It’s funny how often Paraguay can either slip in and out of my present moment or recede into the far-off past. Sometimes it feels like just this morning I was sitting on my porch drinking tereré and gossiping with my homestay sister about her ex-boyfriend. Other times it feels like the Peace Corps was years and years ago, in another lifetime that feels very hazy to me. And sometimes memories I’ve completely forgotten about, formative memories full of struggle and frustration about living in Paraguay, memories I’ve buried deep inside myself for want of forgetting, become crystal clear and sharp again. I suddenly see them in a completely different light that time inevitably shines on and heals, bringing forth incredible perspective, wisdom, and in some cases a lot of retrospective humor.
(Like the time I completely blocked out memories of waking up to 5,000 flies swarming throughout my house as if it was their personal pilgrimage to Mecca because I had forgotten to take out my trash after a trip and came back to find maggots in my kitchen. It was the most embarrassing, disgusting, and traumatic experience of my life, so shameful that I had to block it out of my mind for a full year before the memory came back to me one day like a sudden bolt of lightning. Back when I was breathing toxic fumes in Paraguay from all of the Mata Todo I sprayed to obliterate every last revolting black fly, it was the most unfunny thing that could have ever happened- now, I find it absolutely hilarious).
There have been recent experiences in India that have been extremely challenging for me, days filled with frustration and personal failures and sadness, maybe to the point where I will have to forget about it for awhile like I did with some of the hard and bitter truths of my life in the Peace Corps. Yet as I found myself reminiscing to a friend today about one of the most infuriating experiences as Project Manager of ‘Youth Entrepreneurs of Paraguay,’ a Peace Corps initiative that I poured my heart and soul into for over a year during it’s crucial start-up phase, a flood of memories came back to me that I had forgotten about. Memories that when unpacked, suddenly looked very different from when they had been unceremoniously stuffed into the trunk of my brain. Memories that brought back a surprising sense of nostalgia and longing, like suddenly finding one of those ratty stuffed animals you had as a kid that you never thought twice about when you were young.
Memories of hours spent on buses with sweat dripping down my back, stepping into Asunción as if it were a steaming swimming pool, only to rush to the office and mop up my face and change quickly into a non-wrinkled outfit before schlepping off to yet another sit-down with a slightly attentive but mostly bored official to plead for funding. Memories, one after the other, of dozens of potential sponsors watching disinterested as I poured my heart out onto the table, spitting figures out on youth unemployment and the power of entrepreneurship and the changes this initiative could bring to communities that only house rows of small grocery stores and pharmacies and tailors, towns with no creativity or innovation and youth with no opportunities or employment. And I shook their hands as they smiled and said the usual ‘we will see,’ or ‘sounds like a great initiative, let me speak to my colleagues and get back to you,’ or ‘I’m sorry, but we just don’t have the funds right now.’
Memories of watching months fly by with increasing panic as our team planned and worked SO hard and put together the programming and figures and logistics to pull off an event for 80 people, an event to inspire youth all over the country to become interested in business and innovation and change their communities and lives. Months that passed by in what felt like seconds as we sent out hundreds of emails, cold-called, went on national radio stations and TV shows and spoke to newspapers and still not one bite for funding came through. By mid-December as the holidays rolled around and the days were so hot you could barely move and Volunteers dipped out of the country on vacations for cooler pastures, I remember to seemingly always be in contact with our amazing bosses at the Peace Corps, shooting them countless emails or asking them to help arrange meetings with any cooperative or bank or company we could get our hands on. I was annoying, I was impatient, I was relentless. I was that person, flagging down yet another 5-hour bus to Asunción for a 15-minute meeting in which an official and on-and-off again partner from one of the country’s largest institutions, Cooperativa Universitaria, stopped by our office to pick up a quick materials package. Memories of being disheartened, frustrated, dispirited for how much blood, sweat, and tears it took to not even find one cent of money.
Flashbacks of our event drawing closer and closer until it was merely a few weeks away, to our team coming up with a loophole to fundraise through Indiegogo, as we raised the bare minimum $4,500 in a matter of days to at least cover the cost of the event. I felt I was able to breathe normally again; we may not have gotten the partnerships and sponsors we wanted or a steady stream of funding to continue the program into the future, but at least we had enough to keep the engine running for the next month.
Then days before the event, memories of my boss Elisa getting a mysterious phone call from the big shot at Cooperativa Universitaria, Carlos, requesting us to come in for a brief meeting. Recollections of coming in and sitting down to a round table full of the entire education committee, of Carlos looking up from the papers in front of him, his face completely blank.
“Okay, so we’re going to give you 12 millón guaranies for this event and more for future events, we want to be your main partner, and we want you to place Peace Corps Volunteers at our branches so they can teach your business course to our members.”
And the most pivotal memory of all: when we could barely stop our jaws from dropping to the ground. After we left the office, Elisa turned to me. “You just reminded me that this is why you never give up,” she said.
I am less than a perfect person. Even while leading Youth Entrepreneurs of Paraguay, I was far from perfect. I was too involved in the details, too passionate, too emotionally invested in the project. I have a lot of flaws, and probably the biggest one is that I am really hard on myself at times, much harder on myself for my failures than I am proud of myself for my successes. When I experience one failure after the other like a domino effect, it can be hard to recollect any success at all.
But remembering this story today helped me realize that no matter what failures I have in my life, at least I did this one amazing thing. Through hard work and sweat and tears, our team took this baby and held on to it and gave it wings to fly. And thanks to our huge push and to the Volunteers who took the reins after us, what was once a little start-up is now an enormously successful initiative with multiple national partnerships and events and dozens of business launched- including those of my own two students in Caazapá from my own business class, which is another story for another day that makes me tear up with pride every time I think about it.
All of the memories now of that experience were different from the ones that I locked away 15 months ago. Memories that were originally tainted with sharp disappointments and failures now bring back an overwhelming sense of victory and accomplishment. Perhaps it sounds like a small thing, but it was not; the significance of this has made it one of the biggest successes of my life. And it is a much-needed reminder that no matter what failures I have now or in the future, regardless if I end up being one big, terrible screw-up or betraying everything I stand for- at least I will always have that one good thing I did. At least I helped make that happen. At least I will always have Paraguay.
If I have Paraguay, maybe one day I will have India too.
Filed under: India
It’s one of those late evenings in Delhi where I can’t fall asleep. One of those wee hours in the morning where I lie in bed in a cool and dark room, gazing at the city through my enormous panoramic-view window that I still haven’t bought curtains for after 7 months of living in our flat. One of those rare evenings where the city seems to be holding it’s breath: the auto-rickshaws have stopped their honking, the neighbors downstairs aren’t blaring Metallica; even the myriad of stray dogs that gather in East of Kailash like a swarm of ants have stopped their barking for the briefest of periods, as if mesmerized by the silence. One of those unusual nights in between the biting winter and the roaring summer of Delhi, where you can feel the change slowly weaving into the city through a pleasant and lilting breeze. One of those moments on the tip of your tongue, as if you could just open your mouth and taste it all.
One month ago I turned 26 years old. I rode into my birthday like a champion on a horse that just won the grand prize at a tournament- arrogant, proud, high off of my accomplishments. World traveler. Beasted the Peace Corps- or at least limped to the finish line. Accomplished ‘do-gooder,’ as if it was an invisible trophy I carried around everywhere. Compassionate friend. Reflective Writer. The list goes on. But ‘Age 26’ was not a badge I wanted to wear. 26 felt- older. Closer to 30 than those golden years of my young and carefree 20’s. Suddenly, I found it impossible to not consider a not-too far off future, one that makes me think of responsibility, of security, of setting down more permanent roots. Looking at friends in the United States building experience in their career paths, established in their cities and in their routines and their relationships. Marriage and babies and mortgages and West Elm furniture. For someone who prides herself on stepping out of her comfort zone for a living, this question of ‘settling down someday’ was suddenly the scariest thought of all.
From day one of turning 20, I’ve always promised myself that this decade is for me to travel, learn, grow, and see and do everything while I have the freedom to. The past 6 years of non-stop traveling and living all over the world has been absolutely incredible, extremely challenging, physically and mentally exhausting, unabashedly life-changing; experiences I would never trade for anything. The places I’ve visited, things I’ve seen and done and learned, and the beautiful people I’ve met will forever be a large part of me. In return I have sacrificed comfort, security, a well-paid and stable job, time with friends and family back at home, and roots to fulfill those dreams. And throughout all of it, I have always put one foot in front of the other, trusting that the next step would continue leading me to the next right thing. It has all been worth it.
And it will continue to be worth it. This nomadic lifestyle is still an ultimately grand adventure, an extreme learning experience, a passionate and incredible existence that I deeply enjoy. I still hope to spend my days traversing around the globe, meeting new people, learning new languages, living my life from one suitcase to another for the time being. Yet this sudden paradigm shift in thinking has forced me to contemplate living this lifestyle with a bit more intention of my long-term life goals. Basically, turning 26 has been a little akin to ‘facing the music’: it’s time to grow up. I can and will still do this now, but I don’t want to do it forever.
With some gentle pushing and prodding from extraneous events and conversations, some sort of time-ticking panic set in that I had never once before felt in my life. Questions started pouring out of me, so many important questions that I didn’t know what to do with them all. What am I going to do after this fellowship? Am I going to continue living in India? Do I only want to continue living here because I love it so much that I’m scared to leave? What are my long-term career goals? Where am I really applying to graduate school next year? What do I want to do in the business world- is it entrepreneurship? Consulting? Impact Investing? How can I help economically disadvantaged communities in the future while being able to support a stable and sustainable lifestyle? What are all of the other potential opportunities I’m giving up by the next step I take?
I wrote for weeks, page after page of questions, most where I didn’t have answers. Weeks wrought with confusion and tension, picking up scattered pieces and trying to find where they connect, like a giant puzzle- except in this case, I don’t know what the picture will be once it’s finished. I sought out friends and mentors, seeking their advice and feverishly scribbling down all of their suggestions like a coked-out journalist. Metaphorically standing in a grocery store with a thousand cereal boxes in front of me, unsure of what to put in my basket. Paralyzed by choice, guilty and burdened for having so many choices in front of me when many have none. I shut myself into my room for hours at a time, refusing to let myself out until I took responsibility for some answers; yet then finding myself so mentally exhausted at the seemingly never-ending ocean of ideas that I actually fell asleep from thinking too much. It’s been a bizarre and unexplained phenomena that is quite unlike myself.
I have four more months left in this amazing fellowship, four more guaranteed months of living in Delhi, in India, in this place that I love way too much. I try not to squander the present moment- my friendships, my work, my life here- by spending so much of my time gazing outside of my window at 2 AM on another night of endless possibilities.
Filed under: India
When I found out in the Peace Corps I was moving back to India, I felt the usual thrill and adrenaline always associated with the prospect of living in such a beautifully chaotic place. As I had spent two years in Paraguay listening to Indian music, watching Indian movies, and cooking Indian dishes from scratch (much to the confusion of my neighbors and friends- is she American or Asian?), I dreamed about all of my experiences there and the incredible places I had felt a part of. Varanasi- one of the most spiritually charged and ancient places I’ve ever visited. Calcutta- the city of utter madness, and some of the best kathi rolls you’ll ever find. Bodhgaya, which holds the tree where it is said the Buddha was enlightened- and one of the best 16 mile treks I’ve ever taken. Dharamsala- home to my Tibetan family and the most incredible experience of my life. There seems to be no end to fabulous places in this jewel of a country.
Yet as I received my assignment for the Clinton fellowship, I was given the opportunity to live in Delhi. Delhi? The city of smog, crowds, and endless traffic? So hot in the summers you look as if you climbed out of a giant swimming pool every day? Home to hundreds of cheap hostels that are always accompanied by shady swindlers looking to rip off the average backpacker? I gritted my teeth, smiled, and bore it. Living in Delhi may not have been the most exotic of places, but at least it was in India.
But now that I’ve been living in Delhi for over 6 months, my perception of this city has entirely changed. My initial impressions of Delhi (which were carried out cumulatively within a 10 day period) are completely the opposite of what I feel now. I love this city. There’s a vibrancy to this place that I never realized before. There’s no limit to life here- a million things to eat, people to meet, markets to get lost for hours in, cultural monuments, endless concerts, incredible culture, and a touch of materialism that’s enough to get any American through her slight Western nostalgic cravings (Forever 21? We’ve got it. Starbucks? Yep. Hard Rock Café? 3D Cinemas? Bowling? Sushi? Check, check, and check. If Chipotle opened a chain here, I’d never leave). Perhaps it’s because I spent two years living under a rock in Paraguay, where the most lively place in my town was a hamburger joint, but I greatly appreciate the myriad of experiences this place offers me.
Unfortunately, Delhi has a less than stellar reputation globally. While discussing this with Indian friends and colleagues, they seem to be a little ashamed of the perception of their city. “Is the traffic as bad in the United States as it is here?” is a question I am commonly asked, usually while sitting in hours of clogged up highways where you can witness rickshaw-wallahs stop their engines in the middle of the road and hop out to buy cigarettes on the road-side. Safety for women is also a common topic of conversation, considering a scandal that hit the world stage last year where an Indian woman was tragically and repeatedly raped on a bus. And with the level of pollution here, I am often reprimanded to wear a mask or cover my face with a scarf while riding down the street.
Yet I’ve gotten so comfortable living here. With good common sense and a heightened sense of awareness, I’ve been able to navigate Delhi without once feeling threatened or unsafe.* I haven’t been subject to petty thievery or harassment (knock on wood), and I’ve always been accompanied by hordes of caring Indian colleagues or friends who make sure I feel comfortable no matter where I am. The traffic can be a bit annoying at times, but just takes a dose of patience and a smile. There’s plenty of smog to go around here, but it comes and goes. Plus, the Delhi metro really is worthy of major boasting. Sorry NYC Subway, you just pale in comparison.
The rest of this place dazzles me. I’ve never felt so connected to a city before, and I’ve lived in quite a few of them, including Los Angeles and New York. There’s something marvelous about this place that I can’t quite describe. So many unique pockets to explore, so many different languages and customs, something in the air that’s spicy and explosive. Life is never dull here; there’s always a new adventure around the corner, and I have the ability to step out of my own front door and witness fascinating events where I’m constantly learning something new. It’s a kind of spontaneity I love, but where I can return back to the cocoon of comfort any time I choose. Or perhaps the magic in the air here really is just my comfort, and that is the true definition of feeling at home.
* Note: Delhi, as well as many other mega-cities around the world, can absolutely be a dangerous place. Visitors and travelers should approach this city with a heightened sense of self-awareness at ALL times. For first-timers, please consult a guidebook or any other form of ‘Delhi-411′ information to mitigate your risks of being in any potentially unsafe positions. But with a few simple steps to counter any prospective danger, count on an unforgettable experience!
Filed under: India
The past five months living in Delhi have been a whirlwind of both intense love, spirit, joy, and simultaneously tragedy, pain, and sadness. These two far-flung dichotomies have always been ever-present in my experiences here, so I should not have been surprised when India once again delivered. Yet I still find myself suffering from a sort of proverbial whiplash from how equally penetrating and powerful these conflicting feelings have played a part in my life. I always step into this country with such awe and wonder, yet I then find myself suddenly facedown on the pavement without quite knowing how I got there.
I arrived in Delhi in September on a hot summer evening (or perhaps a very early morning) to meet 34-odd other Clinton fellows that would come to make up a crucial part of my experience here. As our first week of orientation went by, I found my voice and spirit that only ever seems to exist in this country: raw, pure, passionate love emanated from me. I felt fully myself and alive in ways I had forgotten, a vulnerability that I had buried within myself and only came out in rare spurts. The jaded and bitter edge my personality had taken, like rust to steel, after two years of isolation and loneliness in the middle of rural Paraguay, disappeared completely. Spontaneity, compassion, adventure, and lots of good humor took their place. My soul was singing.
Good friends have called me extremely resilient and strong over these past few months in India. I always seemed to have a smile on my face, even while getting Dengue fever and spending two weeks in the hospital. While being put back in the hospital again a month later, this time in the ICU. While being admitted to the hospital a day later again for internal bleeding and going through minor surgery. While making the decision to go home to the United States to recuperate for a month from being so ill. But if you are living your best life and being your best self, how can something so trivial get you down? If I died, at least I would die with my eyes wide open to the world.
Truth be told, it did affect me, but not in the ways you would expect. I felt a heavy sense of guilt, so heavy it became almost unbearable. Feelings about not being able to serve the organization I worked with in the ways I wanted or that they expected became a heavy weight in my heart. I felt a deep sense of appreciation, but also burden, to my friends, family, and to the fellowship for spending huge gaps of their time and resources to take care of me. The expectations I placed on myself to make up for these gaps were not necessarily fair, but they were there nonetheless.
I sought solace and comfort in a bond that quickly became my main pillar of strength, that I easily let become one of the only things that made it manageable. I let it return me back to the world of the highest highs, feeling reckless and free. Riding this wave, I went back to the United States in a sullen mood, not ready to let go of the magic India promised me. Life in the US was full of medication, of doctor’s visits, of rest and sleep and utter boredom. There was no enchantment there, only a reality to face that I had had a serious brush with death in India, and I had to really take care of myself if I wanted to return.
I counted down the seemingly never-ending days and finally returned to this country, eager to get back to the life I had left here. Yet as much as you can will for permanence, life is always changing, and India was not the same as I had left it. I watched in a sort of muted horror as I slowly saw that this pillar I had leaned into was rotting at the seams, crumbling away to dust. The only response I could permit myself at the time was to hold on stronger, even when its sharpness cut me, even when I allowed myself easy lies because the truth was too much, even when I knew it was wrong. I held on until I was left clutching nothing but permanent damage and scarred memories. I felt numb with regret, paralyzed by the onslaught of emotions it brought out in me, feelings I hadn’t allowed myself to fully process in months; in some cases, years. My mind felt cracked open at the seams, raw and exposed. I struggled to hide behind excuses, willing the people around me to accept the shoddily-crafted half-truths I hastily created, hating myself for not being able to stop the onslaught of emotions that were pouring out of me like a broken faucet.
This is my constant cycle in India. There is something about this country that doesn’t make me afraid to pull out the most precious part of myself, the part that everywhere else I protect and guard. It is in these moments that I am the most wonderful and alive, a beauty and power that will astonish even myself. Yet every time I have taken off this armor, I have been both simultaneously greatly rewarded and deeply wounded. Perhaps it is an inclination in others to mar something they see so innocent and pure. Perhaps I give my heart away to the world too quickly. Perhaps my intense love for everything I see and feel blinds my judgment.
But would I have it any other way? Could I have it any way? No, I could not. I am in India for that magic that I can only seem to draw out of myself here, because knowing that such a thing exists within me and that I can live it is worth more than any pain.
In my posts, I always try to end things on a good note, like there is always a positive side to suffering, a revelation or lesson that others can embody or learn from. I don’t feel like ending things on a good note right now, because they are not. Losing an important constant in my present life is hard to bear, harder than I can put into words. Time heals all wounds and whether we want to or not, things must normalize again. But sometimes it feels good to admit that you have no conclusion, and to live with the pain for awhile. That’s where I am in this present; perhaps for the first time, I am not afraid to say it.
Filed under: India
It is 7:30 PM on a Saturday in South India, and I have decided to write again.
I took a break from blogging for many reasons. I felt bored with it. Writing in this exact same medium for the past five years- on ‘traveling and growing through the world’- started to lose its sheen even to me. The eagerness of sharing my experiences, which felt new and foreign for longer than it probably should have, started to feel dull after living for two years in the same place, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay. I realized I was no longer the person I was when I created this- even though I wanted to be.
Discontent started to settle in that nothing could diminish- not the sense of duty I felt in helping those that wanted to delve into my same experiences, the excitement of growing readership, or the obligation to keep an account of my life that I could look back on over the years. Blogging became a chore, something to tick off a list of things to do. Initial pleasure at writing turned into anxiety as weeks and countless experiences slipped by that I could not motivate myself to share. So, I disconnected from the blog-o-sphere and from social media, and decided to re-discover the magic of India alone.
Five months into living in Delhi, I’ve recognized the importance of sorting out these experiences and putting the proverbial pen to paper. I feel refreshed and ready to start sharing again, though perhaps in a different format than before. The format is still being conceptualized to me, but I think it will be less of a “this is my account of my travels in the world,” and more of a “this is an account of my life, whatever it may be.” I like to think that my writing has always been honest, but this will be more honest. I like to think that my writing has been personal, but this will definitely be more personal. The shackles of writing about myself on such a public forum for all of the world to see don’t seem as heavy as they used to, even if they probably should.
I will not hold myself to writing once a week as I did, and ultimately didn’t follow, in the Peace Corps. I want everything that comes out to be natural, raw, and real in the moment. Perhaps that could come out as three posts in one year, or three posts in a day. I will not hold myself to trying to grow my website or strategize ways to grow my readership. It was always something I toyed with, never ultimately took any action on, and have decided now to not move forward with. This is a lovely hobby that I enjoy immensely, but do not feel obligated to.
There may be some changes, but I am confident that they will be positive ones. The bottom line is, I am back to the blogging world, and it feels like a new beginning.
Filed under: India
Hello all, great to see you around the Internets. My self-imposed sabbatical from BrittanyGoesGlobal has been a wonderful respite (though not a restful one, as it never is in India), and one I plan on continuing for awhile longer. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been out in the world doing a little blogging about India!
- Over on Pink Pangea, I wrote a piece on The Top 10 Things Every Female Traveler Should Bring to India. So if you’re a female and thinking of traveling to this awesome country, it’s a worthwhile read.
- On the ‘AIF Fellows’ Blog, I wrote about what it was like having Dengue (I caught it in September).
- Apartment-Hunting in Delhi? Here’s a piece I wrote on 10 Steps to Finding an Awesome and Cheap Flat.
- Check out my attempt on slam poetry on What It Is To Be In India. I originally wrote this while I was in Hyderabad in 2009, but with a few edits it still stands fresh today as a good depiction on what the sights, smells, and feelings of traveling here is like.
- And of course, feel free to wander on over to my other blog, 365 For Year 25, which I just updated with pictures of my daily life in India.
Generally, I am really enjoying my time in here, living in New Delhi, and working at my placement organization. Life is extremely busy, but that’s how I like it.
Happy reading and stay tuned for more updates! I have a great blog post coming up on Pink Pangea soon on comparisons between Paraguay and India.
I’m excited to officially make public that I will be going to India on a 10-month fellowship! I will be a William J. Clinton fellow at the American India Foundation for the next 10 months, working with an NGO in New Delhi. I am very excited about the fellowship, and I feel quite blessed to be able to take part in such a prestigious opportunity while heading back to the number one country in the world that I love: my India. I leave TOMORROW (!!!!) for a week-long orientation with 35 other fellows, and my bags are all packed for another adventure in the world.
Another announcement: I am taking a hiatus from brittanygoesglobal. I love this project dearly and it has been such a pleasure writing on here for over 4 years now. It has been a great outlet to express my feelings on traveling throughout the world and living within different cultures. With that being said, I feel that one of the benefits of being in the Peace Corps has taught me to fully appreciate the present moment, so over the past year I’ve found it increasingly challenging to write about all of my experiences when they happen. It’s gotten to the point where posting has become sort of a chore, something to cross off my list. As much as I love writing about my life and there are times when inspiration strikes (those are always the best posts), I would like to wholly step into this new experience in India- and after thinking about it a lot, I have decided to take a break. I’m not sure how long it will be- it could be a few weeks, or a few months- but you can still keep up with my life and travels on Pink Pangea, where I will be a foreign correspondent and posting once every few weeks about India.
Thanks for reading and for the support in all of my travels throughout the world. See all of you in a bit!
It´s been awhile since we talked. It´s almost been two years since you´ve passed, but sometimes I like to pretend that you´re just off in another exotic country, without access to internet. The older you get, the rarer true friendships seem to be. I always considered you a true friend. And I miss you.
When you passed away, it came as a great shock to me. I´ve never had a friend die so young, so suddenly, and so tragically. I couldn´t believe that someone who was so full of life, who had so much left to do on this planet, could leave so quickly. For awhile, I just couldn´t understand it. Grief would hit me at different times, in the most random of places. Everything just felt so…unfinished.
While processing this grief over the first year of my service, I gradually came to a realization. You may be gone, but you will live forever through the people who´s lives you´ve touched. And so I decided to continue your legacy and your greatest love in life- teaching children- and bring all of your love, energy, and passion to 50 children in Paraguay.
Over the past year, I taught English to a 4th, 5th, and 6th grade class in my community, in your honor. I never considered myself passionate about teaching English, teaching to children, or just teaching in general- but this project ended up being one of the highlights of my service. Because I always brought all of the love and energy I knew that you would to each class, these kids returned just as much. They loved the classes. Every Tuesday became the highlight of my week- the day that I got to play fun games like Twister (to learn colors and body parts), English Jeapoardy, Hangman, and do great projects like creating family trees in English with these wonderful kids.
The looks on their faces every day I came to teach English
Receiving American Flags as a pen pal gift from 6th graders in the United States
With the end of my service in the Peace Corps drawing to a close, I´ve recently spent some sleepless nights wondering whether I´ve made any sort of difference here in my community, Caazapá. Today, as I went into my final English classes, all of our kids (yours and mine) surprised me with posters, handwritten notes, lots of cheering and hugs (and a few tears), and a cake. The director of the school presented me with a special Paraguayan lace tablecloth as a thank you. Those last few hours with my students made my entire two years of service worth it. I wish I could explain better how much it meant to me, but some things are just beyond words.
I had one final activity for all of the students for our last class. I told them about you, and what an amazing person you are. I told them that we traveled to India together before Paraguay, and that every place we went to you would always go find a local school to teach English to the children. I told them that the first day of my service, I found out that you had passed away. And that instead of being sad, I decided to do something in your honor- and so you inspired me to teach them English.
I asked them to help me create a banner thanking you. Each class decorated every word, and wrote messages on the banner like ´we love you Becky,´ and ´Rest in Peace, Becky.´ They finished by signing all of their names on it.
So I guess I am writing you this letter because I wanted to let you know that even though you´re gone, you are never forgotten. That because of you, 50 kids in Paraguay were able to fall in love with a language. And that one person in particular- me- will never, ever forget these kids. I find it very classic Becky that this project was something I did to honor you- yet a year later, I could never repay you for this gift that you gave me.
Thank you, Becky.
Filed under: India
This is really hard for me to write, but I’m going to do it anyway. Last Saturday, a bright beam of light was lost to the world.
I met Becky Schaffer on the most amazing experience of my life: my three-month program with Carpe Diem in India. As the history of my life goes, lost and confused at age 19, I decided to go to India to find inspiration. Those three months of my life changed me forever. That experience with Carpe Diem woke me out of a life-long hibernation and to my true purpose in life. It opened my eyes to the world and pushed me to apply to Global College, to travel, and was my inspiration for joining the Peace Corps.
Along on this trip were nine other amazing souls who were all fundamentally changed from this experience. One of these people was Becky Schaffer. We didn’t get along very well at the beginning, but Becky helped me grow to new heights and we came to really respect each other as individuals, and even became friends. As the trip went on, we all came to love one another dearly and see each other as family. After our trip, Becky and I stayed in touch and became closer. I visited her in England while she was in Exeter, and we kept in touch consistently over Facebook. She hooked me up with her friends in Kenya while I was doing my Kiva fellowship. She was there for me when I broke up with my boyfriend. She was there for me when I was going through my antsy phase of waiting to join the Peace Corps. We talked and I provided input on what she wanted to do with her life, and joining WorldTeach. She was applying to the Peace Corps too. I wrote her recommendation.
Becky left for Micronesia three weeks ago for a WorldTeach position. While visiting local waterfalls, Becky slipped on a rock, hit her head, fell into the falls and died. She was 23 years old.
Some things in life don’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense that a beautiful, wonderful person who gave so much to everyone, who touched so many lives, who had so much more to do for the world, tragically died. It doesn’t seem fair that someone so kind-hearted and so invested in other people’s lives should go so young. When I look back on Becky’s life, I am astounded by the things she did and people she touched. She loved children. I remember when we were in India together, EVERY single town we went to she would go out on her own and find local schools to teach English to. For no reason other than being selfless. After she graduated from McGill in 2010, she went to Kenya for 2 months to work at an orphanage, just because she loved the children there. She was always pushing herself to new heights. She pushed herself to climb mountains in India. I remember spending three days together huddled in a tent after climbing the Himalayas. She hiked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the tallest mountain in Africa.
I still can’t believe that she is gone. It is hard to believe that a light that bright could be snuffed out so easily.
Becky, thank you for everything you have given to the world. Thank you for impacting my life. Thank you for being one of the most kind-hearted and selfless people I’ve ever met. I know that you wanted to save the world, but you were part of something big that saved me. You already have saved the world. As my promise to you I am taking on some of your mission to make the world a better place. I will be carrying you with me everywhere. You will never be forgotten. Just look at these people down at this picture, and know that we will always remember you.
Our last day in India together.
Rest in Peace Becky.