Posts Tagged ‘spanish’

Hi All…

So I know it has been ages since I’ve written a new post, but I’m back, this time to ask for a little bit of support. As many of you know, I’m working on my MA in Foreign Languages, Literatures & Cultures, focusing on Spanish. I’ve also been taking some amazing anthropology classes where I am learning soooo much about ethnography writing. Believe it or not, this last semester I’ve been doing something I never thought I’d do for a class…play an MMOG (massive, multiplayer online game). Yep. It’s called Guild Wars 2, and I’m actually enjoying it! The goal of the class is to learn how to take field notes, partake in participant observation, interview and ultimately write an ethnography. I have learned SO much!!

It’s a good thing that I’ve been learning so much, because all these valuable skills that I’ve been gaining I will have the opportunity to put into real-life action this coming January. It has always been my dream to travel to Cuba. During an Ethnopsychiatry and Spiritual Healing course I took at CSU, I began to learn more about different cultural ways of healing and,  combined with my interest in Cuba and Spanish, I began investigating Santeria. It is a syncretic religion that was formed by the merging of Regla de Ocha, a religion brought to Cuba from Africa during the slave trade, and Catholicism. The topic of my master’s thesis is Santeria as an ethnopsychiatry, and after lots of back and forth I recently received permission from the U.S. government to travel to Cuba under an educational license. (Woop woop!!!) I really can hardly believe it….it’s actually happening!! While in Cuba I will be staying with an older, local woman who is a friend of my professor. She will be helping me to find contacts to interview about their personal experiences with Santeria. This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity. With locals personal narratives I will weave together the story of Santeria as a way of healing, told from the Cuban perspective.

Travel to Cuba, even though it is only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, is quite expensive. For that reason I have created a gofundme account and am asking for financial support. I estimate the trip total to be around $2,600, which I unfortunately cannot afford on my own. If you are able, or know anyone that might be interested in supporting my research, please check out my account at http://www.gofundme.com/rileygoestocuba

Thank you so much and I’ll definitely keep you all posted on my travels!!!



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I had always wanted to join the Peace Corps, for a variety of reasons that I’m sure will come out in future blogs. To give anyone interested in joining the Peace Corps, or just anyone that’s interested in the process that I (and a great number of other people) put myself through I’ll stick to the details of the progression for now.

It all started about…well shit, how time has flown…about a year and a half ago!! The main thing to note about the application process for the Peace Corps is that it is just that- a process. I have become very good at waiting… and waiting some more.

Here are the steps in a nutshell.

1. The application– it consists of a filling out a bunch of information, including a few essays. Within my application I selected a specific region that I wished to serve in…Latin America. I did this because it seemed logical to me. I love the Spanish language, and I love Latin American culture. I majored in International Studies (focus in Latin America) and Spanish at Colorado State University. Serving there would allow me to put my degree and what I have learned to use. Until recently though, I had no idea I’d actually be serving in Central or South America.

The application itself took me a few weeks to fill out (for a time reference I began in August, 2010), and to get my three recommendation letters collected from various people. Turns out that right around this time was when I met my boyfriend (of a year and a half now)…he encouraged me to submit the application.

2. The interview– My turn around wait after finally submitting the application was pretty fast. I heard back about scheduling an interview about a week later. It was comforting that I already knew the man who would be conducting my interview, since we worked in the same building on CSU’s campus. (I was a peer advisor in the Office of International Studies at CSU). Here I was asked questions about my flexibility, adaptability, motivation for service, relationship status (yes, they even ask about that!), etc, etc…

3. The nomination Step three of waiting…so I waited to hear back from the Peace Corps. Finally I received the amazing phone call sometime in November, 2010 that told me I had been nominated to serve in the Peace Corps. The recruiter told me that I would be serving in South America, “non-officially” in Colombia. I literally jumped up and down I was sooooo exicited!! Really all the nomination meant though, was that I was “well-suited” to move onto the next step in the process. (Yippeee)

4. Medical clearance- Ask anyone who has applied for the Peace Corps, this step is a pain in the ass. I had to submit a ton of paper work. Legal information, as well as dental and medical information. A specific dental exam is required. For me this took way longer than it should have. This step for me lasted from the moment I received my nomination until almost the end of January, 2011.

My dentist noticed a spot inside one of my back molars that could be of concern (even though I’d known for years that it could be a potential problem that had never grown or caused any pain), but he was required to write it down anyways. This led to a “red flag” within the Peace Corps Medical office. I received a letter informing me that if I did not get the tooth taken care of they would no longer consider me….did I stop here then? Nope, I was crazy and kept chugging along. A root canal was in my future. Did I mention that I hate needles??

Along with that, they also require a ton of blood work. I went to a Veterans Clinic to get the blood work and physical done, since the government would pay for everything if I went there. Did I mention already that I’m terrified of needles?? Getting blood drawn is probably, no most definitely, one of my least favorite things to do. I almost passed out…had to be laid down…and they had to try again for more blood. Turns out about a month after that they weren’t able to draw enough blood the first time, so I had to go back in for another blood draw. Ick.

At least a few good things came from this long and awful process. I now know that I am perfectly healthy and will never have any future problems with my tooth!! Woo!! Not to detour  anyone from applying…but just know that it is a rough road.

5. The invitation– The most waiting probably occurs in this step. I really wish I could see what goes on behind the scenes here. Mind you, this entire time I’ve had it in my mind that I’d be going to Colombia, and my original date that I was supposed to leave was September, 2011. I received an email along the way saying that the date was pushed back to October due to “technical reasons” . Right around September I was told that the Colombia program had been downsized, and asked if I would be willing to wait until a different opening came up, and that it could be as late as January or February 2012. I’ll admit, I was and still am a little heart broken…I had it in my mind that I’d be going to Colombia. At this point I had done so much, and come so far, how could I say “no I don’t want to wait”…so of course I said I’d wait. So here I am now, still waiting.

Finally I received my official invitation. This came around July, 2011.  I was very nervous to open it…my stomach was full of butterflies! I opened it, and there it was. Costa Rica.

At first I felt a little confused. I had never considered that I would be going back there. “Wait a minute?”….Life sure is crazy isn’t it? I had already lived in Costa Rica for 6 months, and visited there for a few weeks, so my initial reaction was that I wanted to go somewhere new. After talking my decision over with many people, a professor pointed out to me though,that  in that time I had only scratched the surface of what it means to be “Tico” or “Tica” and to have lived in Ticolandia (Costa Rica)…but that maybe this was a sign that I was meant to do something really great there; to really dig down deep.

I believe my professor was right. I have a slight advantage traveling back to a familiar place…and I hope to jump right in to the culture this time. Of course, I accepted the invitation.

6. Preparation for departure- This is where I am today. Preparing myself mentally, as well as planning how to pack, practicing my Spanish, strategizing how best to maintain my loving relationship…preparing to put my life in the U.S. on hold for 27 months. I officially leave the United States on February 20th, 2012 and I am ecstatic to begin this new chapter in my life. After all the work I’ve put in, it can only get better from here!!

Any questions or comments are greatly welcomed!! Thanks again…until next time,


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