Why did you join the Peace Corps?
On our second date, at Cupcake Royale in Seattle, Neal and I discussed the possibility of joining of the Peace Corps. At the time, we both had international plans ahead of us but separately as individuals. We both knew that if we ever were to get married, Peace Corps would be high on our list. About 4 months after we married, we started the 18-month application process. Instead of an African safari, we were packing for Mexico which turned out to be much more than just sombreros and tequila.
Where in Mexico did you live?
After learning about our assignment to Mexico, Neal and I were prepared for the highlands and the desert. It turns out we were specifically assigned to the capitol of Puebla in the state of Puebla. Once we finished PST (Pre-Service Training) and took an oath of service, we moved to an apartment in a small town outside of the capitol called San Pedro Cholula.
What did you do exactly in Mexico?
Both Neal and I were assigned to work in the environment sector prior to leaving the US. We both worked in the same office in Puebla, at the SEMARNAT which is Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment. Regardless of my (Chelsea Beth’s) lack of experience in the environment, I was able to work in Department of Environmental Education. Neal was a specialist in Geographic Information Systems for both the Environmental Impact and the Forestry Department. You can read more information about my work here, and Neal’s work over at Lost Axis GIS.
Did you know what you would be doing and where exactly you’d be living before you left the US?
Upon leaving, Neal had a more specific assignment in which we were both aware that he would be working in his specialty as a GIS expert. We knew that we would be living somewhere in Mexico City, and we assumed that we would be living in a metropolitan city. I had no idea what I would be doing, and I was honestly okay with that. We found out where we would be eventually moving to on our first day of training. It was a relief to know where we would be living so we could frame our training around that fact.
Were you able to travel a lot during your service?
If you’re asking this question, you must be new to our blog… so welcome! We were able to travel all over Mexico and even got some international travel in there including Costa Rica, Ecuador, the USA, and Okinawa (Japan). Some of our favorite trips in Mexico include Chiapas, Tehuacan, Cuetzalan, and Oaxaca.
Isn’t Mexico generally unsafe and scary?
My best reply to this is that Mexico is a very big country – over 700,000 square miles! Of course there will be violence and famine, but also many beautiful people and vistas. You must understand that there are many Mexicos. We lived in Puebla, which is less than 100 miles from Mexico City. See the infographic from HowSafeIsMexico.com.
Did anyone come to visit?
YES!! We had so many visitors over the course of our two years living in Mexico and we cherished every visit. Many thanks to those that took the time out of their busy lives to better understand the Mexico that we know and love.
Are you basically fluent in Spanish now?
Well, we arrived in Mexico with almost zero (yes, you read that right… zip, zilch, nil) Spanish skills. That said, we left Mexico at the advanced level. I was even able to publish a book titled “Huertos Escolares Sostenibles” with some friends. The entire book is in Spanish and was published for my school garden project.
What food do you miss the most?
Tlayudas. Hands down. See Neal below with half of one of these delicious inventions.