5 Lessons Learned from my Facebook Fast

During the season of Lent this year, I decided to ‘give up’ Facebook. I have always struggled with comparing myself to others and Facebook is the perfect habitat to do so. Sure, its a good communication tool, but it’s become a online place where people attempt to present their best selves to the internet. Largely it has become a place to brag or show off an accomplishment to say, “Look at me! I do this all the time! Isn’t my life awesome?!” Okay so maybe people don’t intentionally set out to do just that, but perhaps you take 2 or 3 selfies before picking your best one? Not that it’s wrong, but the whole concept has become uncomfortably toxic to me over the years; present your best self and pretend that you are that person 100% of the time. It transforms you to be an impostor of your true self. Anyway, so I chose to fast from Facebook for 40 days and here is what I learned.

  1. The addiction is real. When I first started this fast, I had to be really intentional about not going on Facebook. In the first week as I was browsing the internet somehow I ended up on the Facebook homepage more than once. How did that happen? I removed the bookmark and anything that could automatically lead me to it. It was my own two hands typing in f-a-c-e-b-o-o-k-.-c-o-m without my brain even realizing it. Yeah, I was terrified to say the least! I had this constant pull to see how many people liked my photo or messaged me to say hey or to check on whose birthday it was that day. It was this constant, real gnawing at my brain and I think the only reason I noticed it was because I was fighting the urge to log on. I knew that I was addicted to it before I gave it up, but good golly miss Mollie (hey girl!) I had no idea how much of a grip it had on my ability to be present in my daily life. It was a real challenge to give it up, but by the end of it I can look at my presence on Facebook as a choice and less of an addiction.
  2. Facebook does not make me feel better about my life. On Sundays I would check my Facebook to see what was going on in the world, connect with friends who didn’t know I was fasting during the week, and to see whose birthday it was just so I could send them a Happy Belated Birthday text. It wasn’t so bad because normally on Sundays I was off having my own adventures and had only a few spare moments to check Facebook during the Lenten season. But things would still pop up on my newsfeed that would instantly make me feel jealous or less than in just a few seconds. Seconds! Two seconds before I was completely content with my life and then two seconds later I feel miserable because I didn’t do x,y, and/or z. So why would I continue to invest my time and energy into something that can make me feel so negative about my own life?
  3. People assume I know what’s going on in their life. Our world has become so Facebook-centric – save a few friends – that is has become a current of knowledge. If it’s on Facebook, you should know when a birthday is or that someone got engaged, or that someone went skydiving even though they’re terrified of heights. All of those items are really important if you are trying to cultivate a real friendship. You should know those things about those close to you! Let me tell you that I need to set my own calendar reminders for people’s birthdays because I missed a few important ones these past 40 days. But it’s true! People would assume that I knew details of their lives just because they posted them on Facebook. It felt awful to be behind in nearly every social interaction.
  4. Choosing to intentionally connect with a smaller group of people satiated me much more than Facebook. This past month I finished a Coursera class on Positive Psychology. I promise you this is much less woo woo than it sounds. Basically, the way you feel about life comes down to the connections you have with those around you. A smile from a stranger can make you feel safe and welcome. A thief stealing your handbag can make you feel scared and unsafe. A hug from a loved one can make you feel comforted and uplifted. A stranger manspreading in your personal space can make you feel uncomfortable and small. It comes down to the connections that we have on a daily basis and who we share them with. One of the biggest takeaways from this class is that Facebook, texting, and online chatting do not give your brain the boost of good stuff like a real-time interaction does. It’s true! You need a real-time connection to get the physiological benefits of a positive interaction. Do you want to feel happier right now? Pick up the phone, call a loved one just to catch up. Facetime instead of gchatting a friend. Your brain and emotions will thank you. For more on positive psychology, check out this article or this one.
  5. There is enough time out there to accomplish your dreams and goals. But I can’t achieve them by sitting on Facebook, feeling bad about myself, and just hoping that my life will magically be awesome. Nope, I had to work at it and make my dreams a reality. These past 40 days I have been able to accomplish goals like starting to read through the Old Testament, starting my garden, baking, reading, creating a prayer journal, writing letters, and more. It’s easier to accomplish my goals when I not only had the time, but the space in my brain to do something I’ve always wanted to do. I wasn’t bogged down and thinking about how much I didn’t accomplish that day in comparison to my peers – no – instead my mind was clear and I could look at my free time differently. I approached life with a lighter step. Here are a few things I have done in my Facebook-free time.

 

#bergen #peak #colorado #hiking #adventure #goldenlife

A post shared by Chelsea Beth Jander (@theceebster) on

 

A letter writing kind of weekend.

A post shared by Chelsea Beth Jander (@theceebster) on

 

#Easter #baking #glutenfree #cinnamon #bread #yellow #happy

A post shared by Chelsea Beth Jander (@theceebster) on

 

So what’s next? Do I continue my Facebook fast or do I reconnect the Facebook feed line right to my vein? To be honest, I choose neither. Extremism isn’t my thing. I’m more of a middle road kind of girl. I choose honest, real friendships and relationships over superficial content any day. I’ll give preference to those who want to text, call, Facetime, or send letters to keep in touch. Sure I will log on once or twice a week just to see what’s up, but don’t expect me to know every detail of your life unless you tell me. In return, I will give you my friendship, my love, and my undivided attention.

 

Yours,

Chelsea Beth

 

PS – If you want to get in touch on a more personal level but don’t know how, just comment below and we’ll make it happen!

Reject the Single Story

 

When we were offered the assignment to move to Mexico, we created a pro & con list with the single story knowledge that we had. Safety was a big concern for us, and what was it going to be like to move to the desert? Would we have to adopt new names or join a mariachi band to fit in? We were victims of the single story that is so often painted for US citizens. We had even been to Mexico on mission trips building houses and working with youth groups. The only story we knew of Mexico was that Mexicans were impoverished, less than, and always trying to sneak into our country. I can’t blame you for thinking the same.

 

Arriving to Mexico, I was nervous and skeptical of what I was seeing. Could people really be happy hear? Is that jazz music I hear in the courtyard? Why are there coffee shops and pizzerias on every corner? Aren’t these people supposed to be poor? 

 

My friend, let me tell you, there are many Mexicos.

 

Throughout the two years of living in Mexico, I have encountered more Mexicos than I thought possible. I have been to the coast to stay with a Swede in his beachside hotel. I have been to isolated communities that lack clean water. I have been to the jungle and spotted exotic birds. I have been to the city and watched people cram themselves into an already full subway train. I have been to pyramids where indigenous people played soccer and birthed new life. I have been to cold, rainy, and clouded forests that feel just like the Pacific Northwest. I have been to the coffee growing regions and met the poorly compensated farmers.

 

Over the years, I have heard countless stories of cousins, brothers, fathers crossing the border. You can see the pain in their eyes as they tell you the story of the economic hardship that drove them to trek the 400 miles in hopes of providing for their families. I have met men who started a life in the US, only to be deported and ripped away from their kids who have citizenship. It is not an easy story to hear, but it is an important one.

 

Mexico is so much more than Spring Break, drugs, and immigration laws. There is vibrant life and culture popping out at every corner. Happiness, joy, sorrows, and struggles. You must not forget that we are all humans, part of the human race.

 

I encourage you to reject the single story of any one person or any one place and seek a new perspective. On that note, I have to say that I am only one voice, one story in the Peace Corps novel. If you are interested in embracing new stories, I would encourage you to check out these other fabulous Peace Corps bloggers below to help you better understand what Peace Corps truly is and how you can support those who work for peace around the globe.

 

Meet Jessica, author of prize-winning blog Among the Stone Cactuses, who like myself was in Mexico. Her time was cut short due to a medical injury, and she had a different experience to her time as a PCV. She is an incredible writer and her journalistic photos draw you into her story.

 

 

Meet Jedd and Michelle, authors of Simply Intentional, who served in Jamaica as a married couple from 2012 – 2014. Their videos make the stories they have encountered come to life and pop out. They have a similar timeline to Neal and I, and they too are in the RPCV sabbatical mindset.

 

 

Meet Sara, author of Guinean Dreams, whos Peace Corps service ended 21 months early because of the Ebola outbreak. Read her true stories on the perspective of Ebola and tell me that the US news has not desensitized us.

 

 

Meet Keith and Heather, authors of Sponge & Slate, who are currently serving as Peace Corps Volunteers in China. They are English teachers who record their students during class and work on gender equality issues on the side.

 

 

Peace to you, amigos!

CBJ

Lessons Learned: Lost Archives

In our first year of living in Mexico, we published a blog every month regarding some of our lessons learned that month. After those first 12 months, it started becoming more difficult to come up with new content. Not that we were experts, but that the new-ness and unfamiliarity had worn off. We felt more at home and less like outsiders. Our reasoning began to align with that of a local. When I was cleaning out the draft section, I found some old lessons learned in our blog archives.

 

  1. Tamales are the breakfasts of champions. Our favorites were cheese and blackberry tamales, sort of like a blackberry cheesecake tamale – or maybe the lime coconut flavor! Traditional mole poblano or rajas are reliably good as well.
  2. Sometimes you find a burger in the middle of the desert. No joke! We were hunting for food in a very small town about 2 hours away from the capitol. Absolutely nothing looked viable. Lo and behold, Pink Burger. A copy of the best Californian-style burgers.
  3. Being patriotic is a good thing. You should love your country and know it’s history.
  4. Vacation is whatever you want it to be. Sometimes you just need to decompress and get away. Reading a book in your hotel room is perfectly acceptable. Adventures will be there when you’re done enjoying your down time!
  5. Complaining doesn’t get you anywhere, but constructive conversation might. Ask about what can be improved instead of taking it personally. That is – of course – after you verbally process and talk it out over tequila.
  6. How much difference a year makes! Not saying we’re know-it-alls, but we certainly know a lot more than we did at Pre-Service Training. Our perspective has changes so much since first arriving in Mexico.
  7. Time to read a book is precious in this day and age. Sure our social lives aren’t all that fancy, but we have so much time to read! All our lives we have always wanted to be readers and Mexico has certainly gifted us with that lifestyle change.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed the old lessons learned from the lost archives! What are some life lessons that you have learned over this past year?

 

Be blessed,

Chelsea Elizabeth

The In Between Poems, Part 2

We’ve been back stateside long enough to blend in now. The wear and tear of living abroad has worn off now. The shock of repatriation is beginning to wane. We’re still floating and waiting for the job ship to set sail. Until then, the process continues. Our stories are told in English with more fluidity. We have perfected the elevator speech and dwindled 2.5 years of life into 2.5 minutes. Just because we seem to blend in and life seems a little more put together does not mean that we’re no longer affected by reverse culture shock. No, no. Quite the contrary. Enjoy McPherson Time’s perspective on this time in our lives.

 

2.

The future used to be as big as the sky.

But here, everyone’s tomorrow is as tiny as the stars.

Why reach out for a target so tiny?

To connect with people here is to make constellations.

But there are barely any stars when I look up in this city to begin with.

They don’t want to hear my stories,

They want me to make their imaginations come true.

I’ve collected all these huge fireflies, but they want to make my jar go dim.

Jars aren’t supposed to shine; they’re supposed to keep useful things, like preserves or change.

When I speak of magic,

Why do their imaginations wander away from the wonder I have to tell,

Only to capture things mundane,

Things they’ll see in their tiny tomorrow.

Maybe my world is too jarring.

Maybe I should speak smaller

Maybe my stories need to be less lightning bug,

And more laser pointer.

 

Thanks again to poet – Anthony McPherson – for taking the time to write these words. I am honored and amazed to read my own thoughts through the artistic eyes of others.

 

Love someone big today.

 

Cheers,

Chelsea

The In Between Poems, Part 1

We talked about reverse culture shock in my last blog. One aspect of repatriation that I was not prepared for was the inevitable down time. The time in between the fun happy hours and coffee dates. The time in between job hunting and going hiking. The time in between when everyone is at work and you’ve already accomplished your to-do list for the day. The time in between waking and sleeping.

 

Before I left Mexico, I reached out to friends who have gone through (and still going through) the PCV to RPCV transition. I asked for any advice they could give me during the transition and repatriation. Some responded with a brief, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t do so well in that department and you probably shouldn’t take any advice from me.” Others gave me a long list or ideas of things I could do to help myself. One dear friend who is also a RPCV, actually asked if she could interview me as part of a finals project for her Master’s theatre education program. She studied repatriation, reverse culture shock, and the transition from a RPCV perspective; I was her case study. She interviewed me and used her notes to inform her performance piece at the end of this semester. Being well connected and in NYC, she shared her notes with a slam poet – Anthony McPherson – and he took the time to write poetry about MY feelings. I am honored and amazed at the results; what a blessing to read my own feelings and thoughts through the artistic eyes of others.

 

1.

I have no goodbyes,

Only good times to come.

The future is big, a target we can’t miss,

Not even if we tried.

Our circle is already coming together again.

Even when I stand in place,

I feel the ground passing under me.

Travel plans swirl in the soles of my feet.

There are too many directions to walk.

All these roads, but for now I am back home.

I can appreciate the familiar sights,

Because soon, my eyes will be gone from them.

It will not last.

Elders say,

People come and go from each other’s lives,

But our circle is a little bit more important:

For the first time in our lives,

We had a place that felt like ours.

We had a place that felt like home.

 

Here’s another clip of McPhersonTime if you’re interested. This is his piece during the National Poetry Slam Finals.

 

Thanks for reading! Stayed tuned for more updates and more poetry!

 

Abrazitos,

C

Lessons Learned: August Edition

Well if you’ve been following this blog since we’ve left the USA, you will notice that we have officially come full circle. For next month’s lessons learned, we will have to start noting the titles differently to denote the differences between year one and year two. It is funny looking back on our first lessons learned post only to realize that all of those new lessons have become a part of our daily life and general understanding of Mexico. I also note a huge difference in the way we perceive Mexico by the way we report our lessons learned. Here’s to another year (+) of lessons learned!

  1. Getting a dose of Vitamin T for breakfast is simply the best.  In Mexico, a typical breakfast is most likely leftovers or anything that falls under the category of Vitamin T: tamales, tacos, tortas, tlacoyos, tortillas, tequila or any typical Mexican food that starts with a T. [For the record, I have not had any tequila with breakfast… yet!] Actually, it’s really quite difficult to find any component of a typical American breakfast in a restaurant setting. To be honest though? I will take blackberry and queso tamales any day in lieu of eggs, bacon, and pancakes.
  2. Indirect communication can be thrown to the wayside when necessary. One of the most challenging components of integration to Mexican culture has not only been learning what to communicate, but how to communicate it. First, you learn textbook Spanish and then you throw that to the wayside once you realize that Mexicans don’t speak like that at all. Then, you learn how to drop your direct questions and statements to give them a nice, indirect softening around the edges. For example, instead of saying I forgot it you would say it was forgotten by me to be a little softer on yourself. After the first three stages, you finally learn how to balance direct and indirect conversation because really, Mexicans use both but in very culturally specific ways. It really is okay to tell a street vendor a direct no after they interrupt your conversation for the third time. Phew!
  3. Roasting chilies are a vital, but painful component of Mexican cooking. So if you haven’t noticed by now, we are total foodies. Our amiga bonita, Laura taught us how to cook pozole — keep your eyes peeled for a recipe later this week! Part of the process is creating a chili powder from fresh chili de arbol where you first dry roast the suckers in a pan. Before starting, we opened up all the doors and windows to ensure proper ventilation. When the roasting starts, your nose slowly begins to burn; as the chilies begin to roast and develop in flavor, the bite of the pepper lodges its way into your throat. One little cough, another bigger cough and all of a sudden all four of us are coughing and gasping for air. That is apparently when the chilies are done being roasted. Once you regain normal breathing, you then put the roasted chilies in a blender with salt and garlic – which puts small particles of the pepper into the air. Coughing resumes, but then you have a delicious result of homemade chili powder.
  4. Protecting your financial identity is a cultural challenge. Depending on the region, we have come to understand that cash is king. People use cash to pay for everything from groceries to electricity bills. It is very rare to pay for anything online, and when you do it may be a more complicated process than paying in cash. For example when we went to the show STOMP, we purchased the tickets online and had to print a proof of purchase and bring a paper copy of our ID and debit card for their records. Another example would be that we reserved a hotel in Cuetzalan and since there was no online structure to pay in advance, they requested that we send our debit card information via e-mail. We refused on both accounts, but protecting your finances is more challenging due to the lack of infrastructure.
  5. Purchasing a small trinket from a vendor can open up a wealth of knowledge. If you’re traveling in Mexico, you are probably interested in tourist attractions at a local, mexicano price. Asking at the hotel will get you signed up for the “best” tour company in the area, which is likely 200% more expensive than the local way. Asking a street vendor how to get to Destination X without purchasing anything will only get you a shrug or two. Now if you take a Mexican approach to the situation, all you have to do is be friendly and interested in the product or food available. You can ask about the history of the place or what makes the food specific to that region or how that product was hand crafted. Not only will you gain a deeper understanding of the region, you will likely be able to get the information you need to arrive safely and cheaply to your chosen destination.
  6. Access to the best healthcare available can sometimes result in house arrest for days. Mom, Dad? Don’t be all worried. We still have access to the best healthcare available, but when we thought we had been exposed to strep, the only test available took four days to get results. We did not want to infect anyone else in case we were contagious, which meant that we were on house arrest for four days waiting for the results. The doctor called us on the fourth day when we were about to go crazy and told us the good news that we did not have strep whatsoever. The bad news was that we just stayed inside for four days without any good reason. Be thankful that the rapid strep test is available in the United States and Canada!
  7. Beauty is in finding appreciation in the small details. JournalSince we have started our service in November 2012, we have kept a journal where we record one thing/event/person that we appreciate that day. It is not a deep or complex journaling process, but it has allowed us to realize the beauty of the everyday, small details of life. Some nights we will lay in bed and laugh about the things we expressed gratitude. When the entries circle around the basics of life, you know that it was a difficult day for Team Jander. We hope to continue this practice of appreciation for years to come.
  8. Camping in Mexico ≠ Camping in the USA. We packed our backpacks with compact tents, self-inflating sleeping pads, efficient cookstoves, and all the food they’ll need to survive in the wilderness for the night. We arrived at the “campsite” to find lots of people, loud music, and plenty of beer overflowing from an awning of a restaurant. Totally shocked, we asked where were we supposed to set up our tents. They pointed to a triangular patch of grass situated right in the parking lot. So much for the wilderness! Camping in Mexico is not necessarily a time to connect with the outdoors as much as it is an opportunity to be social. We ended up going back home and camping at the house – it was definitely the better option!

We’ll be back with more lessons learned for a September Edition, round two. Until then, keep up with your own adventures and keep us posted on your lives!

Cheers,

CBJ

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