Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Guess Whose Coming to Visit...

Ever feel like you have so much to do that all you can do is stare at the to-do list, trying to choose what to tackle first??? It's slightly overwhelming. At the same time, stuff just keeps getting added to the list... and sometimes I forget to write it down. So grad school tends to be like this, but what happened to summer???

Anyway, it's been one of those days where everything is so much harder than it should be. I was tempted to go back to sleep. Little things like going to Walmart to buy this MagicJack thing that my uncle Mario told me about (which sounds awesome 'cause you can make and receive calls from a local number routed to your computer from anywhere in the world), but no one at Walmart has a sense of person space. FYI- if you're touching me while we stand in line, you're too close!!! 

The highlight of my day though is my MOH Ana!!! She just bought her ticket to Guatemala and will be coming the same time as Brian (August 15-22). I'm so thrilled to have another person to share this amazing experience with. Now I'm on a mission to find a surf spot for Brian since I have someone to sit on the beach with. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Party Time!

A weekend of friends, family, BBQ, amazing Sangria, and Nona's Cheesecake... there's no way Guatemala can top this! After a year of research, studying, and being over prepared, this is what occupational balance is like!

On Saturday we had an impromptu Bon Voyage party at our new place in Smithville. Brian got a chance to show off his grilling skills on his new webber grill, a reminder of our time in CA grilling pineapple with old friends on the deck and hanging out by the fire. The BBQ we hosted on Saturday felt similar, only with more food, more friends, and more prep work. It's the first time in awhile that we weren't searching for reminders of set up we had in Huntington Beach... it's starting to feel like home.

We spent Sunday in Sea Girt with the fam. More food, sangria, and fun. Gluten-free cheesecake, jalapeno burgers, and sausage and pepper... so good!!! My mother in law, who always finds the most perfect gifts, gave me the cutest bag as a bob voyage present. In addition to being insanely cute, the tag says it also feeds a child in Guatemala for a year. How cool is that?!

In addition to this, I received an email from a cousin, Raynara, who has been helping me with a mission I'm on in Guatemala, something I'll write about in more detail at a later time. Briefly though, we have a 29 year old cousin, Kike (Kee-kay)  who lives in a small town in Guatemala and he broke his neck in January at the C5 level. I asked one of my professors for some advice on how I can help him and she sent an amazing slideshow with tons of assistive devices. I forwarded the show to my family, and Raynara replied saying we've helped open the family's eyes to a world of possibilities that they never imagined existed. Kike is more hopeful now that he'll be able to have a more normal life... This is why we do what we do... It's pretty cool!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

We're Not in Kansas Anymore!!!

"Not my shampoo!!!" In 2005, I took a trip similar to the one I'm about to go on... At least, that's what it felt like at the time. I spent the spring semester as a HACU intern, and I was placed in Kansas City, Missouri with the USDA. (BTW- check out the website, if you want an awesome paid internship). I was so scared that I packed everything I thought I would need for a 6 month stay- shampoo, soap, towels, vitamins... When my mom and grandma dropped me off at LAX, my bags were way over the weight limit and I had to remove my two bulk sized shampoo bottles. Convinced I would be forced to either wash my hair with dish soap or worse, I pleaded with the desk clerk to no avail. There's no way they sell normal shampoo in Kansas City!!! Boy was I wrong! I had the time of my life and will be forever changed by the months I spent there.

I know that story may make me sound naive but it was the furthest I'd travelled outside of my bubble, and I wanted to be prepared. Now, this is my second trip to Guatemala and I sort of know what to expect, but I'm becoming just a neurotic about my preparations as I was before. Like I mentioned earlier- I'm really not that adventurous and I like my little comfy bubble.

So the program I'm going with gave me a packing list that includes some interesting items: bug repellant, a poncho, towels, a rescue whistle, a desk lamp, a prescription of strong antibiotics, anti-diarrhea medicine, a large container of hand sanitizer... What did I get myself into??? Which of these items is going to save me from another volcanic eruption, tropical storm, or help rescue me from a sinkhole??? 

I've trolled the travel sites and  they all say Antigua, Guatemala is a beautiful and safe place to say. They do mention though, that one must be wary of bed bugs since they are quite common, and bring your own towels to avoid getting body lice. So gross!!! I'm sure I'll be fine. Just in case, Brian encourage me to buy a shank (or utility knife as he likes to call it). I'll probably just cut paper with it, but you never know;)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hellos and Goodbyes

My new best friend Ana and I drove to exit 109 today to say hello to some old friends. We stopped in Red Bank and had lunch with our classmate Aimee. Then all three of us headed to my old store- RRS Shrewsbury, a specialty running store that I spent two years managing. It's the first time I've been back since eagerly leaving for grad school.

It was great to go back and see some old familiar faces- especially Bob who happens to be my favorite person in the world. Yet I was also reminded of the leap of faith I took when I left, and the tremendous payoff. My new profession has turned out to be more rewarding than I ever imagined or hoped it would be, and I'm thankful everyday for the opportunities I've been afforded.

My visit to the store was like introducing my new life... to what I used to and could have been. It was surreal because if it wasn't for a twist of fate, that at the time seemed like such a big inconvenience- enough to make me want to take a drastic step in a different direction, I don't think I'd be where I am now. I'd be right where I was- standing still. That's fine for some, but I prefer a more action. Maybe that's another reason why I'm headed to Guatemala... who knows. What I do know is that I'm where I'm supposed to be right now.

Monday, June 21, 2010

2 Weeks to Guatemala!!!

It started out as a cool idea. My sister in-law sent me an ad about the NAPA-OT Field School in Guatemala. It's a collaboration of Anthropology and Occupational Therapy students and professors who spend the summer in Antigua, Guatemala learning about the culture and trying to make an impact that will last long after they return home. It seemed interesting since my family is from Guatemala and my grandpa Mario just moved back. So I thought "What a cool trip! I want to go!" I applied to the program, got accepted, and I'm headed out...

There's just one thing- I'm not really an adventurous person. I'm actually sort of a scaredy cat and a bit of a hypochondriac. I wear make up to the gym, never leave the house without looking presentable, and staying clean is a must. Guatemala isn't exactly the best place for someone like me. I went once 10 years ago for a visit with my family and everyone in our party got so sick that we had to have an ambulance come check us our prior to boarding our flight home. 

So why go at all? Well, I got into Occupational Therapy for a few reasons- one of them being my grandma. In 2007, when I moved from CA to Jersey, she got pretty sick with cancer and I wasn't around. As she lost her abilities to function, she deteriorated more, and in 2008, she passed away after we all said our last goodbyes. My grandpa was heartbroken and lonely, so he moved back to Guatemala to be close to our extended family. The work I'll be doing in Guatemala is centered around creating opportunities to assist elderly people as they age and become more dependent. One day, my grandpa will need these services, so it's a way to help him in a way that I couldn't help my grandma.

I leave for Guatemala on the 4th of July, exactly 6 years to the day I met my fiance Brian at the Islands Restaurant in Fullerton, CA.  I'm thrilled to begin my adventure, but it's hard to imagine not having my partner in crime by my side for 6 whole weeks. Since we're getting close to my departure date, I'll be posting more about what I'm doing to prepare and whatever pops up along the way!