Wise Words that Supported me Throughout Year One

I think besides the family, friends, fellow volunteers, Peace Corps staff, and my girlfriend who helped me overcome the obstacles I faced throughout the year, quotes and books were another big help. Since I can’t quite transmit the wisdom received from all but the last source, I thought I’d share some of the those quotes that have guided me best.
If I feel I’ve got some personal wisdom to add to the quotes, I’ll throw it in, otherwise I’ll leave them to stand alone.
“The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing that was so profound to me that summer- and yet, also like most things, so very simple – was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay.” – Wild by Cheryl Strayed
“Enjoy the little things.”- Zombieland 
See this blog post. And this video.
“They say don’t put off until tomorrow that you can finish today, I saw the rest of your life is only moments away.” – Familiar Faces by Rhymefest
You’ve got that to do list, that thing to do, if you don’t do it today, when are you ever going to do it?
“Realize, that when you’re comparing yourself to others, you’re comparing your behind the scenes to their highlight reel.” – Unknown
“If you don’t like it, change it. If you cannot change it, change yourself.” – Unknown
“Con calma” – Fermin del Rosario (My host dad)
Translates as “with calm.” What better way to do things than with calm? I remember talking to my sister about these words and I’d said “So like, chill the fuck out?” And she responded that I was missing the point. Truth.
I hope that these words carry over in to your personal lives and/or Peace Corps services and bring about a new lens through which to observe life.
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So that’s what that was…

It all began with mouse poop that started showing up on my floor throughout my house. For those that don’t know, I did my best to close my house from the outside world but there’s still a huge gap of several inches between the wall and roof, space under the door, and a 2″ tube near the floor that is there in case there’s a flood. With that said, mouse-proofing from the start was a bit of a challenge.
My original solution was OK until something showed up in search of those mice…

I went into a bit of a panic, in both the short term, and longer term. What the hell mice? What do you see in my house? I proceeded to remove any temptations such as hiding spots, treats, etc. for mice and, at the same time, for cockroaches, scorpions, bullet ants, etc. that I’ve seen scurrying about my house. I covered both trash cans, put food in 5 gallon buckets with lids, separated my bookshelves a distance from the walls, and sprayed Raid on all the legs of furniture that touched the floor, cleaned my house from top to bottom, and took several other preventative measures.
I was fine for a bit, and then the poop continued. Besides the late night snack in my bed, which I am very careful to clean up, and meals I eat at my desk, and never make a mess of, I felt there was no reason for their return. I was baffled for some time and did all I could which was to continue sweeping up their mess. (I also realize now that I forgot to mention that I set traps but the cockroaches kept eating whatever I set out before the rats arrived.)
I observed one day, after I’d been out of my house for some time, that all the poop was collecting in one corner. I couldn’t find evidence of a home and didn’t push further. It wasn’t until a day or two later that I awoke to the chirping of the birds that also live in my roof (they’re cool though) and observed something scurrying along the space between the wall and roof above the poop. I jumped out of bed to observe the rat in action but I looked close and realized it was in fact a bat. The chirping I’d assumed for MONTHS was a family of birds was actually bats.
I immediately grabbed what I had left of the Raid and started spraying it in the space, of course that quickly ran out. What also quickly ran out and then took off flying was a family of bats. Bastards flew out though, circled back, and tried to hide again in my roof. With the liberal use of bug spray, I finally got them to head off in search of a new home.
It’s been almost two weeks since that happened. Was it the end of the war or just another battle in which we’d live to fight another day? Only time will tell.

Work Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an update on my work, so here it is, divided by work type.

Water Project
About a month ago we finished measuring the current water system and the parts that will be added in the future. Measurements that were taken were of relative values of elevation and distance throughout the entire system. Combined with tube diameter, number of faucets in each house, and water flow in the system, I’ll be able to analyze the system and identify weaknesses. I’m currently in the process of doing that part.
Another issue we’ve been facing is that the land owner of our water source wanted to charge us monthly to use his water. Finding an answer to whether or not he could do this was a bit of a challenge since everyone had a different answer about how to resolve the problem. Eventually, we got the right answer and are now able to continue on with fundraising, since a land agreement was a requirement for requesting funds from a specific NGO.
Here I am presenting my water committee president
with a certificate for completing the water seminar.

During the days of September 5th and 6th I organized a water seminar in my community. This is probably the greatest tool Peace Corps has to offer. Over two days and about 4 hours each day, four volunteers and myself discussed topics including health in the house, system maintenance, how a water system works, and how to run a successful meeting. I ended up getting somewhere between twenty and thirty community members to give up their time to attend. All in all, it was a great success.

VAC (Volunteer Advisory Council)
I took on a year-long position of being the representative between the office staff and volunteers as the treasurer of VAC. Recently, I finished updating the Welcome Book which is what all new volunteers in country receive prior to arrival. Volunteers had expressed concern over several issues in the book and I set about resolving them. The process involved getting input from about 60 volunteers, and several office staff. With all the information, I set about condensing it down into a more conscience and helpful form. It’s being finalized now and new volunteers will receive the book starting in February.
Entire EWB Group

Engineers Without Borders Tour/Conference

Engineers Without Borders hosted their international conference this year in Panama. My bosses selected me to represent Peace Corps at the conference and also to lead a day long tour to a neighboring community that has had volunteers in the past to show what Peace Corps does. Everything was a great success and I got to meet many awesome people and share a bit of Peace Corps with them.
Victoria leading an introduction to
 agriculture with Peace Corps
 Agriculture

My community is very interested in improving agriculture practices. Since the water project is generally pretty slow, I took this opportunity to disperse some agriculture presentations between workdays in my community. We’ll be having our first presentation the 14th and 15th of October covering coffee. The following month we’ll discuss traditional crops. From there, we might have business and fish and rice tank presentations.


Hobby Update: This Blog, Photography, Spanish, and GMATs

Since this blog falls under the header of hobbies, I’d throw that in with this post. I’ve decided to update the layout a bit and make this page and the other blog linked above, which I’ll talk about later, my “website”, Whatever that exactly means I’m not sure yet. I’m hoping to get back into regular writing and will try to aim for a post a week. Slow and steady instead of trying to unload 3 posts at once and nothing for another month. 
To continue on, about the other blog, I’ve setup a new page to document my best photography. That link is at the top of the page under “My Photos Of”. I’ve also submitted a photos to National Geographic which you can check out here.
This past month, I lucked out and got the chance to take a language proficiency exam mid service to help the language instructors as Peace Corps get recertified. There are ten rankings in total. Beginner, intermediate, advanced, and then 3 sub levels of each of those 3 levels being low, medium, and high. Finally, superior is the highest level. As of today, I am officially ranked as advanced low. It’ll probably take me another year, or years to achieve the next level but it’s great to have come this far.
Finally, I’ve been eyeing business school as a follow up to Peace Corps. Committing way too much of my free time to reading, doing problems, making flash cards, etc to prepare for the GMAT but hopefully it’ll all be worth it.