only remember it, but brightened my day: liveyourpassion. I am just finishing up my third year of teaching Science and Language arts to 6-8th graders. While I do not know what I will do with the rest of my life, I do know that I am very passionate about teaching and learning. I have loved teaching these past three years and am very excited to get to continue exploring the world of teaching through the lens of the Peace Corps TEFL teacher trainer program.

Being a teacher truly fits my identity, fits what I believe about life and the ways in which we live most fully. For me, teaching is less about content and more about building community. I strive to be a part of creating intentional communities in all aspects of my life. It isn’t always easy, but I believe that when people come together with a shared set of values and strive to really get to know each other, the world becomes a little bit better place. Teaching allows me to build connections between people and ideas, to build bridges between human experiences.

John Perricone, an inspirational author for my teaching life, wrote, “We teach who we are.” I bring my whole self to my teaching; teaching brings me to my whole self.

While most of the information and teaching strategies of dos and don’ts in this session were a nice review, the part that I’m going to try to take with me and add to my repertoire is the idea of “striving for good enough.” As a perfectionist, I’ve struggled with this the past three years in my own teaching. My addiction to overachieving has proved difficult to combat, but I have been managing expectations and work/life balance a bit better this third year. However, learning a new language, and then teaching in that new language, will be harder than I even know right now. I can easily see myself wanting to do more, wanting to do better, and being frustrated when I struggle. The personal drive for excellence can be helpful. My self-loathing when I don’t measure up to my own idea of excellence is not. “Striving for good enough” may have to be a mantra I adopt over the coming months.

A practice I already try to avoid, but will continue to focus on, is not just being a deliverer of knowledge. I believe that true teaching is an opportunity to watch others be successful, to delight in their triumphs, and to compassionately understand their failures. When teaching consists solely of lecturing and imparting content knowledge, teachers run the risk of their students not reaching success. Students need to practice, especially language learners, in a safe and nurturing environment that will build their confidence as well as their experiences with the content. I hope to avoid teaching being about me and instead help it be about my students.

I felt that this introductory course into teaching portrayed teachers in a very appropriate light. Teaching is hard, but it can also be such a rewarding experience. The suggested practices to try and avoid are ones that I would suggest to beginners in the profession. I’m grateful for Peace Corps understanding the difficulties and strategies for success and giving them to TEFL teacher trainers early on in this process. It gives me a lot of faith for the program and hope for my cohort. I also appreciated that Peace Corps recognizes that while this will not be an easy placement, that humans are learners.  Our students can learn much from a confident, competent teacher. Likewise, I can learn a lot from my students, this program, and the experiences I will have over the next few years of TEFL teaching. I cannot wait to get started!

TEFL Defined

When people ask us what our job will be in Peace Corps, we excitedly tell them that we will be TEFL teacher trainers in Nicaragua, while receiving our TEFL certification. The common response we get is:


Not gonna lie, I was in the same boat before we started this Peace Corps journey! Therefore, I thought I’d share a helpful definition of TEFL I read while skimming through our “Pre-departure TEFL Grammar and Methodology Manual” tonight.

TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TEFL classes are offered in countries where English is not the dominant language. English does not surround the students in school, at work, or “on the streets”. Students in TEFL classes in public schools usually share a language and an academic course of study. Their skills may differ, but there is a certain degree of predictability. TEFL teachers and textbooks provide the input. In many countries, host TEFL English teachers are skilled at teaching the language as a subject, and some teachers may still rely on rote learning. Countries invite Peace Corps teachers to create opportunities for students to use language for authentic communication.

We are especially excited about our opportunity to receive a Peace Corps TEFL certificate, which will be externally validated through the Center for Applied Linguistics.  Watch this short video to see an overview of what our TEFL training will entail, and wish us luck!!!


In Search of Impact

Yay for the interwebs! It is so exciting to feel like we are already getting to know other volunteers in our cohort. Ya’ll should follow this blog of a couple who will also be serving with us in Nicaragua. Their first post is awesome!

The NicAdventure

By Conor Sanchez

Five years ago, I moved to Washington, D.C. Inspired by a candidate, the 2008 election was a call to service for me. I saw his candidacy as a rallying cry for young Millennials like myself not only to use our newly inherited voting power to elect a transformative leader, but to also embody that spirit by pursuing meaningful and service-oriented careers.

I tried to walk the walk. After graduation, I bought a one-way ticket to Washington to intern on Capitol Hill with former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman. In June 2009, I arrived and joined a cadre of self-important and overly idealistic young professionals. After five weeks I landed a position as an assistant in Sen. Bingaman’s office. I even convinced my then-girlfriend, Michaela, to turn down a job offer in Albuquerque to pursue her interests in public policy and human rights in D.C.

Two years flew by…

View original post 557 more words

Peace Corps Blogging Community

Update: As this post is from before we even started our service, it is now a bit out of date. If you’re looking for awesome Peace Corps and other cultural blogs, check out this more recent post.

I consider myself a decently computer savvy young adult.  I use multiple email accounts, track all events with our friend group through social media, and have run a classroom website for a couple years now as a teacher.  Even still, the shear size of the blogosphere is both intimidating and impressive.  As Andrew and I have begun the daunting task of preparing for our Peace Corps Service (more to come on this later) we’ve turned to this crazy collection of blogs and connections for advice and to being to wrap our minds around this huge life change that’s right around the corner.  In our searching, we’ve found a number of Peace Corps blogs that give us a glimpse into what service may look like for us:

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 7.55.16 PM

¡Salve a ti, Nicaragua! author Anna Louise spent two years in Nicaragua as a health volunteer and is currently there on an extended third year.  I love all the pictures in her posts!

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 7.55.33 PM

OK. I know this one says Jamaica.  BUT this couple have put together a fabulous blog!  They’re one of the blogs we’ve looked at in trying to get ours up and running.  AND they give a couple’s perspective, which we have already found helpful.  Their endeavor to embrace living life intentionally is beautiful as well as inspirational.

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 7.56.07 PM

Another health volunteer, Lauren is a recently RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer).  I love how her passions seep into her posts.

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 7.55.58 PM

Ellen is a TEFL trainer in the Nicaraguan department of Boaco.  Her start date was in August 2013, so we may cross paths in the near future!

With so much to do and prepare for, I’m thankful for the countless volunteers who have already shared their stories, experiences, and energy in their communities in country and the global blogging community.  Those voices are already inspiring us as we take the first steps of our journey towards Nicaragua.

Jumping Together

big jump
Andrew – Pacific City, OR

I’ve always loved jumping pictures.

When I think back on good times with people I love, it amazes me how many jumping pictures I’ve taken. I think they show how much joy and excitement I truly get out of life. A good jumping picture, though, has to have some thought put into it. You have to make sure everyone is on the same page. Are we jumping on three or after three? Holding hands or striking a pose? Is the camera lady/gent ready? One…two…three…GO!

The past 5 years have been a series of jumping-picture-worth-events in my life.  I graduated university with my undergrad in Education.  I found and married an amazing, thoughtful, ridiculous partner.  After realizing I wanted to spend my life with said partner, I moved across the country away from my family and friends.  I completed my student teaching, taught for a session at an outdoor science school, and fell in love with a tiny charter school in rural Oregon.  I’ve  taught, laughed, grown, cried, struggled, and come so far.

Andrew has had his fair share of jumps, too.  While he moved home, he moved home with a fiancé and now spouse.  He’s shifted through changing friend dynamics, bringing a new person into his family, and entering the job world after college.  In a lot of ways, we have lived the emerging adulthood of the 20-somethings, even living our first year in Portland with Andrew’s parents as we yet couldn’t afford rent.

Transition.  Struggles.  Jumping.  Yes, jumps can be scary, but they can also be beautiful and freeing.


Andrew and friends – Columbia River gorge
Emily – moving to Oregon.
Nilsen Wedding Party
Mrs. Nilsen’s students – Outdoor School 2014

Like many other 20-somethings, we’ve been trying to figure out what to do with our lives.  While we’re no where close to figuring out all of those details, we recognized a few foundational truths: we love people and want to work on creating greater community and love in the world, we want to do some traveling before we settle down (house, family, etc.), and we want to embrace the adventures that life has to offer.  With all of these in mind, we applied to the Peace Corps last May.

After the long application, shifting and re-shifting our expectations, and the long hurry-up-and-wait-game (we’ll probably do a post on this whole process), we finally received our invitation!  We’ve been invited to serve in Nicargua as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Teacher Trainers with a leave date in August.  So we’re jumping again.  It’s what we do in life, right? We’d only been dating a month and we knew. We jumped. Who knows where this adventure will take us and what hardships await, but that is what life is all about.

“Things can fall apart, or threaten to, for many reasons, and then there’s got to be a leap of faith. Ultimately, when you’re at the edge, you have to go forward or backward; if you go forward, you have to jump together.” – Yo-Yo-Ma

Let’s do this.  Together.

jumping together
Andrew & Emily – Pacific City, OR