I Have Wanted to Die for 10 Years.

Reach out if you’re feeling down”. “I am here for you”.

Any time someone struggles with inner problems and try to overdose, try to kill themselves, states their depressive thoughts, etc people always do the “we are here for you”. While I do know a lot of you mean well and a lot of you truly mean it, I am not too sure if you really understand what is going through our heads.

I have wanted to die. I have physically hurt myself. I have overdosed. I have struggled with the worst depression and anxiety. I have not wanted to be alive. I have thought life would be better if I was not on this earth. I have felt like a burden to my friends, my jobs, past boyfriends. I have had moments off and on where I thought “this is it, I cannot go on” and I think tonight is the night I do it.

I reach out. I tell people how I feel. At first it was people being nice. At first I felt like people really cared. The feelings came and went, so with those episodes, my friends started to think I was crying wolf.   “You will get over it”. “Life isn’t that bad”.

You know what, I know life isn’t that bad. I know that I have more to live for. I know things just suck right now. But guess what, my brain is telling me this is the end of the world and that this feeling is never going away. Telling a person to get over a feeling that they cannot even explain why they have it in the first place is the worst piece of advice you can give.

You sit there and have this inner struggle with yourself meanwhile the people you think who love and care about you start to lose interest and just think it is a never ending cycle. Some even think it is about wanting attention. Let me tell you, people who feel this way do not want attention. They need help. They need someone to listen. They need someone to just be present. We do not need you to tell us “it will get better” or “life goes on”, because we hear this all the time, however we do not feel it. The inner battle is so fucking hard. The depressing thoughts are overwhelming. This is why some people think leaving the universe is the only way to fix it.

It took me 10 years. 10 years to figure out I do not want to die. I am only 29 years old. I have wanted to die for 10 years.

I work out, I play video games, I hike, I climb, I volunteer, I paint, I write, I travel. These are my outlets. When I do these, I feel good. I escape. When I started to hike, I had this overwhelming feeling of being alive. I feel the best when I am out there, away from people. For those minutes and hours, I feel like the only person on earth and it is the most rewarding and refreshing feeling on earth. I am alone and this is the only way I know how to be me. I do not know how to be anything but alone and in my thoughts. I do not share my feelings with many people, I have never been in love nor really got close with any male, hell I do not get close with many people. This last year I have had a transition in my thoughts and I am open with what I experience now, but getting to this point has been rough.

I may have not defeated the anxiety, but I think the darkness I have finally escaped from. I haven’t had that feeling in a long time. It does get better, see, I feel it…now. But in my darkest moments, hearing that phrase makes you feel miserable and like something inside of you is broken.

I got this far from people giving up on me. I am one of the few lucky ones. Not many can say everyone gave up on them and they are still here today. I am happy. I am successful. I try to do what I can to keep my brain busy. I try to help people who are going through what I went through before I got to my own breakthrough.

I just hope that those who do suffer from depression read this and know they can actually talk to me. I do not want to be here just when you are feeling down. I want to be here for all your feelings and experiences. I want to be here for your good days. I want to be here for your bad days. I want to be here for you when you find a new experience that makes YOU feel alive.

I fell in love with feeling alive and want to spread all the love I can while I am still on this earth.

Please stay.

Feeling alive is way better than saying goodbye.

 

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Soccer Is My Family

People love soccer for many different reasons. I love soccer because of the way it brings people together.

I played soccer as a child. I fell in love with it after watching Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, and Landon Donovan (y’all can hate as much as you want, but growing up and watching him was incredible). I was convinced that I was going to be just like them. Shortly after my parents divorced, I started playing. It was an outlet for me. As a child, you do not know how to get emotions out, but when I was on that field, nothing else mattered. In my head I was Hamm and Chastain, but in reality, I think I scored like 3 goals ever—so I was not going to be either one. Life happened, injuries happened, financial burdens happened—I did not continue to play on a team.

I remember when I went to my first KC Wiz game at Arrowhead and then following them to the T-Bones stadium with their rebrand as Sporting KC. During this transition it was a weird time in my life. I started going through some personal things and really hit a low, low. Anxiety and depression are rough to go through alone, but when I went to a game, it just went away. Watching your favorite game with people who are just as passionate about it is a great feeling. I am not a person who is really close to many people, so this is truly the only time I felt close, with tons of strangers.

When I finally went to a game at the newly constructed soccer specific stadium, Livestrong Park (that sure was short lived), I noticed these crazy loud people—-The Cauldron. I think I only went to one game where I sat somewhere else besides the supporter’s section. After I was in the supporter’s section, I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. Now when you tell someone you are going to a game and you do not sit down, people will look at you like you are insane. Its loud, there’s singing, there’s beer on babies (on accident of course!), some very drunk people, some very sober people, some confused people, and some excited people. You have flags, you have confetti, you have high fives, you have lots of collective screaming at the referees. For a person who suffers from anxiety and depression—–screaming, jumping around, and having a roller coaster of emotions during a game truly feels like a great freedom from yourself. You get your feelings out and everyone around you is doing the same. After a few games, I started seeing the same people over and over and actually made friends! Making friends’ as an adult is hard, so hard, but with soccer—man it makes it so easy.

I have met so many great people in Kansas City because of soccer. The real fun starts when you start going to away games, for us we call it “Roaddron”. I will never forget my first away game; it was to see SKC and FC Dallas play. There were some people I somehow stumbled upon on Twitter who are FC Dallas supporters (Dallas Beer Guardians) and I thought, well I guess I will go talk to them. That was the best ideas that I have ever had. I drank far too much that day—as they know how to throw one hell of a tailgate and welcome supporters groups. I did not know it just yet, but I made lifelong friends that day.

After that, I decided to offer my house to other supporters to stay at if they decided to come see their team play against us in Kansas City. I wanted to return the hospitality I received. Soon enough I had Rapids, Timbers, Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Sounders, and FCD supporters who slept on my couch and my floor. We would stay up late and talk about life, watch movies, eat too much pizza, give each other shit about each others teams, go on adventures, and just have a genuinely great time. Now that I live in Vegas and we have a USL team, I am excited to share the love again and make new memories.

The best thing about Twitter has been the soccer family I have formed. I have met my best friends because of Twitter and Soccer. You know that anxiety and depression I have? Well, I found out many soccer friends also experience those. We can talk to each other any day, any night, every day or once every six months—we are there for each other no matter what. That is the best bond you can have. Some days I did not think I was going to make it another day. Some days I truly thought that this was it. My friends talked me through it. They saved me and I do not think they actually know it. I admire and love each and every one of you who have been there for me in any capacity.

I am thankful every single day for every single person I have met through soccer. We all experience the same thing in separate ways and we support each other. There is so much love there, that I do not think I would experience anywhere else. Most of my best friends are RSL, Sounders, or FC Dallas supporters. I love that no matter what the outcome of the game, they will welcome you with open arms and just continue being genuine people (well okay, SOME Sounders supporters will not do that…but they are assholes that you just have to love anyways). They have helped me through some of the hardest times of my life. I am forever grateful for them.

I have watched 13 of my soccer friends get engaged, I have flown to their weddings, I have helped friends through suicidal thoughts, they helped me get to my dying grandfather, I talked them through assaults, been their shoulder to cry on, they have helped me on my darkest days and saved me from my own thoughts, and they have given me a place to stay and supported me on all my crazy ass adventures.

The amount of love that surrounds all of us with all supporters groups is amazing. I love every single person I have met through soccer. I love meeting new supporters and learning their stories. I love having drinks with new people and learning why they love the game. Soccer is beautiful. Soccer has saved my life. Soccer is family.

 

 

 

(Also if you are reading this and experience any type of depression , please reach out to me. I am here for you and love you, no matter what.)

You’re just a step on the boss-man’s ladder

Twice a day at the gym. 3 hours on my couch watching who knows what on Netflix. Scroll through Twitter to see how stupid the President and his blind followers are, get annoyed, close Twitter…and open it again 2 minutes later. Swipe on Tinder. Shower for 4 minutes and then have deep shower thoughts for the next 20 minutes. 11 hours of work. Maybe 7 hours of sleep. Repeat.

This is how life is going since being back from Morocco. Life isn’t full of confusion with Darija, I am not confusing the word for the color of red for the word for donkey, I am not taking bucket baths, I am not laughing till I cry with my friends and host family, I am not being stared at by my community members while they think “that crazy American!”, I am not eating endless amounts of khobz (breads)… I am sitting at a desk most of the day, dealing with angry customers, typing the same generic email, replying to angry yelp reviews, being mansplained, and hoping something better will come along…soon. I wish I could say that I am doing amazing and happy, but as everyone knows, I am only good at one thing—being real and honest. So here I am—dealing with this crap the best I can.

I got rid of everything I owned—things I worked hard for, to spend 2 years in Morocco. Coming back home so early has been a true pain in the ass. I bought myself a car and I got myself a new apartment, which by default sounds so great. I am taking care of myself— jokes on you, materialistic things aren’t what makes me happy. I am working a job I have had for 4, almost 5, years, with no future of promotion, no benefits, and low pay. Trying to stay alive on $16 an hour is a nightmare in the United States. (However I am happy I even have a job). I thought staying faithful and dedicated to a company would help promotion—but I was very wrong. I turn 30 in less than a year and I feel like a complete moron for staying with a job that does not value me nor my future. I want to feel proud of what I do and who I work for. I never thought I would be that person who wants to be proud of their work (yes, I mean that, I used to just work to stay alive, but these days, feeling proud of what I do is important).

So here I am, on the next hunt for a job. That is a quite scary feeling, leaving something you have done for almost 5 years to start over—however if I can leave everything behind and move to a new country, I am pretty sure  can do anything. I am more stressed than I have ever been in my life. I realized how much you need to be happy in life and how you need to be happy in the line of work that you do. Stress literally kills you and life is too short to be so miserable in something that you spend most of your life at. One of the many things being in Morocco taught me is that you need to cherish every single part of your life and I am truly taking that to heart.

Every single day, I think about Morocco and what it means to me. I know I annoy my friends with how much I talk about it, but when you experience something like that, it is hard to not talk about it. Surround yourself with love and happiness. Surround yourself with things that matter to you. Surround yourself with passion. Do not allow the stress to break you down.

As the great Dolly Parton stated “Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’. Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’. They just use your mind and they never give you credit. It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it”.

There are much more important things in life than being miserable in your 9-5. Find your passion, your motivation, your inspiration. Thanks to Morocco, all I know is that I am more than being a human punching bag. If that was my purpose of being sent home early, then I accept it, because god damn, it feels good to open my eyes finally. I literally have no idea what I am doing at all, but I will figure it out.

 

 

“Rachel, You Won’t Last”

Having a dream as a child and seeing it coming to life as an adult is an incredible feat. During my time in Morocco I have learned so much—about others and myself. I fell in love with a beautiful country with beautiful food and beautiful souls. I learned the beauty of just being.

There is no way I can put into words how heartbroken I am. I put literally everything on the line for this opportunity. All my savings from my 20’s was used to pay off my apartment, my car, and bills just for this experience. I jumped in with my full heart—which is what I do when I am passionate about something. I didn’t have a back up plan because I KNEW I would do this and be okay. I would finish my two years no matter what. I knew it was going to be hard and things could happen, but hey I can do it, I can do anything.

Before I start this, I just want to say something. Moroccans have been the most welcoming and beautiful people. Muslims have such a beautiful and deep connection with themselves and others. I will not tolerate anyone who chooses to say anything negative about the experience I am about to talk about. A few people do NOT reflect the entire culture or people. I have already received “I told you so” and to that, please exit my life. I do not need to have that in my life and I think you need to also step back and reflect on yourself.

When I arrived to Morocco, I was sick. I was sick the entire time of training. I had diarrhea almost daily. On top of that, I was having a very hard time breathing. While in the states, this was never an issue—unless I was in the mountains or at the gym kicking my own ass then I laid on the ground like a beached whale gasping for air. I mean, I still act that way when I work out, but this is different. I was wheezing non-stop, coughing non-stop, and would gasp for air and choke in the middle of the night as I was trying to sleep. My host family was always so worried about me. After two full months of taking just one inhaler, I talked to the PCMO (our medical team) and they decided they needed to send me to the capital for tests. I packed myself a bag and walked to the taxi stand. This was going to be the beginning of a very long and sad week. The person who attempted to take me to the first stop of the trip touched me and made me so uncomfortable that I had to get out. I am in a small town so another taxi is hard to get, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do to feel comfortable. I thought this would have been the worst part of the trip, but I was still so wrong. I ended up being sexually assaulted.

I was sexually assaulted. Twice. I was groped by a taxi driver. I was assaulted by two men. As a person who has been sexually assaulted and raped before coming to country, I was very paranoid about this happening again, but I thought I would be much stronger. I was wrong. So very wrong. To be honest, I lost my shit. We are trained to be safe and not put ourselves in a dangerous situation if such situations arise—but everyone who knows me KNOWS I do not put up with that. I ended up punching one of the men who were trying to sexually assault me and robbed me. During that moment I was thinking “I cannot hit a local, I cannot do this. This looks so bad. A volunteer cannot do this”. Two seconds later, I hit that man as hard as I possibly could and he left. I suddenly felt so accomplished. That felt like the one and only one thing I have had control of the entire time in Morocco. Those who do not know what the Peace Corps experience is like will not be able to understand that completely, as they have never had almost every part of them stripped away. In that moment, I finally felt free, even if it was for two seconds and right after such an incredibly uncomfortable situation.

I then had to get myself together and go get my breathing tests done. The PCMO team took me to a specialist and they discovered I had severe asthma. When applying to Peace Corps Morocco, one of the things that can disqualify you is good ol asthma. So here I am, just been assaulted, just found out I had asthma and it was NOT going away. I went to the country directors office and cried. And cried. And cried. And cried some more. She was my rock during that time. She just sat there and talked to me, let me cry, hugged me, and just was there. I am not the person to ever show emotion. The only time you will see me cry is when I am leaving my cats or saying goodbye to my best friends. That is literally it. So for me to be so vulnerable, with someone I barely know, just crying, you know that it was tearing me apart. It was decided to have me sent home.

Multiple people told me I wouldn’t accomplish the two years and I won’t last. I am about to head to a dinner with my best friend at my old company in which they told me I would not last—the things you do for your friendship and some free food. I have to face the people who told me I wouldn’t be able to do it. I have to sit there and let them think once again I failed at something. Who wants to sit there and shout out that they were sexually assaulted and have severe asthma so they had to be sent home? This has been a thing that has happened multiple times— the good ol “I told you so’s”. In reality this is out of my control. I didn’t want this. I do not want to be in this country. I want to be back in Sebt Jahjouh and Dayat Aoua. I want to be able to get some fruits and veggies from the sou9. I want to sit and listen to my family say “kuli, kuli” and get annoyed that they won’t stop telling me to eat while I am so incredibly stuffed. I want to help those crazy drairi that make me want to rip my hair out. I want to help them succeed in everything that they do. I want to do Project Soar and help the incredible girls in our community and country see their potential and empower them.

It is about to be 2018. I am turning 29 in 22 days. I am back in America and back in Las Vegas. I am so thankful for my friends who have been there for me and have let me have my space. I do not want to be here, I do not have anything except basically what I took to Morocco. Starting over at almost 29 years old is a nightmare when your plans go to absolute shit. That is the beauty of life, it always takes you a different way than planned. I am searching for jobs, being rejected for jobs, overqualified for jobs, and interviewing for jobs that are going to make me miserable, but I just need something. I need to get back into the saddle. I need to carry on. This is not the end, this is just a setback. I feel so conflicted and lost. I literally have nothing. I suppose the best part about that is at least it gives me time to find something that I really want again and find a new part of myself.

It may not have ended the way that I hoped and dreamed for, but I still became a Peace Corps volunteer. I lasted. I did it. I managed to get through the hardest times of my life. I struggled with language but ended up kicking ass and can have conversations in Darija. I taught classes. I learned about the culture. I integrated. I built relationships with host country nationals. I tried new things. Two middle fingers up to everyone who doubted me and continues to doubt me. I did my best and stayed strong till the end, even if the end came very early for myself. I cannot have any conversation without saying “in Morocco” or “this one time in Morocco”. I cannot talk without adding some Darija in. I still have my Peace Corps family. I still have two incredible Moroccan families that I will visit in the future. I still can continue to teach others about my experiences. I have memories that will last a lifetime and beyond. To my Peace Corps family who have been there through it with me, I love you guys. I absolute adore you and I am so thankful for you. More than you will ever know. Y’all saved me.

I, Rachel Avery, promise to serve alongside the people of Morocco. I promise to share my culture with an open heart and open mind. I promise to foster an understanding of the people of Morocco, with creativity, cultural sensitivity, and respect. I will face the challenges of service with patience, humility, and determination. I will embrace the mission of world peace and friendship for as long as I serve and beyond. In the proud tradition of Peace Corps’ legacy, and in the spirit of the Peace Corps family past, present, and future- I am a Peace Corps Volunteer.

It is About to Get Real Personal

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”. This statement has never meant more to me than it has these last 11 weeks. In the beginning I was full of nerves and “I can do this” mentality. 11 weeks later, I am sitting here like “how the hell did I do that?”. It has taken so much time to learn how to sit in silence while many others are having conversations around me. I nod my head, I smile, and hope I am not agreeing to something (which half the time it means I am). For example, today I met with my mudira and I think I agreed that I had a husband—–I guess I married my cat back home? There have been many times through out this adventure that I have wanted to quit and go home. I had a horrible first few weeks, which lead to a host family change. I got so behind in language class that I got so frustrated that I didn’t want to do anything but cry in my LCF’s bathroom, which I did many, many days. I didn’t feel connected to anyone or anything. When I went to the youth association, I felt so behind and embarrassed that I was the only one who couldn’t even understand the most basic of words and phrases compared to my group. Every single night I went home and thought “just stay one more day Rachel, one more day”. I did this every single day.

I have struggled with some extreme depression these last 11 weeks. It has hit me like a god damn hurricane. I try very hard to be present even on my worst days. I have spent the last 10 years alone, so it was not the isolation that has made me down, it is the constant feeling of feeling like a failure. Every day I felt miserable for not being able to do anything right, not understanding the mornings language session, or not being able to tell my family anything about me. Not having control of any aspect of my life has been rough. I have been ignored, degraded, and felt defeated. To clarify, this was not done by locals or host country nationals. I do not want to depict an incorrect vision of the beautiful people in my beautiful training site. I just want those to know that if you are struggling, you can and will get through it. I have turned to writing in my journal , writing strange sci-fi short stories, and yoga. As I approach 29, I feel the most honest with myself that I have ever been. I have always told myself things, but never really believed them. Here, I am able to spend real alone time and be real with myself. You are almost forced to find yourself.

I have been sick almost the entire time I have been in country. I think I have had more diarrhea in the last 2 months than I ever need to have for the rest of my life. My body is punishing me for all the incredible food and enormous amounts of water I have been drinking. I am not complaining, because it always keeps the day entertaining. If you want to talk about poop, join the Peace Corps, its never-ending conversation about poop. Well poop, sex, and food you miss.

Here I am on November 28th, a day away from swearing in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer. I have had so many roller coaster feelings, but I did it. I survived. I took it day by day. I was behind in class. My Darija is AWFUL. I was frustrated every single day in class, but I did my best. Guess what, my best paid off—I got an acceptable language proficiency score. I managed to get my main work assigned to a Dar Taliba where I will be teaching middle school aged ladies. I will be placed near mountains and a lake. My tears, frustration, and extreme patience paid off. I am not religious, but I do believe that all things happen for a reason. I feel that I was put through these tears and bad days so that something so beautiful and meaningful could happen. The rollercoaster of Peace Corps will never stop, but I do have a grasp on what is attainable and I will continue to reach and fail however many times it takes in order to become the volunteer my site needs me to be.

I do not think I would have stayed if it was not for my host sister. She is the most incredible person to exist. My sister is in her 20’s, married, and has two little boys. She takes care of the house, she cooks, she keeps the kids in line, and takes care of her husbands’ family whenever needed. She has a beautiful laugh and a beautiful soul. It is absolutely impossible to feel down when she is around. With limited language we built a strong friendship. She will be a friend and sister for as long as I will live. She knew when I was sad and instantly would make everything better just by sitting with me. We didn’t have to speak. We just sat and existed. Watching her interact with everyone was incredible. She was reserved when she needed to be and was a wild child when it was just us. We would dance and sing when it was just us. I respect her so much. A day that means a lot to me was a week before we left. We were up on the roof doing laundry when she looked over to me and said , “Rachel, nti 7agda” which means a woman who does it all. That meant a lot to me because out here, women do it all—-well, married women that is. Since I am not married, I am in the same social class as a 15 year old. We are just girls. I may be 28, but still seen and treated as a girl by many. When my sister said that to me, I could have not been more proud. I am hard headed and love to do everything myself, but out here, I had to ask how to do laundry, how to use the damn Turkish toilet, how to get water….the list goes on and on. Out here, I feel like a damn toddler. 11 weeks later, I feel like a new human and a woman who is ready to take on the next hot mess!

I am thankful for my bad days. I think that me hitting the lowest low has made the end of training so beautiful. Most would think it is because I am happy I am leaving training, but I find it beautiful because I finished something for the first time in my entire life that I swore up and down that I was going to give up. I have rarely finished anything I have ever started. I have had a million jobs, it took me almost 10 years to finish college because I kept quitting and putting it off every other semester. Regardless of what happens the next 2 years, this was the most important milestone to me. I am going to take it month by month. Year by year. Shwiya b shwiya.

I am excited, nervous, and anxious about my future here. I am prepared to make a total fool of myself in front of my students and host family. I actually make a fool of myself regardless because I am just an awkward human being, but I embrace it. I am prepared to say words I didn’t mean to say. I mean I already said I love eating my butt when I was trying to tell my host sister I love eating zucchini—well at least that is what I thought I was trying to say. I am prepared for my bad days, my good days, and my in-between days.

I just got personal. I never talk about myself, but this is the happiest I have ever felt. I do not want anyone to feel pity nor worried, as I am truly happy. I promised myself with my blog that I would always keep myself honest on here. It is a beautiful journey, a journey I am VERY lucky to experience, however I want people to know it is not always sunshine. With all my downs I have found so many ups and so many things worth smiling and living for.

Tomorrow I become an official Peace Corps Volunteer. I am finally making my dream come true, my dream I have had since I was a child.  I went slowly, I will continue to go slow, but I am not going to stop.

Transition

Life has been very fascinating these last 9 days. We have had many group sessions about safety, project development, culture, and language. We also had an off day and went to Rabat. We learned about the city, the past Kings, and got to experience the souks. Tomorrow we head off to meet our host families. They are not going to know much English, if any. Most of us are going to be dropped off and talk at a toddlers level of Darija (Moroccan Arabic). Although it may sound scary to some, I am incredibly excited. There will be tons of confusion, but I think that is the beauty of this experience. You do not need to be fluent in a language to connect and build a relationship with other people. The best way to learn a language and culture is to be completely emerged. Instead of dipping our feet in, we are being thrown in. We are splitting off into groups of 5-6 people and heading to our community based training. We have an awesome Language and Cross-Culture Facilitator. I feel very thankful to have someone who wants to share their culture and country with us, while being extremely patient with teaching us Darija. My group is also full of fantastic people. We have a great mix and I think we are going to have a great, confusing time together during our homestay’s.

Most people have spent our training days meeting each other and hanging out, however the introvert that I am spent most of my time alone. I have been reading and educating myself about the country and also reading things I enjoy to keep myself feeling like me. Everyone has been great and I am so thankful to be surrounded by such likeminded individuals.  I am sorry to those who I have not talked to, I am excited to learn more about each of you during our service.

Today we had a visitor from the Embassy. Stephanie Miley is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service.  She joined the U.S. Mission to Morocco as the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) in August, 2016, and became Chargé d’Affaires on January 20, 2017. Her overseas assignments have been in the Dominican Republic, Finland, the Sinai Desert, Kosovo, two tours in Iraq, and Belgium starting in 2010 where she served for three years at NATO as Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).  Prior to her arrival in Rabat, she served for two years as Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. She talked to us about her life and it just reassured that this is what I want to do. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer 32 years ago. She told us stories about her experiences and how it changed her life. She pointed out something that really spoke to me, even if you change one persons life, you can change the world for someone.

I will update as much as I can during my CBT, but I am trying to stay as disconnected as much as I can—I do not want to get distracted. My mentor sent me a small gift as we prepare to enter CBT and I love her message: “write down 3 small wins, whether it be washing clothes, visiting a school, or playing with host siblings. Over time, these wins grow in value and size.” I think this is a message that will stay with me through out training and my service. Things will get hard sometimes, but always look for the success, no matter the size.

I am going to do my best with language and integrating, so that on November 29th, I can swear in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer.

Bslama.

Arrival

I have not been able to update much, as it’s been a long few days. To catch everyone up on the beginning of our adventure:

We had orientation in Philadelphia. We did a lot of basics and safety. We became official Peace Corps trainees. There are 113 of us. I didn’t realize how large our group was going to be. The plane ride wasn’t too bad. It was a 6 and a half hour flight. We were all so tired. My flight buddy, Maddie, had the roughest time. I hope you’re reading this because it was amazing. She kept taking one bite and then passing out. At one point, she fell asleep with a spoon in her hand. It was simply amazing. That kept me entertained for a few hours.

After we landed, we came to our hotel we have a week training at. Our first night we met a visitor in our room- –a cockroach named Steve. He was probably the largest one I’ve ever seen. We tried to chase him out of the bungalow but instead he went into a hole in the wall. Bye Steve, we miss you already—our first bug friend.

Sleeping the first night was not too bad. It took about 30 minutes to get comfortable and then I passed out. The first morning and breakfast was amazing. I had an assortment of bread, eggs, and yogurt. I finally got to experience the magic that is Moroccan mint tea. However I made the mistake of getting tea with sugar. I think it was sugar with a side of tea. I think next time I am going to go for half sugar and half regular so it is just right for me.

After breakfast, I went to the balcony from the breakfast area. We can see the sea. It has a nice breeze. The waves are crashing and it is very relaxing. I know this is going to be short lived, since we only get 8 days here at the hotel, but I love it already.  I cannot wait to explore more in the coming weeks and months.

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View from the balcony of our hotel. 

This afternoon we had some vaccinations, received our medical kits and mosquito nets, got a quick medical and security briefing, and then had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves. Some of us exchanged some currency and went shopping in our first market in Morocco…it was successful!

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The best part of today: I GOT TO PET MANY MOROCCAN CATS.  I really miss my cats, but it was delightful to be surrounded by many cats to make up for it!!

Everyone has been really nice so far. Everyone is so full of life and energy, it’s going to be fascinating to see how drained we get, because we are going to be more tired than we already are.  I am looking forward to getting to know everyone better. I am used to being alone, so forcing myself to meet others and talk is a challenge in itself. Tomorrow we start the beginning stages of language training with our LCF’s which are our Language and Cultural Facilitator’s. I am so excited, yet somewhat nervous.

I am barely awake and do not have the time or brain power to write more nor organize this better. I will update the best of my abilities. Next week we go off to our CBT (community based training) groups, so I do not anticipate updating this much since we will be doing 6 days of training a week until we swear in as official Peace Corps Volunteers, inshallah.

…..I hope to pet more cats.

The Wonders of Packing

Well, packing for Peace Corps is certainly a fascinating task. Trying to pack for 27 months is honestly easier than I thought it would be. Clothing was something I was not worried about since we do not know which area of Morocco we will be in, so we do not know exactly how conservative the area will be. I am bringing basics and once I am in country, I will buy more clothing there! So ladies, DO NOT PACK EVERYTHING YOU OWN, you will need to know what is expected in your site so do not overpack! Below is my packing list I started on. I move out of my apartment in a week and a half, so packing is getting extra important now. I will continue to edit this till I finally have the final list. I know some people looking for help really want to see what others pack, so here is mine:

 

Luggage:
1 rolling luggage, 1 extra large duffel, 1 backpack as carry on

Clothing:
3 cardigans, 3 scarves, 1 six pack of dryfit socks, 1 six pack of wool socks
2 sports bras (should probably get 2-4 more)
6 long tee/tunics
2 long sleeve shirts
2 pair of jeans
3 pairs of leggings
2 pair of shorts (when I am alone in my own place)
6 undershirts
4 long skirts.
1 Northface fleece
1 rainjacket
1 pair of long underwear
1 hat
1 one piece swimsuit and cover up
1 pair of gloves
2 sets of pj’s with pants and long sleeve shirt.
underwear (not sure on amount, but want to make sure there’s extras in second bag. BUT WHAT UP VICTORIA SECRET SALES)

Shoes:
Tevas sandals, Flip flops for shower/bathhouse, Nikes for running, Boots, Flats

Toiletries:
4 pack of toothbrush
toothpaste
floss
babywipes
facewipes
2 quick drying towels
1 shampoo
1 conditioner
1 tea tree oil
1 brush
1 pack of 100 hair ties
1 babypowder
1 chafing gel (shout out to chub rub on those thighs!)
1 pepto
1 bottle of allergy, migraine, women multi-vitamins.

Kitchen:
Vegetable peeler
1 knife set
1 collapsable strainer
Measuring spoons
HOT SAUCE
Jar of peanut butter..okay maybe 2.
SNACKS TO HIDE ALL OVER IN MY BAGS TO BRING ME JOY THROUGH OUT SERVICE

Technology:
Macbook air & charger
1 extra charger for macbook
iphone & charger
3 extra iphone chargers
Voltage converter
Adapters
Surge protector
External HD – Loaded with movies and books
Kindle and charger
3 USB flashdrives
Portable charger

Extras:
2 sets of colored pencils
2 puzzles
UNO
Playing Cards
Cards Against Humanity (No, I will NOT be playing this with the kids, but hey staj 99!)
1 1000 count word search book
1 set of sticky tack
2 sets of stickers (for the kiddos!)
Plastic Clothespins
Tide to go
Favorite Pillow
Favorite Small Throw Blanket
Photos of my cats and friends
2 sets of ziplock bags
Sleeping bag
1 yoga mat
1 set of resistance bands

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The cats think they are coming along.

24 days till we depart. WILD. The next post will most likely be at staging (which is our orientation) , so talk to you soon, internet!

xoxo

Anyone can!

For the last year, I have been reading many posts about joining Peace Corps. The one question I see the most is “Do you have to be well off to join?”. This question comes up SO much. Most people who join are in their younger 20’s and still have support from their parents. However, do not let this prevent you from applying and accepting your invite.

My entire adult life has been a struggle with money. I am not well off. I have been alone since I was 18. I have 0 support from any type of family. I am in debt, I work at least 50 hours a week, and barely make enough to support myself even though I have 10 years of work experience. The late 20’s has been one hell of an adventure, that’s for sure. With all that on my shoulders, I still applied and I still accepted my invitation to serve.

I am not going to sit here and pretend like preparing for my assignment is easy.  I have to pay off the rest of my car, sell it back to Carmax, break my lease, and basically sell everything I own (shout out to OfferUp and LetGo! Seriously, the best apps to sell your things). I hit many bumps on the way and considered giving up MULTIPLE times. I have some absolutely incredible friends (and some strangers) who have helped me along the way (Thank you from the bottom of my heart).  I know it sounds stressful, but in a way this is the most refreshed and comforted that I have ever felt. Getting rid of everything I have worked for and starting off with nothing is something that I have done a lot. This time is different. This time I am doing it for a dream. Nothing will ever replace this experience. Every single struggle I have ever had is worth it for this.

If you come from a family that is well off and can help you out, great! That is awesome. Having support is a great thing. You always know you have someone to fall back on if something happens. If you come from a family that is not well off, great! You have learned that things are not always easy and you determine your future with your hard work. No matter what type of background you come from, it is possible to join the Peace Corps. Never get discouraged. Work hard and you can do whatever you put your mind to. I am terrified as hell since I am going in with 0 money, but honestly if you start at your lowest the only way out is up!  Be smart and research your options, you can and will make it work.

 

….p.s. We leave in 7 weeks. IT IS SO CLOSE.

It’s Happening!

Well, today the torture finally ended. I have received both legal and medical clearance for my Peace Corps service. For those who are wanting to apply for the Peace Corps—-the waiting for these two are absolute torture. I have spent the last three months refreshing my emails every single day waiting for those emails–but in return all I received was emails from Target, Colourpop, and other things that try to suck your soul.

It is the end of Ramadan (the holy month of fasting) also known as Eid al-Fitr. This is a celebration that is important to Muslims. I found today be be fitting for my clearance, as this too is a celebration. I am not religious, but I do believe that everything happens for a reason– getting clearance today was meant to be. Eid Mubarak!!

The next 10 weeks I will be preparing to leave the country for 27 months. I have to sell my car, break my apartment lease, and basically get rid of everything I own. My friends have been incredible and have helped me get things I will need to take with me—adapters, extra charging cords, computer case, bags, etc. I am so thankful for each of you. I am doing this 100% alone and it has been the most stressful thing I have done in my entire life. Most people join the Peace Corps in their young 20’s while I am going to be turning 29 once I get to my final site in Morocco in January. This is a terrifying thought, but I am so thankful and ready for this.

This post is all over the place because my mind is racing, but I just had to update you all! I cannot wait to see the country, the people, the culture, the past staj members, and the new. I am about to become apart of the Peace Corps family, which has been my dream for as long as I can remember.

10 weeks till staging. 10 weeks till I leave the United States. 10 weeks till I am separated from my beloved burritos. 10 weeks till I am taken completely out of my comfort zone.

Let’s do this.