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Back from America & Year 2

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Dubai skyline from the plane on my flight back to Addis on Sept. 1

It’s been over three months now since my last post and a lot has happened. I’ve been back in Ethiopia for about three weeks now since my vacation back home to the good old USofA. I spent most of August back home in Missouri with family and friends. On August 9th, my second night home for vacation I went with my mom to the Missouri State Fair to see Starship and Foreigner in concert. All I can say is – amazing. Also while I was at the state fair I chowed down on some delicious deep fried Oreos. Again, amazing. Apart from the Foreigner concert, I had a BBQ with my friends from high school, took the GRE, took a road trip to Indianapolis to see friends and to take a quick trip to DePauw. Visiting DePauw was nice but made me feel very nostalgic. A pit-stop at Marvins was deemed necessary. I had been craving a GCB (Marvs’ famous garlic cheeseburger) for some time. I had tons of great food, saw a lot of friends and family and really just got to relax and take in everything beautiful about America that I had missed during my first year in the Peace Corps. 

DePauw Friends in Indy!!

DePauw Friends in Indy!!

On September 1st, I got back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to begin my Mid-service conference (MSC) with my fellow G7 PCVs (the group I came into country with, June ’12). It was great to reconnect and experience share with my fellow G7ers as some of them live on the complete other side of the country and I barely get to see them. After a week in Addis for MSC I headed back to Aman to enjoy the Ethiopian New Year with my friends back at site. Ethiopian New Years ended up being a little strange since the holiday fell on one of the traditional Ethiopian Christian fasting days where no one eats meat. For that reason I missed the main feast with doro wat (chicken wat) and the works that I guess took place on the Tuesday before the Ethiopian New Year that coincidentally enough falls on September, 11 almost every year. Nonetheless, I did get to visit with friends and I ate some really good food and drank plenty of coffee.

Over the past couple of weeks since being back in Aman I’ve had time to reflect on my first year and my trip back home to the states. Going back home really helped put things into perspective. Living in Ethiopia and life as a Peace Corps volunteer in general can be challenging. There are days that you just feel like you are going crazy or you feel like nothing is going right. There are days that cravings for good ole American food are so strong that every time you see someone talk about or post a picture of what they are eating on Facebook or Twitter makes you just want to never talk to that person every again in your life. Then there are the days that being called ‘you, you, ferenji, ferenji’ or even ‘China, china’ will make you want to choke someone. However, there are these little moments that are hard to explain that just make the whole experience worth it and going back to the US for vacation really helped me realize how lucky I was to be having this experience. Yes some days are hard and I have to admit there were some days over the past year that I just wanted to give up and come home. However, I powered through and now I’m excited about year two. I know how things work for the most part or at least what to expect. I have about 10 months to go and a lot of great ideas for activities to do at my school for the 2006 (Ethiopian calendar) academic year. I just have to think back to what I told my recruiter in Chicago when I had my interview for the Peace Corps. “Even if all my projects fail, if I can just put a smile on someone’s face and inspire them in some way that will make me happy and feel like I’ve been successful.” Ethiopia is a beautiful country and I’ve been lucky to see a lot of it over the past year. I hope to see more of it in my final 10 months. I’ve learned a lot from my Ethiopian friends and colleagues and I can truly say I’ve grown as a person. So here is to year two!!

Kids on the Aman airstrip 9/19/13

Kids on the Aman airstrip 9/19/13

Now I’m at a hotel in Mizan Teferi and I’m headed to Addis tomorrow (IN A PRIVATE CAR!!!! YAY!!). On Monday, I have my mid-service medical check-ups. How exciting!! Not. I’m lucky enough to be getting a free ride with an organization that one of our superstar 3rd year extender PCVs works with that just happens to be in Mizan. WooT! Once I get back from Addis for my medical check-ups school will hopefully start soon after. If I remember correctly from last year normal classes didn’t really start until mid to late October when all the teachers and administrators got back from summer university programs. So we will see what happens. Well, that’s it! Will try to write again soon! Best wishes from Ethiopia!

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Extended Holiday Season – Happy New Year & Melkam Gena from Aman!

Christmas Decorating Committee - Me & Uday

Christmas Decorating Committee – Me & Uday

So the holiday season has come and gone but not in Ethiopia! Yep, that’s right! Tomorrow is Ethiopian Christmas “Gena”. Ethiopians follow the Orthodox Julian calendar so their Christmas falls on the 7th of January. It is kind of strange just having done my best to make it feel like Christmas a couple weeks ago and New Year’s and now all the local shops and restaurants are putting out their Christmas trees and decorations. Christmas trees and such are not typical of Ethiopian Christmas but have come to be due to western influence. Too bad they didn’t put out the trees before my Christmas, maybe I would have splurged and bought one. Oh well! Anyways, it has been a while since I’ve last posted anything. My Christmas and New Year’s was nice but nothing like I would normally experience in the US. I spent Christmas Eve celebrating with a very diverse group. We had 3 Americans, a Brit, 2 Indians, 4 Filipinos and a handful of Ethiopians at our local get-together in my village of Aman. Most guests came from the local university but since I am in town as well as a couple of other Peace Corps’ volunteers up the road we were invited since we recently met some of the other local “ferenji” professors and volunteers at the university. We had a nice feast and then spent the remainder of the evening playing games, visiting and singing karaoke. Christmas Day was a little less than eventful but I spent the day playing cards and drinking coffee with the British volunteer in town while her housemates were away at work. New Year’s Eve was spent doing something very similar as well as actual New Year’s Day with a couple other friends.

Now, I’m shocked because Christmas is suppose to be over but just today I spotted a couple of restaurant owners putting up a Christmas tree on their balcony. Quite interesting definitely considering the fact that it has continued to get hotter and hotter in the local Mizan-Aman area and we haven’t had rain except a few sprinkles since a week or two ago and it feels nothing like Christmas time.

So, as I mentioned Ethiopian Gena, their Christmas is tomorrow. This means preparations are underway for Christmas feast, get-togethers, etc. Since this is my first Gena in country I’m not sure what to expect. I haven’t gotten any invites yet but I’m guessing by 7am in the morning my neighbors will be knocking on my door begging me to come eat with them. More invites for lunch and possibly dinner. No school tomorrow because of the holiday and I’ve been warned some students and teachers may be absent on Tuesday too.

Aman airstrip when school gets out

Aman airstrip when school gets out

Even though Ethiopian Christmas is tomorrow and I have the day off I have a busy week ahead of me. A new year means new projects at my primary school. Currently, my student English Club will be entering its 5th week and this Tuesday (hoping people show up) I am planning on starting my Teacher’s English Club. Also, this Saturday will be the first meeting of a six session training I’m doing for the English teachers in my four primary cluster schools. I plan on having a 3 hour training during the second Saturday of every month until the end of the academic year in June to introduce new teaching methodologies, improved lesson planning and assessment techniques. This is my first training so I’m a little nervous but I’m excited at the same time. I finally feel like I might be able to do something here and help at least a little bit. Also, planning and programming are underway to host a local competition for Peace Corps Volunteers’ International Creative Writing Contest that will take place over the next few months. Well, that is it for now. I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and I wish all my family and friends and loyal followers a very Happy New Year! May 2013 bring you peace and happiness.Oh and by the way this is just a little bit of self-pride but I hand washed three weeks of laundry today in an hour and a half. Uncommon Success as we would say at DePauw! hehe 🙂 God Bless!

 
 

An Update on my Life – DePauw, Chile, Peace Corps & Beyond

Peace Corps Ad - Life is calling. How far will you go?

Many people have asked me lately, “What are your plans for after you graduate” so I decided a post about my current and upcoming adventures as well as plans for after I graduate from DePauw was in order. To start off as many of you know I am finishing up my 1st semester of my senior year at DePauw University. I will graduate on May 20, 2012 at 10:30am along with about 530 other students from the DePauw Class of 2012. Commencement information can be found here. Also, for those wondering I will be sending out invites the beginning of next spring, a few months before the actual commencement takes place.

Before next semester starts I have big plans – really exciting plans anyways. I’m going back to Chile for a month. For those of you that understand my love for Chile you will understand when I say I am beyond excited. I will be working for my study abroad program as a temporary program assistant for the duration of DePauw’s Winter-Term (J-Term as some call it) helping out with special projects and tasks around the office as well as planning ahead for next year’s summer program in Santiago. I will leave St Louis on the day after Christmas and will return to the states right before I have to be back at DePauw to start my last semester as a senior on January 27, 2012 (which is also my 22nd birthday). Anyhow, I’m so excited I can’t even see straight and I’m so anxious to get to go back and see my family and friends there. I will be staying with my gracious Chilean host family that I lived with last fall for the month I’m there. My host mom said there was no problem with me staying with her and my two host brothers but that I will pretty much have to take care of myself a little more in terms of cooking, etc unlike before when she cooked and cooked and did my laundry. Poor lady, she is such a good woman. I felt bad when she had to do it for the semester I was there. I am just happy that I will get to see my host family again. They are wonderful! Plus, I’m quite capable of cooking for myself, doing my own laundry, etc. My host mom has enough on her plate as she has recently started her own business which I can’t to learn more about.

Santiago, Chile - View from Cerro San Cristóbal

Now on to the very important stuff. Something that I have grown to be very passionate about in recent years is serving in the Peace Corps after I graduate form DePauw next May. My interest in the Peace Corps sparked back in High School when an alumnus from my high school came into speak with his family about their work and life to my Spanish class. Glenn Blumhorst who is someone I now think very highly of served in the Peace Corps himself in Guatemala and has worked in the field of International Development for years. He is now a Senior International Development Professional who works for a well-known non-profit based out of Washington, D.C. called ACDI/VOCA. I have stayed in touch with Glenn as the years have progressed and with his family and they are great people, and I see Glenn as a personal role model (I don’t know if knows that but if he reads this he will). I started my Peace Corps application back in March of this year and for those of you that are familiar with the application process it can take a while – normally 9-12 months to go through the process. However, I have finally reached the end of the application process and my application now sets in D.C. at the Peace Corps Office of Assessment and Placement where it is under competitive and suitability review. The next step is to receive my official invitation to serve but for now I am waiting for a phone call from my Placement Officer which should be in touch with me sometime before Christmas I’m guessing. As of now, my nomination is to work in Secondary English Education in Sub-Saharan Africa. The region of the world could change but for now I’ve got my heart set on Africa. As soon as I get more info I of course will update everyone.

Well, that about wraps up this post. I just wanted to update everyone on where I stand with plans for after I graduate. I’m kind of nervous and anxious because as is normal with the Peace Corps Application process sometimes you wait and don’t any hear anything from them for weeks at a time but I feel good about my chances to get in and think I will make a great volunteer. As they say, good things come to those who wait. I just have to be patient and let the process play out. I could be moving to Africa next summer I don’t know. It is nerve-racking but exciting at the same time. Thanks for all your support, for now I will continue planning my Winter get-away to Chile.

For those of you that want to follow me in my endeavors please feel free to follow me on twitter @VillaNavarrete.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Chile, DePauw, Peace Corps, Study Abroad

 

Santiago de Chile: 1 Week
 
In one week from today I will be moving to Chile. I’m so excited I can’t even think straight. 3 more nights of work in Columbia and then 3 at home visiting family and friends before I leave. During the hectic Friday before the 4th of July my mom and I drove to Kansas City to the Honorary Consul of Chile to pick up my visa. Sr. Robert Evans the Honorary Consul is a very very kind man and before we left we spent 10 minutes or so talking. It was great. After that my mom and I stopped by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City since it was pretty much next door. Even if you may think otherwise it is well worth the visit. The Money Museum is absolutely amazing and it is probably one of the few places you can stand by a case of money containing $40 million.

Anyhow, on to more exciting stuff. On Saturday the following day I received my host family assignment. My family lives in the commune of Providencia which is located near the heart of the Santiago Metropolitan area. My host family includes the mom, Patricia, the dad, Jose and their children Pablo, 21, who is in his 3rd year of studying architecture and Carolina, 23, who is in her 5th year of medical school. I have emailed my host mother Patricia to introduce myself and have already heard back from her. Needless to say I’m not only excited to go to Chile but I’m even more excited to live with a beautiful Chilean family for 5 months. 

Well that is about it from the United States. My next post will come straight from the heart of Santiago de Chile. I promise my posts will get much more interesting then plus they will include some of my personal photos. My flight from St. Louis leaves on Sunday, July 18th at 6:05am and I will arrive in Santiago the next day at 4:45am. Once I’m there I plan to post something on a biweekly basis. Adios America!!!
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Posted by on July 11, 2010 in Chile, DePauw, Study Abroad

 

Chile: Thoughts and Preparations

Hello family and friends! First, this is my first real blog post so please bear with me. As I hope most of you know by now this fall I will be studying abroad in Chile with the Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University through their Chilean Universities Program in Santiago, Chile. I will depart from Lambert Airport in St. Louis in mid-July and will return mid to late December. I think back to my junior and senior years at good Ole’ Slater High in Slater, MO. I always talked about going abroad and eventually working in the international business field but in the back of my head I always thought, “Well, I can always dream.” Well, over the last year and a half I realized I could come one step closer to my academic and career goals. Last April I applied to go on three DePauw Winter-Term Off-Campus Study course trips. My top choice was Spain and Portugal, second China and third Greece and Italy. Come the end of April 2009 I found out  I was accepted to go on the Spain and Portugal Winter-Term course trip that was entitled “The Changing Role of Food in Spain and Portugal.” So in January of this year I hopped on a plane at the Indianapolis airport and flew to Chicago to meet the rest of my group so we could catch our flight to Madrid, Spain. Note, that this was my first flight ever. It was a little scary but after my flying around Spain and Portugal for two weeks, let’s just say I love to fly now. I had an amazing time in Spain and Portugal and finally being able to say I want to go into the international business or international relations career field with actual international travel behind me makes it feel as though I can declare my aspirations and goals in life without that feeling of, “That’s never going to happen.”

All last fall, as I prepared to go to Spain and Portugal this past January I researched and researched options for me to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country. I looked at program costs, cost of living, etc., etc. in many Latin American countries as well as Spain and Portugal. I finally came across the program that I knew was for me. I went through the very time consuming application process of applying to study abroad through DePauw and once I got approved by my home institution I started looking specifically at what I needed to do to apply to the IFSA-Butler Chile Program. Once I returned from Europe in January and got over my jet lag I applied to the program and within just a fews weeks was notified that I had been accepted. I was sitting in my microeconomics class, shhh, checking my email when I received the email from IFSA-Butler with my acceptance notice. I couldn’t believe it. There were still 40 minutes left of class and I could not focus at all. I eventually got up and walked outside and called my mom. I just couldn’t wait, I had to call her and let her know. 
Now I wait anxiously to depart for South America this summer. I’ve secured a job this summer so I can earn some good money to one pay off my credit card bill from Europe and secondly to allow for me to live comfortably while I spend my fall semester in Chile. I have begun the process of applying for my student visa which I’ve found to be a very interesting endeavor. A couple weeks ago I found my self at the Greencastle, IN police department. No worries, it was just to get my fingerprints taken so I could request an FBI Background check which will be one of many documents I will need to send in to the Chilean Consulate in Chicago to get my visa. As I wait for my FBI Background Check “Record” to come back I am anxiously awaiting to find out the dates for my program with IFSA-Butler so I know when I will need to leave for sure to get to Santiago in time for international student orientation. Today I received an email with the subject line that read, “Program Dates Update and Visa Reminder.” Well, I was excited to see the words program dates but come to find out I must continue waiting for them. I didn’t really notice the word, “update” that followed. Since the major earthquake hit central Chile right before the start of Chilean University’s spring semesters, their academic calendar’s were thrown off. Chilean Universities began spring classes a week late due to the major earthquake and now universities across the impacted region are debating whether or not to push the start of fall semester courses back a week or to start on time as previously scheduled. So, needless to say this is why I don’t know when I’ll be leaving for Chile. I will add when the earthquake struck Chile I was at my fraternity’s leadership conference at SIU in Carbondale, IL and my mom called me and said that I’m not going to Chile. Well, she scared me to death as I hadn’t been accepted into the program at that point and I didn’t know if it would be canceled or not. Thankfully, Santiago suffered minimal damage and the program was not canceled. Well, I am going to wrap this up. I want to thank all my family and friends for all their support as I continue to work hard to achieve my academic and career goals. As I wait anxiously, to find out the program dates for my program, to get my student visa and in literally about three months to leave for Chile I can’t help but think what a challenging but life changing experience this will be for me. 
                                                                                     
 
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Posted by on April 21, 2010 in Chile, DePauw, Portugal, Spain, Study Abroad

 
 
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