Thursday, June 26, 2014

Labyrinth

            I never blogged about that final, “I'm baaaaack" post. I never wrote about it, because I’m still trying to understand it. I did not feel like I was ready right when I left Central America
Before I came back to the states, I was overcome by the emotions of going back to my loved ones and sharing all of my experiences, excited to brag about all of the awesome new people in my life and the memories we shared. And I really have not sat down with anyone and shared more than the surface level memories, and I struggled with that for a while. Why doesn’t anyone want to know? Why don’t they care? And of course they don’t care as much as I expect or want them to; they were not there. Just like I will not understand how hard it was for my parents to have their only daughter traveling through third world countries until I have a child of my own.
And on the other hand, I did not want them to know, I did not want to share. I began to believe that once I told my most incredible stories, my times of enlightenment and pure euphoria, those memories would not just be mine anymore, and the person I told them to would not even understand the gravity of what I was sharing….I am hoarding my own memories.
            John Green just wins in all aspects of writing, The Fault in our Stars being his most well known novel, for good reason. But I just started a new one by him, Looking for Alaska. Amazing. Strongly recommend it. This morning I came across a quote that encompasses a lot of how I feel…”but I realized that the Colonel didn’t know, that she never took him to the edge of the woods and told him to dig for buried treasure, that she and I had shared that alone, and I kept it for myself like a keepsake, as if sharing the memory might lead to its dissipation.” Gold. This book is genius. He wins.
            I am so glad that I took about a gazillion pictures over the course of 4 months. Many of which I am also still hoarding. But what I am most glad about is that, for the rest of my life, I will hold these memories that touch many different corners of the globe, and stay rooted in the hearts of my friends. Our keepsakes.
            I have just been feeling sentimental lately, it is hard to believe that it has been over a month since I have been back in the states, and I am dealing with that ache for them, and the confusion that I will never be the same person as I was before I left. This life is one big f*cking labyrinth that I will never get out of, and I am finally okay with that. I always thought there would be this final destination, the finish line. Happiness, contentment. I have spent my last 21 years waiting for the next thing, looking forward, but there is no finish line for happiness; true happiness comes from being discontent about something 100% of the time and being okay with that (learned that one from my wise ol’ pops).
            Being ‘home’ has been hard, and I am beginning to realize that ‘home’ is just a social construct, it is a materialistic landmark, and my real home is who I am with. I was just as much at home in Mira Flor, Nicaragua, as I am in Minnetonka, Minnesota, because of the people I am surrounded by. My parents just put the house I have spent my entire life growing up in on the market, and naturally when I tell people the first thing they ask is, “Are you sad?” Which of course I am sad, I have countless memories of this place…but I have begun to look back, and I don’t have a single memory that does not include another sibling, parent, friend, cat, dog, rat, frog, etc. (bless my parents hearts for putting up with my love for strange creatures).
            So it will be sad to leave, just like it was sad to leave Central America, but I will make just as many memories in their next house, just like I will make new memories in my first house, and my next destination. A house is where you settle for a while, but a home always depends on the people you surround yourself with. Just like I said in one of my first posts, when I was living in Guatemala, home is where the heart is. So as I continue on in my labyrinth, and make my way into other people’s labyrinth’s, I will be forever ‘readjusting’ and ‘reentering’ into life.
I follow this amazing photographer, and her new tagline is: beginning of anything. Through the transitions of life, it is always just the beginning, the beginning of everything and anything.

“It feels good to be lost in the right direction.”

Cheers,
Hannah

Sunday, May 11, 2014

And then life happened

105 days have past since I left the states. Before this trip, the longest amount of time I spent away from my home was never more than 3 weeks. 21 days. 15 weeks later, I am almost down to just a handful of fingers until I get to see my family.
My dad; Your patience and kindness with me throughout this journey, not only the time I've been away, but the preparations leading up to it, means the world to me. And your occasional selfies light me up. Who ever thought the day would come where Paul P would know how to take a selfie...I love you dad.
My mama, coolest fricken lady there is. You got on an airplane 62 days ago to another country all by yourself to see me. You are braver than you give yourself credit. You are curious, you are selfless, you are the most incredible woman I have ever known. I can't wait to see you!
My siblings. Josh, Kristen, AJ, Emily, and Luke. You have been one text, one phone call, one FaceTime away over the past 4 months, sending me your love and encouragement at the times that I have needed it the most. I am so proud of each of you, accomplishing your dreams every day. I can't wait to be on that big sectional snuggled up with you guys so soon.
"You can never love somebody as much as you can miss them."


105 days have passed since I landed myself in the Miami airport. About to embark on a journey with 9 strangers. 9 people who I had never met, but was about to go on the biggest journey I have yet to embark on in this life. A life changing whirl wind of 4 months. 
And while I did not choose the people I have been with, I couldn't imagine this trip without a single one of them. Caroline, John, Michael, Savannah, Heather, Jenna, Dima, Emma, and Ruthie. 10 strong personalities, and we coexist seamlessly. We share all of our food, we spend every single day together, we are a family. Ruthie, holding us all together, making sure we are all safe and healthy, our mama. I know for a fact that I wouldn't have made it through Guatemala without this incredible woman by my side.
The places we have gone, the stories we have heard, and the things we have seen have changed my life forever; but the compassion, knowledge and presence of my 9 travel companions have made just as big of an impact on who I am today and who I wasn't just one semester ago.
"As with any journey, who you travel with can be more important than your destination."


When I left Minnesota 105 days ago, I was sad. Leaving Michael, my family, my home. But I always knew I would be back. In 7 days I will be back in my house in Minnetonka, laying on my couch with my Zekey. In 7 days, I will be back where I started. And then the countdown ends. There is not another countdown for when I will be back with the 9 people who I have grown so close with. And that is so frightening. We have been existing in the same space for 105 days, having experiences of all degrees, and I don't know the amount of days until we will all be existing in the same space again. I know I'm jumping the gun on this one, because we still have a week left, but I'm just really going to miss you guys. Thank you for putting up with me this semester! 
I'm so grateful for our time together, whether it be through hours and hours of active listening, digesting our thoughts, sharing our stories, drinking on a soccer field, or having a rave in a tiny air-condioned room. The memories are endless, and I will never forget them.
"The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with those who matter to you." 


I left for this journey thinking I'd go home having figured myself out. Really have it all together. Go home and know what I need to do next, but I am going home more confused than I was when I left. I have learned so much, but still know so little. I can't wait to keep learning, expanding my heart and knowledge as big as it will stretch. I know I will never understand a lot of things, and that's okay. That's part of life. But I will never stop listening and growing.


"We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick for the places we have never known."
Hannah 




Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rain, rain, never go away

Some of my favorite moments have happened during rain. 

Splashing in the muddy puddles in my water boots at Bennett Park. My mom and dad not only okay with me starting my day in clean clothes, and ending my day looking like I rolled in a pile of mud (which I probably did), but they encouraged it. Shout out to my them for killing it at the whole parenting thing. 

Or running around my wet backyard with my fellow neighborhoodlums. Creating slip and slides with our bare bodies and the soaked grass, taking the tops of garbage bins and surfing down the flooding creek. Splash ball instantly become an unreasonably unfair sport once water started falling from the sky. 

Fast forward quite a while, to about a year ago, to the first time I realized how head over heels in love I was quickly becoming. After a long day at work, Michael and I went out to dinner at MOA (always a mistake), both of us crabby and not being very nice to one another. We got back to his place and he made the decision to bundle me up in warm clothes and force me out into the rain with him, I agreed, but not without a fight. We laid next to a big tree at Augsburg that night and let the water drip down on our faces for what felt like hours. Michael holding my hand and not saying a word. Bliss. 

Rain is so magical, and I have realized over the past three months how often I have taken it for granted...not seeing or feeling any substantial rain since I got to Central America. My latest complain has been about just that. 

And last night Savannah woke me up to the sound of water falling from the sky. We were all elated! We stood outside on our hotel balcony and listened to it sprinkle, quenching the dry, dry soil and cleansing the baron streets. It was so lovely. 

It's funny. A month from now I am sure I will be complaining again about the rain, and the unpleasant gloom that tends to accompany it, making us feel lazy and tired. I will cry out for sunshine. While my time here, I have had nothing but sunshine and have been crying out for rain. It's such an ugly habit of mine. 

Anyways... The past week rocked. We spent two nights in Esteli, and two nights in a rural area about an hour outside of Esteli, MiraFlor. No cell service, no running water, very little electricity. It was awesome. We rode horses, watched the sunset on top of a huge hill over looking what seemed like all of Nica, and tasted coffee that the women's cooperative of the small campo organically grows, picks, and produces. Besides the fact that I got fleas (which I still don't understand really) for the third time, I loved it there. 

I'm having such trouble living in the moment each day lately, anxiously awaiting the moment I jet set back to Sota, also leaving behind my crew here. But that's a whole other situation I with delve into at a later date. My big brother and his wife, my sissy, nailed it on their blog posts this week, yet again filling me up with their wise words and reminders that I always need. So here's my shameless plug:
Twins Daily AJ's rockin' new post
Freckles and Fastballs Emily's exquisite blog

While there are so few days left til I am back home, that means that there are very few days left for me to soak up this beautiful country. And I will try my hardest to do just that! 

In the wise words of Luke Bryan, "rain is a good thang"
Hannah 





Monday, April 21, 2014

PLOT TWIST

Spring break was nothing short of perfection. We picked up Savannah and Caroline's crews from the airport on Sunday afternoon and went on our way to San Juan Del Sur. A beautiful quaint beach town. We stayed in two beautiful homes on the top of a very very steep hill (like soooo steep), about 10 minutes from the beach. I am forever grateful for Dani, Craig, and Colleen for taking me under their wings for a week. It was so wonderful to have some family time, even if they weren't technically my own. It is always fun to finally meet the family of my closest friends, it makes everything make sense. Caro and Sav are definitely their parents daughters, in the best way.

We spent one day at a small beach, Playa Hermosa, surfing! While Savannah and I have many skills, "the sport" is not usually one of them, but we weren't bad at surfing! All the other kids were naturals as well. It was a blast.

We spent another day in Granada and boating around lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America and the only fresh water lake in the world with sharks. Eeeeek.

The rest of the days we spent wandering the little town, swimming in the infinity pool that overlooked the ocean, and eating meals in hammocks. It was the worst. 

I finally got to drink coconut milk out of a coconut! It was disgusting, but I loved every second of it. 

I got sunburnt. 

Flor de CaƱa made many appearances throughout the week. Colleen won with the best mix, tasting similar to what you would expect fingernails to taste like. Delicious. 

People travel from all over to Central America to San Juan Del Sur during Holy Week to party. You go Jesus! It was pure craziness. The nights I didn't go out, I spent falling asleep to the base shaking the earth below me...or were those temblores? 

It was just such a good fricken week. We dyed eggs, we played, we danced, we swam, we laughed a lot, and maybe cried just a little bit (oops.) I'm sad it's over, it went way too fast. I owe tremendous thanks to all of the people who let me tag along for the ride.

Emma jetsetted back to Minnesota for a week, John and Heather spent several days on the Caribbean coast getting their scuba diving certificates, And Jenna and Dima wandered around Ometepe, an island on lake Nicaragua, staying at different farms and hostels. Our lives aren't real, we know. Jenna fell in love, naturally. I will continue to live vicariously through her beautiful life. 

Here comes the plot twist...our parents received an email on Thursday morning letting them know that Managua was still on red alert. And in fact, Sunday and Monday night many people spent the night sleeping in parks because the trembles (or earthquakes) were pretty severe. Soooo what that means is that as long as there is a red alert in Managua, we will not be. 

We got back Sunday afternoon to our host families and were forced to pack up all of our belongings and take a taxi back to the CGE house. Now we are in Esteli, a town about 3 hours outside of the city. The transience keeps getting more and more real. I actually don't know where I will be tomorrow....wikka whaaaat...as if I wasn't already outside of my comfort zone, good one universe. 

The plan is to spend the next 4 days in Esteli. 2 nights in the town, and two in the campo. No electricity. No cell service. Naturally the two days without cell service also falls on the day of Michael's birthday. How convenient. 

Oh and while Michael is turning 22 in a few short days, he was also just offered his first big boy job!! What an adult. I'm so proud of you bub. 

We have been told that Esteli is cooler than Managua, it might even get to the low 70's! When it gets to the 70's in Minnesota I hop in my bikini, and when I heard it could get to 70 degrees here I packed pants and a light coat. Who have I become? 

On Friday we will either go back to Managua, if the red alert is up, or Corazo, a town about 40 minutes outside of Managua and also outside of the red zone. Have I mentioned that Managua is literally on top of a fault line? Also convenient.

If at any time there is another massive earthquake in Nicaragua, rating around 5 or higher on the Richter scale I will be soaring back home to the states. Oofta. Minnesota I love you, but I just don't know if I'm ready yet. I have a little bit more of myself to get in order first. 

"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself." -Alan Aida
Hannah 










Saturday, April 12, 2014

Did you feel that?



The last week has been quite possibly the longest of my life, anxiously waiting our 9 whole days off for spring break! Recap of the last week…

We went to yoga in our neighborhood for what ended up being about a $1.25. The class took place outside on this big stage like platform, Caroline and I were given straw mats, and the man who was leading the class only had seven fingers. I would not necessarily label this class as yoga, but rather an interpretation or adaptation. There was a lot of rolling involved. Our instructor’s name was Jamiel, which means little hair in Arabic, or beauty…either or.

This past weekend we visited Lake Apoyo; A crater lake about 20 minutes away from Granada. It was beautiful, the air was cool, and the water was clear and refreshing. Our hotel room has AC (holler) and we also had a cute little patio with a huge hammock and a dog named Bob...or Marley, we aren’t quite sure. We had to take a taxi and two different buses both ways, and we successfully did it almost all on our own. Just call me Hannah “pretentious traveler” Pettersen.

Tais (our ten year old host sister) is so damn cute. She has been showing off her different dances to us, and her new favorite thing to do is wear Savannah’s glasses around the house all night. Oh and she loves selfies, so naturally I love her.

And then....On Thursday, we found ourselves in the strongest earthquake in Nicaragua since the last one 40 years ago that destroyed Managua. I am stuck between this feeling of knowing I should be scared and stressed out, but instead I feel excited that I am experiencing something that a lot of people never will. An earthquake! Like that’s so freaking cool!!! Our host sister who is 37 told us it was the strongest one she has felt in her whole life. I’m being dramatic though, no one was hurt and nothing was destroyed…while it was ranked 6.2 on the Richter scale, it did not last long enough to damage much of anything.

There have been 100’s of aftershocks, one woman told us there needs to be 3,500 tremors after an earthquake before they stop…I find that hard to believe. Also, we are getting a lot of mixed signals on what to do when earthquakes or strong tremors happen, because most people say it’s safest to stay inside, but then when it happens every goes to the street immediately. We aren’t sure. We follow the crowd, being that we’re new to this whole earthquake thing…

No need to worry, we are all safe and are being well taken care of!

Caroline, Savannah, Michael just got to our first location! We are spending a night at a hotel right by the airport, and around 3pm tomorrow we’re picking Savannah and Caroline’s families up from the airport and heading to San Juan Del Sur!!!! Party Party. And Michael’s girlfriend, who is currently also abroad and whose trip is ending this coming week, is coming on Wednesday and we are all way too excited to meet her!

Rumble rumble,
Hannah



Laguna de Apoyo
Pila probs
Birthday Girl!

Ballerina
Sassy sis

I will miss the fruit here the mostest









Friday, April 4, 2014

It's getting hot in hurrrr

We have been in Nicaragua for about a week now, and it's hotter than hot. It's a hot that I don't think I've experienced yet in my lifetime. It rarely dips down below 90, and air conditioning isn't a thing that everyone has. Savannah and I had a moment last night where we woke up in the middle of the night and felt "chilly" enough to snuggle up in our sheet, hashtag blessed.

We spend the majority of every day here at The Center for Global Education house. This house is kind of the main office for all of the Central America programs. Kathy is the boss woman here and I love her. There are three rooms in the house that have AC: the dining room/classroom, computer room, and another basic room with a couple chairs and a couch. I have spent 50% of the last week on a nice floral couch, lounging hard in the cold air. I started the TV show House over again, great decision.

While it is in the 90's every since day, we are required to look nice for every speaker...and we have speakers almost every day. Appropriate clothing, no shorts. Fack.

We met our host families on Wednesday, Savannah and I love love love our family. Our room here is smaller than any of the other rooms I have had thus far, and this is my first time with a roomie, so organization is key...and for anyone who knows us knows that organization is not our strong suit, but we will make it work.

We are living in this cool neighborhood, Batahola, with a really well run community center, and a little park right outside our front door. It's just fun to see people out and about all the time, interacting and playing together...the houses in the neighborhood don't have wifi, I wonder if there's a correlation...

Every morning we are picked up by Jose and brought to the CGE house. Fun fact: the house is a block away from the where the President of Nicaragua lives and works...super casual.

I have gone for twice as many runs here in a week than I ever did in the other two countries combined (I have gone for two runs...do the math) But what's fun is that within our confined neighborhood I can wander around alone because there are 20 cops every three feet, and that's barely even an exaggeration. It's an interesting dynamic.

The history of this country is so interesting, and our professor rocks. She engages us and I feel like I'm really retaining all of the information. We also get to meet with some big wig really important people during our time here, which is such a great opportunity.

My world got rocked by some news yesterday, but it was just another reminder that we are all human and shit happens. It was also a reminder of how far away from home I am. One step at a time. That's all any of us can do.

Oh! AJ played in a MLB spring training game this past week. MY BROTHER! I am so proud of him, he works his ass off and deserves every single bit of it. He is such a wise guy and an incredible writer. He writes for Twins Daily in his free time, check out some of his articles!
This is one of my favorites: Learning From My New Friends

Spring break is about a week away! WOOP. And tomorrow we are going to Lake Apoyo, a beautiful volcano lake. I can't wait to go swimming! A big plus to our schedule in Nicaragua is that we have almost every weekend off, allowing us many opportunities to explore...we might splurge and fly to the Caribbean Coast in the next month or so...what is my life? I'm grateful for my friends who want to romp around and adventure as much as I do.

But sorry...You need to put on pants.
Hannah

 

Our cut little patio at the CGE house



Our humble abode for the next 6 weeks!
The room where all of the time is spent








Thursday, March 27, 2014

Blink blink

Okay so I have already almost been in Costa Rica for a month, and so now I feel like I'm in some sort of backwards dream, because that just cannot be possible. In ten years I will tell my children about that one time I lived in Costa Rica, because after two weeks I think you go from a visitor to an exister (not a real word). I'm just casually existing in three different countries over the span of four months and I won't wrap my head around this until I'm back existing at my home base....Which in reality doesn't exist either. I have not lived in the same place for more than 4 months in over two and a half years. I didn't chose the transient life, the transient life chose me.

I landed myself in my final bed in Costa Rica in the span of 28 days, making it a whopping 8 different places in 4 short weeks. I had to say goodbye to my lovely host family which was difficult and I will miss them. I will never get over how gracefully the people I encounter welcome me into their daily existence, that's a big deal.

The other day a friend of mine helped me make an interesting realization. I am an exchange student this semester, and 'exchange' implies that you are giving as well as taking. This is a perspective that I really hadn't thought about, that while these people are sharing their lives and their homes with me, I am also sharing something with them. I have selfishly been taking more than I have been giving, so I'm glad he shared that with me, good 'ol CK, such a wise guy.

We are at the university for our last week here, it's a beautiful campus tucked on the top of a hill in San Pedro, San Jose. I'm a fan. I've had quite a bit of time where I really don't have anything to do for what feels like the first time since we got here. I don't like it...it makes me lazy and I hate that side of myself. But we've also had a lot of play time which is fun. The other night we all laid out on the soccer field for hours and just laughed and shared stories, it was my favorite.

Oh, we went to Manuel Antonio the day my mom left and I think we all left a little bit of our melted selves there. I am not sure if I have ever been so hot. It feels pathetic to complain about it, but none of you will understand unless you were there with me. Luckily I was spared of the sunburn, while many of the people in the group definitely were not.

This past weekend, we did an urban home stay in La Carpio. La Carpio is an area outside of the city where a large majority of the population are irregular immigrants, many from Nicaragua. We have been learning a lot about this situation, in Nicaragua the pay is very very small, so people will come to Costa Rica to work. But they are strongly discriminated against. When I told my family in San Jose that I was going to stay here, I got many stereotypical responses of how dangerous it was and how I should not go there...the people of La Carpio took a sledgehammer to those stereotypes, I met some very kind and gentle people, who really had no choice but to leave their homes in Nicaragua to migrate here. It was a humbling experience.

The timeline of this post is insanely out of order but so is my mind so I'm just gonna go with it. We leave Saturday morning for Nicaragua, in a public bus, at 3 in the morning...It will be an interesting and very necessary experience for us all. We will be their for about 6 weeks before I jet back home to my people!

I miss you guys. A lot. I miss michael, A LOT. I think I've made that very clear lately to anyone who follows me on social media. I'm heartsick for him every day...And while I wish I wasn't, I am counting down the days until I can be with him again. I still am experiencing every day and living in the present, but my heart is back in Minnesota, waiting patiently with some of my favorite people...and also waiting patiently with some of my other favorite girls in Europe, hopefully they bring it back with them;)

I am rooming with Savannah in Nicaragua, which will be really fun. I always feel like I'm able to connect more with people when I have a companion from the group, and it doesn't hurt that her spanish is 100% better than mine.

On April 12th our spring break starts. Caroline and Savannah and their families are wonderful and are letting Michael and I tag along while they come and visit during this time. They have two houses on the beach in San Juan del Sur and I'm so excited to relax and having nothing to do for 8 whole days! Mojitos in the infinity pool are waiting for us.

Oh! This past week marked the exact middle of our trip. Time to climb back down the other side of the mountain. I can't believe we're already half way there. I need to stop blinking so much.

See ya in 51 days!
Hannah

    My very lovely, very large family in San Pedro, San Jose!

    The mural we helped paint in La Carpio!

    Our dreams came true when we finally got corn rows in Manuel Antonio!

    Da crew just perchin'