Sunday, May 26, 2013

Nicaragua Part Two: The Characters

(Team Lightning aka half our group, I don't have a full group picture yet unfortunately) 

There was a recurring joke within our Habitat group about starting a new business called "Stranger Vacation", where the point would be to send people on vacation with total strangers. And if you've never been on a trip like this, you might think that was the most God awful idea possible. To me that's why I personally have serious doubts about how "fun times" a cruise would be. Because why on Earth would I want to be stuck on a boat with hundreds of people I don't know?

But the thing is, and I cannot stress this enough, some of my best and most lovely travel memories, the ones that rest in a special place in my heart, are from trips with total strangers.

This trip was not a total stranger vacation for me, because I went with my best friend, Mary Catherine, which was great because we haven't traveled together in years. But aside from her, everyone on this Habitat trip was a big question mark until the moment we arrived. We sent out bios and pictures and exchanged a few emails. I spoke on the phone with our trip leader once. But I didn't know any of these people.

Depending on your worldview that might sound like the worst possible idea, going to a foreign country with a group of anonymous names and faces. For all I knew there could be serial killers or sociopaths or something really terrifying like mimes on the trip. But if I've learned anything it's that in situations like this you just trust the universe and jump in. So far I've done some variations of a "stranger vacation" in Paris, Thailand, and Africa; and I've left every one of those experiences with new friends, people I never would have met otherwise who will always be important to me for sharing these places. And I have never once had to share a room with a mime.

So after all that preamble, I present to you the 12 strangers (plus some more)...picked to build a together and have their lives not find out what happens...when people keep being polite...and start getting smelly

(On a boat on Lake Nicaragua for our R&R day)

Edward: Our fearless leader. Irish by birth and current Californian. Edward had the fun job of getting the same question asked by 12 different people several times a day (most recurring ones, "When is dinner?"and  "Can we get a McFlurry?". He also was responsible for our team selection, and he ensured that no crazies (or mimes) got included in the group. I imagine that being a team leader for Habitat is some weird hybrid of camp counselor, drill sergeant, and travel agent. Edward handled all his responsibilities wonderfully and never once seemed stressed out by it (must be the California thing). Plus the man understands the importance of a delicious ice cream treat.

David and Joey: Lovely father and son team from Philadelphia. Joey is 19 and I am always amazed when 18 or 19 years olds go on these trips. When I was 19, I had never traveled internationally and I got lost regularly in Charleston, SC (it's a city on a peninsula, water is literally where you end up in three directions). Joey did as well as any adult on the team, and I credit his dad, David, a lot for that. David was also my partner in rebarring one day and together with our other teammate, John, we came up with an ingenious strategy to cut three pieces of rebar at once (it shall henceforth be known as the David, Liz, and John Method).

Lyn: Fabulous LA producer with a glamorous life. If I were a fabulous LA producer I would be the biggest diva in the world and shout out demands for caviar and champagne at my peons. Lyn was open, down to earth and completely ready to shovel or tie rebar or so any of the other very non-glamorous, non-diva tasks we had to do. Plus she brought 50 pairs of eyeglasses with her (she's not really blind, her friend runs a charity that gives away reading glasses to people in developing countries), and she affably and good-naturedly put up with those glasses first being a day late (along with all her luggage) and then being held hostage by Nicaraguan customs. The end result, when she gave out those glasses to women at the home of a community leader, was absolutely beautiful.

Lisa: NYC lawyer and mom of the group. One of the few lawyers I've been around (and I say this lovingly as approximately 90% of my family is lawyers) who doesn't act or talk like a lawyer. She has asthma and the perpetual cloud of dust we worked in (my lungs are coated with dirt) took its toll, but she hung in there like a trooper. She's traveled and lived a lot, and I loved listening to her stories of exotic safaris in Africa or meeting Joe Biden (slightly less exotic but a really great story).

John: At the end of the week, we all got superlatives and John was absolutely a non-brainer for "Best Team Player." John is a retired LA fireman and former military, and just an all around great human being. He made sure we were all safe and okay in a fatherly way, translated for us (his parents are Mexican so he's bilingual), worked his butt off in the 98 degree weather (he was my partner in ditch digging), and even brought candy and pencils for the kids from home. Just a really awesome guy.

Robyn: Robyn is a high-powered NYC banker, and in my mind, that is incredibly scary and intimidating (I picture lots of yelling in board rooms because my only real banking reference point is movies and Monopoly). But in yet another example of how you can never get a sense of a person on paper alone, Robyn turned out to be a warm hearted, fun, and hilarious girl that was in no way intimidating or scary. Plus she's traveled all over the world and competes in dance tournaments. And she could talk for hours about dessert, which is always the mark of a good person.

Sam and Shwan: Another set of friends on the trip. Both just graduated with Harvard MBAs, and so clearly ridiculously intelligent and ambitious, but also really, really funny and easy going. Sam is also a giant in Nicaragua (the men there are generally not very tall and he is very tall), but a gentle giant who struck up an adorable friendship with one of the little boys on the site named Samuel. Sam is also the one on our trip who got locked in the bathroom on our slightly disastrous dinner I wrote about in my last post (doesn't that story become even funnier when it's a very tall man locked in the bathroom?), but he took that and everything else with good humor. Shwan went to Berkeley and so has that easy going Californian thing to offset what I'm sure is scary intelligence. Both of these guys are engaged and could not have shown more adorable love than when they talked about their fiances back home.

Mike: An engineer and another very smart person (Habitat Global Village trips draw in some really ambitious, driven personalities, with some creative, free spirit, quieter types thrown in for good measure (can you guess which one I fall into?). Mike was one of the first people MK and I met when we arrived  and he was the last one we said goodbye to at the Houston airport (after dinner at Chile's when we all got really excited about being able to drink tap water again). He was our group photographer, one of the hardest workers (and best at all that technical construction stuff that I kind of just winged until our mason corrected me), and one of the funniest people on the team.

Sahana: Sahana was MK and I's third roomie, and I absolutely love this girl. She's 19 but so together than it makes me a little ashamed of my 19 year old self. She's a lifelong vegetarian, child of Indian immigrants, and doesn't drink (and she goes to University of Georgia, you practically get drunk there just walking around). She seems to be completely herself, which again is no mean feat at 19 years old (or any age). She competed with Robyn for biggest sweet tooth on the trip, and as her roomates we had access to a ridiculous assortment of yummy food. She was also hands down the best shopper on the trip, especially since our two market trips were timed (15 minutes for the first and 45 for the second, as Sahana joked it was just like the Amazing Race). MK and I are already planning a trip to Athens to see her again, and pretend we're 19 year old college students again (rooming with a 19 year old also made me realize how old I am, because I was ready for bed at like 9pm every night, and when I was 19 9pm was when I started to get ready to go out for the night).

MK: Okay so this "stranger" I've been best friends with for more than 20 years. But this was the first time I'd done a trip like this with Mary Catherine, and her first trip to any "developing" nation. And for her first trip like that she did absolutely awesome. It's hard now to remember, but I know the first time I went to a non-Western, poor country it was a shock to the system. It's hard to adjust to a place that is nothing like anywhere you've ever been. MK did fabulously and jumped in with enthusiasm and flexibility (or flexibilidad, as was our trip logo). I'm very proud of her.

The rest of the characters were not part of our American team, but were Nicaraguans who worked with Habitat and quickly became a part of our group by the end of the week.

Juan: The foreman at our site (we split into two build sites for the week, with a 3rd and 4th added by the end of the week because we were just. that. good.) Juan was everything a foreman for a Habitat team needs to be, helpful, gentle, and incredibly patient. I'm sure the temptation is there to call us all imbeciles on a regular basis, but he never did, even when we messed up. Juan was a big bear of a guy, and a ball of positive energy. And from what I've heard an excellent salsa dancer.

Dellis: The mason on our site. Dellis did not speak much English, but that didn't stop him from speaking in long torrents of animated Spanish when he showed us how to do something (it is amazing how you can learn to do something from someone even when they don't speak your language). For both of my Habitat trips thus far there's been a similar relationship with masons; grudging and a little impatient at first (like when we fill the wrong hole with cement or have to be shown how to tie rebar 7 times), growing to bemused by mid week and finally what I perceived as affection by the end (that or they're just really happy we're leaving). It must take a lot of patience to be a mason on a build site staffed by unskilled gringos. Half the time I'm sure all he wanted to do was kick us all out and redo everything. But Dellis let us try and learn, always watching over our shoulder to make sure we didn't make any real mistakes. He was an excellent boss.

Dellis in the middle, patiently bemused as ever

Vittoria: One of the lovely Nicaragua Habitat employees who took us to Granada at the end of the week. Vittoria is one of those Latin women that is so gorgeous you kind of don't want to stand next to her. But she's also a sweet and fun lady who is crazy about her two beautiful daughters, and someone who clearly loves her country and is trying to do everything she can to make it a better place.

Selim: I saved the last spot for Selim, because he deserves it. Selim is the Nicaragua Global Village in-country coordinator, which basically means that for the Habitat groups, he takes care of everything, from lost luggage to feeding us to our security to chaperoning late night McFlurry runs. He was there with us almost the entire week, from the airport on (the guy doesn't get any time off). Salem is the kind of guy who is part-bullshitter, part utter sincerity, and you honestly don't which version you're getting but don't care that much. He's 25, a volunteer firefighter, and has studied law (in addition to his almost 24/7 job with Habitat). He was that teasing, comforting camp counselor presence, but he also could switch to body guard mode in an instant. On our first full day when we went to a baseball game, we needed to use the bathroom, and a few steps behind us was Selim. When we went to the market, he herded us like children and you couldn't go a few feet without seeing him standing there, making sure everything was okay (I swear there were 5 of him). Everywhere we went he knew people (he might have actually been the mayor). He was our fixer (when the restaurant undercooked chicken and locked Sam in the bathroom, Selim was displeased to say the least-as a result we got a free shot of rum). He was also our translator, medic, historian, tour guide, and friend. I've decided that if you want a list of some of the best examples of incredible human beings in this world, look up the Habitat Global Village coordinators in each country. Our one in Malawi, Jacqui, was equally spectacular. They're people who are passionate for the betterment of their nation, and who are willing to work in the trenches, in a not so glamorous job, to do that.

Selim with two of the adorable girls who lived in the house we were working on

So those are the characters, the people I spent the week in Nicaragua with. I'm a relatively shy person, and you would think that would make me avoid situations where I'm thrust into a situation almost entirely with strangers. But I love it. It is ridiculous how quickly you bond in these situations. By the second day we all already had inside jokes. By the end of the week I felt like I knew these people, really knew them, in a way that in the outside world sometimes takes months or even years (there are people I've been in school with for almost three years who I know less about their lives than some of these people I knew for a week). It is one of the reasons I will always be eager to join a Habitat trip or a trip like it, because these trips and these people stay with you. You can't share this kind of experience and not be connected.

I obviously love traveling with family and friends as well, but there's something about "stranger" trips (or mostly stranger trips). My memories from these experiences are different, a little more vivid and enduring. Maybe it's because the experiences feel so different from every day life, with people who aren't in your everyday life, that when you come home, those memories feel more contained and resilient. You aren't just remembering a place or an experience, but a group of people, strangers who improbably become friends. It becomes this collective memory, because you know that there are 12 other people out there who shared their experiences, who are remembering it too. The memory and the people become inextricable, tied together always. And I am so thankful for that memory, and for these people.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nicaragua Part One: The Setting

When I flew to Managua, Nicaragua for a Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip, I had no idea that the city I was flying into, for all extents and purposes, no longer exists.

The center of Managua, the city it began as, was all but destroyed in a 1972 earthquake. This is not all that surprising. What did surprise me was that this Managua was never rebuilt. Part of it still stands, most strikingly a beautiful, empty, ruined Cathedral in the old and empty part of town. But instead of rebuilding the city from the center out, Managua rebuilt itself in neighborhoods, groupings of homes or businesses clustered village style around a steep rise in the middle of the sprawl.

I had no idea about any of this, because the reality is I knew very little about Nicaragua. That's part of the reason I chose it for my second Habitat trip. My first Habitat trip was to Malawi, Africa, a country I knew even less about. And that nation now lies so deeply embedded in my heart that it's hard to believe I could have so easily lived my whole life without it. I felt like I discovered a secret, a little gem that most of the world rushed past. Nicaragua is nowhere near as remote or as quiet a corner as Malawi, but it still intrigued me precisely because of my ignorance.

There's something terrifying and thrilling about flying off to a country that doesn't really exist in your head. Even if we haven't been to a place like Rome or Athens, those cities exist in everyone's conscious. We all have an idea of what they are like, images and feelings, whether that idea is accurate or not.

Nicaragua didn't really exist for me, not except for a few fragmented pieces from history classes and cursory Google and Wikipedia searches. It was uncharted territory until the moment our plane touched down.

Due to a last minute change of plans, our Habitat build took place in Managua. Originally we were supposed to build in a little community close to the Pacific Ocean. However the need changed, and so our build location changed. On our first day after we landed, we had some extra time so we drove the hour to the ocean to swim or dip our toes in (surprisingly enough this was the first time I touched the Pacific Ocean, I've flown over it, swam in seas and gulfs fed by it, but I had never actually stood beside it until that moment our first day in Nicaragua).

While we were at the ocean, we saw the hotel we would have stayed in, an adorable little beach resort complete with a pool, full bar, and only a handful of feet from the sand. And of course, there was that moment of "really?" as we loaded back up to drive back to our actual hotel in Managua. We could have had a week of sand and surf. I could have been sipping margaritas in the pool for 7 days.

But now that the week is done, I am so happy that our plans changed and we stayed in Managua the entire week. Because I got to know a city that I don't think many tourists ever do. Managua is like a lot of Central American capitals, a place you fly into and then get the hell out of on your way to an island or beach or rainforest. Like I said before, there's no center except for a creepily empty square surrounded by damaged buildings.

The old center of Managua, completely vacant and never rebuilt after the '72 earthquake

The only other capital city I've spent time in in this part of the world was Port au Prince in Haiti. I had that city (which hurt on a visceral level to spend time in) in my mind along with some guidebook warnings about Managua as well as what some people who had been to Nicaragua already had told me. I didn't have much in the way of optimism about what the city would be, and I was fine with that because I wasn't there as a tourist. I was there to serve and build houses.

I was ready for Managua to be sad or hectic or over crowded. I was ready for begging at every street corner and dirt. But the thing about Managua is that, at least in the parts of the city we saw, it didn't seem to get the memo about its less then sterling reputation. The traffic is a little insane (but nowhere near the levels of some cities I've visited). There's a good amount of trash on the sides of roads. There are a lot of houses that look inadequate. There's not much in the way of grand boulevards or quaint historic districts.

But for a city that literally crumbled 40 years ago, Managua felt surprisingly solid to me. And safe. It felt like a place people lived and worked, like a place where families raised children, and people went to school. Sometimes when you travel you go to these places that feel almost like Disney World. Everyone and everything there seems to exist to serve tourism. Everything is in English. You can't cross a street without seeing a hotel or internet cafe. Everything seems a little too shiny and rehearsed.

Managua felt like a real place. It's not a city that stuns you or overwhelms you (either with beauty or sadness). It feels like a city that simply is itself, take it or leave it. And I love it for that.

We stayed at the Hotel Colonnade, a cute little hotel tucked away on a quiet road near the main financial district. The hotel was small but clean and nice with lovely and helpful staff. The rooms were spacious and air conditioned and led out onto a cute central courtyard with a handful of tables and chairs and a little pool. It may not have had sea views, but from my second floor room you did catch a little glimpse of Lake Managua and the volcanic hills around it.

Not taken from the hotel, but same view, only a little farther away

The hotel was perfect for our group, because we were practically the only guests there except for a few random tourists who spent some nights there. We spent every evening and night hanging out in the courtyard, enjoying a Victoria cerveza or two (or three) and talking. 

Besides the build (which will have its on post), we ventured out a lot more than I expected. On our Malawi trip we mostly stayed at the hotel, because there wasn't really anywhere else to go. In Managua we had several outings, aided by our wonderful driver, Nelson, who was ready with his van 24/7. There was a little Mexican/Nicaraguan restaurant two doors down that had the best corn tortillas and chorizo sausage I have ever tasted. We took a tour of the city on Sunday and stopped at a baseball game (apparently baseball is HUGE in Nicaragua, even more popular than soccer).

We were there for the first game of a double header, and while the crowd was small, they more than made up for it with noise. A lot of the people there had those noise makers, vuvuzelas (remember at the World Cup when they had to ban them because they were just that annoying?) and they used them when their team (the Boers) did something good, when the other team did something bad, hell when literally anything happened. There were drummers who sat about two rows behind us. There were touts who walked around selling the Nicaraguan version of baseball food. No hot dogs or nachos, but instead giant pork rinds with slaw on top, ice cones topped with thick, syrupy liquid, and lots of other delicious and weird looking snacks that we were warned not to eat. A television reporter interviewed Mary Catherine about what we were doing in Nicaragua on camera, and so somewhere in the vaults of Nicaragua television is footage of me sitting next to her, grinning like an idiot, with a wall of noise behind me. My favorite part of the game was an older man behind us who was dressed head to toe in baseball getup. He shouted the entire time, more than likely crude and shocking obscenities aimed at the other team. But my Spanish comprehension doesn't go that far, so it was delightful. The home team won after a late in the game rally so go Boers!

After the game we toured more of the city, including the old Managua I mentioned before. The old Cathedral is gorgeous even in ruin.

Our Habitat coordinator Salem (more on him later), was the perfect guide, filling us in on Nicaragua's crazy, tumultuous political history as well as its geographical history. Apparently it's not all that strange that Managua was destroyed by an earthquake in the 70s, because Nicaragua is not just one of the most seismically active places on earth, but one of the most disaster prone in general (seriously name a natural disaster and it has happened in the past, earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, VOLCANO eruption). His advice to us in case of an earthquake (apparently little ones happen here almost constantly) was to not panic. My plan for almost any natural disaster is to do exactly that, and panic my head off, because it is one of the few occasions in life where panic is warranted and you might as well run around in circles screaming right?

We went to the very top of the city, where you can see the clusters of neighborhoods that make up Managua as well as the lake and mountains surrounding it. On the top of the hill is also a giant statue figure of Sandino, a Nicaraguan revolutionary hero famous for resisting the bad guys, aka US military occupation (awkward right?). His name also was the inspiration for the Sandinista group, who led a revolution in the late 70s and are the current political party in power.

His silhouette is all over the city, along with lots and lots of political posters of the current President Daniel Ortega (apparently his current presidency is unconstitutional because it is his second consecutive term and third term total, which the constitution says is not okay, ummm, so minor problem that a country's president is actively and openly breaking the constitution right?)

Aside from touring, we also got out a few times for little jaunts during the week. There was a McDonald's a few blocks away from our hotel on the main road, and let's just say a few of us got a little obsessed with the idea, enough to convince Salem to let us walk there( walking anywhere at night in Managua being the one thing Habitat generally tried to avoid us doing). The good news, I, nor any of my companions, did not die in pursuit of a McFlurry. We were propositioned by "ladies of the night" and nearly run over by buses, but we made it there (and probably gave Salem a minor heart attack). And that McFlurry was so worth the risk of bodily harm. In Nicaragua, they put caramel in their McFlurries. McDonald's of the US, get on this.

We went to a local market in the middle of the week, which was the less expensive, less touristy version of the craft market we had planned for our weekend R&R. This market reminded me a little of some Asian markets I've been to, in the sense that you could find almost anything there, no matter how crazy or random it is. There were new shoes, colorful hammocks (one of Nicaragua's famous products), pinatas, pinata candy, electronics, clothes, a vast section of produce and meat (including eyeballs! just eyeballs hanging out on a table, no idea what animal they belonged to nor do I want to know), pottery, jewelry, kitchen goods. We left there with like 10 hammocks between us (I did not get one sadly, because the only place I have for it right now is my bedroom, and I don't need another temptation for napping in my room).

There were also a few restaurant outings and grocery store runs. It was nice to be able to get out into the city a little, because my last Habitat trip didn't really allow for that. The restaurants were almost across the board great (except for one slightly disastrous night where half of us (who wanted to share) ordered a boatload of food, half of us (the non-sharers) didn't get their food until our side of the table was literally sagging under the weight of all the plates, a few of us ate chicken that turned out to be raw inside, and one of us got locked in the bathroom for 10 minutes while the confused, non-English Nicaraguan staff tried and failed to get the door open). Shockingly I was not the one who got locked in the bathroom, even though normally that would be me 9 times out of 10. 

Other than that things in Managua went smoothly. Maybe it was naiveté or the fact that I wasn't allowed to go anywhere alone without being followed by our anxious and protective coordinator, but I felt safe in Managua. I also didn't feel like a space alien, which is how I've felt in some other non-touristy towns or cities I've been to. People were friendly and helpful but they weren't all that fascinated by us. They spoke to us in Spanish, because we were in a Spanish speaking country. They handed us Spanish menus. They passed us without much notice on their way to work or school. 

If you are a tourist, it's true there is not a lot in Managua to keep you. And if I had gone to Nicaragua as a tourist, without a group and without the support of an organization like Habitat, I'm not sure I would have lingered there either. I think that's one of the things I love so much about Habitat, is that it allows you to travel to a place that is, to use such an overused phrase, "off the beaten path." Managua is not going to show up in travel magazines. It's not going to attract the jet setters and the fabulous.

And maybe that's one of the things I loved most about it. It didn't feel like somewhere you visit. It felt like somewhere you live, an imperfect, flawed city, with its share of problems, but with the calm and nonchalance that maybe comes from being passed over or dismissed by the outside world. To put it crudely, I don't think Managua really gives a shit about what the outside world thinks of it. Can you blame it? It's been leveled by an earthquake, shaken by hurricanes, threatened by volcanoes, and gripped by decades of political violence and unrest. 

There must be a kind of weary honesty that comes after all that, a lack of concern about vanity and the surface of things. 

 I've been to a lot of beautiful places where I've wondered where everyone lives, the people who own the restaurants or serve the drinks or man the front desk. That authentic, lived-in world is so separate that you can't even see it. And that hurts those places, because even though they are so gorgeous and lovely, there's an emptiness that you can't really shake. Managua isn't like that. I feel like I saw the people there. It's may not be the most beautiful city on earth or the most glamorous, but it doesn't feel like it's missing something. It feels whole. 

And so that is the setting for my week, Managua, the kind of city people don't usually stop in, the kind of place I'm so happy that we did. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Some things.

Oh blog of mine. I have neglected you it is true. In my defense this past semester kicked my ass left, right, up, down, and every which way in between. I had my last exam on Monday and immediately went to Extras in Carytown with most of my class for celebratory drinks. And they were celebratory. But they also felt weary. Sure we tried to dress as cute as possible (and this is no easy feat after a week of finals), but we had the fatigued, slumped over look of battered soldiers.

The important thing is we're done. I have officially one semester left of nursing school, at the end of which I will (all fingers crossed and wood knocked on) become an RN. This whole process has been so mind, body, and soul exhausting that I think sometimes I've forgotten there's an end point. All the sudden you look up and realize, wow, there's a period to the end of this run-on, rambling sentence. I will have a career and a profession and a salary. All of these finals and clinicals and projects and papers and concept maps and reflections are leading somewhere. And it's getting so tantalizingly close.

But for now there's summer. Beautiful, sweet summer. And I am going to hopefully be a much more frequent poster. For now here are some things that make me very happy and excited about the next few months.

1. On Saturday I go to Nicaragua! I'm going with Habitat Global Village, and I am so ready to be back in my dirty, sweaty, unkempt travel mode. I've unpacked all my travel/work pants (these are never worn between trips, because really, how often do you need convertible, mesh paneled, sun/bug protectant, ultra moisture wicking, 12 zippered pants in daily life? I'm going to stock up on wet wipes, Cliff bars, hand sanitizer, and tiny toiletries (my mission type travel staples). I have my malaria pills and just in case antibiotics ready to go. And the best part of all, I'm going with my best friend Mary Catherine. We have been best friends since we were 6 and haven't traveled together (other than the local girls weekend kind of trips) in years and years. I've done these types of trips solo and that can be special in its own way. But I am so thrilled and happy to share this upcoming experience with my friend. Definitely a blog recap and lots of pictures will follow.

2. Speaking of my best friend, Mary Catherine, she and her husband just moved back to Richmond from PA. And yeah I may or may not be insanely giddy over this. I am very selfish and like all of my best friends in the same city. There are still several who have not complied with this, but my evil plan is to lure them back one by one.

3. I went to the outlets yesterday. I have not really shopped all semester because I've been too busy and more importantly broke. I wrote a boat load of articles last month though and my pay check finally came in yesterday. And damage may have been done. All I know is that there are a lot of really cute summer items in my closet today (shorts and skirts and dresses oh my!). And it makes me happy.

4. In June I'll start a nurse externship (don't ask me why they don't call it an internship, I don't know) at St. Mary's on a med/surg/hospice unit. I will be shadowing a nurse full time for 8 weeks and I think it's going to be scary, hard, and an incredible learning experience. I am nervous but mostly really looking forward to "working" as an RN full-time for 8 weeks. I'll get used to 12 hours shifts and possibly night and weekend shifts (I work whatever schedule the nurse weeks), and I think that will be a really nice way to ease into my future life ahead of time.

5. I'm going to see The Shins in Norfolk with the boyfriend in a couple of weeks. They've been one of my favorite bands for years and I think it's going to be incredible to see them live. I know it's the biggest cliche in the world, but New Slang is one of those songs that I think will just shatter my heart to hear live in the best possible way.

6. I'm playing in a kickball league with most of the same people I played dogeball with earlier this year. If my skills at dogeball are any indication, my kickball playing will be a sight to behold. People will likely stop, open-mouthed, and stare in wonder. I will become legend by the end of the season.

7. In general I am just very excited for a Richmond summer, for food truck foods courts, the Greek festival, warm nights at Fan restaurant patios, outdoor concerts, running in the heat and sweating my butt off, boat trips on the James, walks at Maymont. I love my city in the summer and for the next three months I can enjoy it without any of the stress of school.

And I've broken this promise before, but there will be many more blog posts this summer than there have been this spring. Pinkie swear :)
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