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


Resolutions vs. Goals

I love the New Year! I love the fresh, clean cut from the past year. I love the feeling of having limitless opportunities. Optimism fills the air as people look forward to the year to come. Everything seems to look a little bit brighter in these moments of the new year. The world looks shinier and you start thinking about the person you hope to be.


Maybe you want to stop smoking, or get in better shape, or get out of debt this year. You resolve to getting to the gym or getting on the patch or making a budget for yourself. You’re doing great, but that first hiccup appears and you miss your gym appointment or you inhale the smell of cigarette smoke or you buy that thing that was just too good of a deal to pass up.


We have all been there.


Resolutions never seemed to work for me, personally. It’s too easy to lose focus on the big picture you’ve set for yourself. Before you know it, you’re the same person you were when you made this resolution. I much prefer goals – big or small – that bring you closer to become the person you want to be. This past year, a friend loaned me the book Creating Your Best Life by Caroline Adams Miller MAPP & Dr. Michael B. Frisch. The book is all about goal-setting and living the life you have imagined. I highly recommend it to those who are interested in moving with bold intention.



For me, goal-setting and list-making have always been a part of my life. Thanks to the book, I have been able to hone in on life goals and living with more clear purpose. Ask me sometime and I will let you see my hearts desires, my 100-thing list. Here are some of the actions we want to take this year.


  1. Attend a marriage conference (our goal is every 5 years!)
  2. Neal to do his first triathlon
  3. Chelsea to do her first half-marathon
  4. Backpack out in the country for 4 days
  5. Refine our survival skills
  6. Read through the Old Testament
  7. Publish at least 2 books of travels around the world
  8. Join an intramural volleyball team
  9. Do a full moon hike
  10. Continue to document stories from time abroad


If lists and goals aren’t your thing, then check out this TED Talk for a cool alternative to becoming your best self. All it takes is 30 days!



To your best you!




B.A. in Marriage

Today is our 4th anniversary. If we were in university, we would have earned a B.A. in marriage by now! Some think it’s more of a science than an art, but I stand firm that love and marriage is always changing just like art. Over the years we’ve learned many things that keep our relationship new and yet consistent all at the same time. We have learned how to be independent and yet dependent on one another. Together we have grown closer to each other and our life vision has become more clear. We have rooted for one another, supported one another on tough days, and we have loved one another through it all. Marriage is not just about happiness, but about becoming a whole person.


A beautiful moment captured by Zach Hodgson


Marriage is about discovering anew your partner everyday. It is about loving and serving your partner, who also happens to be a fallible human like yourself. It is about humility and grace and being drawn to the One who created us all. Marriage is about choosing to love and be loved in your most ugly moments. Marriage is also about having FUN together! Even if you have different interests, having shared fun time together is so important.


We spent our 4th anniversary at Disneyland!


Here’s to a wonderful new year of marriage and an epic new year of life together. Bring it on, 2015!!


Happy New Year from Team Jander!


Nuestro Departamento

Due to safety reasons, we were never able to publish photos of our apartment while we were living on-site. For your viewing pleasure, I have put up some photos so you can see what our apartment looked like as Peace Corps Volunteers in Mexico. We lived simply, but we were safe and had a host family that took great care of us. This apartment is located in San Pedro Cholula, which is unrelated to the popular hot sauce. We lived on the second floor and to our surprise, never had any problems with scorpions or snakes or any other unwanted creatures that are common to the Peace Corps experience.


You have to understand, life was simple and cheap. Our apartment in numbers… rent was $155 USD/month; internet with router was $25 USD/month; gas was $20 USD every other month; electricity was $4 USD every other month.


Our garden patio – chives, lettuce, tomatoes, and our compost!


Our economy bathroom – shower, sink, toilet all right there!


Part 1 of our kitchen – limited space, limited pots and pans.


Part 2 of our kitchen – Note our mini fridge!


The living room where friends and family have spent many hours together!


The view from our bedroom door. I love our little apartment!


Since we’re still not settled in our new life, this still feels like my home. It breaks my heart to see our home and to know that we willingly chose to leave this life. It is easy, however, to idealize the things you’ve lost in life. Mexico will always be a part of my life and our story. I am forever grateful for our experiences there and the many memories we had in this apartment.


¡Feliz Navidad! 

Chelsea Beth

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.



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.




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.



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!




¡Hasta Luego, México!

See ya later, Mexico! 


And Hello Seattle!


November 1st marked our last day as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and it also marks the day we assume a new title of Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Once you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer, you’re always a Peace Corps Volunteer. The story sticks with you, the memories will change you forever.


We committed twenty-seven months to living abroad. We dedicated twenty-seven months to all things Mexico. We devoted twenty-seven months to lovings others outrageously.


Mil gracias to all of the people that participated in this part of our journey, to all those that visited us in Mexico, to those that sent us letters and packages, to those new friends that journeyed with us, and to those that welcomed us warmly back into their lives as we adjust to life in the USA once again. We truly could not have gone through the last few years without all your support and love.


Now we begin a journey anew, one of rediscovery and settling in to our old skin as new people. We have changed significantly over the last few years – we still resemble our old selves and yet not at all. This is where reverse culture shock begins to set in, so please give us mercy and grace as we repatriate to US culture once again.


Ways you can support us during the repatriation process:

  1. Be extra communicative. If you want to see us or spend time with us, please let us know! If you expect something of us, please communicate that to us. If we’re breaking some serious US cultural norms, please tell us!
  2. Be sensitive when asking about what’s next. Coming back to the United States after being away for so long is a process in of itself. We are planning on becoming employed and settling in at some point. Right now we are considering repatriation our job as we get through the holidays.
  3. Send prayers and good vibes. It’s a long, hard process to come back and start all over again. Please pray for us and send us good vibes as we begin a new life and new adventure.
  4. Clue us in on pop culture references. Because really, being away for over two years really does a doozy on your ability to understand pop culture. Lists of good music, TV shows, or movies to watch is infinitely helpful.
  5. Invite us into your home. One of the big life lessons we learned in Mexico was the importance of seeing people in their homes. We want to visit you in your home, or at your work, or at your place of worship. We want to be intentional about this blank time that we have, and fill it up with relationship-building time.



Chelsea Beth

Regional GIS Conference

Lost Axis GIS

During these last two years of Peace Corps service a large component of my work has been to teach others how to use GIS software to answer environmental science and resource management questions. I knew from the outset that I would be able to learn in the process of teaching and yet as my two years come to a close I now find myself surprised at just how much I have learned during my time here.   One of the greatest learning opportunities for me was the planning and execution of a regional GIS conference funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

As Peace Corps volunteers we have a unique opportunity to apply to USAID for Small Project Assistance (SPA) grants.  These grant funds provide a way for Peace Corps volunteers to partner with USAID to support development efforts in the areas they serve.  The conference was the collaborative effort of…

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