Reflections: A Wild 2019 and a Transformational Decade

I’m typically not the kind of person to post a lengthy Facebook or Instagram post about the year, but considering how wild 2019 was and the fact that it wraps up what has been an incredibly transformational decade, I feel like the start of 2020 deserves a bit of reflection. So instead of a long social media post, here’s a long blog!

Don’t worry, it’s mostly pictures.

2019 In a Nutshell

I welcomed 2019 in South Korea and – in traditional Korean style – watched the last sunset of 2018 and the first sunrise of 2019 in the beautiful coastal city of Tongyeong with friends.

img_1441

Celebrating the new year Korean style in Tongyeong

In mid-January, my British boyfriend (at the time) came to Tennessee for a week full of adventures and lots of American food before I left for Nepal to serve in the Peace Corps.

Bristol Motor Speedway

Showing Nick around Tennessee

On January 31st, I departed for Nepal to begin my two-year Peace Corps service. It was a long time coming and couldn’t wait to get this new chapter started.

IMG-1676

Leaving Tennessee to begin my Peace Corps Service

I spent two and a half months living in a village outside of Panati during Pre-Service Training, where I learned how to speak Nepali, eat with my hands and be a farmer in rural Nepal. I lived with an amazing host family who graciously welcomed me into their home, fed me and kept me alive. I was sick almost the entire three months, but somehow still have fond memories of it.

End

My Pre-Service Training language cluster in Panauti celebrating our last day of Nepali class

On April 5th, I found out my permanent site placement and was thrilled to find out I was heading out to the Far West to spend the next two years living and working in a small village in Doti. On paper, it was the perfect fit and I could not have been happier or more excited about the years ahead. Looking back, knowing now how things unfolded, it’s hard to believe how happy I was.

02F10540-F488-458A-A0E4-C6AD0C5658EE

Getting my permanent site assignment

April 19th, I officially swore-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. After dedicating two years of my life to getting into the Peace Corps, this was a huge accomplishment and I couldn’t wait to get to my permanent site and put my master’s degree and training to good use.

Swearing-In Sari

The day I officially swore-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer

On April 26th, I moved to my permanent site – a rural village in the Doti district, four days from Kathmandu by bus. I was excited to call this village home for two years, but I will never forget that gut feeling that told me something was wasn’t quite right. I tried to convince myself it was just nerves and that all Peace Corps Volunteers feel this way, but sometimes your gut knows best.

IMG-2708

My first home in Doti, where I stayed for 48 hours before having to move out

I never could have imagined what the next few months would have in store. A horrific bed bug infestation, having to move out of my first host family’s home, spending two weeks in limbo in the district capital, moving in with a new host family, getting fleas, watching my village almost be engulfed by a wildfire, illness and injury, navigating integration challenges and experiencing water scarcity first-hand as my village ran out of water. I found myself in a situation where I could be doing more harm than good and, ultimately, I was evacuated to Kathmandu for several complex reasons. I left my village on August 10th not knowing  at the time that I would never be back.

Community Tap

The community tap that was almost always dry

I spent the rest of August in Kathmandu sorting out some medical stuff, eating anything and everything but daal bhaat, playing tourist and visiting with several Volunteers in town while I worked with Peace Corps staff to figure out what was next.

Boudhanath Stupa

I had fun being a tourist for a few weeks and visiting the many temples around Kathmandu

On August 30th, I was evacuated back to the U.S. After 32 hours of traveling across the world, I stepped off the plane in Tennessee just two hours before my best friend’s wedding and made it just in time.

Wedding

Jet lagged but thrilled to have made it home just in time for the wedding

I spent several months at home in Tennessee as my life fell apart in front of my eyes. Throughout the month of September, I thought I was going to be returning to Nepal to continue my service. However, things didn’t work out for many complex reasons and, come October, I found my Peace Corps service coming to an abrupt and unexpected end. I was suddenly unemployed, trying to process everything that recently happened and completely at a loss.

IMG-3940

I spent a lot of quite time in Tennessee, trying to figure out how to piece my life back together

Not knowing what else to do, I spent a few weeks in October visiting friends who gave me something to smile about. I went back to Tallahassee for a football game, reconnected with a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer in Philadelphia and spent my birthday weekend in Miami.

In early November, I accepted a job in Washington D.C. as a Climate Policy Advisor working with an international development NGO. Over the course of 10 days, I accepted the job offer, moved to D.C., signed a lease for a new apartment and started my job on the 18th.

IMG-3829

On December 1st, I officially moved into my new apartment! It’s an English basement, so it’s dark and very basement-y, but it’s all mine and has hot water and electricity, so I can’t complain. I spent the month settling into my new home, job and city, building a routine and making a lot of trips to Target.

IMG-4453

Pretty cozy for a basement

Now for some highlights from the last decade!

2010 – 2019 In a Nutshell

In 2010, I was a sophomore and junior in high school doing typical dumb high school stuff, like going hanging out at Starbucks and thinking I was cool because I finally had my license. The highlight of the year for me was going to Weather Camp (obviously I was very cool) in Washington, D.C., which further solidified my dream of becoming a meteorologist.

Weather Camp

I still run into a lot of these fellow weather nerds at meteorology conferences

In 2011, I started my senior year, continued hanging out at Starbucks because what else do you do as a teenager in rural Tennessee and played my last season of soccer, bringing an end to my soccer career, which helped shape me in so many ways.

Soccer

My last home game as a senior

In 2012, I graduated from high school and moved to Panama City, Panama where I participated in FSU’s First Year Abroad Program. This was easily one of the most transformational experiences of my life, allowing me to discover passions I never knew I had and opening the door to the world and all the adventures it holds.

In 2013, I completed my second semester in Panama, moved to Valencia, Spain to finish the summer semester of the First Year Abroad Program and then moved to Tallahassee, Florida to start my remaining three years at FSU’s main campus. Panama became a home that I still deeply love, I spent spring break in Costa Rica, I traveled to seven countries that summer while in Europe and I finally started FSU’s meteorology program in the fall, bringing me one step closer to my lifelong dream of being a meteorologist.

In 2014, I continued to struggle as I transitioned back to the US (reverse culture shock is a VERY real thing), I had a hard time in my rigorous math, physics and meteorology classes and I was struggling to find my way in a male-dominated field where sexism is still far too common. I was beginning to realize what my passions really were and, despite being told I couldn’t, started pursing a second degree in geography to further explore my interests in the social sciences and how weather and climate impact our society. I landed a part time job with FSU International Programs as a Student Recruiter, built a social network, made lifelong friends, turned 21 and traveled to Chicago with some of my new friends.

In 2015, I gained confidence in my decision to pursue a career at the intersection of science and society and stopped caring about what my male professors and the men in my class said. I visited the Grand Canyon, spent spring break in NYC, landed a summer internship in Atlanta with Habitat for Humanity International’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Response team, traveled to Colorado, started my senior year of college and ended the year with my very first solo trip to Germany, Austria, Italy and Hungary.

In 2016, I graduated from FSU with bachelor’s degrees in meteorology and geography and achieved my lifelong dream of becoming a meteorologist, which is easily the thing I am most proud of in my life. After graduating, I spent six weeks backpacking around Peru by myself, crossing the number one thing off my bucket list – trekking to Machu Picchu. I experienced my first hurricane (one of the best days of my life!) and then packed up and moved to Norwich, England to pursue a master’s degree at the University of East Anglia, where I studied climate change and international development. I took a solo trip to Ireland for a long weekend and ended the year with another solo trip backpacking around Thailand and Laos (my first trip to Asia!).

In 2017, I thrived academically, took a road trip around Scotland, returned to Panama to conduct fieldwork, moved to Bonn, Germany for a work placement with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (one of the highlights of the decade!), spent a weekend hiking around Switzerland and completed my master’s dissertation. I decided to apply for the Peace Corps and, after a lengthy 6-month application process, accepted a position to serve in Nepal starting March 2018.

In 2018, I was denied medical clearance to serve in the Peace Corps at the last minute, breaking my heart and, with no backup plan, leaving me unsure of what was next. I spent six months working at Dunkin Donuts in Tennessee while I looked for a job and, after endless tests and a trip to Vanderbilt, found out I was misdiagnosed with a potentially life-threatening blood disorder, which is what prevented me from serving in the Peace Corps. I officially graduated with my master’s degree (it took awhile for it to be “official”) and traveled back to England to attend my graduation. I was reunited with all my FSU friends for the first time since graduating and we celebrated the marriage of two of my favorite people. I moved to South Korea, started an internship with the Green Climate Fund and had a chance to travel to Tokyo. I also reapplied to the Peace Corps and, once again, accepted a position to serve in Nepal, this time, getting medically cleared for departure in January 2019.

And 2019…well you know the story.

Disclaimer: The content of this post and website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Government of Nepal.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s