Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Little Update

So obviously I never got to uploading the other part of my trip. But I will. Soon. Promise.

In the meantime, I have received (in the mail) my BSN diploma! Which is fantastically great... The only concern of mine would be, if I paid them 4 years of tuition, why is my diploma only a fraction of a page? Don't I deserve an 8.5x11 piece of paper? Or am I only worthy of 5x7? Ugh. Oh well! Not complaining. RIC, mkaythankyoubye! 

I also lied to many people. Now, I'm usually an open book. But I lied. Everyone asked me when I was taking my NCLEX nursing boards and I told them I wasn't sure, and that RI DOH was still processing my papers. Then I had the great pleasure of randomly surprising everyone with the news that I had passed my boards and am a real live RN, ready to work! Well, I had a date and didn't tell anyone because I didn't want to jinx myself. Sorry!

So now I am on the hunt for a job. And just to surprise everyone, I am looking in RI and NH. The good ole' bank account put a hold on the ND job hunt for a few months. I still have every intention of heading out into the Midwest and taking over a hospital but maybe I'll keep the lofty goals for the future. I'm just focusing on finding work at this point! :)

                The official proof!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 10- First Impressions

Wow! What a crazy last two days! My flight to Panama was pretty uneventful. Although, I will say CopaAirlines is very generous with the food! We were served a choice of chicken and noodles or beef and rice. Of course it was offered in Spanish. So I, all confident in my three word Spanish request, ask for the chicken and rice! I got a strange look for sure.

Panama is a beautiful country... Absolutely breathtaking! Now how can trees and hills in Panama be more beautiful than trees and hills in RI? Let me count the ways. The lush rolling mountainous forests surround the aeropuerto on all sides. It is simply fantástico! My layover was 5 hours long and the chicken and noodles hadn't held me over very well. But after my previous food fiasco, I wasn't too sure how I was going to maneuver the situation. Despite being an aeropuerto internacional, there is definitely not many people inside the shops and restaurantes who speak English. I was hoping to walk past a McDonald's and order a combo. Numbers are easy right? And coca-cola is the same everywhere. Hah! No luck. But I saw a Subway so I figure I can just point to all of the foods I want and that'll be that. Well... They don't have the bread I pointed to on the sign and that prompted a one-sided conversation (her side, of course). So I'm struggling really bad at this point and I look up at the screen and say the first sandwich that has familiar ingredients in the photo. If I don't want some ingredients, I can take them out later, sí? "¡Albóndigas por favor! Seis." I ended up with a 6inch meatball sub with lettuce. I added the word "combo" in there and got a small coke (I prefer diet but wasn't sure how to ask) and Lay's BBQ chips. I must say it was one of the best meals I've ever had, mostly because I was so glad to have come through that experiencia unscathed. The flight from Panama was great. I met a guy from Gastonia, NC (shoutout the the NC fam!) who was going back to Colombia to visit family and go to the doctors. I guess blood clot meds are more expensive in the U.S. than Cali.

Customs proved to be interesting. Apparently I am supposed to stay at a hotel and not my friends house, so I told the oficial that I would look into a hotel. (I looked through the front gates of a hotel this morning as we sped past so I didn't lie to Colombian policía.) As I walked out of the aeropuerto, there was a giant sea of people waiting for loved ones. How on earth do you find one person in this mess? Well let me tell you: it wasn't hard. I heard a noise-maker and saw some lady in a party hat, holding a sign that said "Welcome! Shawn, Betty, Abby, Stefan!" A joke, she told me later, when she tacked on my name to the bottom of the poster. It was so good to finally see Nori again! Just like old times, laughing and talking in mixed languages! She was there to pick me up with Angel Estuviñan, and his two daughters, Daniela (17) and Eliana (21). I felt bad on the car ride back to Nori's house because it was all English and only a little Spanish. Totally exclusive! Nori had brought me empanadas, similar to what Lisa White made at the White family reunion this past year. More spices and less food in the middle, so it was smaller. There was something chewy in there and I couldn't identify it. I didn't ask what it was because I wasn't sure if I would finish it if I knew! (Mom's convinced that it was guinea pig.) We arrived at Nori's house and I thought it was beautiful. After getting through the locked front gate, a winding staircase out front took us up to the second floor. We entered through another locked gate and I thought it was going to be the door that was right there, but no. She points up a dark staircase and I start up them. I wrestled with a tin door for a few seconds before I realized that it was a pull, not a push. I opened it and walked right out onto the roof back into the night air. Was this a joke? I looked behind me and she was laughing and kept saying, "Can you believe it?!" I was totally not sure what to say, so that awkward laugh totally happened... She was serious. Across the roof was a little door into a small room. Two beds were in the right corner with an open closet to the right. A fridge faced me and on the left wall was a sink, countertop and an oven hooked up to what I recognized as a gas tank that gas grills have attached to them. Directly on my left was a small card table and two plastic chairs, and the small bathroom was in the corner. It's really small but it seems comfortable. Curtains hung on the other side of the second bed and when I pulled them back, there was a small balcón with a veryyy flimsy railing. But the Colombian air!!! In fact, as I write this email, I am laying in my bed with the doors wide open looking up to the sky. The apartments on the other side of the street (about 15 feet away) are empty at the moment or they're all sleeping, and I can hear another family down stairs bathing their children. Somewhere, a few girls are doing the dishes (by hand, of course) as I can hear the dishes rattling. The ambulance is headed some place with sirens, a plane is close by, and I can hear a car alarm in the distance. It really is perfect!

This morning we ate some fruit before going to visit Angel's family for breakfast. She pulled out a papaya and I couldn't help it but my jaw dropped! The papayas at Stop & Shop are 5x smaller than the one she whipped out of the fridge! And the mangos don't get any better than here. So after our pre-breakfast, I decided to hop in the shower. What could be better than a nice lukewarm shower after a hard nights rest in the Colombian air? Hah. Well the frigid temps turned me from a 10-15 min shower-taker to a "how much can I do without turning on the water" type of gal. I was out of the bathroom in less than 5 minutes. Which means the shower was probably 2 mins... Man alive. I still shiver in the heat thinking about it. After that, we were going to walk to Angel's house. We left out the front door and closed the door behind us. But guess what, people. The doors lock behind you here! And guess what else. We forgot the key to the house inside! And the key to the house is also what lets you out the front door at the top of the winding staircase. Ughhhhh. The landlady wasn't home so we have started a life of crime. We took an iron pole on the roof and broke into our apartment! We now have a hole in our front door but we were able to get out. Angel's house is a  brisk 15 min walk down the road. Houses here are built adjoining one another and they are all in disarray. Tin roofs, doors off their hinges. I don't mean to pick on Detroit, but it reminds me of photos of Detroit during the recession or whatever happened there. Graffiti. Boarded windows. I never felt unsafe but I definitely was watching my back. I was only carrying a wristlet (wallet with a chain) and my camera. Nori told me later to never walk with my camera out in her neighborhood because they will take it. So now I don't! Breakfast with Angel's family was fantastic. We had more papaya, juevos con carne y papas (eggs with meat and potatoes) and bread. My coffee order here is black. Besides Angel and his daughters, their cousin, Laura, is visiting from another city.

After breakfast, we headed to the zoológico for a day of fun! Lots of walking and seeing the different animals. I tell you what, if you want to learn animal vocabulary, just spend a day at the zoo. We had a great time, just trying to figure out what each other was saying. Lunch was massive hotdogs with potato chips on it and some neon yellow sauce (didn't ask) on it. We fought the bugs for our own food and when we were done, we headed home. Or so I thought. We ended up visiting 2 malls and one had a Dunkin Donuts!!! So of course we bought donuts and shared. The chocolate is way different here. More bitter. I had to buy a bottle of water and shampoo and I payed 7500 pesos for it. The zeros throw me off and I think I'm overpaying for stuff but I am way underpaying I think. I'm not sure I'll ever get it right.

My stomach started to hurt so we went home for a nap. After a brief siesta, we called a taxi (Nori doesn't have a car) and headed to one of her friends houses. There was Nori and I, Angel, a sweet older lady (I'll find out names later), and a family of 5 (mom, dad, and 3 boys). After the meeting we spend time talking about different things and they described their winter to me (same temps, add rain) and I showed them a photo of the young kids from our meeting (a few years old now). The family of 5 wanted to take Nori and I home so we piled in their Range Rover (circa early 1990's?) and next thing I knew, they are treating us to pizza. Dad, be very proud. I ordered the only thing I recognized (pollo- chicken) and with it came mushrooms. And I ate it. :P The family owns a panadería (bakery) and they gave us a few bags of bread to bring to Nori's brother, Felipe (Felo), in Cartagena tomorrow. I took the bag and about burned myself because it was so warm. The smell was intoxicating. I swear I will come home, waddling down the gate. We stole Felo's bread and we plan to steal some more in the morning! We leave for the aeropuerto at 5am and head to Cartagena where I will meet her family and stay with them for a few days.

Fingers crossed I actually wake up on time!

Fun fact: the lines in the roads are just suggestions in Colombia. Also, on motorcycles, a man and a woman can ride together, 2 women can ride together, but not 2 men. It is a crime and you can go to jail because that it when most shootings happen. Ma, I'm perfectly safe, yo te prometo.

Xoxo to all!

Jun 9- The Tale of the Trip & The Daunting Departure

The next few entries are a series of emails that I sent to family members while I was "in the moment" on my flight. I'm glad I sent them, because now I can go back and read these emails as if it were a diary. Some of them have been edited because family references may cause you to wonder who I truly am and where I truly come from. Also, because I wasn't expecting to put them up for the public to read.

Once Upon A Time...

So... I'll start from the beginning! A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a girl, Nohora (Nori for short), in Milford who was staying in Boston as an Au Pair nanny from Colombia. I tried to translate for her but she knows better English than I knew Spanish! We exchanged numbers. Soon, we were meeting up in Boston and we invited her to our house for a Sunday afternoon. One day, I receive a call and Nori needed help. Things went awry with her host family and she needed a place to stay. Her organization wouldn't be able to help her until the following Monday, so I raced to Boston to pick her up. She stayed with us while trying to figure out all of the legal shenanigans that comes with having a visa attached to a job. In the end, she left to go back home and I watched her from platform A at the train station in Attleboro (sob) as she headed to Logan Airport. We've kept in touch over the years with lots of "Someday I'll visit"'s and "Wish you were here"'s.

Moving forward a bit... A few months ago, I was stressed with school, particularly an evil, evil professor. I was Facebook-messaging Nori one night and she said, "I hope you can visit someday and see my beautiful country!" Well... I AM my fathers daughter and I have a insatiable desire to see the world. I also have this SUPER neat thing on my computer where you open this map and click on a city and it shows you the highlights of life there, tourist hot-spots, nightlife activities, fashion, food, etc. We continue our conversation and I keep reading. After all, I'm "just looking." Innocently enough, my investigation turned to, my go-to travel website. Hmm... Prices didn't look too bad! (Compared to what I had seen for a flight over spring break! Oops. Did I forget to mention that I always look at plane ticket prices?) Anyways, I compare the price on the screen to the number in my bank account and before I even knew it, I had a travel itinerary. So now what? I had to tell Nori. I sent her a message, "I bought a ticket to visit you." Tenses (past, present, future) are tricky things when it comes to languages and she thought that I was just reiterating the fact that one day I would buy a ticket. A few mins after brushing it off, I start seeing the dot, dot, dots in the message. She is typing... All of a sudden, I get message after message with lots of caps and lots of exclamation points! She was excited and so was I! June 8-June 16. I was going!

Fast forward a little more to the end of my semester. RIC School of Nursing has this thing where you pass all of your classes and then they make you take an "exit exam" as a general form of torture for nursing students. It is called the HESI (stands for something...) and we hate it. It is out of 1500 points, 160 questions, is famous for being 5,000 times harder than the NCLEX board certification exam, and my school has the highest minimum allowable benchmark score to meet. Anyways, I was going to crush this thing and score a crazy high number, far surpassing the requirement. Unfortunately, I failed by 6 points. Sooo stinkin frustrating! I was super ashamed of myself and on top of that, the evil professor, Nan, was the one who told me my score. Well, I have an opportunity to retake. I'll just study like crazy and pass it then. "When is the retake?" I ask her. "June 8." Whattttttt!?!?! Nooooooo!!! The trip that I planned to GET AWAY from you is being ruined BY you?!?! Oh I was livid! And foregoing travel insurance because I knew I wouldn't need it? Big mistake. After many phone calls to some call center I can only assume was deep in the hills of India, it all worked out and I was able to switch it to today, the 9th. And I passed my exam yesterday! (Side note: Evil Nan still found a way to yell at me for passing.)

Now I am sitting in Logan airport, a little scared. Don't tell mom and dad though. Mom doesn't think I'm coming back. Austin thinks I'm coming back with baggies of drugs in my stomach. Mom thinks I'm going to come back married. Dad thinks I'm going to have a blast. Abby thinks I'm cool. (Woohoo!) Mom thinks I'm going to be trafficked. You get the point. I'm not freaked out by any of those things. Just the language. I have lost so much of it over the past 3 years because I had to let it go to focus on nursing courses. But I am armed with trusty apps and dictionaries. On the other hand, I am so excited. I mean, Colombia?! How cool is that!

I am making my way to the gate now as they start to board. Next stop: Panama City! I will have roughly 5 hours to find my connecting flight and will arrive in Cali tonight around 8:30pm, their time. Nori is picking me up, along with one of the friends there, Angel. He was the first to profess in the area and I assume he is dads age. He has 2 daughters who are around my age, not professing. Tomorrow I think there is a plan to go to the zoo, but I'm not sure. Can't wait!

Boarding now.

Love to all!

Life Since My Last Post...

So life since my last post has been pretty wild! I'll go through the events in bullet points so that I can get to my next series of posts: the ones you're all waiting for!

  • Jan 4- My grandpa, Mr. Fred Parsons, passed away on Sunday evening in his big green recliner, while watching my grandma putter around the kitchen.  It must have been the perfect time. And with tomorrow being Father's Day, I'm really missing him. A lot. And true to my family roots, I'm tearing up thinking about it.
  • Jan 5-9- Orientation to my new job as Student Nurses Associate at Rhode Island Hospital.
  • Jan 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29...?- Snow. Nemo. Ugh. Classes cancelled... Score! (I would later resent these cancellations.)
  • Early-March- Fargo! Spent a week in the great state of ND playing tourist.
  • About a week later- I bought tickets to Colombia (yes, South America) in the middle of the night and had to tell my parents...
  • A few days after that- My other grandfather, Leighton, had a ruptured aneurysm while my parents were vacationing with them in Florida. I thought for-sure that I would be grandfather-less in a matter of months. We are so insanely lucky that he came through with no deficits and is the same "Bumpy" (us grandkids are creative!), just a little more in need of an afternoon nap!
  • May 13- Pinning Ceremony to cap off my nursing degree! (Pun intended)
  • May 15- #Courthouse2Whitehouse Wedding! Austin was a handsome groom and Riley was a beautiful bride. Austin's brother, Bronson, and his good friend Tim stood up with him and Riley's sister, Remington, and I stood up with her. We all cried.
  • May 16- Rush, rush, rush home for graduation early in the morning at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence. Nursing students get their own private graduation and the long annoying one because they're special, worked extra hard, and obviously deserve it. (Sarcasm- It's just how it worked out I guess.)
  • June 8- Took and PASSED a hugeee exam for the School of Nursing. If you fail it, they will withhold your diploma from you and make you take one of the senior classes over, even though you already walked across the stage. Turns out they give you an empty diploma holder for the pictures.
  • June 9-16- Colombiaaaa!!!
  • Now I'm home and working again so I can save up for another trip! To wherever I'm going to be living.