Enjoying Unemployment

Unemployment and living in the in between can be tough. Money constraints and lack of rhythm often create a lot of stress when you’re unemployed. You’ve got no routine and you’re just floating because you’re not exactly on vacation. In talking to a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer about the difficulties of the transition, she laid out some really good advice.

 

Enjoy being unemployed. Enjoy the time and freedom.

 

That struck me pretty hard. Enjoy it?!? How could I possibly enjoy this time of waiting and nothingness… and without any income! I put my thinking cap on and started thinking about inexpensive ways we could pass the time. Instead of dreading the downtime and trying to speed it up, we have started intentionally tried to enjoy the valuable gift of having no requirements. We’ve been able to enjoy the moments. Check it out below!

 

Hiking to el Moro Beach in Newport

The beach is so far away!!

We made it to the beach – now back up into the hills!

Ridge hike nearing the end!

Refining our survival skills

Collecting the goods for the tinder bundle

What we foraged from the canyon

Working on the bow drill method

Visiting the Getty Museum in LA

Spending time with family in CA

Mama, Auntie, and Grandmoms to the cutest kiddo!

Baby Kate fresh off a nap!

Aunts and nieces!

Visiting Crystal Cove State Beach

Goodbye beach! ❤

Sewing a dress

The finished product!

Excuse the hair – we pumped out the dress in 2.5 days!

Being tourists in Seattle

The new roasting facility for Starbucks in Seattle

Hanging out at Pike’s Place Public Market

Hiking in the Pacific Northwest

Some lookout off the 2!

Hiking around at Cougar Mountain

 

Old growth in the midst of clear cuts

Cherry Creek Falls near Duvall

Spada Lake off Hwy 2

 

Well as you can see, we have made the most of our time off. Instead of looking at it like unemployment, we’re choosing to make it more of a sabbatical more than anything. Time to recharge and rejuvenate; time to locate the roots of who we are. When this time does come to a close, it will be a bittersweet exchange. For the moment, I will enjoy the opportunity to sleep in and hike and blog while I can.

 

ACTION: Take a moment to reflect on something tough or challenging. Write it down and then draw a line next to it. This is your optimistic window. Write a positive spin on the problem that’s on the other side of the line.  Circle your new positive solution! Be happy! 🙂

 

Peace to you,

Ceebster

 

PS – Follow me on Instagram at @theceebster ! Cheers!

Día de la Independencia y Pozole

Mexican Independence Day is not actually the day that Mexico was declared a free nation from Spain’s control. In fact, the date marks the anniversary of the beginning of a decade-long struggle for independence. It started with a cry of injustice from the famous priest Hidalgo (LINK) on the early morning of September 16th, 1810. He asked his countrymen to respond to the injustice of their brothers by breaking free from Spain’s control. The essential spirit of the message is:

“My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once… Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government! Death to the Gachupines!”

In spite of Hidalgo’s inspiring words, Mexico was not declared an independent nation with ease. Eleven years of war and thousands of lives lost, but the Mexican voice rang throughout as it continues to do so. Mexico broke free from Spanish reign on September 28, 1821. This year, Mexico will be celebrating 192 years of freedom by listening to a cry of patriotism from the President of Mexico (LINK) which is based on the original speech from Hidalgo. Fireworks, bells, loud music, confetti, flags, and of course the national anthem will overflow from each and every main square all over Mexico and the Embassies of Mexico. The crowd will shout in a patriotic tone, ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! 

 

Join with us in celebration of this great nation’s independence by cooking one of the common dishes for this weekend: pozole. And in true Mexican nature this “recipe” prepares a lot of food, so invite a friend or 3 over to enjoy together in community. Pozole is the pho of Mexico; it is simple to make and the best part is the add-ins to your own personal bowl. It is hands’ down one of our favorite dishes of Mexico, believe it or not! No, it’s not quite Vitamin T – but we grab a bowl whenever we can. Also in true Mexican fashion, this is not really a recipe as much as it is a guideline. I included pictures below to help explain what things should look like. Experiment and see what works for you! You will likely be able to find everything you need in your local grocery story, and for the hominy just peek in the Mexican section and it should be available in cans.

 

Pozole Blanca

2 kg hominy, pre-cooked or semi-cooked

2 chicken breasts, whole, with bones

½ pound pork spine (?)

5 garlic cloves, whole

1 (or 1.5) onion, quartered

5 dried bay leaves

1 Tablespoon dried thyme

1.5 Tablespoons dried oregano leaves, not ground

3 T salt

2 cups Chili de arbol (optional)

3 additional cloves of garlic (optional)

1.5 teaspoons additional salt (optional)

Toppings: Radishes, iceberg lettuce, onion, ground oregano, homemade chili powder, avocado, and tostadas.

 

First thing is that you’re going to want to wash the hominy. It smells REALLY bad right out of the bag. Clean the hominy just as if you were cleaning dried beans. They should have no odor when they’re ready.

Then you’re going to put everything in the ingredient list into the largest pot you have in your house. No, I’m really not joking. This example wouldn’t be overdoing it. And now fill the pot with enough water to cover the ingredients and then have a good 3-ish inches more. Boil, covered at full heat for 5 hours. If you have more time, you can simmer (or crock-pot!) it for up to 10 hours on low. The longer it cooks, the better the flavor will be. In the meantime, you can prep your toppings.

 

If you’ve opted in for some pica follow these steps to make your own chili powder. The very first thing you need to do is create as much ventilation in your house as possible. I recommend using gloves when handling the chilies; you will need to cut or break off the green stems. Then, you dry roast these bad boys and this is where the ventilation becomes very important. The chilies will release their spice so if you’re highly sensitive to spicy things, this would not be a job for you! Continue to stir the chilies at medium-low heat. You’ll start coughing, but this is normal. If it becomes too much, remove from heat and take the pan outside and continue to stir to ensure that the chilies don’t burn. Breathe deeply and continue onto the next step.

Once you can breathe again, you’ll want to blend the chilies in with the additional garlic and salt. Grab a friend who will hold a kitchen towel over the lid of the blender to ensure that no spicy molecules get into the air. Blend until it is the consistency below y ya!

If you opted out of the spicy option, then you’re onto the fun toppings! Lettuce, radishes, and onion should be cut fairly small to integrate into the flavor of every delicious bite.

Once the meat is cooked, it should be removed from the soup. You will need to shred the chicken and pork into small pieces. Bones should be discarded. Put the meat back into the soup about an hour before meal time. At this time, you should begin picking out the larger pieces of onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaves. This is where a huge spoon comes in handy if you have one. Below is what it looks like when the soup is ready!

Dress your soup however you might like it – utilizing all or none of the toppings listed above. Enjoy with a cold beer or fresh margarita!

¡Buen provecho!

Con Amor,

Chelsea Elizabeth

Lessons Learned: July Edition

We are closely approaching the anniversary of our arrival in Mexico. It is very crazy to look back at our lives a year ago and remembering all the changes we were going through. We quit our jobs in the month of July and moved out of our first home together. It was difficult to vacate a space that felt like home; it was our first place together as a married couple. I remember I kept telling myself that we would be in our Mexican house longer than the Seattle apartment to try and soothe my nerves. There is so much contentment in our hearts when we think about where we are and all the incredible aspects of Mexico we have had the chance to experience so far. Here are some of our lessons learned from July…

  1. Months really fly by without any real seasons or change in weather. Okay, well there are only two real seasons in Puebla – the dry season and the wet season. In the peak of either of those seasons, there is a cold spell for two or three weeks where the low temperature plummets down to the high 40’s. All that to say that the weather is freakishly predictable, and time doesn’t quite fit with our previous understanding of seasons. Let’s just say that July didn’t really feel like July should.
  2. Having a mini-garden is quite fun, P1080615 and Mexico is keeping our plants alive. I love plants and greenery, but I have been known to kill my fair share of houseplants. Thankfully, Mexico has been nurturing our plants with sunshine, the right amount of heat, and an evening watering. Otherwise, these poor babies would probably be dead. I like to think that I am losing my black thumb (think opposite of green thumb), but in all reality I think it is agreeable Mexican climate that keeps them alive and well.
  3. Living at high altitude means very few mosquitoes. If you remember the blog posts around this time last year, you remember how I kept track of the mosquito bites I had at any given time. One of the major bonuses of living 7,000 feet above sea level is that the mosquitoes can’t seem to survive. The only evidence I have to back this up would be the lack of bites on my arms and legs.
  4. Patron saint celebrations are a major cultural celebration. 
    The biggest church in our neighborhood celebrated their patron saint this past month. We first noticed something was different when a churro truck set up shop outside the main gates of the church. The next day – vendors of tacos, hot dogs, and corn on the cob. Then, the foosball tables and arcade games showed up. The day before the actual festivities were supposed to start, fair rides like carousels, bumper cars, and kiddos first “roller coaster” set up right in the middle of the street! During the weekend, a mini market popped up selling small toys, movies, and bracelets. We ate out every night at our neighbor’s grandma’s house and got accustomed to the constant fireworks.
  5. Wikiloc.com is a great platform for sharing trails you’ve explored – just don’t always expect to arrive at your destination. We downloaded two hiking trails on our GPS on our trip to Tepozlan; we decided on one as our first pick and the other one was a back-up. As it turns out, it was nearly impossible to keep on the “trail” for our first choice. A little defeated, we headed back to the fork in the road where the other trail starts. Everything was going good – until we realized that we were always off the trail by a little bit. Neal was so determined to be on the exact trail, we hiked in the stream for awhile and realized that this was definitely a dry season hike. We didn’t necessarily arrive at any destination, but it was really fun tromping around the forest without worrying of getting lost.
  6. Corn on the cob here is year round – we don’t have to wait like y’all do for the summer to arrive. First off, corn on the cob al estilio mexicana is pierced like a popsicle, smothered in mayo, and covered with cheese & spice. At any given time, you can probably hear a loud speaker announce: Esquites y elotes, esquites y elotes, solo cinco pesos! Which means you can buy corn on the cob or corn cut off the cob for only 38¢. It’s everywhere. And if you don’t like corn on the cob for some weird odd reason, you can choose esquites instead. ¡Buen provecho!
  7. Creating momentum with a new project idea is arguably the most challenging part of project management. This is the first time we have ever worked with such freedom – our bosses are flexible and we make our own projects. As nice as that sounds, getting everyone on board with your project and getting it started can be the most challenging aspect of your whole project.
  8. Mexico is home to over 3,000 volcanoes – and apparently home to the smallest volcano in the world. We had the opportunity to listen to a lecture by Jorge Alberto Neyra Jáuregui whom specializes in the volcanoes of Mexico and photographs them. We were aware of the major volcanoes like Popo and Izta (above) but we learned that the smallest volcano in the world is apparently right here in Puebla. The Cuexcomate volcano stands just 13 meters (43 feet) tall, with a diameter of 23 meters (75 feet). It’s a teeny one!

 

I love that even after being here for a significant amount of time, we are still learning so much. Thanks for your interest in our blog and in our lives! We so appreciate all the support and love we’ve been feeling lately. Thank you for following along on this adventure of ours!

 

Con mucho amor,

ChelseaBeth

Lessons Learned: June Edition

When we signed up for the Peace Corps, I imagined our life to be peaceful with a twinge of boring. I had already picked out my obligatory instrument of choice to master during my 27 months of isolation – it was the harmonica, btw! I planned to delve into innumerable novels to keep me sane. I had made peace with the lack of internet, friends, and basically any remnants of my life stateside.

 

Well, all of my assumptions turned out to be completely false. We’re SO busy; we’re either in salsa class three times a week, Skyping with family back home, or out climbing some mountain or rock with our new friends. There is no time for playing the harmonica, let alone keeping up with the blog for goodness’ sake! We decided that if nothing else, we would keep posting these lessons learned blogs as a way of documenting our time in Mexico. So at least you can rest assured you’ll at minimum be getting monthly (ish) updates from us. Without further ado, here they are!

 

  1. Situations change the vocabulary you’re using and learning. This month, I learned plenty of vocabulary related to the body due to my extended time at physical therapy. Neal, on the other hand, has been working intensely with the department of environmental impacts where he has been using and learning technical environmental words. Thankfully, we continuously learn from each other as well!
  2. Fermentation is fun! And by fun, I mean SO fun. We started on this kick after realizing all the different benefits of consuming pro-biotics found in fermented food. Right now, we have three different food projects. First, we are brewing kombucha which is absolutely the hippie drink that it sounds like. We’re also producing sourdough, gluten free at the moment but we may start introducing whole-wheat to the starter due to studies and speculation that the gluten is actually consumed in the fermenting process. Third house project would be pickled vegetables, which are delicious and nutritious.
  3. Mexican birthdays most alwaysP1080008 involve cake in your face – and in my case, up the nose too! It starts out so innocent with a song called Las Mañanitas – then you blow out the candles and people are already chanting Mor-di-ta, Mor-di-ta! (little bite). As you go in for your bite of cake, hands gather behind your head to shove the cake in your face. I do believe my three closest amigas here are responsible for this year’s round. Watch out chicas, I’m comin’ for ya!
  4. Computer viruses in Mexico are rather vicious. This month, both Neal and I got viruses on our work computers. The worst part is that the symptoms were so subtle that we didn’t even notice the virus for weeks! My symptom was that my accent key produced two accents with one tap of the key; it turned out to be a tracing malware and I had to change all of my passwords. Neal’s symptom was that it “erased” all of the contents of his iPod while it was connected to the computer and thought it was a problem with his work computer. When he connected it to our home computer to check it, it spread to ours at home.
  5. Puebla and Cholula are full of entertainment that don’t require arm movement. Having a bum arm when you’re an active person is pretty rough on the soul, no doubt. Thankfully we put a positive spin on the whole situation by seeing plays and trying out new restaurants.
  6. The rainy season here in Cholula earns its name.
    I mean, it REALLY rains here. Thunder, lightning, the whole bit. Plus, our street floods on heavy rain – so you better hope you’re home when it hits. One time on a heavy rain, our neighbor’s car was parked in front of our house and the whole vehicle got flooded. That rio which is normally our street was about a foot high.
  7. Always buy the cheapest seats at a theater. As mentioned above, we got to visit the theater this month. Being typical Americans, we bought the cheapest tickets we could find to see STOMP. Upon arrival, the theater notified us that no other tickets were sold in the upper balcony and it would not be open for this show. They marched us down to the ticket counter and they gave us complementary orchestra seats instead. We’re volunteers, so of course we took them!
  8. Our life really does revolve around food. P1070842We’ve got a routine down for making healthy comida for the week, making breakfast smoothies with homemade granola, and locked down our favorite store to buy the best natural yogurt in town (it’s Santa Clara, by the way!). We’re also perfecting a smoothie that tastes just like pumpkin pie with a local fruit called mamey, and figuring out how to get to our Italian friend’s pizza place more often.

 

That’s all for now. Until next time!

 

Cheers,

ChelseaBeth

El Peñon & el Cumpleaños de Neal

For Neal’s birthday weekend we headed to Tlaxcala for our hiking club adventures. We had a great hike, as always. This weekend we sumitted El Peñon with our hiking friends and had the opportunity to celebrate Neal as well.

 

Birthday breakfast included banana foster pancakes, bacon and coffee to fuel our trip to Tlaxcala

A typical trailhead in Mexico – at the base of the mountain and in the middle of a small pueblito

Indian Paintbrush all the way down here in Mexico

Birthday boy!

There’s our goal – El Peñon

Almost to the top! Final pushes and Mikal is all smiles

Our amigo, Andrés at the top

Happy birthday, Neal!!!

Lots of love,

Chelsea Beth

 

PS – I know our blogs have been sporadic. I need a little bit of reassurance that people are actually reading these blogs and enjoying them. Please leave some love!

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

Today marks an important day for the heart of Mexico and the Catholic calendar; today marks the miracle where Our Lady of Guadalupe became known to the Bishop. On December 9th, she revealed herself to a peasant and asked that a church in her name be built at that site. The peasant gathered flowers from the site and trekked through the mountains to tell the Bishop about what he saw. When he let down his cloak to reveal the flowers, there was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe miraculously imprinted on the fabric.

 

For those who don’t know, Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe) is the celebrated Roman Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary. Although Catholicism is not the official religion of Mexico, it is said that about 80% of the residents belong to the Catholic church. For this reason, many of the Catholic holidays are also considered national holidays. You will hear an abundant amount of fireworks this time of year, but even more interesting is that you will see people walking and riding bikes to make a pilgrimage to the site of the church.

 

We have seen people all week on the road with framed icons of the Virgin of Guadalupe and have managed to take a few pictures of the pilgrims on their quest…

 

Cyclists on a break with their support vehicle

 

More cyclists resting on the side of the highway.

 

The Virgin of Guadalupe and a cyclist.

 

Hopefully the fireworks will stop at some point so we could have a decent night’s rest. Until then, we will just enjoy the party. If you’d like to learn more, Wikipedia is always a good resource!

 

Number of bug bites: 1

Days till Navidad: 13

High temp for today: 72F

 

Love and stuff,

Chels

La Familia de Cuerpo de Paz

Becoming part of the Peace Corps family is no easy task. The application process alone is arduous containing endless questions and three essay questions. From there, there is an interview process. For us, our interview was three hours long. After that, our regional recruiter nominated us for Sub-Saharan Africa, therefore we began thinking about what life would be like for us to live in such conditions. Immediately after the nomination, we were asked to track down childhood doctors and record our entire medical history. This alone took us three months to complete all the blood work, tests, and examines that they requested. Once we submitted all of our medical history to Washington D.C., we received a phone call from the placement specialist wanting to know if we have any interest in a special placement in Mexico. Once she explained what a great fit it would be for us, we decided to go for it.This meant updating our resumes again and hoping that Peace Corps Mexico picked us for an interview. They did and we conducted our interview in the car during our lunch breaks. At this point, we just wanted to go somewhere and we heard from PCMexico only a few weeks later.

 

Once we knew when and where we were going, we announced to our jobs that we were leaving. We made a bucket list and began selling our possessions. We made plans with our financial advisor and found a place for all our things (Thanks DJ and Melissa!). All the meanwhile trying to shove as much Rosetta Stone’s Spanish program into our brains. Such an exhausting process! Then we did a quick roadtrip to California to see  all of my family. When we returned, we sold our car and packed our final bags for Mexico. Then we had a few more get-togethers with friends and family before we left the country.

 

In Mexico, we have spent  484 hours in training over the past 11 weeks with 21 other wonderful Peace Corps Mexico Trainees Volunteers. We have slept 76 nights in our host mom, Martha’s home, and have been to countless fiestas and celebrations to practice our Spanish. We have waited 17 months for the day of our swearing-in; November 13th marks the day that we officially have been welcomed in to the Peace Corps family. Here are some pictures from the day:

 

Team Jander as official Volunteers with Peace Corps Mexico!

 

Team Jander kickin’ it with the Ambassador

CB and her epic Spanish class – Albondigas!

 

Team Jander with Regina – our awesome Training Manager

 

CB is super stoked to meet Mr. Ambassador!

 

Now we are safely in Puebla where we will be living for the next two years. We are looking forward to getting to know a new city, but as you know changing cities has problems of it’s own. If you’d like our new address, please let us know!

 

Love from Puebla,

Chels
PS – Here’s a really great picture of our fancy Peace Corps pin from my friend Jessica’s blog.