Monday, January 21, 2013

Super brief update on my (still) no-longer-African life...

When my father asked last September if I wanted to go to Cancun in January with the family, I admit, I was initially pretty hesitant. Crazy, I know. Not because I didn't want to go hang out on the beach and see awesome Mayan ruins, run in shorts and get a tan. I hesitated because I didn't know how that kind of an experience could fit in to my life as a student of international development; something felt incredibly contradictory about it. Rather than going to a developing nation to get to know a community for what it is, we would be going to the tourist "strip" (think Vegas in "Espanglés," the form of English/Spanish spoken to the overwhelming number of tourists that have congregated along a 24km strip of some of the biggest, most impressive resorts and hotels I have ever seen). After being assured that we would explore ancient Mayan ruins and spend time on some of the paths less traveled, I agreed, telling myself that we would at least be supporting the economy, right? Plus, when I tried to think about what I wanted from my winter vacation, all I could think of was paid work with no school work and complete relaxation. Perfect.
We returned from an amazing week in Cancun late on Friday night and although I found being treated as a tourist rather disagreeable, there really was no other way to do it. We did have a wonderful chance to explore several sites of Mayan ruins (Tulum and Coba), wander around (and literally get lost in) Downtown Cancun, snorkel, cliff jump and zip-line at all-inclusive Xel-Ha, and spend hours on the beach and in the ocean. It was my first international trip with my good camera (picasa update to come I hope!) and I realized how nice it would have been to have a DSLR with me in Europe and Africa, but also how amazing it will be in Peru. My Spanish is not as rusty as I'd thought, but I have a long way to go in brushing up before this summer! I'll spare you more of my rambling and sum up: Cancun was amazing. I am so lucky to have been able to spend that week with my family!

The rest of my holiday break was similarly wonderful. I got to work a bunch and relax plenty. My roommate and I hosted several evenings of dinner, games and/or boot hockey at the nearby rink. I found out that I will be in Peru (my first choice) for ten weeks this coming summer, working in the community of Junín with several other students in my graduate program. I spent a day with my grandma organizing her basement. Even though the end of January may be a bit late for reflections on 2012, it was a pretty great year, full of transitions and changes, new people and friendships, and a few disappointments and challenges. With the exception of a day in Canada, it was the first year since 2007 I have spent entirely in the U.S. It was a year of beginning to realize what I want to do with the next chapter of my life, and (for once) really feeling like I'm in the right place for me.
Second semester begins tomorrow, and even though I'm not particularly looking forward to the piles of pages to read and write, I think it will be nice to have a bit more of a set schedule. I've never dealt with transitions very well - today is rough just anticipating the semester, but by the time next week rolls around, I'll be totally fine with being back in class. Somehow I managed to avoid scheduled class on Fridays AND Mondays (though one of my classes is online, so that will likely intrude on Mondays). I'm hoping to be able to keep working a couple days each week and train for a few races this spring as well - nothing as time-consuming as marathon training last summer/fall, but I need running like I need sleep, so it'll definitely have a place in my life.
Time now to make sure all my notebooks and pens are ready for another semester. I hope 2013 finds you well! Love from the frigid north!

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