Friday, September 19, 2014

I Hope to Never Be the Same Again

I've been back for 11 days and I'm finally taking time to document my most recent travels. I probably shouldn't be taking that time because I have homework and reading and organizing and things to do, but I think if I don't do this now I'll never do it, and this was such an important trip to me that I don't want to pass it up. So I'm


If you read my blog, it's probably because we're friends on facebook and if we're friends on facebook, you probably know that I recently went on a trip to Peru and Mexico with Israel. And you've probably seen a few pics, and maybe even read the blog I wrote for Exquisite Events, but you haven't heard the full story. (If you want the short made-for-TV version, read the Exquisite Events post).

Not like it's anything dramatic or overwhelmingly amazing or horrible, so don't get your hopes up, but I did have some life changing moments on this trip, and probably not in the way you'd expect.

This is what you might expect:


and there was plenty of that.

And there was also lots of

But it's the stuff that can't be captured on camera that left a mark on me.

I'm in a heightened philosophical phase in life because I'm in a master's program at USC in social entrepreneurship. From day one, we were taught that from that day forward we were never to look at the world the same way. It's weird that some academic program would have me see life differently than I did as a Peace Corps Volunteer or Bible study leader or short term missionary. Maybe it's just because I'm getting older. But I am starting to see the world differently. This has been the progression (or digression) of my thought process:
at 16: I'm going to change the world!
at 24: I'm going to change the world!
at 25 in the Peace Corps: The world is impossible to change. At least the quesadillas are delicious.
me at 27: I actually can change the world?? I just need a business plan!
I'm starting to ask a lot more whys? But I'm also starting to realize that some things just are the way they are. I wondered if any of the people that we saw while traveling through rural Peru would even want the help that we plan to provide as social entrepreneurs.

This little amigo, Ruy, was quite the entrepreneur. He just wanted us to pay to take a picture with him, and he put his sweet little arm around me when Israel told him to give me a hug for the photo. 

If you hadn't noticed, my thoughts are a little scattered. I'm just trying to make sense of everything. I am totally spoiled rotten. I am spending a fortune (that I don't have by the way) on an education because I feel so strongly that I have to do my part to make the world a better place. But does the world even want my help? And why do I think that I can spend money on school and trips and things that make me a more "well-rounded individual" and "broaden my horizons" and "challenge" me, when all this kid wants is a Peruvian Sol for a photo?

And then on top of everything, we went back to Mexico. My home away from home. I saw my host family who is actually making progress on their little restaurant, which I (and some of you) helped to fund and I see that our help was well received and is slowly but surely helping this one random family on the top of a mountain in Mexico get ahead. So far, my thoughts as a 27-year-old are more accurate - I would have done a better job helping this family with some feasibility analysis...

Anyway, this trip made me think about myself and what I want. Why am I going back to school? I'll let you know when I'm done. 

Another weird thing that happened on this trip that never happened in the 27 months living in Mexico or the 4 or 5 weekend trips back since, was that I was absolutely heart broken to leave. When I left at the end of my PC service, I was sad and knew I would miss everyone, but I was ready to go home. This trip, I felt like Mexico was home. I felt just incredibly loved, and it had little to do with Israel (even though I of course miss him), and everything to do with everyone. My host family, Israel's family, and almost everyone I know in Mexico (except for maybe the town delegado who still crosses his arms when he sees me), is warm, welcoming, and loving. (This was just Mexico, by the way. The people in Peru were actually colder than people in the US.) 

I didn't want to leave those people and they didn't want me to leave. 

I learned more than I intended to learn in 10 days in Peru and Mexico. I learned that I'm still wondering what I'm doing with my life, and how I can analyze and formulate a plan to make sense of it and make a difference, and I learned that I want to be more like the people in Mexico. And that goes for every day life and goes for my future business venture. I want to genuinely love - like my Christian upbringing always taught me to do - but like the Mexican people actually do. 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Adventures in Hollywood

Wow it's been a long time since I've updated my faithful fans on my life of travel and adventure. So let me go back a few months...

In October, Lindsay and I spent the entire month packing and mentally preparing ourselves to leave the place we had grown to love and call home. I got my cat, Salchicha's shots and certification to travel to the USA, sold my furniture, gave away clothes and kitchen stuff to new volunteers and people in the community, said my tear-filled goodbyes, and on October 25th, Israel and Andoni drove Lindsay and me to the airport. We had our last meal at Wings (a stupid overly-priced chain where we always eat when we go to the airport) and Lindsay boarded her flight. A few hours later I boarded mine. Though I was excited to see my family and friends in California I was sad to leave Mexico and afraid of the unknown since I had no job lined up.

But no matter. I arrived at my beautiful home in Thousand Oaks to be welcomed by my parents with a banner over the door saying "Welcome home Rebecca." In the next few days and weeks I saw friends and family, unpacked, and relaxed a tiny bit. I was rehired almost immediately at Il Fornaio as a hostess, which I'm still deciding whether or not was a good idea. I was just so afraid of not having a job, I took the first thing offered to me. So far it's been good, because I love the people I work with, and it pays the bills, so I really can't complain. I also for a minute got hired at another restaurant, but I guess I wasn't a good fit, so they let me go before training was over. It all worked out for the best because it was too far of a drive and I would have been stuck working there for too long. I bought a car, with my mom and Peace Corp's help. I bought a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid and I love it. In the 6 weeks since I bought the car, I've put 3000 miles on it, so I'm pretty happy I got a hybrid! I found a great apartment in Hollywood south of Santa Monica Blvd. It's a studio with a full kitchen and I wake up every morning happy to be here. I flew home on October 25th, started work on November 3rd, bought a car on November 15th, and moved in to my new place on November 30th, so I'd say I've been kind of busy.

December was full of biscotti baking and preparation for Christmas. Also since being home, I reopened Becca Biscotti and as soon the site was live, I had orders waiting in my inbox. It feels great to be baking again and I think my fans are glad I'm back too! Christmas was great. We had our family to our house and I got to cook a big feast. It was great to see everyone and eat some delicious home cooked food.

I also decided that I could not wait one more day to see Israel, so I booked a flight to Mexico for New Year's. I'm so glad I got to see him and we had a wonderful time bring in the New Year with his whole family. Now I'm back to LA and ready for whatever 2013 has in store for me. Check out my pictures on Picasa. I hope you all have a blessed year and spend as much time with family and friends as you can. Happy 2013!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Menos de 5 Meses

Tuesday June 19, 2012

It’s a quiet and cloudy day in Mineral del Chico. I’m sitting waiting for Lindsay and our PC bosses for our annual Peace Corps visit. Since I haven’t blogged in awhile and I have a few minutes on my hands and I’m in reflecting mode because of the fact that my bosses are coming to interview us on our current projects, I decided to write down a few thoughts.

Things are rapidly changing and coming to an end, though nothing seems to be bringing closure quite yet. A little over a week ago, I finished my spring quarter at Fuller. I was extremely excited to be done but really the end of the quarter was anticlimactic. It wasn’t like walking out of my last final of the spring semester at PSU. I just sent an email and I was done. The work for my seminary classes has been overly challenging. My classes make me question the world around me and make wonder about the faith I have grown up to understand. I am glad to have this opportunity and the time of solitude to reflect on these huge questions as I live in the middle of the mountains with a few extra hours on my hands, but I am also glad to have a little break this summer. I took these classes to answer questions that have plagued me over the years and even more so here in Mexico, but I am left asking many more.

My English classes will also end next week, but I think they’ve been done for a long time. I have several solid students that come every week and will work until the end, but after Spring Break, as in any school the lack of motivation is apparent. Right now, my students are reading and translating Dr. Seuss books, which has been a really fun project for them. They seem to enjoy putting to use some of the English they’ve learned over the year.

My host family’s restaurant has come to a stand still. It only needs a little more work, but they’re been preoccupied with new babies in the family and keeping up their regular business of selling plants. I’m not worried about it though. I know they’ll finish it in time, and I’m excited when that day comes!

Any day now, we should be sending our guidebook of Mineral del Chico and Parque Nacional el Chico to be printed. (and as I write I’m being interrupted by our good friend Victor to talk about the upcoming federal elections as he blows smokes in my face… I want to jump off a tall building…) Anyway, the guidebook is Lindsay’s and my baby and the only thing we are wishing these days is that that thing gets printed and distributed before we leave – well even before that – like tomorrow if possible. We’ve put over a year’s worth of work into it and are ready to see it in the hands of tourists all over the park.

While all these things are starting to slowly wrap up, I’ve gotten myself into another little project… actually it’s a huge project. I want to build a high school in my community and we’ve just over the past month opened discussion with the State Secretary of Education to find out exactly what they require when building a high school. It’s a long and in-depth process and we’re only at the beginning, so we’ll see what happens and how much or little I can be involved before I go home.

On a personal level, things are good. We’ve been so busy that Lindsay and I haven’t traveled in a long time, but we’re planning on changing that soon. We’ll be going to Oaxaca again in July and possibly to Veracruz as well. In between all our little and big projects, I’m trying to take advantage of all Mexico has to offer in these last few months. I know I’ll miss this place like crazy and the people even more, so it’s time now to aprovechar every minute I have left. 
From our last trip in March to San Blas

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Year Ended in a Jungle and Started on the Beach

This is a map of where we were Dec 25-Jan 6.

View Chiapas / Yucatan Trip in a larger map

And here's a little photo log of our trip...

We started our trip with a boat ride through Cañon del Sumidero

And then headed for San Cristobal de las Casas

We spent the night in a cabin in Lagos de Montebello, and went trekking through the woods

We made it to Palenque by the end of the week, and stayed in el Panchan, hippie gettaway

After a 12 hour bus ride, we made it to Playa del Carmen to spend the whole week on the beach

Saw the ruins at Tulum

And spent one day on Cozumel

Now we're back, wondering what this year will bring us... 

Happy New Year from Mexico

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bbbbbirthday Extravaganza!

So this year was possibly the best bday of my very few years of life. (Sorry wonderful friends and Mom, who have thrown me fabulous parties in the past. This year beat those parties out of the park.) I thought I should quickly capture the birthday events through blogging, and I will add pictures later when I can steal them from other people’s facebook and picasa accounts.

Calendario de eventos

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011: My English students in Mineral del Chico sang to me “las mañanitas” and we cut some delicious pastel. They each said a birthday wish to me, like “I hope you have many more birthdays and keep teaching us English.”

Thursday, October 6th, 2011: My adult English class threw a little party for me. They made American cold salads: potatoe salad, pasta salad, and tuna salad and what they call “pastel imposibile,” which is piña colada cake on the bottom and flan on top. A-mazing. They brought me beautiful flowers and little gifts, and we just hung out because I didn’t really feel like teaching English.

Friday, October 7th, 2011 – my actual birthday: I woke up to clean house and paint my toe nails, said hello to my host family for my bday hugs, and headed to the bus station with camping gear on back. After a somewhat long day of waiting for public transportation, tardy volunteers, and a ride from a friend we finally made it Rancho Santa Elena. We set up camp and began to mentally prepare ourselves for the next day’s events. And I turned 25!

Saturday, October 8th, 2011: The q50 Ultra Marathon in our beautiful state of Hidalgo at Rancho Santa Elena. I ran the first half of the 80k, and my friend Sarah ran the 2nd half. The first half included about 4000 meters of uphill trails and Sarah ran the last 40k in the pouring rain. Needless to say, it was a challenging and awesome race. The best part is that we won! I didn’t find out until a few days later, because we just left after the race, but we won for the 1st place women’s team. That night we headed back to Lindsay and my communities to get ready for Sunday’s fiesta.

Sunday, October 9th, 2011: Party Day! My host family decorated their house of course with globos galore, put the tunes on, and heated up the pozole. We ate and ate and ate all day and then danced and sang all night. My host brother, Alvaro, insisted it was my quince años, so I had to be crowned and dance with each gentleman at the party, including my host dad, Angel. It was amazing food and cake, a few beers and wine, wonderful company, and altogether a great birthday celebration.

A total of 40 kilometers, 3 birthday cakes, 4 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of tequila, 2 birthday dinners, and 7 PC friends to share it with! I feel super loved and grateful and happy to be alive. Here’s to year #2 in Mexico! Thank you to everyone who came out and/or sent bday wishes. 

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A Time to Plant and a Time to Uproot

There is “a time to plant and a time to uproot.” (Ecclesiastes 3:2)

So in between those times, there is a time to wait for the harvest and a time to pick the crop. We are in waiting. Waiting for school to start again, waiting for money to be raised, and also waiting for the rain to stop. Summer in Mexico is like winter in Oregon. It rains a lot. It’s beautiful, but not much work gets done. Rain is another excuse not to show up to appointments, classes, or work. Campaigning for local candidates also made it impossible to get any work done if we needed to speak to anyone in authority. It’s a season of waiting with a cup of hot cocoa listening to the rain on my tin roof. I am not complaining.

In this waiting season, I have learned to make tamales, got a new kitty, read several good books, had Rachel and Katie come to visit, improved at rock climbing, and have lost a few pounds in marathon training. Is this even work? I’m not sure, but according to Peace Corps goals, I am super succeeding goals 2 and 3, which deal with integration, and good representation of the US and Mexico. My visitors have learned new things about Mexico and greatly improved their perspectives while leaving good examples of hard working Americans. I’m totally integrated in my community, even though all they think I do is have visitors and travel. Some people think I’ve already been here for years because they are so used the “guera.”

Lindsay and I did some traveling to avoid the cold rainy weather and to aprovechar our waiting time. We went to Oaxaca city for 3 days and were complete tourists. Oaxaca is so far my favorite place in Mexico. We happened to be there for the Mezcal Feria and the annual Guelaguetza Festival (a style of dance) so the city was crowded and filled with fun festivities. One day we did the tourist thing and went on a guided tour of 5 local attractions: Tule (the world's widest tree), Teotitlan (where they make beautiful hand woven rugs), Mitla (ruins of an ancient civilization around 800 A.D.), el Hierve Agua (a beautiful place with mineral springs and petrified waterfall formations), and a Mezcal factory. We also went to Monte Alban to see the amazing ancient city. The food was absolutely amazing. Black mole is now my favorite. We ate and drank like kings for 3 days straight and never wanted to come back to rainy and gray Pachuca. 

But we're back and things are good. Mineral del Chico will be receiving the title of Pueblo Mágico this week and that's super exciting! Now, we have even more to write about in our awesome guide book...

I don’t really have much else to report, so here are some pics to recap some of my time here: 

Barra de Navidad 
Barra de Navidad

My oh so precious students...

this is my life: always on the combi



Katie and Me in Querétaro
Oh yeah, I got a cat. His name is Salchicha

Snow in Mexico... in July...

Chocolate in Oaxaca
Iglesia Santo Domingo

La Guelaguetza

El Tule

Teotitlan. Me getting my hand dyed by bugs. 


El Hierve Agua

El Hierve Agua

Last hot chocolate in Oaxaca