Adiós, Puerto Rico!

Hello, world.

Remember me? I used to keep a blog about my life in Puerto Rico. I left the island two months ago, and I haven’t updated my blog since January. Yikes!

So, what happened? Honestly, I was just completely exhausted from, well… everything.

Since it’s been a while, I’ll just give you a brief summary of what you missed:

I completed my final semester of grad school. I now hold a Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language.

I attended, and presented at, my first conference. It was the Caribbean Without Borders conference for grad students, where I presented some research I had been working on in collaboration with one of my professors and a classmate. It was held the second weekend of April in San Juan. Oh, yeah: I finally went to San Juan!

Glenn closed down his studio, Strength and Power-Puerto Rico. It was sad, but Glenn sees this experience as part of his process in becoming what he really wants to be. He’s going to continue integrating his experience in the fitness industry with the field of education, and with a touch of entrepreneurialism. He’s excited about his next projects. I see big, great things for him in his future.

I HAD A VACATION! Yes, really – I had 5 days off in a row while Glenn’s friend came to visit us. Finally, after working every day for two years (including weekends) and studying every free moment I had, I took a real, actual vacation. We took Glenn’s friend to our usual favorite spots on our side of the island, and we were also able to visit some new places, too. My personal favorite was El Yunque National Forest, a rainforest on the eastern side of the island. It was AWESOME. (Check out my my pics!)

We gave away all of our stuff (sold some of it) and moved out of our apartment… on the same day that we left the island (June 16th, to be exact). Yeah, it was a busy day. And sad. Oh, so sad. We love our island.

From June 16 – 29, we stayed with Glenn’s parents in Ontario. I was still teaching for the online company, but had a much freer schedule since a lot of students travel in the summer. Also, I wasn’t taking on any new students since I would be starting a new job soon. (A new job, I say? Yes! You will find out more at the end of this post. Keep reading….)

From June 29 – July 6, we went to Italy! My student-turned-friend, Natasha, who joined my family for Thanksgiving in New York last November with her then-fiancé, Sergey, got married in sunny Tuscany. They asked Glenn to officiate the ceremony (symbolically, not actually) and to sing as well. It was a beautiful wedding overlooking fields and fields of vineyards as far as the eye could see, with a medieval town silhouetted up on a hill towards the horizon. It was truly indescribable; even Hollywood couldn’t have produced such a spectacle!

I was incredibly lucky to be in Italy close enough to Lake Garda, where my German cousins have a house (they live four hours away from there, in Munich). I got to hang out with them for a couple of days, which was really cool since the last time I saw them was over 20 years ago!

Okay… then it was back to Canada for another couple of weeks. I wrapped up my online job, said goodbye to my students (who I will miss dearly), and packed up yet again to head down to the “dirty south”: Washington, D.C. Home!

This post was supposed to be all about me saying farewell to Puerto Rico; and it is, I assure you. Although so much has happened since I left the island, a part of me still wants to be there. I met some really amazing people there – professors, classmates, and friends – who have already proven to be lifelong friends. Puerto Rico provided me some really unique experiences: living on the beach, year-round summer, getting my Master’s, living in a Spanish-speaking environment, getting to know and love yet another vibrant culture and people first-hand.

It’s always the little things that one misses, isn’t it? It’s stepping outside and seeing lizards and iguanas everywhere, and fallen mangoes all over the street. Palm trees everywhere. Salsa, bachata, and merengue blaring from every passing vehicle. Old men with nothing to do drinking beer at the gas station in the middle of the day. The coquís singing us to sleep every night. The sound of the waves crashing on the beach outside our apartment. Having strangers wish me buen provecho when I’m eating out. Mofongo! Tostones! And all the delicious comida criolla the island has to offer.

Of course, there are things that I will NOT miss: power outages, slow/dysfunctional Internet, flooding every time in rains, fighting the ants and cockroaches in our apartment, waiting in lines EVERYWHERE… all of those little frustrations that can add up and make a gringa like me curse living there. But I am actually grateful for all of those challenges, because they changed me. I don’t feel entitled and annoyed anymore when things go wrong. Sure, things work differently in other parts of the world, and that can be very frustrating and annoying, but here’s the lesson I learned: Just because it’s different doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. The “American” way doesn’t have to be the only way.

Alright! You’ve been patiently waiting to get to my job announcement. I had to get all mushy about leaving Puerto Rico to build up to this, because the frustrations I mentioned above are going to be ten-fold where I’m going next: AFRICA! I was hired as, well… sort of an independent contractor by the U.S. Department of State to teach English at Barack Obama University in Conakry, Guinea (West Africa). As a part of their public diplomacy program, they send highly qualified ESL professionals from the U.S. to other parts of the world in order to boost English education in the country and, more importantly, promote cross-cultural understanding between the host country and the U.S. Think of it as being a diplomat who promotes diplomacy by teaching English. Apparently, they had 535 applicants this year and selected only 158 new Fellows (some renewed their contracts from the previous year, so there is a total of 165 of us). That is more or less my job description, but if you want to learn more about what I’ll be doing, feel free to browse their website.

That’s great, right? And you’re hoping I’ll keep a blog during my time in Guinea? YES! I will be posting more actively while on assignment there. However, due to the policies of the Department of State, I will have to do my blog a little differently this time, so instead of continuing to post here, I’m shutting this one down and starting an entirely new blog on another site. I apologize for the inconvenience, but you will still be able to access this blog and all of its content; I just won’t be updating it anymore. Once the new one is up and running, I’ll post all of the information here so that you can easily find (and follow!) the new one.

Well, that about wraps things up for now. Oh, one last thing: for those of you who are wondering… YES, Glenn will be coming with me to Guinea! 🙂

Adiós Puerto Rico, adiós North America, and adiós my dear blog… now, on to AFRICA!!!

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2 Responses to Adiós, Puerto Rico!

  1. Joe and Marian LaRusso says:

    con mucho gusto we read all about Puerto Rico (I told you that you would love it there).
    So adios, Puerto Rico and on to Guinea, Africa. All we can say is WOW !
    Have a wonderful time. We are so proud of all you accomplish.
    Love, Grandma and Grandpa

  2. Hello! I found your page while searching “life in Mayaguez.” I’m lucky I did, too! As a fellow ESL teacher abroad I found this page enlightening, informative and all too relatable. I’m really curious about your experiences specifically in grad school, as I think I have my eyes on the same program that you graduated from. I’m also really interested in the fellow program that you pursued after your time in PR. I tried to connect with you on IG/FB via your Guinee blog, but the links were dead. It doesn’t look like your active on this blog, but I would love to connect and hear more about your experiences if you wouldn’t mind. I’m currently teaching English at a university in Iraqi Kurdistan, so if you’re curious about working in the Middle East I can fill you in there! 🙂 Hope this comment reaches you well.

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