The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely mine and not connected in anyway to the United States Peace Corps.



So this is it.  The anti-climatic ending of my time down here on the border.  There are some people speaking in Spanish in the kitchen, kids playing in the room next to mine, sounds of the train going through town over to Mexico filtering through the walls and sunny sunny skies outside.

i guess as far as endings go, this one is actually quite fitting.

Am I going to miss this place?  I think so.  And I really would like to come back, someday.

But I can feel it in my gut, it's time to move on to the next thing.  Pre-reqs for the grad program I'm interested in? Yes. I'm kinda looking forward to being back in school. Peace Corps? Oh who knows--maybe there's a reason the application process takes a year, to weed out the impatient people like me.

Ah well, things will work themselves out, I'm sure. Pues, andale mija, es hora de ir.



It's something everyone experiences.  And some people are better at handling it than others.

I had always thought I was one of those people who is good at handling their stress I mean, I laugh pretty easily, I'm a 'go with the flow' kind of person... but I've discovered that I'm just really REALLY good at ignoring my problems (ie: I'm good at pretending I have nothing to stress about--it's what got me through ugrad).

But when it comes to dealing with people instead of papers ignoring my stress is not really possible.  Especially when the stress comes from needing to find a cheap, clean, safe place for  a 16month old baby and his mother to live before the shelter closes in 5 days.

I know it's stupid and selfish, I even already know the answer but sometimes I wonder--why haven't I left yet? The oldest women who has come through our shelter was 56 and the youngest was 23 and I, I've been responsible for all of them--and their kids. And for those of you who know me, I'm barely able to be responsible for myself... and I kinda hate kids.  Well, hate is a strong word, I really can't stand being around babies or young kids for long periods of time.

*sigh* Right then. Self-pity party over. 5 days. I've got some resources to look up.



It's a constant emotional roller coaster, with considerably more downs than ups.  And the only thing getting me through the extra month that i'm staying is the fact that i get to go home oh so soon.

And now I have a decision to make, and it may be the most grown-up decision I've ever had to make. It's a big girl job, with a big girl salary and it's mine for the taking--if I want it.

My logical side is screaming at me, telling me I'll never get an opportunity like this again, that it would be a great step up in the non-profit business world, that it would counter-balance my science bulging resume and potentially make me a candidate for the type of east coast school of public policy I still dream of getting into someday...

but there's this quiet voice, pulling at my heart; never quite giving up, forcing me to acknowledge that while i may have come to a point where i've accepted everything (and more) that seems to fall under my current job description and i've made a considerable impact during my 8+weeks down here----i am not cut out for this type of work.

Really, i have handled everything this internship has thrown at me, from accompanist to errand girl to non-profit incorporator. It's the case worker bit of the job that just drains me. Drains me to the point where I think it might be making me sick.  No, seriously. I'm so emotionally and mentally drained by having to be the constant support system, constant positive motivator, constant driving force behind these women's recovery that it's wearing me down.  I used to never get sick and now I've been sick on and off for the past 4 weeks.  My own body is giving up on me, and it's only by sheer will power and immense sense of duty (apathy took over my compassionate side about 3 weeks ago) that I'm able to give the woman currently staying in the shelter the emotional support she needs to get through each day.

But the job i've been offered isn't for being a case worker.  and I've grown to like this town and it's people, crooked politics and all but most of all, I've come to really care about what happens to this women's shelter.  and that is where I'm stuck.


people person? probably.

Is it weird for an atheist to like going to church?

I should probably clarify.

It's not the religion part that I like about going to church, in fact that's the one thing most likely to stop me from going.  I can't stand the lectures (sermons) about living a good life/doing good deeds in order to get to heaven, or how it's the devil that makes people do bad things, or that we have no control over our own life and we should embrace that lack of control.  Obviously, my dislike of such subjects stems from the fact that I don't believe in an afterlife, supernatural beings, or (for most situations) blaming anyone other than ourselves and our choices for the situations we find ourselves in.  But this is not a post about why I'm an atheist, so I'll get back to the point.

I've been thinking about it recently because ever since I've been down here, I've been going to church every Sunday.  Which, is quite often for a 22 year old--atheist or not.

It's not a requirement of my internship that I go, I started going because I find faith interesting. Plus, the Sunday school kids kick me out of my room by taking over the room next to mine at 9.45am every Sunday morning. They're loud.

And even though I've been the church pianist for 7 of the 8 weeks that I've been down here (meaning I do now have to go to church every Sunday) I think I would still go even if they found another pianist to play for them.  Which, is a weird realization for an atheist to have.

But here's what I've learnt about churches, or smaller churches anyway.  You really get to know the people that go. And when they're people like the ones who attend this specific church, you start to care about how their week went and how their trip was and what new story they have to share with you about their life and not only that, but you enjoy seeing them every week and you miss them when they're not there.

So here I am.  a fairly hard-core atheist, of almost Richard Dawkins like atheism (though having gone to a parochial grade school, high school AND university, I know what it's like to have unwanted views pushed on you and try to refrain) who actually enjoys going to church, purely for the community aspect. Will wonders never cease.


let's talk about that M word.


It's something i was raised to not talk about--it just, isn't an appropriate topic of conversation in most situations.  Unless, of course, you're telling a friend about a great sale going on in the mall, i mean, that's just being a good friend.

But put someone who frankly, feels kinda awkward talking about money problems in a situation where she's the one who is supposed to be raising money for an organization (ie: me) . . . and there are some issues that need to be addressed.

1. Telling people that your organization is having financial difficulties is not something to be embarrassed about.
In fact, if you are a non-profit (especially one that is just starting up), it should be expected that your organization will be having financial difficulties and desperately needs money. You should probably just get used to it.

2.  When your boss drags you along on a business lunch/fundraising meeting learn to adapt a poker face.
Maybe it's just a southern thing, or even just a texas thing--hell, it could be a living on the border thing, i don't know anymore--but people tend to be fairly open and really nosy. Put those two things together and you're going to learn a lot of things you probably didn't expect to hear.  Tip for those of us who have horrible poker faces, it's the eyes that betray us--learn to sneeze on cue, that way you'll have your mouth covered and your eyes closed!  It's perfect.  I'm still working on this one.

3. Just because your boss does things one way, does not mean you have to do things that way too [as long as you're getting the same (or better) results].
My boss is a fan of what she jokingly calls B.M.W. fundraising (Beg, Moan, and Whine) and it works for her, even though it occasionally grates on me (especially during business lunches--see issue #2).  But, I already know I'm not going to get anywhere using that method, which brings me to issue 4.

4. Use what you know to get what you need.
 My science background means I'm fairly competent at laying out a logical argument and I actually like tables and graphs, i think it makes the information easier to read.  So what do I do when I need to get money for my organization? You guessed it--basically, I bore people into donating me money.
            Along with this one, use people you know to get what you need.  I'm guessing you don't know all the available resources out there--call 411, go to your local chamber of commerce, call local churches, you never know where your resources are until you find them. And then...

5. Follow up on resources that say they're interested in helping out.
It may be embarrassing (see issue 1) and it'll definitely be frustrating, but once you get a lead on a source for help you HAVE to follow up on it, even it means calling back . . . again.  A gentle reminder by phone or email once a week never hurt anyone but let's be honest with each other--a restraining order is not going to help your cause.  Don't turn into the crazy stalker from the local non-profit.

and last, but not least--
6. Accept donations graciously.
I'll be honest with you, the first time I got a grant awarded to my organization I wanted to jump up and down, pump my fists in the air, and tell the whole wide world what I'd just accomplished.  Needless to say, that would have freaked out the treasurer who was handing me the check. So, i just smiled, shook his hand and saved the victory dance for when I was alone in my room. I've come to learn in the past 4 years that bedrooms are perfect places for spontaneous dance parties--victory or otherwise.

So how goes fundraising for my non-profit?  Well, add it on to the ever growing list of responsibilities I have to handle and it kinda gets lost in the pile. But, I'm proud to say that in the 6 weeks that I've been down here, I'm just short of raising an even $1,000 for the women's shelter--which isn't a lot, but it's something. and hopefully once this pesky 501-C3 status is figured out I can start applying for the big grants.

Right then.  Back to work!


the system is flawed.

then again, nothing is perfect.

oh yes, i, the die hard liberal of the family, am complaining about government programs lumped under the title of "the system" such as food stamps, section 8 housing, medicaid, TANF, WIC, and probably a bunch of other acronyms i have not yet had the pleasure of trying to deal with.

the problem is, how does one go about fixing such a huge problem?  and, trust me--it's huge.

for example, getting assistance from section 8 housing.

Now, you must keep in mind that the county i'm working in is one of the ten poorest counties in the nation and the people i'm working with ie: women seeking shelter from abusive partners; pretty much have nothing (everyone that has come through the shelter so far qualified for WIC while living at home which requires a family income 185% below the poverty line).  But regardless of the situation they were in before coming to the shelter, what i'm focused on is their situation after their time at the shelter--after all, this is supposed to be a transition period for them on their way to a new independent life away from their abuser, not a permanent solution.  Hence i was introduced to section 8 housing.  Due to the need in this area, quite a few apartment complexes participate and there are even 3 apartment complexes solely for section 8 housing. It is a great program, people pay rent on a sliding scale based on their income (and yes, in case you're wondering one of things i do with the women is go to local job agencies and help them find employment). The problem in this area is that everyone qualifies.

And by everyone i mean the Housing Authority (people in charge of the screening and application process) has a waiting list of over a year and a half... to get an application. Yep, there's a waiting list to get on the waiting list. And you want to know why? It's because once people get section 8 housing they don't leave.  The only way there is an opening is if a tenant dies or is kicked out for not following the rules. And that's great, for the people that get an apartment, but what about all those other people--where in the world do they go? I'll tell you what most abused women do--they stay with their partner. It's tough to make it in the world as a poor single woman, let alone a single women with children.

And there are restrictions on the type of apartment you qualify for, which is necessary--a single person shouldn't take up (or have to pay for) a 4 bed room apartment.  but due to the restriction of having to have all rooms filled, the woman who comes to us without kids doesn't qualify for the rare 2 bedroom apartment opening i found the other day.  And there aren't many 1 room apts to begin with--there just isn't a need for it in this area.

You want to know my opinion on the problem with "the system" as I see it? It creates stagnancy, it creates a false sense of security, and it creates dependence.  Now, before you start thinking my time down here has turned me into a fiscally conservative convert, i want to assure you, it hasn't--the solution i see forming in my mind for section 8 housing requires if anything more government assistance in the form of a graduated program where people start out in apartments and gradually move into renting houses to eventually own.  Included with that would have to be financial literacy programs--required attendance for all renters, stricter guidelines on how long people were allowed to live in such places, etc. And probably a lot of case workers.  But think about it--more jobs would be created from the gov't building all those houses people would eventually own,  people would learn how to save and budget their money, and all those psych majors could find employment as case workers!  (sorry for the dig if you're a psych major).

Oh, i don't know. And while it's necessary to think of solutions to the problems with housing on that kind of 'policy changing' level--right now, it doesn't help the woman i mentioned earlier.  she's stayed with us for 5 weeks--3 weeks longer than the shelter contract allows because she can't find anywhere to go. And sometimes, it just feels like I'm running around in circles down here. because, she'll have to go somewhere eventually--to another shelter?  maybe.  but then what?

all these problems and no solutions.  and i wonder why i can't sleep.


and suddenly . . . it all fits.

i haven't felt like this in quite some time.  my heart is pounding, my thoughts are racing, a ridiculous grin is plastered on my face and this probably sounds silly but . . . I kinda feel like i could fly.

what could possibly make me feel this way?

you're going to laugh. but i'll tell you anyway.

i think i've found the perfect grad program. it's been a long time coming for me, or so i've been told, when it comes to deciding what i want to do with my life. i've slowly been narrowing it down (after ruling out any area dealing with my undergrad degrees--that would be far too logical of a pursuit to make) and to be honest, i've kinda just been stuck.  ever since being abroad i realized i want to work with international policy and human rights but i wasn't really sure how to even start doing that. most of the masters in international public policy degrees i've looked into require not only the academic background but substantial work in the field before they'll even consider you...

and then i took this internship on the border.

it's been a good learning experience in a myriad of ways: international (us/mexico) issues, women's rights issues, federal programs like medicaid, food stamps, section 8 housing, how to help domestic abuse survivors, how to run a women's shelter, how to incorporate/start up a non-profit, and even how to start filing for a divorce! but the most important thing i've learned from this internship is that in order to make a difference on the scale i want to, i need an advanced degree.

I guess i always knew that, but after ugrad, part of me just wanted to go out and make a difference right now and on a case-by-case basis (until i'm done with this 501-C3), i am.  but man oh man, once i actually started doing things on more than just a superficial level i realized just how handy a law degree would be--for a lot of different reasons.

that's right.

now, if you know me, you probably know my preconceptions about lawyers, mostly that they are probably stuck up and probably like to argue. not only is this not 100% true, i've come to a point where i've realized while i may not enjoy confrontation, sometimes confrontation is necessary to get what you need done.  and i may not enjoy arguing, but i do have a passion for insuring equality--if it takes a little arguing to get me there, so be it. as for being stuck-up? well, everyone is a bit snobbish about something.

so that's that for right now. i've found the perfect dual degree, combining my international interest and new found enthusiasm for law.  if only i would hear back from the peace corps my world would be perfect.

but enough thinking about the future--back to the present! tomorrow morning's agenda? drafting up a conflict of interest policy and ethical conduct policy and then taking a women staying at the shelter to her doctor appointments.  it's an odd mix of things that i end up doing around here, but i think i'm finally starting to like it.


only 5 months out of ugrad...

i miss formals.

not formal halls from Cam (though those are nice too)--I'm talking about Zeta (or CUA) formals. the afternoons we'd spend getting ready: trying on dresses, searching the wing to find someone to help us with our hair, giggling in front of the mirror with rap blaring in the background, all leading up to a night filled with dinner, dancing, pictures, happiness and high heels.

i guess at the end of the day, i know i'm doing a lot of good here but really... sometimes... all i want to do is be a 22 year old girl and dance.  

does that make me selfish? probably. it's a question i've been struggling a lot with recently -- mostly because the work that i'm doing requires me to be as unselfish as i've ever had to be in my life. whether it's working with the women that come through the shelter, painting countless bookshelves, staffing book fairs, or sorting out problems for the many residents that come to the mission house asking for clothes, money, medicine, etc... i feel like i'm constantly worrying about other people's problems--something i'm just not used to doing.  

then again, i didn't come here to do something i was used to doing.  otherwise i'd be reading primary papers right now or futilely attempting to sneak in time in a practise room. while there are things i miss about undergrad, school work is not yet one of those things.

but formals?  i think i might always miss those.

senior Zetas. fall formal 2009



He was sitting in the back seat, staring at his hands, trying not to show any emotion—pretending not to care. But his eyes betrayed him.  A mixture of anger, frustration, and despair welled within his tears and it was all his 13-year-old eyes could do to keep those tears from falling.  It was happening again, he was getting withdrawn from school, was being made to give up his football pads, his favorite teacher, his friends and there was nothing he could do about it. And I?  I had never felt like such a villain.

I know I shouldn’t feel bad about it, I know I was helping him and his mom get as far away from his father as possible. The best course of action for the situation at hand was escape to another shelter, another city—another life.   But it’s one thing to reason through the logical course of action and a completely different thing to walk down the hall with a 13-year-old boy who is leaving school and having to completely cut off communication with everyone he’s ever known.  The real world is never as fair or easy as the logical course of action makes it out to be.

He didn’t want to leave.  He wanted his father, his friends, and his life to stay the same.  He wanted to play in the football game that evening, it was his first time being a ‘starter’. He’s at the age where he is no longer a child to be taken by the hand and led blindly—he’s simultaneously old enough to be aware of the situation and young enough to not fully comprehend the outcome.  They say he’ll understand when he’s older.  I wish he didn’t have to wait that long. 

It’s hard enough to deal with abuse from the standpoint of an outsider when it involves two adults in a relationship they both choose to enter, but when you bring children into it, children who didn’t choose to be born to those parents, who have no control over the situation at hand, who are completely dependent on the very people* causing the problems—it makes my heart ache.

I’ve now been in this internship for 5 weeks.  For the past 3 weeks I’ve been the shelter manager for the women’s shelter here in Eagle Pass (which is actually not a true business yet, I’m also starting the business, writing up by-laws, figuring out a budget for the next 3 years, and filling out the necessary state and federal forms so we can be recognized as a legal entity rather then merely a group of people trying to do good, but that might be a subject for another post.)  and at times it’s tested me to my limits of patience and sanity.  I've had to explain to a 13 year old boy why it was important he move away from his life and everything he knew, I've had to drive an unsuspecting 12 year old boy to psychiatric evaluation, eventually checking him in for 7 days of observation and treatment. I've had to supervise CPS visitations for one of the women staying in our shelter, she gets one hour a week to visit her 4 children--all under the age of 8.

Abuse hurts everyone it touches but at the end of the day, I think it hurts the children the most.

As for R? i hope only the best in life for him from now on. he's one of the bravest kids i've gotten the pleasure of knowing.

*I say people because while I in no way blame the abused partner for the abuse s/he suffers and I understand that it’s hard to leave, if one stays in an abusive relationship s/he is helping to perpetuate the situation. No one else can make that first step to get out of the abuse but the ‘abusee’ and it is a step that must be made.


b*tch and moan time.

I don’t mean to be a whiny person, but honestly, I don’t know how case workers do it. I’ve been a pseudo case worker (I’m not certified) for 4 days now and I’m exhausted—mentally, emotionally, physically exhausted. And it’s kinda embaressing. I mean if I’M emotionally drained, just think of how much more exhausted the woman all these things are happening to must feel. My exhaustion comes from being her support system, her shoulder to cry on, her friend to go to Child Protective Services with—I’m merely on the sidelines of her life, cheering her on and telling her that she has the strength to keep fighting for her children, that she doesn’t deserve to be treated the way she has been in the past and I’M exhausted. It’s humiliating to admit, but if this is how I feel with just one woman, how in the world can I handle more than one at a time? It’s a 24-hour job, especially when you’re living with the women you’re giving safe refuge to…and I, well, I’ve never been a 24/7 type of person before.

It’s funny how we get sucked into the situation. I find myself constantly having to “zoom out” and look at the big picture. But oh, what a beautiful big picture it is. I believe every person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity—and working with an abused women’s shelter, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do for these women. After all, what’s a little bit of exhaustion in comparison to helping change someone’s life? Yea, I think it’s a fair trade too.


baby steps

frightened, tired, alone, abused... but after awhile, she's smiling more than she's crying--and it's like a ray of sunshine has entered the room.

It's amazing what a weekend can do.  we had our first woman come and seek refuge with us this past Friday.  Her situation deals more with emotional and verbal abuse than physical violence, but even when dealing with physical violence, i think it's the emotional scars that take the longest to heal.  When she came to us she was a shell of who she is now.  She's joking and smiling, playing with our dog, and finally feeling like she is a woman who's worth something rather than a prisoner in her own house.  She's still shy around strangers and isn't used to being around strange guys (her husband never let her leave the house unless she was with him and then he would accuse her of flirting if she so much as looked at other men), but in 3 days she's grown so much.  and you know what?  I have too.  it's one thing to hear about an abused woman's story on Oprah or in a book--it's a completely different thing to sit down and talk to the woman face to face about her situation. this is why I came down here--to help people on an individual level as well as to help the community as a whole, and i think i'm finally starting to make an impact, which makes all the running around, chasing after people to call me back, and frustration at not having enough funds or amenities for the women's shelter worth it.  and I can't help but feel like this song sums up my feelings about this past weekend and my internship perfectly:

Thanks to this internship I've solidified my desire to work on human rights issues. I've also realized that while it is fulfilling to work on such issues on an individual basis, I'm not cut out for it long term...though perhaps that is a subject for a different post. human rights policy making? i could definitely dig that.


The Intern.

This is not the job I signed up for. 

Then again, there wasn’t much in the job description, so I guess I can’t complain all that much.  There are things about the start up of a project that no body really thinks about, or that I don’t think about anyway. I heard about the opportunity to help start up an abused women’s shelter and my mind jumped right to the abused women part, moving them in, getting them (and their kids) away from their situation, helping them through the transition away from their abuser, even perhaps setting up a peer to peer counseling group if there was interest.  And all that will happen eventually; unfortunately my mind (as it usually does) was thinking 10 steps ahead of the game.  The organization was not joking when they said “start up”  I’m here moving furniture around, putting pictures on the wall, and staring at a kitchen that has no sink or stove wondering how in the world I’m supposed to help make this house livable so women can move in. 

Frustration?  Doesn’t even begin to cover it.  

But, there are good things about this job too—I’m going to get some experience with grant writing sometime within these 8 weeks and learn how to fill out a 501-C3.  I wanted to know more about how non-profit businesses work, and it looks like I’m going to get that chance and then some. Plus, living as close as I do to the border I’m getting a first-hand look at the way policy and politics work down here and with my interest in international policy, living right on the border between two countries (especially these two countries), is a priceless experience.  I'm getting to meet some of the "VIPs" around town--commissioners, consulate, even the mayor of Piedras! Politics around here… are different, to say the least.  Things depend a lot more on who you know than on what you’re doing, which is unfortunate, but it’s the truth.  but considering that i've been here less than a week, perhaps, frustrations and all--everything is going just fine. 



Mahreesol. There’s a slight stress on the first syllable, a sort of leaning into the word that allows the voice to gently flow into the rest of the name. And then comes the rolled R, like a playful flip on the end of the tongue, adding a hint of subtle sensuality which can be detected only before one gets used to the pronunciation. The last syllable, with a long O sound, ties the vocalization of the sound to another word, soul and so after all is said and done one’s ear is left with the impression of an essence. My name, when pronounced in the accent of the local people, has a sort of beauty to it; when I hear mi nombre from their mouths it sounds like poetry. It also doesn’t quite sound like they are talking about me—it’s far too elegant and exotic to possibly be referring to me. It’s funny how our identity becomes wrapped up in the name we were given at birth, a name we adapt to, grow fond of…. become. I have always thought there is power in a name. Of course, since I’m named after my grandmother and mother perhaps it is a cultural notion I’m holding on to with that idea—but I’m fairly certain if the idea of a name containing power is merely a cultural one, it is an idea civilizations worldwide and throughout time have come to accept.  So here I am, in a new culture, starting down a new path in my life, with (after only 3 days) what still sounds to my ear like a new name.  And as I peer into the immediate future, to the work I’m going to be doing down here, I can’t help but think that this change, this what at times seems to be an overwhelming change, is going to be a good one.



it's a charming atmosphere, the world of local coffeehouses. and if you frequent them often enough, you begin to see the different stereotypes that reside there. and as much as i hate stereotyping, i'm going to indulge a bit this afternoon, since i suppose being a twenty something year old blogging in a coffeehouse with my espresso right next to my macbook i'm a stereotype myself right now.
Looking around i see an older person sitting in the corner--probably an artist of some sort who's enjoying their daily coffee and muffin while perusing the papers. in the middle of the room is a group of university students. They quietly discuss topics ranging from Ann Boleyn and other historical figures to the band Weezer and the benefits of live concerts over recorded songs. There's the guy at the table next to me, stack of books by his computer, checking facebook while on a "study break"that ends up taking at least half an hour if not longer (i'm guilty of being a member of this stereotype many times myself). The loyal customer who knows the baristas by name has just walked in the door, all smiles and hellos, surveying the room for an empty table or perhaps another familiar face. A person that needs to use the internet comes in, paying for their time on the coffeehouse's computer, ignoring the rest of the coffeehouse's inhabitants while searching for answers on the world wide web. a table of adults are holding a casual business meeting and through it all, the baristas call out orders to be picked up at the counter.  It's a pretty typical day at the local coffeehouse and i--i feel like i'm home.



Italicthey give us something to focus on through boredom and keep us laughing when we get together with friends from our past lives. Memories link us to the selves we once were and the selves we have become. And yet, there are those memories--the ones we never speak of, even though they are always on our minds--the ones that keep us awake at night and leave us, at our most vulnerable hours, in tears.

Yes, I'm talking about memories of the heart.

The power these memories have over us must come from the raw emotion they contain and also from the walls we carefully build around them. But the very potency of such memories stem from fact that they were once true events we experienced, events that we can not move past--events we cling to because in the deepest recesses of our heart, we wish they were not merely memories, but fact--not merely forgotten truths but present moments, able to be relived not only in the security of our minds but in the reality of our world.
Such memories could be as simple as a night of fun and laughter with friends no longer a part of our lives, or as complicated and heart-wrenching as a love that is no longer a possibility.

And how do we move on?

Well, i guess that's the thing about time. whether we are willing or not, it marches onward--and we? well, by merely checking the clock we are willing participants in its construction and continuation.

After all, they say time heals all wounds.

I suppose all i can say with certainty right now is that memories are a refuge, not for the weak, but for those reluctant to give up hope. But hopefully someday those of us with even the most sentimental of hearts can move beyond the refuges of the past and into the truth of the present--fondly remembering where we are from and acknowledging to our inner most consciousness that there is always more to come, that there are always new memories to be made.


my grandmother's hands are wrinkled and wise
experience can be traced along every line
and strength can be seen in her hands lying still
now clasped for eternity, warding off further ill

my grandmother's hands so translucent and thin
i gently brush up against her cold skin
trying to grasp and hold on to something akin
to her beautiful presence once held within

my grandmother's hands have held both life and death
and now that she has taken her last breath
i can only imagine the peace she can feel--
her mortal pain has forever been healed.



The shooting range here in town is different than i thought it would be. it's not cold and militaristic, there aren't NRA posters everywhere and I have yet to see any sort of taxidermied animal hanging out. There's even a woman elected as one of the club's officers! Everyone is asked to clean up after themselves, and it's kept fairly tidy--considering that it's really just a big 'boy's club'. And usually there's only one or two people in there at a time, I guess the people that go there aren't really looking for company and they usually leave if another person comes in to shoot. In fact, if it weren't for the frequent sounds of gunfire it could be considered a nice place to get away and just . . . think. Which, is kinda a funny thing for me to admit because i tend to view violence in any form (even just practising it) as a mindless act--unless, i suppose, you're an assassin . . . but that's a whole 'nother issue.

I can't say that i like shooting a gun, or that i'm any good at it, (i seem to anticipate the kick too much) but i do manage to hit the target a good 65% of the time and I even get off a lucky shot every once in a while. bullseye.

i guess as happens with every new experience, i learned something about myself by going to the shooting range. i'm fairly confident that if i'm ever in the situation i'll have a very hard time shooting at a living being (i have a hard enough time shooting at the human shaped target!), and while i appreciate those who serve in our military and understand the necessity for upholding the 2nd amendment (as long as the firearm is used appropriately and respectfully), i think i might be tending more and more towards pacifism as a personal philosophy--which, is a fairly big step considering my family's long standing tradition of being in the military. Yes, this is what i learned about myself by going to the shooting range: i'm slowly turning into a leftist hippie--or maybe i've really just been one all along.

I also realized that listening to classical music on your ipod during target practise will not only be an odd juxtaposition, it will probably make you feel like a superhero villain . . .

but maybe that's just me.



11 months from now. it's a long time to wait. it's when the program I've been nominated for begins.

As long as I make it past this final review stage and all my medical and dental forms come back clean, in June 2011 I'll be setting off on what may become the biggest story of my life.

sub sahara Africa.
secondary science education.

11 months is a long time to wait for 27 months of service to begin, especially when you're as impatient of a person as i am.

is it worth it? that's the question everyone around me seems to be asking me.

psh. in my mind, there's no question about that.


the graduate.

I had a realization today as I was cleaning out my lab space, labeling the last bits of my synthesized compound, soaking in my last moments in my research advisor's lab: i'm giving all of this up. Science has been my academic passion and life for the past 8 years if not more and now, with my decision to explore the world of humanitarian works and non-profit businesses, with that one choice, I've effectively turned my back on science. Perhaps not for forever, but at least definitely for now. and I'm not really sure how I feel about that yet.


hello stranger.

it's been awhile. i haven't really felt like writing and, let's be honest with each other--we both know i'm really not much of a blogger. But for some reason, sitting here in the library trying desperately to get all my science knowledge sorted for my comprehensive exams with my upcoming recital, presentations, thesis defense, class projects, papers, responsibilities, and triathlon ever present in the back of my mind I couldn't help but feel the need to at least wrap up part of my past life and move on to the one i'm currently living.

This blog was started to let the people i left behind in the States in on my adventures abroad, and while I have a whole 5 week holiday and entire last term of Cambridge that I didn't cover--if you're reading this blog you probably know me personally, and I would love to tell you about my travel stories and last term in person sometime. I went from Romania to Turkey, over to Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Venice, Germany and hit up some old friends in Utrecht. I met amazing people, spent some time in a greek hospital, had every form of identification i had on me stolen, got kicked off a trolley by some old ladies, spent 3 1/2 days with no cash, and no way to get cash . . . oh yes, I have stories galore, and that's just from my 5 week holiday. As for my last term at Cambridge? bittersweet as any glorious memory could ever be. I explored England further, almost went skydiving (made it to the plane and everything--it was just too windy), stayed in an English cottage, had my passport destroyed by a washing machine, got my 3rd passport in 7 months, spent a straight 21 hours on an unforgettable train-ride, broke down in front of my neuro supervisor while taking my final MCQ (those cambridge tests are hard!), and learned quite a bit about myself along the way. Smiles were had, tears were shed, and some memories I'll carry in my heart forever.

My year abroad? epic success. I can honestly say I'm a better person for having had the experiences I did, and I crammed a whole lot of story collecting into those 11 months.

but now i'm back. and, I've been back since mid june 2009. It wasn't the easiest thing in the world, but I'm finally at a point where internally I'm pretty much back to normal, changed for the better.

Obviously this blog is no longer about my time abroad, but i think it's about time I start story collecting on this side of the pond . . . maybe after graduation :-)