If I were to describe my life since returning from Indonesia in a word, I’d say… low-key.*
Low-key (adj.): not elaborate, showy, or intensive; modest or restrained.
Yup, that definitely sounds like my life in the past ten months. Upon returning from an amazing trip in Thailand and Indonesia with my Dad—which was everything but low-key—I had no plans. For the first time. Ever.
In my parents’ good graces, I moved back home in McHenry, Illinois to figure things out. I ended up staying a bit longer than perhaps any of us planned (9 months and 22 days, to be exact), but I think it was exactly what I needed. While at home, I lived in a low-key way: I worked a lot, volunteered occasionally, and spent more time with the dog than any person. It was nice. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
The month of March has been a busy one, not quite so low-key. I quit my full-time job at the beginning of the month. I gave the standard 2-week notice, but they decided to let me go immediately. It was a bummer at first but worked out as I hit the ground running and didn’t look back. I’ve been all over the place since then: I spent a week in Florida with a certain someone, then he came up to celebrate St. Patty’s Day in Chicago with me, then I went to Washington, DC for an AFS Sponsored Programs Conference. All of this travel was very enjoyable, and the latter was particularly informative.
In DC I met AFS volunteers from across the country and AFS staff from all over the world. As a group, we even had the chance to lobby on Capitol Hill, which was a first for me. What a thrill! Our task was to ask for the highest possible funding for government-funded international programs, including:
- YES: a program that focuses on Muslim-majority countries. The US hosts international students and sends American students abroad on full scholarships for a year.
- Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX): a bilateral program between the US and Germany that is funded by both governments to exchange students each year.
- National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y): American students go abroad to learn languages that are critical to our national security, including bahasa Indonesia for the first time ever this year!
- And of course Fulbright, a program that is not affiliated with AFS but is near and dear to my heart
The conference as a whole was a great experience and I am very thankful to the AFS Greater Illinois Chapter for selecting me to go.
Less than 48 hours after returning from DC, I was back at the airport, this time with a passport in one hand and a plane ticket to Costa Rica in the other. I’ve arrived safely and, after publishing this post, will pack my bags in preparation for the 6 a.m. bus ride tomorrow morning. I’ve been in San Jose a few days to get my bearings, and tomorrow I’ll head to Cabuya to begin a 3-month work-exchange at Wild Sun Rescue Center.
That’s all for now… buenas noches y pura vida!
*I know, I know, “low-key” looks like two words, but usually hyphenated compound words count as just one. (Dad, I’m looking at you.)