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

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!

Lugares Hermosos: Tehuacan

So I can’t exactly vouch for the town of Tehucan, but I can however tout about the Tehuacan-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve which is just outside of town. The trip to Tehuacan (the town) was about 2 hours from the central bus station in Puebla, and then to travel to the Biosphere Reserve was another 30 minutes by bus. It was a little convoluted, so I definitely recommend knowing Spanish if you’re travelling to this little desert oasis. We had a work meeting out in the reserve and we only stayed for one night. If we could do it again, we would definitely try and stay out there for at least 2 nights!

The Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World heritage site that has highly concentrated biodiversity with over 3,000 species living inside the reserve! It is one of the zones with the highest concentration of columnar cacti in the world.The site is also considered a key site on the origin and development of agriculture in Mesoamerica and has provided central information regarding the domestication of various species such as maize, chile, amaranth, avocado, and pumpkin. (Thanks, UNESCO for the facts!) Below are some of the views we saw in the short time we were at this amazing place.

 

 

(see Neal as scale)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working hard as Peace Corps Volunteers!

 

Having fun with the Super Moon!

 

More Super Moon fun!

 

Thanks, Tehucan! You are beautiful!!

 

Could you ever imagine a forest full of cacti to be so beautiful and breathtaking?? We were certainly surprised. Our two biggest regrets is that we waited so long to visit and that we didn’t stay long enough. Oh well! Better than never visiting at all.

Keep adventuring, amigos!

Love,

C

Lugares Hermosos: Cantona

One of the most interesting things about Mexico is the culture and history! Learning about the indigenous, pre-Hispanic culture has been one of my favorite parts of living in Mexico these past few years. There are so many archaeological sites, one has to wonder if even a mountain might have a pyramid beneath the vegetation.  We have seen pyramids all over Mexico: Palenque in Chiapas, Yohualichan in Cuetzalan, and of course Teotihuacan near Mexico City.

Cantona, however, is a very different archaeological zone in that only 10% of the zone has been studied and uncovered. This zone has less emphasis on pyramids and is almost completely devoted to city life. There are neighborhoods, streets, ball courts, and designated religious areas. Experts say that in the peak population, around 7,000 people lived in Cantona.

Having heard all the oohs and ahhs and you really must go‘s, we decided to make a trip out there when our dear friend Matt was in town. Although the trip was inexpensive, we had to take two buses and one combi to get there. It took 3 hours in total to walk around the uncovered area – never retracing our steps. We highly recommend this to anyone in or near the Puebla area!!

This beautiful lizard isn’t sure what to do with us.

 

Platforms where sleeping areas were constructed out of wood.

 

All smiles!

 

Walking down these pyramid steps takes a lot of concentration!

 

The site was so well preserved!

 

A little micro-forest blooms amidst a rock wall.

 

It’s almost as if the mountain caps off that pyramid!

 

Goofing around!

 

Don’t forget to mark your name on the agave on your way out!

 

Goodbye, Cantona!

 

Although the travel was arduous, it was truly a beautiful and interesting spot. If you have visitors in town who are up for an adventure, I highly recommend you take them to this site!

 

Cheers,

Chelsea Elizabeth

Ecuador: Criaturas Asombrosas

¡Hola de nuevo! Welcome to the third – and final – installment of my Ecuador series. Click on for part one: Fabulous Moments or part two: Beautiful Views. In this final section of our trip to Ecuador, I wanted to share some of the crazy and beautiful living creatures we encountered during our time abroad.

 

This tapier was recuperating in the wildlife refuge we visited.

 

Stoic toucan waits for the rain to come!

 

A cordyceps right there in the rainforest!

 

A beautiful butterfly accented by modern colors.

 

Butterflies enjoying a good meal.

 

The ostrich referred to in this post!

 

A resting hummingbird – a rare shot indeed!

 

Sweet baby Canela, the hostel’s latest addition to their herd!

 

We just loved capturing all these creatures and critters on camera during our quick trip to Ecuador. This was just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll be back, South America!!

Abrazitos,

Chels

Ecuador: Vistas Bonitas

Part two of my Ecuador series (part one can be found here) entails highlighting some of the beautiful sceneries and views that inspired us during our trip!

This shot was taken from the bus as we headed into the Amazon – the road to adventure!

 

Breathtaking sunrise views from the hammocks on our porch.

 

Visiting the rainforest during the rainy season? No problem! That means full, swollen waterfalls!

 

Our lunch spot halfway through our white water rafting day!

 

Visiting this humming bird garden on the edge of the rainforest.

 

Colorful jackets amidst the natural colors of the Andes mountain range.

 

Alpacas and the beautiful Cotopaxi volcano taken from the grounds of the hostel.

 

Sunsets on one of the many beaches of Ecuador

 

Rooftop view of Quito

 

Strolling around in Quito – or France – or Italy!

 

Thanks for coming along with us on our adventure. We experienced so many amazing vistas, it was difficult to narrow it down!

 

Love from Mexico,

CB

Ecuador: Momentos Fabulosos

When Neal and I first found out we were moving to Mexico, we knew that we were going to have the opportunity to travel to some amazing places. From the get-go, we were determined to utilize our vacation as strategically as possible! Thanks to the generous Peace Corps annual leave policy, we have been able to travel to Costa Rica, Chiapas, Seattle, and now Ecuador. We even still have some vacation left if you can believe it!

When we planned this trip, we knew we would have to pack a lot into a short trip especially since we’d be travelling by bus and taxi in Ecuador. We contacted a handful of Peace Corps Volunteers currently serving in Ecuador and we got our travel plan approved after many revisions. Early on we decided that this would likely be the first of many trips to such a beautiful, interesting, and diverse country. That said, here are some of our favorite moments and memories from our viaje in Ecuador.

 

White Water Rafting (27 km!) in the headwaters of the Amazon and laughing the whole entire way.

 

Stumbling on a hiking trail with lush plants, waterfalls, and an ostrich! (Yes, an ostrich was waiting for us at the end!)

 

Visiting a hummingbird garden in Baeza, and then getting invited to the town party.

 

Making friends at one of the coolest hot springs and learning the word for cold in the native language… cha-chai!

 

Summiting our first mountain in the Andres range – Pasachoa at 4,200 m (13,780 ft)

 

Summiting another mountain in the Andes, Rumiñahui – 4,721 m (15,489 ft)

 

Playing, resting, and relaxing on the beach for two whole days and meeting Peace Corps Volunteers!

 

Attempting the summit of Pichincha with friends from the hostel. We turned around just below the summit due to inclement weather at 4,784 m (15,696 ft)!

 

Watching the sunset on our last day in Ecuador on a rooftop bar and celebrating all the wonderful memories we have made!

 

If you ever, and I mean ever, have the opportunity to travel to Ecuador… DO IT! Our Spanish was definitely helpful in getting around, but we ultimately used our English more in country talking to other travelers. We had such a beautiful time sharing meals with new friends, seeing you sights, and summiting new mountains!

 

Thanks for coming along! Adventure is out there!

XO,

Ceebs

Visita de mis Suegros

¡Hola! I hope everyone had an excellent celebration of Cinco de Mayo, better known here in Mexico as the Battle of Puebla. The date in May in the USA seems to represent Mexican Independence Day or Proud-to-be-Latino-day or Lets-just-drink-lots-of-tequila-day. In reality, the 5th of May is the date of one significant battle won in Mexico’s history. The significance to most Americans is lost, especially when you consider what would have likely occurred had the Mexicans not won the battle. Historians speculate that if the French won the battle in Puebla, they would have conquered Mexico and sent troops to the Confederates during our Civil War. Therefore,  potentially changing the outcome of our Civil War. America and Mexico have a much more co-dependent relationship than I had ever known or realized before my time here.

Anyway, here are some quick highlights from when my in-laws came to visit us here in Mexico!

Mexico City has little gems of art installations all over the place!

Mexico City has little gems of art installations all over the place!

 

Beautiful... jell-o? Yep that's gelatin art right there!!

Beautiful… jell-o? Yep that’s gelatin art right there!!

 

Famous Diego Rivera overalls!

Famous Diego Rivera overalls!

 

One of my most favorite maps ever of all time!

One of my most favorite maps ever of all time!

 

A huge butterfly kite embodies Mexico's spirit and culture.

A huge butterfly kite embodies Mexico’s spirit and culture.

 

Neat cathedrals and garden spaces!

Neat cathedrals and garden spaces!

 

Watch out Neal, that agave is going to attack you!

Watch out Neal, that agave is going to attack you!

 

Hanging out in our kitchen, chopping mangoes!

Hanging out in our kitchen, chopping mangoes!

 

Thanks for a great visit, suegros!!

Thanks for a great visit, suegros!!

 

Hope you liked seeing a little bit of their trip. We had a blast and always love having visitors. We love sharing other parts of Mexico that just aren’t depicted very well in America. A very popular phrase here is: ¡Hay muchos Mexicos! // There are many Mexicos!

Keep on adventuring!

Chelsea