Off to Thailand…

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New Blog…

My new blog ( now has a second post – a timeline. If you’d like to read about the steps I’ve taken to prepare for my Peace Corps adventure in Thailand, click on the link.

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My next adventure…

My brain swims through things-to-do-before-I-leave checklists. I check off one item (tell family) and add two more (post a blog, convert US dollars to Thai Bahts).

I analyze suggested packing lists. One belt seems reasonable. “At least six sport bras” seems excessive. I buy short-sleeved shirts with collars, paying less than $20 for seven new-to-me shirts from the local thrift store.

My mouth devours the “eat foods you love” advice. I eat two ice cream cones in one day. The pistachio was awesome, the hazelnut even better. A week later I buy pint containers of ice cream. To compensate, I fill my fridge with fruits and vegetables. The ice cream is gone; the veggies are wilting.

I listen to Thai language CDs. My ears strain to hear the difference between high, middle, low, rising, and falling tones. My tongue bounces around my teeth trying in vain to mimic new sounds. The written characters in Thai words look like squiggly designs instead of specific letters with unique sounds. I feel like a Kindergartener unable to distinguish between the letters b, d, p, and q.

I remind myself to focus on the present. My mind replays preparing to move to Ghana; I think about daily life in West Africa. I imagine daily life and special-occasion festivals in Thailand. My heart beats faster. I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with oxygen and my mind with dreams.

I receive the much-awaited medical clearance from Peace Corps. I call my friend – another Peace Corps Volunteer from Ghana – to tell her the good news. Her husband has received clearance and she is waiting for the official thumbs up. A day later, she receives the coveted email. If there are no hiccups (e.g., change in Peace Corps funding, natural disaster, bizarre man-made calamity), the three of us – and 70 other enthusiastic Americans – will leave on January 8th, 2016, to begin our 27 months of service.


Like all Peace Corps Volunteers, I will promote world peace while helping people improve their lives. In Ghana, I focused on health, water and sanitation. In Thailand, I’m returning to my roots – education. My job title is “Teacher Collaborator and Community Facilitator.” I’ll spend most days in a primary school classroom, partnering with Thai teachers to help them become more effective English teachers.

I’m on cloud nine. I look forward to living in the only Southeast Asian country that has escaped colonial rule.

I anticipate the joy of learning and teaching.

I imagine the excitement of meeting new friends and exploring a different culture.

I expect many amazing adventures in Thailand.

P.S. I’ll post stories about my Peace Corps adventure on You can display that blog and “follow me” to receive an email each time I post an update.

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Zariquiegui today – Eunate tomorrow

Today I walked through Pamplona, famous for the running of the bulls each July. I considered spending the day and seeing the sights. But after the quietness of the camino, I wasn’t ready to be in tourist mode. I walked on – visiting a lovely church in Cizur Menor and stopping at noon to spend the afternoon and evening in Zariquigui.

I walked (on trails) through fields where Charlemagne’s Christian forces defeated Aigolando’s Muslim army in the 8th century. All was peaceful today.

Authentic Spanish flan finished today’s pilgrim meal (after creamy veggie soup, fish, fries, veggies, bread, and wine.)


Tomorrow I plan to walk to this church (Iglesia de Eunate) and stay close by.


The Camino continues to bless me.

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Time to Travel…

NOTE: If you want to continue to read about my Camino de Santiago journey, please go to my new blog: and select “Follow.”  Thanks!


Preparing to travel can be overwhelming, but TIME is the key:

  • T = Tickets
  • I = Identification
  • M = Money
  • E = Energy

I have hundreds of details to finalize over the next month, but I have the basics. I have TIME for my pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago.

Tickets: I used frequent flyer miles to purchase round-trip tickets – giving myself about seven weeks to walk 500 miles across northern Spain. Guidebooks recommend a minimum of 33 days (the number of days Jesus lived on earth – walking about 15 miles a day) or 40 days (a link to the significance of 40 in many religions – averaging about 13 miles a day). With an almost two month time allotment, I’ll stroll a bit more than ten miles each day along the Way.

Identification: I bit my nails when I realized a few weeks ago that my US passport had expired. Yikes! I mailed the application – including a check and head-shot but not the $60 expedite fee – and trusted the agency would meet their estimated 4-6 weeks turnaround. My renewed passport arrived in less than three weeks. Yeah! I’ve ordered a Pilgrim Passport (credencial) so I can stay in pilgrim hostels (called refugios or albergues) along the way. My credencial – to be stamped by albergues or cathedrals along the way – allows me to receive a compostela (certificate of completion of the pilgrimage) when I arrive in Santiago.


A credencial (with awesome stamps) will make an incredible souvenir.


Money: Camino guidebooks recommend allocating 25 Euros a day – enough for sleeping in a bunk bed, eating a communal supper, and eating along the trail. With my new no-international-transaction-fee ATM card, I can withdraw money every few days. I’ll use a credit card for special treats – like staying in a hotel or eating at a nice restaurant.

Energy: I’m thrilled about the opportunity to meet people and experience life along the camino. My clases de espanol and Spanish CDs give me confidence; I’ll be able to say more than por favor and gracias. Over the last several weeks, I’ve walked about 30 miles with my new Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack and Lowa Renegade boots. I almost feel like a hiker instead of a walker. I still bubble with enthusiasm when people ask me about my trip.


I have TIME (Tickets, Identification, Money, Energy) to begin my journey.

But, more importantly, I am making time.

Time to move forward each day.

Time to get out of my comfort zone.

Time to explore.

Time to follow my dream.

Time to grow.

Time to transform into a pilgrim.

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Off to Great Places

“What’s next?” friends ask, curious about the next chapter in my life.

“I don’t know!” I reply, unsure of my direction.

After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer for twenty-seven months in Ghana, West Africa, I’ve spent the last ten months adjusting to life in America. Reconnecting with friends and family. Volunteering to support causes I believe in. Rejoining social groups to spend time with people I love. Settling into a house and making it my home. Meeting new people. Talking about my Peace Corps adventure to anyone who will listen. Living.

But something is missing.
“What’s next?” I ask myself.
I explore options.
Searching for answers. Reading. Researching. Listening.

You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
(“Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Suess)

I’m the driver. Any direction. I’m on my own. So many options.

I expand my horizons and narrow my criteria.
An adventure. Outside America. Where I can meet new people and be exposed to different cultures.
Where I can learn and grow.

I choose a direction. I decide where to go.

The Camino de Santiago – the ancient pilgrim path across Northern Spain.

I’ll travel independently to Spain in late May. During the 500 mile walk, I’ll connect with people from around the world who walk for a variety of reasons. Walking 10-15 miles a day (while trying to avoid blisters) will test my physical strength. Talking with new friends on the trails and strangers in the towns will increase my Spanish-language skills. I’ll have lots of time to think and reflect. I’ll learn and grow. I’ll return to America in July with new stories to tell and new decisions to make.

Please support me (and all people who are journeying through life) with your love and good wishes.

Buen Camino!

(The blog for my Camino adventure is


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Reality Ramblings…

A few months ago an internet video went viral among Peace Corps Volunteers. The short animation featured two points of view: an idealistic future volunteer imagining a dream life of service in another culture and a somber voice identifying the realities of living in a developing country.   

One vignette stuck in my memory. The idealist  ic PCV said something like, “I will eat freshly harvested organic fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers.”
The you’ve-got-to-be-kidding counterpart responded, “You will see a woman selling hard-boiled eggs that have been sitting in the hot sun for eight hours. You will tell her, ‘I will buy two. With some peppe.’ You will devour the eggs and spicy sauce.”

I also thought I’d eat healthy foods living in a farming community. I didn’t know that local farmers grew mainly yams and cassava – two root veggies similar to potatoes. I’ve eaten plenty of starches and more than my share of questionable protein. But I figure hard-boiled eggs – no matter how long they’ve basked in the sun – are a safer snack than (who knows what kind of) meat on a stick. 


Loading yams at Kpassa market

As I prepare to end my Peace Corps service, I consider the contrast between my pre-service mental images and the reality of living in West Africa.

I will live in a small round mud hut with a thatched roof. I will share my space with mice and spiders. 

I live in a three-room mud-brick house funded by the Carter Foundation for Guinea Worm eradication. I collect rain water gushing from the corrugated tin roof during rainy season. The floor of the house is uneven; the western side of the house is a few inches down hill from the eastern side. The bed, desk, tables, bookshelves and sofa each have a leg or two propped up with chunks of wood to keep the sleeping/sitting/writing/storage/cooking surface somewhat level.  The screens on the five windows keep out the malaria-carrying mosquitoes but not the dust. The mice and bats stay in the space above the ceiling. I share my living space with small lizards and several varieties of spiders.

I will walk miles to fetch a bucket of water from a shallow stream. I’ll boil the water for ten minutes to kill visible vermin and destroy micro-organisms. I will be frugal with the scarce resource; a single bucket will meet all my needs for a day.

Children vie for an opportunity to fetch water from the borehole (machine-dug well with a hand pump) that’s less than 50 yards from my front door. When a child carries and dumps five water buckets to my blue 250 liter barrel, she washes her hands with soap, comes into my kitchen and pours oil and popping maize into a pan. When the corn is popped, she adds salt and transfers the white snack into a clear take-away bag. She carries the treat home to share with her family. Although the borehole water has been tested and is safe to drink, I filter water through a two-reservoir desktop filter before drinking. I try to conserve water, but I use half a bucket for each of my two-a-day baths and I share “fridge water” with guests.


Donkwa's popcorn treat

I will live without electricity or running water.

Like everyone in my community of 1,600 people, I have electricity (“lights”) but no running water. I could survive without lights – even though days and nights are equally long eight degrees north of the equator. But I enjoy electricity. I love being able to sit in front of my fan, keep fresh fruits, veggies, leftovers and water in my fridge, and bake bread in my toaster oven. (Today’s yeast bread features powdered cheese and Italian seasoning.)  

I will ride my bike down a dirt path to remote villages where I will teach captivating health and nutrition lessons to mothers in their local language.

I ride my used six-speed bike a couple miles down the main road to market and another mile to the vocational school where I tutor. Whenever I teach, someone who speaks English and the local language translates for me. My health and nutrition lessons may not be captivating, but only the babies sleep through the sessions.

My toilet will be a hole in the ground.

My toilet is a hole in the ground – surrounded by a mud-brick outhouse with a tin roof and a wooden door. I squat over the key-hole shaped hole and use t-roll (toilet paper) purchased at the local market. A tall metal sprinkling can filled with plastic sunflowers decorates the inside of the latrine.


Being thousands of miles from family and friends, I may be lonely.

Today’s electronic communication options makes my Peace Corps experience completely different from the experience of the first Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana over 50 years ago. Although I miss seeing and interacting with family and friends, I am not isolated. I stay connected to individuals via email and phone. At last count, 170 individuals read my blog and 75 people receive my daily four-word emails.  Although I’m generally out of touch with news unless someone posts something on Facebook, I feel incredibly connected. I look forward to connecting face to face in a few weeks. 

I will learn to cook native dishes and surprise my friends and family with unique delicious recipes when I return to America.

I have perfected multiple variations of beans and rice and make an awesome groundnut soup (with peanut butter, garden eggs, onions and tomatoes). I use local ingredients to make two delicious snacks – groundnut toffee (candies peanuts) and banana bread – using recipes I adapted from internet.


Sorting groundnuts for toffee

I will be on call 24×7 and have no time to myself.

My day sometimes starts before daybreak with roosters crowing, children calling, and mothers chattering as they fetch water. But I have lots of time to myself. Time to read, write, and think. Time to do craft projects and cook. Time to think about how my life in Ghana is different than I anticipated. Time to contemplate what to do with the next phase of my life.

I will love my Peace Corps adventure. I will learn as much as I teach. It will be difficult to say goodbye.

I love my Peace Corps adventure! I’ve learned much more than I have taught. I have started to say goodbye. The goodbyes are challenging. The hellos will be exciting!


Saying goodbye at Kpassa Technical High School

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