It's hard to believe that another year will come to a close in just a few short hours. It is always a joy to review what the year has brought our way and this year has been no different. It has been a year of adventure and of big life changes. If you haven't had the chance to follow the blog much this past year, here is a quick recap for you:
We started 2012 in the heart of wilderness, visiting Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica. We took advantage of Costa Rica's "summer vacation" and spent three days adventuring with our friend Kevin. We saw more wild animals than we could have dreamed of (some in very close proximity, such as the peccaries that started grunting when they felt that we were too close) and experienced true beauty.
The remainder of January went as we came to expect during our time in Costa Rica. Days were filled with camp and kids, just the way we liked it. We were also blessed with a visit from our country director who brought along not one, but two amazing Almond Joy cakes for us to share with our campers and our host family. Our friend Billy was also able to make it out for a piece which was wonderful since we bid on the cake after his apartment sadly burned in late 2011.
February was another month of adventure. We started the month by wrapping up summer camps and preparing for the new school year. Then the real adventures began. February took us to Nicaragua for Chris' first 100K race and brought us a delightful visit from Chris' sister Sarah and her friend Molly. We relished the month and couldn't believe how much we crammed into a mere 28 days.
Our trip to Nicaragua was absolutely amazing and we are saddened that we will not be able to go back and join the Fuego y Agua crew for their 2013 event. Not only was the race a phenomenal event, but the island culture and the people of Nicaragua were incredible. We met some amazing people from both Nicaragua and the United States. We formed bonds with people that also share a love for the island and the event and are fortunate that technology allows us to stay in contact with them still.
Our visit from Sarah was another highlight of our month and our two years of service. It was wonderful to be able to share our Peace Corps life with her and to take her to some of our favorite places in the country. We went to Cahuita, our favorite Caribbean town, on a chocolate tour and hiking through the rainforest. We only wish that the visit had lasted longer.
February also marked the beginning of the end for us in Costa Rica. We had our Close of Service conference and started to make plans for our return to the United States.
To say March was an experience doesn't do all that happened justice. We had our final town festival, moved across town, completed the CRUSA grant, and had visits from our friends Matt and Lisa.
It was wonderful to wrap up the CRUSA grant and see improvements made to the colegio. It also meant one less headache for Chris as he no longer needed to worry about spending the money that our community had been presented as a result of his grant writing work.
April was pretty crazy for us. We had a mission group come into town without a translator so we filled our free time helping the two groups communicate. We also took advantage of the situation to meet some incredible people from our community that we hadn't yet gotten to know. It's amazing how in such a small place there were still people that we didn't know at the end of our service. It was wonderful to build those relationships.
In addition we spent some time with great friends over Semana Santa and really took advantage of the little bit of time that we had left in country. When Semana Santa came to a close we took a trip to one of Costa Rica's indigenous communities, Cerere, to celebrate Día del Libro. We met more amazing people and were blessed with several days with other volunteers that we had come to know during our service and celebrate everyone's successes.
May was our final month in Costa Rica. The month that we thought would never arrive. It was a hard one, full of goodbyes and project wrap ups. We held on to our story hour with kindergarten and preschool for as long as possible, went on spur of the moment trips with friends, packed our bags and embraced our family at the end of it all. It was a life changing month for us in many ways. We ended our Costa Rican experience and stepped into our New Mexican life.
June was a time of settling. We moved into our apartment on the fifth after spending a week at our friend Emily's place here in Gallup. We explored our new community and then flew across the country to North Carolina so that we could pack up our belongings and move our life our west.
July was another crazy month. We welcomed our newest niece to the world, celebrated the marriage of our sister Sarah and explored the Omaha Zoo. We also explored some National Parks and Monuments, Chris ran a "real mountain race" and we pretty much made sure that we didn't have any time before the school year started. It was wonderful!
As you can see, once we returned to the US life didn't slow down. August was no different. Things just kept getting piled on top of one another as we began our new teaching careers. We also started our grad school experience. Life, in a way, came to a screaming halt while the world started spinning faster.
We were blessed with a three day weekend during September which meant that we spent some time with friends! We went rock climbing and hiking which were just about absent during August. We did some trail running and Chris even ran a race. It was nice to have a breather thrown into our new lifestyle.
Fall, what a beautiful thing! Even here in the desert colors change a little bit and the nights get cooler. The days may have been hot as can be, but we enjoyed the changing of seasons for the first time in several years. I (Tarah) even got to experience fall at its finest as my best friend got married in North Carolina during peak leaf season. It was wonderful to have a small break from school and go back east for the wedding and some quick family time.
Here in Gallup we get a whole week off to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was a much needed break from the fast paced lifestyle that we have been leading here. No teaching, no grad school. It was time to breathe. We took some us time and rented a cabin in the woods, ate some wonderful food and did some hiking. Then it was back home for more lesson planning and work on final grad school projects.
Am I cheating by summing up December without an official December blog? Too bad if it is, because here it comes. We started the month at the Red Rock Balloon Festival. We saw beautiful hot air balloons rise over the desert and Chris ran up to the top of Pyramid Rock a couple of times to get the full experience. Then the month of craziness fell upon us. We wrapped up our first semester of grad school, our first semester of teaching and survived the excitement that comes when you put a group of children together in a small space the weeks leading up to Christmas. We took a trip up to Nebraska to celebrate Christmas with family (whoever said that the first Christmas after Peace Corps was the best was pretty much right). We traveled further east and saw friends and more family.
All in all it was a pretty spectacular year. I read a quote today by Brad Paisley, "Tomorrow is the first blank page in a 365 page book. Write a good one," that I think sums up our 2012. I think that we wrote a pretty good book this past year. I hope that the coming year is as fruitful and exciting.
Happy New Year everyone - take a moment to reflect on this past year and set a goal to have an even better coming year!