This website reflects my own personal views and not that of the U.S. Government nor, more specifically, the Peace Corps.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Return to Vietnam (Pt. III: Hoi An)

Hoi An

After the train ride, we arrived in Danang, where we took a thirty-minute taxi ride to nearby Hoi An. After settling in to our room, we rented a couple of bicycles and looked at a few places where we might get clothes made. If you aren't familiar, Hoi An is internationally known for inexpensive, quick tailoring. I ended up with a pair of nice shorts and Leah got a new dress and shorts, all of which was completed within twenty-four hours.

Okay, so a little bit about Hoi An. Hoi An, with a population of 120,000 is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This well-preserved town serves as a fine example of a Southeast Asian trading port from the 15th-19th centuries. The town is overrun with tourists (I know since I was one of them), so the majesty of the place gets a little lost in how hectic it seems upon arrival. However, during our second day there, when it became easier to get our minds beyond the masses of people, the town became charming, beautiful and inviting. The second morning we were there, we rode bikes across one of the bridges to a small island where we perused an ex-pat owned bookshop. Some of these books I'm fairly sure I would have never happened upon otherwise, and that would have just been a terrible, terrible shame. Among the gems:

Ah, yes. Badger and Beano. Fine companions they were. I wonder if they would have traveled well together with The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (another artful selection). I'll never know.

Another great aspect about Hoi An is the market and the myriad of trinkets, clothing, food, and adventures to be had. Some of the treats we experienced included a fried doughnut with a peanut mixture in the middle and another with pulverized black beans. If you ever come across a sweet dessert made with beans, I would suggest you try it (if you haven't already tried something similar). I had never tasted beans in such a fashion before coming to Asia, and it's definitely something I'd like to experiment with in my own cooking. Nom. Nom nom nom. Another thing we did near the market was take a thirty-minute boat ride for 50,000đ  (about $2.50) to see the sunset along the river. It was pretty stunning to see alongside the old houses of this well-preserved town.

Later, we purchased tickets for 90,000đ/each (about $4.50) which allowed us to enter five sites in the Old Town of Hoi An. One was a home from the early 19th Century, Tán Ký which flooded so often (and in such abundance) that they replaced a good portion of the second floor with a manual lift to preserve everything downstairs during the rainy seasons; a rain in the 1960s flooded the house almost to the top of the ground floor. The other site we saw was a Chinese Assembly Hall, called Phúc Kiến which dates from 1757.

Speaking of food (was I talking about food? I don't think I was, but that's alright, because who doesn't love hearing about food?), Leah and I were able to take a couple of cooking classes (for more pictures, check out Leah's blog) for very cheap. We found a place called "Green Moss," where the owner showed us how to make vegetarian cau lau (a dish specific to Hoi An since traditionally it was prepared with water from a particular well), pumpkin soup, and mì quảng (Vietnamese nachos [really]):
Vegetarian cau lau (uhh) 
Mì Quảng (See. I told you. Vietnamese nachos) 
We didn't learn how to make this smoked eggplant but it was amazing

Here are some more photos from Hoi An:
More sweet treats at the market 
Meat Newtons 
"Filled with [M]om's heart": does this not concern anybody?! 
Hoi Anese paper lanterns at the night market 

I almost forgot! Our hotel's breakfast included...
- Omelets (best if enjoyed with large wedge of Laughing Cow cheese smooshed in the middle)
- Bottomless Vietnamese-press coffee
- Mangoes
- Bananas
- Watermelon
- Chocolate croissants
- Doughnuts
- Bread rolls
- Toast (complete with butter and strawberry preserves)
- Tomatoes and cucumbers
- Milk
- Fried rice + fried Ramen noodles (not a favorite but necessary nonetheless to illustrate the extravagant nature of this breakfast)

After too few of these amazing breakfasts it was already time to return to Ho Chi Minh City where we'd spend one day before returning to Cambodia. The trip was so relaxing and I'm glad I had another opportunity to see more of the southern half of Vietnam. Hope this post finds you well.

Talk to you soon,

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Return to Vietnam (Pt. II: Mui Ne and Nha Trang)

Mui Ne

A small, quiet city with a fishing village nearby, this coastal town is worth a visit. The view of the South China Sea just beyond the rich, clay-like red sand dunes with a Tiger beer in hand was a moment that I won't soon forget from the trip. Mui Ne was easily my favorite stop. Leah and I rented a moto (NOTE: We were both wearing helmets and Vietnam is a non-Peace Corps country), which was extremely fun and nerve-wracking, since we both had never driven one before. So, 1) We had to figure out how to operate this vehicle safely, and 2) We had to try not to put the person behind in life-threatening danger. We succeeded for the most part since we're both still alive. It took a couple of days to get used to, but by the time we turned in our second rented moto in Nha Trang, we felt relatively confident with it. Both nights we drove out to a couple of nice restaurants in the center of town and had fish topped with tomato sauce (yum!), scallops with green onion (uhh), and various other types of seafood.
I forgot to mention that tiger prawns were part of the menu. NOM
The sea.

The beach.

The food.

The small roads navigated.

If I come back to the southern third of Vietnam, I will return here without hesitation.

The stretch of beach behind the hotel
The hotel we stayed at was $25/night (big bucks) and was situated right on its own private stretch of beach. After surveying the area a little, Leah and I realized what luck we had since our resort was on, in our opinion, the most beautiful stretch of beach in the area; shoes were not required to travel from the room to said beach. I also feel the need to mention the breakfast that was included: an omelet, toast, a large plate of various tropical fruit and coffee; it held us both over for awhile.

My favorite photo from the trip

Leah and I had a contest to see who could find the most B.A. sea shells.

The view from the sand dunes

Nha Trang 

We arrived in Nha Trang (pronounced Nyah Chahng) at around 6:00 PM where we bought our train tickets for the following evening (11:54 PM) to Danang (the third largest city in Vietnam and 30 minutes from our actual destination: Hoi An). We immediately grabbed a couple of motos to our hotel where we rented a moto ourselves and explored the city for a couple of hours. When I say "explored," that's being extremely forgiving to myself to cover up the fact that we were looking for a particular vegetarian restaurant only 15 minutes away. We ended up looking all over the central part of Nha Trang to no avail...until we found it...already closed for the evening. Lucky for us, however, a man who worked next door hopped on his moto and led us to another vegetarian restaurant suggested by our guide book. When we found that restaurant to be closing also, he led us to a third option which- miracle of miracles!- happened to be open (and was passable [the fried broccoli {cauliflower} was pretty good]). We tried to give him 20,000đ more than once, which he persistently refused. He told us that he just wanted to assist us; the fact that he was able to locate a restaurant that met our needs was payment enough for him. I have to reiterate (from the previous post) how friendly and helpful a lot of people we met in this country were to us on this trip.

So, a little bit about Nha Trang. With a population of a little under 400,000, this coastal city is a popular vacation spot not just for foreigners but for Vietnamese people too. It is also considered one of the cheapest places in all of Vietnam. I believe I heard that while in Nha Trang, so who knows how true that actually is. Either way, it was not expensive, as was proven by the delicious giant tiger prawns and lobster Leah and I shared for $5/person.

Some women would travel across the beach looking to sell fresh seafood.  They would set their things down in front of you, and when you chose how much of what you wanted, they would grill it (back of photo) right in front of you. One unfortunate thing about this job would simply be the heat. Yes. Working on the beach sounds lovely, but when you're wearing long sleeves and pants in 90+ degree weather, it doesn't sound so lovely anymore.
Prawns on the beach
The majority of the trip consisted of getting much darker (or redder, really). The beach was warm and beautiful and the view over the sea was just as pleasing as it was in Mui Ne. You know what else is pleasing (what a great segue, don't you think?)? Ritter Sport chocolate. It's probably the best chocolate I've ever tasted in my life, and until I traveled to Nha Trang, I thought there were only about half a dozen varieties. I was so wrong. In a convenience store near some of the more "Westernized" restaurants, stood a rack with at least a dozen (probably more) varieties. I won't go into what was purchased, but let's just content ourselves with the fact that it was absolutely delicious. I need to stop talking about this. Next topic: massages. We both wanted to get massages while we were there so we each got one, which were an hour long. They were pretty nice; there were flowers in a bowl of water beneath the hole in the massage table.
Another great thing about Nha Trang is the night market. Apart from the many souvenir shirts and trinkets you can buy, the amount of food stalls and dessert stands seem endless. We shared several dishes between two food stalls: fried crab and shrimp spring rolls, avocado sushi, and scallops with green onion, which we enjoyed with ice cold beers. The last row of stalls served a delicious, goop-y dessert that I mentioned in my previous post:  xôi chè .
Xôi chè!!!
Scallops with green onion and tangy lime sauce
"Asparagus and Crap" at the night market
And so concludes our stay in Nha Trang. A well-deserved nap (you can have those on vacation, right?) was had on the hotel's backroom floor before heading out to the train station for the 10.5 hour train ride to Danang. When I was last in Vietnam, I rode a 16-hour sleeper bus, and it was miserable (painful, uncomfortable, cramped, and smelly). This time, I thought things might be a bit more comfortable on a train (a "hard-sleeper" car with six beds). It immediately impressed me for how opposite the experience was to traveling via sleeper bus. Night trains are superior for one simple reason: I can stretch myself out completely. I fell asleep within 20 minutes and that ride felt much faster and easier than the two five-hour daylight bus rides that preceded it. We arrived in Danang by 10:30 AM the following morning.
Oh! Be sure not stick your plugs in glasses of water or smoke while wearing tight bell-bottoms in bed. 
The beach in Nha Trang

Phở bò is a staple breakfast food in Vietnam. It's a simple noodle dish with beef except it's much much more. You actually feel like you're a part of the whole process since you can choose how much of what kind of greens you want sprinkled over your soup. Toss in some steamed bean sprouts, dab a little chili paste, pour a little garlic sauce and drizzle (douse) in various thick sauces and you're good to go. You might want to add an iced coffee to that, too.

Read on (in a couple of days) the final part of this trilogy: Return to Vietnam Pt. (Pt. III: Hoi An).

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Return to Vietnam (Pt. I: Ho Chi Minh City)

I guess I enjoy Vietnam plenty, as I just returned from there for my second time in six months. What I really enjoyed about this trip was that not only was it with different company but the things I saw, how I saw them, and what I did was completely new and exciting.  This time around, I was traveling with my girlfriend, Leah, fellow PCV and an all-around B.A (and wonderful writer: check out her perspective of traveling through Vietnam). We only explored the south as opposed to my previous (very ambitious) tour of the entire country in 14 days. We stayed in Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon), Mui Ne, Nha Trang (pronounced Nyah Chahng), and Hoi An.

So, what did I notice during this adventure? The first thing that comes to mind is the geniality of the Vietnamese people, especially to tourists attempting to use some very basic language skills (i.e. "hello" and "thank you"). You might very well guess (I did) that, at some point, Vietnam would be so inundated with tourism that the people would grow tired of its visitors. However, we were both treated (most of the time) with a generally friendly demeanor. Another thing I noticed (or rather, noticed again) was the beauty of the country. Due to it's long, latitudinal shape, almost every new place you visit has a slightly different environment, geography and climate; this makes traveling through Vietnam constantly intriguing. 

Some Vietnamese:

Hello - Xin chào (Sin chao)
Goodbye - Tạm biệt (Dahm beht)
Yes - Vâng/Dạ (Vahng/Dah)
No - Không (Kong)
Thank you - Cảm ơn (Gahm euh[r]n)
Pho (noodle soup) with beef - Phở bò (Pheuh[r] boh)
Iced coffee with milk - Cà phê sữa đá (Café soo-ah dah)
Sorry/Excuse me - Xin lỗi  (Sum law-i[t])
Check, please! -  Xin thanh tiền! (Sum done dayne)
Delicious! - Ngon!

I'll go through the trip city by city:

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) -

So...OH! HEY!..Sorry about that. So, HCMC is a pret....WATCH OUT! AH!...I apologize again. I'll try and find a place where I'm not putting myself in danger of being run over by a moto or seventy. As I was saying, HCMC is a pretty busy city (understatement). The largest city in Vietnam, HCMC houses 7.4 million people, only three times the amount of motos constantly honking and zipping in and out of the many busy streets. HCMC was originally called Saigon before the end of the Vietnam (or American) War when it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the country's revered leader who was President of the country until his death in 1969. A fun fact about Ho Chi Minh is that his last wish was to have his body cremated and spread throughout the North, South, and Central Highlands; his body was embalmed, and you can see it in Hanoi for a dollar. Almost everywhere you go in Vietnam you will find pictures and/or cartoons of "Uncle Ho."

While in HCMC, we visited the War Remnants Museum, which, as I've mentioned before, made me feel the most aware I've ever been of my being American; it's hard not to have a pang of guilt while traveling from one exhibition to another. Walking through the museum is very trying on the conscience and heart. If you'd like to read more about it, check out my previous post on Ho Chi Minh City back in April. Aside from that museum, we also traveled to Cu Chi to see the Cu Chi Tunnels, which were extremely small tunnels navigated by the Viet Cong during the war. These tunnels were essential in the success of the North Vietnamese; they navigated hundreds of square kilometers right under American/South Vietnamese occupied territories, transporting weapons and surprising their foes. It is daunting, to say the least, to be down in those dark, damp cramping tunnels for even 40 meters before feeling significant pain through your spine. A couple of very strange things about the tour is the odd juxtaposition of the firing range with the exhibition of traps, tunnels, and the general trying way of life of the Cu Chi people. Yes, I just said "firing range", where you can fire off rocket propelled grenades and AK-47s into a mountain side. It is difficult to explain the feeling of being in that location and hearing gun fire and explosions close by. It is even stranger that tourists come there specifically to partake in the activity.
One of the Cu Chi Tunnel entrances
On a lighter note, there is some wonderful food in this city, especially the phở bo, the coffee, and the delicious sweet treats at the Ban Thanh (pronounced ban tan), such as xôi chè (prounounced soy jay), sticky rice (in a multitude of colors) filled with mung beans, broad beans, lentils, lotus nuts, coconut shreds, agar-agar jelly and saturated with sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk; I'm sure I forgot a few ingredients. This dessert fills you up, and it costs 10,000 đ  (Đong) or about $0.49. A typical, filling meal in Vietnam will run you around 40,000 đ  or about $2. The exchange rate is close to 20,800 đ (or VND) to 1USD. The food in Vietnam is such a change from the fare in Cambodia. Cambodian cuisine is interesting in that it is a combination of the dishes of its surrounding countries--Thailand, Vietnam, China--but it lacks a certain complexity which is so prevalent in the others. Vietnamese food is definitely packed with tons of flavor and plenty of varying textures. I would go back to Vietnam for a third time simply for the food.
Another note on food and the last day spent in HCMC:

Leah and I got dressed up in our new clothes and caught a couple of motos to a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show, which was lovely (hokey, but fun and lovely), after which it immediately began to downpour. Leah had a thought: maybe going out in partially soaked nice clothes to a dinner we couldn't afford might be a little stressful...
Okay, now for some more pictures (Oh hey! The first picture is of food. That's weird.) -
Fried banana rice cakes with tapioca topping
I think Leah likes it
A traditional water puppet show, which originated in the North
The trees and the parks were abundant and awesome to behold
The Vietnamese build their sidewalks around nature rather than removing nature to make way for sidewalks
Check out Return to Vietnam (Pt. II: Mui Ne and Nha Trang) (tomorrow) for more on the middle part of the trip.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Birth Spacing Sessions

I'll first tackle a question that might come up before reading the first word of this sentence. 'Birth spacing' (I may have mentioned this before) is phrased as such here due to still-lingering connections that the word 'control' has to the Khmer Rouge. And so, due to the dark memories that this word conjures (and the fact that the word 'control' tends to imply that there are no options), the word 'spacing' is used. Another good thing to know about some commonly shared misconceptions about birth spacing here is that after beginning any method (hormonal or non-hormonal), one cannot conceive again; this explains the introduction of the word 'spacing' (as the span of time between one baby and another need not be indefinite).

With that said, here's what I've been doing over the past two months with Population Services International (PSI) as part of my primary assignment for my third year with Peace Corps:

I am involved with the--beware: acronyms are abound--Communications and Marketing (C&M) department at PSI, more specifically, in the Reproductive Health (RH) sub-department, and even more specifically, the Community Mobilizer (CM) Project. The CM Project in the RH sub-department of the C&M department at PSI(/C for 'Cambodia', if you will) consists of six employees (all Cambodian) who hire and train 600 Community Mobilizers, local 'volunteers' for PSI that are paid $20/month, who set up information sessions in their commune (and surrounding ones) about birth spacing. The purpose of these sessions is to inform women of the importance of birth spacing (it would be important to note here that it is not uncommon for families in Cambodia to have up to ten members [that is mother, father, and eight children], so often, these families become progressively poorer with each child. and their children become progressively more malnourished). They explain the several methods they have to choose from and answer a myriad of questions typically relating to common misconceptions, rumors, and side-effects related to those methods.

A common misconceptions:
- When you put in an IUD, you can never bear children again, even if you take it out.

A common side-effect that is a large deterrent to usage:
- Weight gain with oral contraceptives

The hope is that at the end of a session, a woman will be interested in one of  methods mentioned and be referred by the Community Mobilizer (CM) to a local government-run health center or a private health clinic in the PSI franchise (all run by Cambodians - PSI does not receive revenue enough for profit [at least, not of any considerable amount]).

Okay, so now that you have a little background of what the program I'm involved with does, what do I actually do? I go out on "Coaching/Field Visits" with PSI employees to any of the 15 provinces they work in where we do three things: 1) We meet with several groups of women in the communities where the CM lives/works to determine their knowledge of birth spacing and if that CM is active or not; 2) The CM holds an information session on birth spacing where we observe their presentation skills and knowledge on the topic and then; 3) give them feedback. Usually the PSI employee will continue the birth spacing session where the CM has left off; it is often not far into the session. I will typically assist my PSI counterpart (I work with six, but each goes out at separate times and to different regions) in explaining the information left unsaid. What is sometimes helpful is that a woman will ask if different birth spacing methods are used in the United States (or wherever they think I'm from [usually Australia or France]), and to their delight, they discover that they are, in fact, the same methods. This is all 'out in the field' (as they say). When I'm in the office (about 40% of the time), I typically help write up reports and look at plethora of data to then, hopefully, devise new plans to help increase the efficiency of the CM Project.

Okay, enough information. Here are some photos:

Okay, that's all for now. I'll be posting in a couple of weeks about my upcoming vacation back to Vietnam!

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's Been a Long Time

Hi Everyone,

It's been awhile, I know. A lot of things have gone on since we last chatted, so let me catch you up on all of that:

July 4th -

At the end of June, I was asked by the 'choir director' of the K5 anthem sextet if I would like to join in for the 4th of July formal event. I took maybe 4 seconds to decide whether or not I would accept. I remember doing this the previous year and how enjoyable it was to be involved with music again. Last year, I had done the arranging, but this year, Diana (the 'choir director') arranged all of the music and did such a splendid job piecing together not just the Star Spangled Banner but the Khmer National Anthem, You're a Grand Old Flag, and America the Beautiful. The event was held at the Sofitel (one of the most luxurious hotels in Cambodia), and I definitely didn't belong there. We were dressed more akin to servers than to guests at a high-level function. This is exactly why, I believe, it was appropriate that I took home a to-go box of a large wedge of Brie, several pieces of bread, cheesecake, and pecan pie. The poor manager of the event, who looked down on me with pity, (most likely) regretfully agreed to let me take home the leftover food.

New Apartment -

The day before rehearsals began, a couple of friends helped me move into my new apartment in Phnom Penh. Its location is convenient, and it is comfortable; I enjoy coming home to it every day (not that I didn't when I lived in Nimitt, because I definitely enjoyed my home there!). The move surprisingly only took two trips and a lot of sweating (mostly carrying the first trunk [mine] up the stairs [I live on the third floor {or second, if you're living here}]). 

Me riding alongside the tuk tuk

Helpers! Thanks!

After settling in, several types of food making ensued:

Food (Yes. This deserves its own section)
Appangeana Fruit Shakes
Omelets and Hash-browns

Pasta with Salad, Bread, and Wine (and Leah's pose for the cover of Better Homes and Gardens)

Lurgers (Quinoa + Lentil Burgers...Get it, Amie)
I will be posting more pictures, because the culinary experimenting going on in my kitchen needs to be shared.

Starting with PSI -

I've now been working with PSI for three weeks, and I can tell you, now, that I am going to 1) enjoy working there for the next year and 2) be extremely exhausted by the end of it. The past week, I've been out on a "Field/Coaching Visit" where I've been working alongside one of the PSI staff meeting with women in the community to glean how knowledgeable they are about various birth spacing methods and, more importantly, whether they have ever heard of the local volunteer staff that PSI pays a small stipend. The trip has several purposes. We want to gauge the knowledge and understanding of reproductive health among the community members as well as that of the volunteer (Community Mobilizer [or CM]). As well, we want to gauge the level of presenting skills on part of the CM as well as "coach" them on how to perform a health education session about birth spacing (it's called "birth spacing" and not "birth control" in Cambodia due to the heavy use of the word "control" during the Khmer Rouge era. Also, having children is extremely common in Cambodian life, so using the word "control" might give it the stigma that you may never be able to have children again once you begin using it [and that already exists]); the PSI staff member did the heavy majority of these 'coaching sessions'. This week, we are in Kampong Cham, staying in a remote district town. We've met with 12 CMs already and only have 4 more to go before heading back to Phnom Penh on Friday afternoon. It's pretty likely that I'll be 'out in the field'  (or simply, not in Phnom Penh: interpret that as you will) about half of the time. I'll be sure to add pictures and update more often once things really get going, and they seem to be already!
Phew! That was a lot! I definitely could have made three separate posts with that one, but I just assumed you wanted to brew a couple of cups of coffee while your took your time reading this. Right? Yeah. Yes. Yup. That was definitely the plan all along. Hope everyone is doing well.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Saying Goodbye to a Place I've Known for Two Years

As I transition from my first two years of service in the Peace Corps to a third, I must leave a place before I can arrive at a very anticipated new one. The feelings are complicated at best. As I say goodbye to each person I have befriended over this long while, I cannot help prevent the rush of memories flooding back to the surface. The good ones definitely remain and will, ultimately, prevail; how we met; what we talked about; the first interaction we had; the extremely kind exchanges that would occur when I would return after a long trip. However, inevitably, as I was saying goodbye to the staff at the health center, it was impossible to deny the feeling that I wish I could have done more. I understand that that is something extremely trivial at this point in my venture (especially as that venture is no longer an unknown and risky one). Notwithstanding, the words and facial expressions exchanged spoke nothing of this. In fact, I was simply in my head over analyzing things. I spent a good amount of time sitting down and chatting with each of those I've made connections with and, ultimately, felt warm about the last two years in my community. It has been a long journey that is still well on its way to somewhere. I'm not sure yet where that somewhere is, but it's not really about the destination; it's about the journey; it's been a good one so far, roller coasters included.

So, I'm sitting in my room on my last day here in northwest Cambodia awaiting to leave to a place where I can (for the first time) say I'm going "up to" somewhere. I'm not sure exactly where I'll be living quite yet, as I'm awaiting approval on an apartment that was scoped out about a week and a half ago. I'll know all of this tomorrow, and should it be approved, I'll have pictures to post of my new place. If not, I'll be on the lookout for someplace else. Until then, though, I'll happily strum away at my guitar passing the time away until dinner.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When I'll Be Coming Home or Why I Feel Relived to Hear Bad News

So, I could put the date of when I'm headed home for a little R&R, but that would just make reading this post oh so easy, wouldn't it? Also, when have I ever gotten straight to the point? You should know better by now. So, first thing's first: I'm going to start with the latter part of this blog post's title.

I was up late the other night, and while it was late, I decided to check my e-mail one last time before heading to bed, because, hey, you never know. It was 11a in D.C., so it was plausible that I could have received an e-mail regarding the Foreign Service Officer's Test (FSOT). As I mentioned before, I had passed the initial written test and essay but had yet to hear back on my Personal Narratives and the results of the Qualitative Evaluation Panel (QEP). Lo and behold, there was an e-mail from the Department of State. There was definitely a bit of anticipation as I read the response, which went something like this:

"Dear Garrett,

...because this year, there have been an influx of applicants taking the FSOT and a decrease in the rate of acceptance...After much evaluation by the QEP, we regret to inform you...

Copy and Paste"

So, that was that. No cushy job waiting for me when I finish my job in the Peace Corps. However, more positive outcomes prevail over the (hardly) negative ones. My dreams of being a Peace Corps Field Recruiter can still be chased. Grad school doesn't necessarily have to be put off for 4 or 10 years while moving around every 2 years to another country (but who knows, I might end up getting a job that requires me to do that anyway!). Best put, I think, as I was discussing this with someone earlier today, is that if anything, I would have had a much more difficult time enjoying what I have going on in the present were I to be constantly wondering about two years from now. Many of us would like to have "Five Year Plan(s)", but I'm going to be here for another 16 months, and what a waste that would be to not be able to fully focus on what I have at the present moment. Do I have ideas of what I might like to do in the future? I do. They might be a little vague, but they exist. For now, though, I plan on enjoying the next five months and five days until I come home. <---did you get that? (9+7)*3/47x-2H =....

Saturday, October 27th

I'll be home and plan on traveling between Phoenix, Tucson, SoCal, and D.C. until

Sunday, November 25th

when I return back to Phnom Penh.

Talk to you soon,