I am currently eating lunch at a Thai restaurant in the middle of Knoxville, Tennessee. Actually in the middle of the University of Tennessee’s campus. I am competing in a Questival with my lovely girlfriend Jennifer. I can’t thank Cotopaxi enough for putting this on and letting us explore a new city. Attached you will find a picture of Jennifer and I and the first checkpoint. Remember, Do Good!!!
So sorry for the long absence from writing. It has been almost a year and a lot has happened in that time. I will get more into that in future posts but for now I will update you all in where I am right now.
I am currently on a bus in Israel sitting next to our amazing bus driver Tiger. We are driving from Haifa to Jerusalem. I am staffing my second Birthright trip. It is day 3 and I have to say that I love my bus. I learned this fact even more so when we were rafting down the Jordan river yesterday and saw a few of the other buses.
This is the first time I have staffed a “national” trip and the first time I have staffed with Israel Outdoors. There is definitely a difference between staffing a national trip and a campus trip. I do love Israel Outdoors so far and I love Hillel International as well. Both are great providers and they both offer amazing experiences for the participants.
I sometimes wonder if any Birthright trip will ever be as amazing as that first trip though. There was something special, unique about that trip. From my co-staff Gal, to our tour guide Lilach, our amazing Israeli soldiers that were with us all 10 days to the participants. Maybe it was the fact that it was Winter or Hanukkah and New Years. I like to believe that everything came together for the perfect trip for all involved. It was the longest, quickest hardest and most amazing 10 days of my life.
With that said I am on day 3 of doing it all over again. I have once again lucked out on my tour guide Vadim, bus driver Tiger, co-staff Molly and my participants. On this trip, we have a lot of different things going on. We have brothers, sisters, brother & sister, relationships, cousins and a few you know, regular participants. They have all come together as a big family within hours of meeting each other. I believe it was the 2 days of traveling that did it but also their amazing personalities as well. Whatever the reason, they are together as a family and that makes the trips even more amazing.
I am excited to see how the next week goes on this trip. This is Israel Outdoors Bus #396 by the way. We have done so much already but have even more to go. We have Shabbat, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, The Dead Sea, Masada, Bedouin tents, camel rides and many more things to do.
I want to write more but we are about to drive into Jerusalem. I will end with this: I am incredibly lucky to have friends and family that allow me to continue to have these amazing opportunities and I am beyond moved to have the ability to help young Jewish adults on their own Jewish & Israel journeys…
I don’t know what it is about music but a note, a beat, a lyric, a voice or even a song in general can spark such an emotion in me. It brings back old feelings, makes me think harder about current ones and even makes me ponder the future. What is interesting about this is that the type of music doesn’t matter. The most recent song that I have been playing on repeat is “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck. All I can think about when I hear the alto sax solo is that I want to get my alto sax out and learn the solo, and start playing more in general.
It doesn’t stop there though. The song, the beat, the solo, all of it makes my brain fire in so many different directions with so many different thoughts. It makes me think about all the traveling I have done and all the traveling I want to do. Where I want to go, what I want to see, what I want to experience and even who I want to do all of that with. I am thinking about how I want to travel. Planes, trains, tours, car, or even backpacking?! Do I combine some, or only do one of them? Do I want to make plans, or don’t I?! I like both ways and have even done both. There is a sense of adventure that can’t be beat when you land in a foreign country and have no idea what you are going to do, or even where you are going to stay. I have had some of the most amazing adventures, conversations and experiences of my life with strangers.
Another thought that keeps creeping into my head is this desire to go back to school and pursue a Masters degree. I always want to keep learning. There is no greater asset in life then knowledge and I want to gain as much knowledge as possible. I recently was talking to my mother about this and I believe she agreed but its all about education and traveling. In my mind they go hand in hand and you can’t have one without the other.
Anyways, late night thoughts ramble over for now!
BTW, go check out some of Dave Brubeck’s music, you won’t be disappointed…
It is an interesting feeling when you plan for one thing for so long and out of nowhere plans change. I understand that at some level we can’t control anything in our lives, all we can control is how we handle what comes our way. I thought I would be in Ukraine right now and for the next 23 months with the Peace Corps, but that changed in a moment when I hurt my shoulder. All I can do is ask, “What’s next?”
What’s next is an amazing opportunity for me. I have been offered and have accepted the position of Israel Engagement Fellow with Oregon Hillel serving the students of the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. This means I am moving to the West Coast! It will be a drastic change for this East Coast boy and his dog Maverick but we are up for it. I am excited that I will be interacting with students and helping them with their Birthright trips and their connection to Israel. Plus I get to go on the Birthright trips to Israel with them as a trip leader! This means I can continue to explore my connection to Israel too, a country I am very passionate about.
Am I where I thought I would be right now? No. However, everything happens for a reason. We can never stop learning and we can never stop exploring. What’s Next…
I can honestly say that right now, at this very moment I’m not where I thought I would be. I am at my parents place recovering from a major shoulder surgery, watching the NBA Finals and America Ninja Warrior with my dog Maverick snoring next to me. Where I should be is at my permanent site in Ukraine doing Community Economic Development with the Peace Corps. Due to circumstances beyond my control I have been medically separated from my service in the Peace Corps due to my shoulder injury sustained in Ukraine. Am I sad? Absolutely! Am I going to let this situation keep me down? No way!
My family, friends and myself put a lot of time, energy and effort into getting me ready for Peace Corps service and for that I want to thank everyone who helped me and I am sorry that I was not able to complete my service. It’s life after all but a new plan is starting to take shape and updates on that will be coming up shortly. All I can say for now is that whats next is very exciting! As my parents say, “Everything happens for a reason!”
For now, I am recovering from surgery. It is going very slowly but it is going good. I have my good days and my bad days but that is to be expected. I look forward to a great snowboarding season once I am fully recovered, in 4 more months.
To my fellow 49ers: do great, have fun, make a difference and learn something!
When one thinks of staging you might automatically think about making a house look perfect before a showing when said house is for sale or maybe something to do with a theatre performance. Staging in the Peace Corps is nothing like this.
Nothing. At. All.
Staging is usually 1-2 days in a major city in America where you and your Peace Corps Group finally come together, meet each other, put faces to names and Facebook posts and learn a lot about your upcoming trip to your Country od Service. This is also a very crucial time to get paperwork done for student loans, and any other last minute forms you need signed verifying you are about to spend the next 27 months in the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps takes this time to show you what to expect upon arrival in country, what life is about to become and go over general rules, procedures and security for Peace Corps service.
I had staging in Miami, which was awesome and different for my country of service, Ukraine. Usually it is done in Washington D.C. However, none of us were complaining. We were able to get a few more days of nice sunshine and warmth before we landed in the cold but beautiful country of Ukraine. It was a little crazy going from 85 degrees to 25 degrees, not going to lie. But you adapt, maybe, not really.
Staging had it ups and downs. My roommate was awesome! I do believe we will be friends for many years to come. During staging we had 2 different sessions where we took in a lot of information, did ice breakers and many other things. At night I went out and checked out an authentic Mexican restaurant, it was amazing!
Finally the day had come to head to Ukraine! I quickly realized that I had massively over packed. Thankfully one of the other Volunteers only packed 1 checked bag and let me use his 2nd checked bag for my big backpack. I was very thankful for this so I don’t have to carry my big bag all over Europe. My last meal in America before I left, Taco Bell! Had to get that Mountain Dew Baja Blast one last time! Check in went smooth and so did TSA. We had a long wait at the airport but out of nowhere it became time to head to Munich. We boarded, got situated and were on our way to Ukraine. Staging was officially over…
Anybody who knows me knows that 10 is my favorite number. I always play it in roulette, I always wear it when I play sports and it always cheers me up when it randomly shows up in my life. Why is 10 such a big deal to me and why am I writing about it? I will explain…
First, why I am writing about 10. Today marks exactly 10 days until I depart Miami and head to Ukraine to start my 27 month journey as a Peace Corps Volunteer doing Community Economic Development. 10 days out, its crazy! I remember being 60+ days out not long ago but it is creeping up quick. I am excited, very excited but also it is starting to hit me how long I am going to be gone. I have been gone for a long time before; when I studied abroad in Australia and even when I did my internship at Disney World but neither had a length of time that sits in front of me. The funny thing about the length is the fact that I am going to add 2-3 months on top of my service to backpack through every country in Continental Europe before I come back. I am even going to hit up Africa with a stop in Morocco.
Next, why is 10 such a big deal to me? Many reasons! I was born in October and October is the 10th month of the year, only seems natural, right?! In an interesting coincidence I was also born at “10”:11pm. Yes, I know it is weird, but it is just another way of showing 10 in my life. Being born at 10:10 would have been better but that is my fault, I mistimed my entrance into the world. In soccer, my favorite sport, the best player on the team usually wears 10, and so I always wanted to wear that number. Whether it was true or not that I was the best player on the field, I believed it and I wanted to wear 10. Usually did and still do to this day.
I hope this explained a little bit about why 10 means so much to me. 10 days out from a 30 month adventure. Let’s get it…
So, ever since I have made the announcement to my friends and family that I am going into the Peace Corps I have been asked many, many questions. The questions have been all over the map and some have been funny, some serious and some outrageous. Nonetheless, I am going to answer a few of them right now:
What is the Peace Corps?
- The Peace Corps was established by President John F. Kennedy on March 1st, 1961. The Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Peace Corps Volunteers work at the grassroots level toward sustainable change that lives on long after their service—at the same time becoming global citizens and serving their country.
- The Peace Corps’ mission is to, “Promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals.” These three goals are:
- To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
- While the goals have never changed since the beginning of the Peace Corps, the way in which the goals are achieved has evolved over time. Since 1961 over 220,000 Americans have answered the call to serve in 140 countries. In 2014 the application process changed and there has been a sharp increase in applications. The Peace Corps is more competitive and popular then ever!
Why serve in the Peace Corps?
- The simple answer to this question is that I want to serve and this is my way to do so. I come from a military family (Air Force) and it has always been a dream of mine and in my blood to serve my country in some way. I am not really built for the military but I am built to serve. With my unique skill set, personal background, desire to travel and education the Peace Corps seemed like a great fit. By serving in the Peace Corps I hope to have an impact that will last way past my time in service. However, I truly believe I will get at least as much out of serving if not more then what I put in.
What is going to be the hardest part?
- There are many answers to this question, but anybody who knows me knows that I love to wear shorts and I have been joking around with friends and family that having to dress more formal and to have to wear pants more is gong to be the hardest part of being in Ukraine for me. While it is going to be hard it will not be the hardest part. There will be lots of challenges for me: the weather, the culture difference, the language barrier, the distance, the lack of modern amenities and many, many other things but no matter what challenges I face I will be able to adapt and overcome! After all the Peace Corps is, “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love!”
What are you looking forward to?
- There are so many things I am looking forward to! I am looking forward to trying new food and seeing new things. I am looking forward to meeting new people and growing as a person both socially and professionally. I am looking forward to networking and the possibility of working with the Ukrainian Government and various NGO’s. The possibilities are endless and that excites me very much! Also, I am looking forward to not driving for awhile, especially on I40 and I am looking forward to not dealing with Time Warner Cable. It’s the little things, ya know?! If I had to put it in one sentence though, I am looking forward to a change of pace.
- I wish I could describe the looks I get when I tell people I am going to Ukraine. I tell people I am going into the Peace Corps and everyone is so excited and then they ask where I am going, thinking that it is probably going to be somewhere in Africa (most people seem to think that this is where everyone goes in the Peace Corps) and I answer with Ukraine. The next word I hear is, “why?!” Ukraine is definitely a different country to go to for Peace Corps service but the people and country of Ukraine have asked for help, and I want to go and I want to help them. The more I read about Ukraine the more excited I get for going there. It is a beautiful country, with amazing people and it will become my home, a home I probably won’t want to leave. Why Ukraine? Why not??!!
There are many more questions I could put on here but these are the most asked ones. I will try to answer more in future posts. I am sure more questions will also arise as service goes on and I will be happy to answer them as well. For now, I am 14 days away from staging in Miami and I believe that I finally have enough pants for Ukraine. Maybe…
I am 30 days out, 29 now actually, from reporting for staging for the Peace Corps. I found out Friday night that staging will be in Miami, not D.C. like I was thinking it would be. I am thinking that this is a nice way of the Peace Corps allowing us to have a few days in the Miami sun before we head to the end of the Ukrainian winter. Regardless of the reason, I am looking forward to it and honestly it can’t come soon enough, I am ready to start my service.
I keep getting asked what I will be doing in the Peace Corps and my answer is, “I will be serving in Ukraine as a Business/NGO Advisor doing Community Economic Development.” The looks I get after this answer are hilarious to say the least. I keep telling everyone that, that is the broad description of what I will be doing and when I get a better idea of my main project I will be more then happy to pass it along and explain it better.
To say I am excited is an understatement. This has been a dream of mine for many, many years. That being said, I plan to document as much of this journey as possible across multiple social media platforms from this blog to a weekly vlog on my YouTube page, to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I want to be as open as possible about my experience and share as much as possible with the world as I can. I welcome all comments, questions and concerns.
Finally and most importantly, I chose the picture for this 1st blog post because it is one of my favorite pictures of me and my parents. It was taken at Pier Two in Sydney, Australia while I was on Student Exchange at the University of Newcastle taking my Globalization classes in the Fall of 2014. I was lucky enough for them to come visit me Down Under for a few weeks in October for my birthday (they have never missed a birthday in 30 years). These two amazing people have given me so much over my life and I will never be able to pay them back for everything they have done for me but hopefully I can make them proud. The fact that I get to join and serve in the Peace Corps is because of all the opportunities, travels, education and guidance given to me by my parents over the years.
Thanks mom & dad! What’s next…