Saturday, September 3, 2016

Three Weeks, Three Countries

Off Again…
When I left El Harino, Panama in June 2014, I did not think I’d get to visit once a year, and while it’s a trend I won’t be able to keep up, I feel lucky I’ve had these opportunities so far. In May 2015, I squeezed in a couple-day visit after completing a short volunteer consulting project with a team of Wharton MBAs working with a youth empowerment NGO in Panama. This year the reason for my visit was Ana Victoria’s wedding, a wonderful college friend who happens to be Panamanian.

The timing of this trip was odd for me. I graduated from Wharton in May, prepared to spend the summer job-hunting. But I was lucky enough (after rounds of cover letters and Skype interviews) to find something much quicker than expected. So with two suitcases and some temporary housing lined up, I moved to San Francisco in June to begin working as a Research Associate at Earth Innovation Institute. EII is a small nonprofit with big goals of bringing together diverse stakeholders to promote sustainable land use and rural development. We mostly focus on agriculture and deforestation issues as they relate to climate change in tropical regions. While my Spanish has come in handy, I am also trying hard to remember some Portuguese and hope to travel to Brazil for work at some point. So far, I am finding the work interesting and definitely challenging. I am still learning how I can apply my diverse background and skillset (including ground-level field work and MBA frameworks and connections) to my work at EII as effectively as possible. So in the midst of starting this new job in June, adjusting to the routine of a normal, working-adult life, and getting my bearings in San Francisco (which I am absolutely loving!), I left for three weeks of travel in August. This definitely felt a bit disruptive, but hey, I’ve always been the type to cram in as many experiences as possible ;)

“Llegó Laila”
Having relied on whatsapp messaging to communicate with Cristín (a 20-year-old that I know checks his phone at least once a month) to confirm I could stay with his family, I showed up to El Harino with my old backpack and some touristy gifts from San Francisco. It’s amazing how names of places and people you haven’t thought of in so long can come back to you so quickly. How familiar sights make your eyes light up over things you never realized you missed. How after months of planning and worrying over details and logistics and feeling the pressure of an incredibly tight schedule, instantly none of that matters when you climb out of the back of a chiva in a quiet jungle community and the pace of time all but stops. How sounds of birds and insects and música típica on the radio and the rhythm of how people talk couldn’t sound more normal and soothing as they reach my ears. So comfortable. So at home.

New sign, same place
Since it was so hard to communicate that I was coming, many community members didn’t know I would be there. Kids at the school saw me arrive and word quickly spread. “Llegó Laila.” “Lila arrived.” My first afternoon I stopped by the end of an event at the Catholic church and got to see many people at once. We caught up a bit, got stuck inside during a downpour, and I left with plans to attend a 15-year-old’s birthday lunch the next day. True to his word, the 20-year-old with whatsapp had told his family I was coming and they had reorganized their sleeping situation to clear a bed for me. They made me dinner (rice, fried egg, and tomatoes – yum!) and we stayed up telling stories until I could barely keep my eyes open (probably not long after 9pm haha).

Hanging with Cristin's grandma on the porch
The next day I set out to visit as many houses as I could (including the 15-year-old’s birthday house). On a normal day in Peace Corps, I would hike to around 4 or 5 houses in a day when I was spreading the word about an upcoming workshop or meeting. But since this visit was so short, I managed to make it to 9 different houses in one day. This was physically exhausting, but at least I got lucky with the weather, and the day passed without a single downpour. As I went, I tried to subtly check up on some of the projects I’d worked on while I was there. My host family’s fish pond is still going strong. Success!!! A few women are still working on their home gardens, but many told me that this year the dry season had been particularly bad and they were just now thinking they can return to working on them. Others had more excuses like that they were moving houses so it didn’t make sense to work on a home garden until they moved, or that they now had goats that kept getting in the way. All understandable excuses that I found in no way surprising.

Host-family's fishery
Happy Birthday Ariel!
Martina's garden 2.5 years ago (top) vs. now (bottom). Clearly less of a priority at this moment.
My replacement volunteer is almost at her two-year mark and the community sounds happy with the work she’s done towards a big aqueduct project, but the project is going slowly (again, not surprising). Hopefully, the community can stay organized and keep pushing for this project after the volunteer leaves. After all, Peace Corps volunteers were never meant to have a permanent presence in a community; but rather, to come in, help motivate people to get some things started and to keep them going on their own. It’s often a question of priorities, coordination, and pace.

Other things I got caught up on kept me feeling like I was on a bittersweet roller coaster. The good parts included that there are plenty of cute new babies to play with, kids graduating from middle school have been sent to continue on in high school, and the community may begin recycling soon (I'm a little confused as to how). One particularly tough story almost caused me to burst out crying on the spot. Esteban, a great guy who was always smiling and ready to work, drowned last year. He fell crossing on a terribly dangerous board that was thrown across a creek. I remember using that board a couple times and hating it. He apparently did so at night after a few drinks. He left behind Ercilia, his pregnant wife and 3 young girls. Ercilia’s father drowned crossing a different river when I was living there a few years ago. Ercilia’s first husband was killed in a mudslide. I didn’t get to see Ercilia on this visit, but I can’t even imagine how these losses have affected her. I did get to see Esteban’s mother María, who seems different but ok. Hopefully the support of their families and the community will get them through.

Three years ago, one of Esteban's adorable little girls
I asked about this new structure near the town center and was told it is to begin collecting recycling that the government will come pick up.
I heard from some that the bridge project that Siobhan (the volunteer in my neighboring community) and I helped support has been a success. This bridge is over the river where Ercilia’s father had drowned. People now use the bridge frequently, which was good to hear.

Siobhan and me at the bridge site a couple years ago that has since been completed.
The community may get electricity (someday) soon(ish). CRAZY! I am slightly skeptical about how soon this will really be, but if the utility company is starting to make promises about it, I’d guess it’s possible within the next few years.

My community members were clearly happy to see me, and this made me happy. They seemed really excited that I’d come back and that I haven’t forgotten them. They made jokes about me staying another two years and already asked when I’d be coming back again. It is really nice to feel so welcome and cared for there. At the same time, it was interesting how little they asked about my personal life. They all asked about my family especially those whom they’d met like my mom and sister, and they loved hearing that I now have a nephew that I speak to in Spanish. But they didn’t ask about my work and only one blunt 11-year-old asked if I was ever going to get married (I said yes, but not yet!). I brought up my job a couple times, but didn’t get far with it. “Oh, you have a job now?” “Yes.” “In an office?” “Yes, in an office. Monday through Friday.” And that was that. Other questions about if I’d seen the previous volunteer (Heather, who lives in Florida) or if it is the rainy season now too in San Francisco (SF doesn’t have seasons) served as reminders of the vastly different worlds we live in, and how no matter how much people in El Harino care about me, there are parts of my life that are just too un-relatable to try to explain.

So good to see these faces again. The one on the left is the one who can't understand why I'm not married yet.
Overall, I left this brief visit to El Harino with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having the opportunity to be there again, to jump worlds, to breathe deep, and to sit with Martina on her porch for hours drinking coffee while time stops.

Breakfast at Martina's

On to Peru
After a few days in Panama City celebrating Ana Victoria & Martin’s beautiful wedding, I headed off to meet my mom with Ashley in Peru.

I can't thank the Chiari's enough for their hospitality. Such a lovely wedding!
Ashley, my mom and I took a four-day tour around rural Peru, stopping at farms to learn about local crops and business. We also went hiking to see waterfalls and endangered bird species. The last day of the tour was to see Machu Picchu! The tour company we used was a Peace Corps friend’s startup called Keteka, which focuses on off-the-path, socially-responsible tourism, which I try to support whenever possible. I am so lucky that Ashley and my mom were willing to try this out and roll with the adventures that ensued.

Peruvian landscapes at 14,000 feet
Harvesting coffee
Machu Picchu!!!!
Ashley and I made it to the top of the peak behind us (Machu Picchu Mountain). Exhausting, but totally worth it.

Last stop: Mexico
After saying goodbye to Ashley (always hard), my mom and I made it to Guadalajara. My mom patiently waited for me to catch up on work emails before we spent the weekend touristing around Guadalajara, seeing some cultural sites and learning about how tequila is made in the town of Tequila (which was far more interesting than expected, considering neither of us love tequila that much). When it was time for my mom to leave, I was once again struck by how lucky I am to have such a supporting and adventurous mama. Love you!

Piggies all around Tlaquepaque. Locally called "tocinarte" meaning "bacon art"
Visiting the Herradura distillery
Learning about the agave plant and how tequila is made 
My alone time didn’t last long, as later that night my coworkers arrived to the hotel for the Governors’ Climate & Forest (GCF) Annual Meeting – A conference with government leaders, nonprofit organizations (like mine), and a few private sector representatives from all around the world. The main theme of this organization is that climate change can be more effectively and efficiently tackled at subnational levels than national (so working with states and provinces instead of countries). The following four days were beyond exhausting and definitely interesting. With such a mix of cultures and languages, discussions were often chaotic, but the importance of having those face-to-face interactions seemed worthwhile. While the main events and panel presentations continued on, side meetings were actually where most of the tangible actions and agreements were taking place. I felt my Wharton networking skills turn on, met fascinating people, and held conversations that switched from English to Spanish to Portuguese to Indonesian without warning (I got pretty lost during the Indonesian parts). We discussed so many different projects, approaches, initiatives, strategies, policies, etc. that my brain struggled to process how we can possibly make real progress with such disorganization. Many high level declarations and promises rang out with optimism. But the question of how to implement them continues. As a relative newbie in the world of international climate change discussion, I left the conference feeling glad that so many others are committed to solving such complicated problems, and feeling that we certainly have our work cut out for us…

Our organization hosted a panel on the role of indigenous peoples in forest protection. Yes, that room is called the "Lila Room"
Government officials discussing the importance of subnational involvement in climate change
Coworkers from SF and Indonesia catching up in Mexico
So after three weeks of travel, I am once again leaving Latin America. I’m excited to return to my new life in San Francisco, but will miss regularly speaking Spanish, hiking around jungles, eating delicious tropical fruit, etc. I’m sure I’ll be back, and until then, it’s time to get back to work!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Blog Revival

... Nearly one year later, I’ve decided to bring my blog back for a special entry.  Since I last wrote, I moved to Philly as planned and completed my first year of business school at Wharton, where I continue to focus on international development and the intersection of business and social impact.  It was a tough year filled with plenty of reverse culture-shock and adjustments, but I have learned a lot and am excited for my next and last year.

Tonight, I returned from a brief trip back to Panama.  It was a surreal and wonderful couple of weeks.  Here’s a bit about why I went and how it turned out...

Wharton International Volunteer Program (WIVP)
The club: WIVP is one of hundreds of student-led clubs at Wharton.  It is unique in its mission to apply Wharton students’ business skills to social impact organizations in developing countries.  WIVP fundraises for and facilitates the coordination of about ten trips per year.  Coming to business school fresh out of Peace Corps, it felt only natural to dive in and actively participate in this initiative.

My involvement:
Within WIVP, I’ve taken on a few different roles.  I served as a fundraising director, a project developer, and will now be one of our co-presidents for the coming year. 
When I first applied to be a project developer back in September, I did so for three main reasons:
1) I felt confident that my connections in Panama would enable me to source a worthwhile project.
2) I believed my familiarity with the area, culture, and language would qualify me to plan complicated logistics, navigate in uncertain conditions, and lead a group through it all.
3) The opportunity to return to Panama after a year of Wharton seemed too good to pass up.
I believe that all of my reasoning proved true. 

Date Auction Fundraiser for WIVP

Masquerade Ball Fundraiser for WIVP

Our team: For the first time in my life I was on the deciding side of a round of interviews, and this was definitely a challenge for me.  Ultimately, I ended up with an awesome group of people, each from a different country: India, Nigeria, Romania, Russia.  From different communication styles, to different worldviews, to different card games, we all brought distinct skills and personalities to the table and shared our cultures openly.  This was a truly unique experience.

WIVP Panama team with some kids in Buena Vista

Our Project Partner: Cambio Creativo in Coco Solo and Buena Vista
The situation: Summarizing the nuanced history of the Coco Solo community is complicated.  The slum-like area has been increasingly marginalized over the years as Colon’s ports (on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal) continue to expand, buying up Coco Solo’s land from the government and crowding out its inhabitants.  People in Coco Solo suffer from poor living conditions and half of the community has been relocated to government housing in Buena Vista, where many of their same struggles continue.

Coco Solo living situation

Industry encroaching on the Coco Solo community

Buena Vista government housing is a good first step, but it doesn't solve all problems

When asked what obstacles youths face as they continue in school, Cambio Creativo founder Michael Brown noted a few main issues, namely: a general lack of resources, individuals not knowing how to navigate the process to find and enroll in appropriate schools, and the temptation to go for quick money through unskilled employment opportunities.  Cambio Creativo combats such issues with a comprehensive approach focused on both helping kids make it through school by providing tutoring and nutritional supplements and on empowering them to think outside the box through creative education workshops and mentoring.

Outside view of Cambio Creativo's community center in Coco Solo

The center feels like a sanctuary compared to its surrounding environment

The organization: Cambio Creativo is a small nonprofit with big goals.  They struggle to make sure they are having a significant impact, while keeping their work within the realm of what they can sustainably accomplish, given their limited resources and the challenging environment in which they work, where a lack of basic infrastructure makes all operations exceedingly complex.  The organization is comprised of a few, strong characters whose differing motivations and approaches must come together to work towards their shared, extremely valuable goals. 

Our bridge:
While Cambio Creativo understands the people it works with, the local context, and what is feasible for them, WIVP understands the theory of what organizations must to do to function efficiently and how to analyze critical issues like brand management, marketing, and product development.  We first had to learn and understand what Cambio Creativo is all about before being able to contribute, and Cambio Creativo had to be open to challenging current ways of doing things.  Both groups had to make compromises, remain open, and learn from each other.  The truth is that such a process could take endless amounts of time, but a week and a half felt like a promising start.

Working wherever we could find free wifi

Hearing Cambio Creativo's founder's story and asking him questions

So what did we accomplish?
We set out to help Cambio Creativo with two main projects, both related to fundraising strategy.  The first was to prepare Cambio Creativo for their upcoming crowdfunding campaign on Global Giving, which they are looking to launch in September.  This was rather straight forward, and we were able to leave behind many materials and action plan steps that the organization can use when they are ready.  The second project was to help them analyze potential products to sell as a way to diversify their funding and create a source of sustainable revenue generation.  We were able to show them how to narrow down their desired target segments and how to evaluate which products would best fit those segments.  We designed a survey to further specify which products are most popular and at what price points.  In our short time, we were not able to do a full cost-benefit analysis or to receive a sufficient number of survey results, but we left an organized to-do list and made plans to stay in touch to help with continued analysis.

Final meeting where we presented our findings.  Our hotel room with A/C and wifi was the best location we could find.

Another important aspect of our work involved making connections.  Between our combined Panama, Wharton, nonprofit, and personal networks, we were able to introduce Cambio Creativo to some important contacts, and used our position as a visiting student consultant group to reach out to new stakeholders.

Meeting in the Free Trade Zone in Colon

In general, I believe that all involved learned a great deal and hopefully got more out of this experience than they put in.  We worked hard, enjoyed getting to know one another, and certainly gained exposure to what Wharton likes to call “stretch experiences.”

Tourism day out in the jungle

Tourism day getting to know an indigenous community

Back to the basics in El Harino
After we wrapped up our WIVP project with Cambio Creativo, I split from the group and headed to visit my community.  It felt so good to be back there.  So calm.  So beautiful.  So familiar.  I loved catching up with my community members, seeing how the kids have grown in a year, noticing how many gardens are still going, and observing how my follow-up volunteer is settling in and taking on her own projects.  She was gracious enough to host me for a couple nights in my old house, feeding my nostalgia even more.  Just being there and hearing the same sounds of the birds, bugs, rain, and wind reminded me of the feeling you get when you listen to a good song you haven’t heard in a long time, yet you still remember exactly how it goes.

Neighbor's garden going strong

These girls haven't changed much

It was also nice to disconnect from the world and just focus on where I was for a bit.  I went two full days without checking my phone, and this was wonderful and gave me a sense of freedom.  It made me realize I need to factor in more ‘unplugged’ time and more nature time into my life, which has been sorely missed during the last year.

At home

So peaceful

Of course, El Harino continues to have its difficulties.  Most of the community has been without reliable water for weeks since the dry season is only now ending.  Rumors have been flying about young teenagers getting caught having sex.  More rumors have been circulating regarding mistreatment of women by men I thought weren’t capable of such terrible things.  And the community divide between Catholics and Evangelists seems to be growing ever stronger.  Hearing about all this, I had to acknowledge that such deep-rooted problems are not easily overcome.  And at the same time, El Harino continues to progress in other ways little by little.  They have constructed a new health center in order to better accommodate visiting medical tours.  They have a newly expanded garden at the school.  They have a better structured water committee dedicated to helping my follow-up volunteer develop a more sustainable aqueduct system.  As Peace Corps always taught us, we must continue to celebrate the small successes and not give up.  Poco a poco.

New health center

Hasta la próxima
My community members were happy to see me, but they all asked the inevitable question of when I would be back again.  All I could tell them is that I will be back when I have the opportunity.  This trip in some way provided me a huge comfort in demonstrating that I really can go back at any point and always feel comfortable and at home in Panama.  All year I have truly missed my life there and felt like I was worlds away.  This trip showed me that my worlds are not as impossibly separate as I’d thought.

So once I again I find myself saying “see you next time” to Panama.  Thanks for reminding me that the things I miss are still out there, continuing on.

My chiva ride got a dollar cheaper, but otherwise remained unchanged

This generous family insisted on cooking me traditional Panamanian soup and emphasized that I am welcome back anytime

Up Next
For those familiar with the business school standard, you might know that this summer is considered an important one.  While MBA students looking for careers in banking or consulting hope to get an offer of full-time employment at the end of summer, those of us pursuing less traditional paths are looking for something else.  Personally, I hope to gain more experience applying business skills to the social impact and international development issues I care so much about.  I also hope to continue evaluating some of the current questions in my head about how to narrow down what type of post-MBA work I actually want– For-profit, NGO, or government development agency?  Big organization or small?  Well-established or startup?  Based in the US or abroad?  Continue focusing on Latin America or expand?

To that end, I am taking on two completely different internships.  Through early July I will be in Ghana working with Potential Energy, a small nonprofit focused on the development and distribution of eco & health-friendly cookstoves.  Immediately afterwards, I will be in New York working with the UN Global Compact on business sustainability strategies and the revising of outdated sustainable development goals.  Should be an interesting few months!

As always, I’d love to hear updates from you all as well.  I have not been as good at keeping up with people since coming back to the states as I’d hoped, and would love to know how you’ve been doing!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hasta luego, Panama

Saying “See you laters"

My favorite goodbyes are those super silly ones where you make a big deal out of a “goodbye” and then accidentally run into the person the next day.  That kind of situation has happened to me frequently, so I try to not make such a big thing out of “goodbyes” and instead leave with a genuinely hopeful “see you later.”  Even so, the “see you laters” I’ve had to say recently have left me hurting.

I came back from my last agribusiness charla in Bocas del Toro (which by the way, went amazingly well) with the goal of visiting every single house in El Harino one last time.  I had three weeks left.  Between bridge work days, school and church activities, rainy season downpours, and people not being home, I managed to hit most of them, and even those I missed I was able to reach with notes about my upcoming “farewell” events.

Giving my last agribusiness charla in Bocas
Huge Bocas crowd
Bocas after-party (Work hard, play hard!)
Bridge work day
Compost with the middle school
One of the hardest houses to say “see you later” to was my first host family.  I lived there during my first 1.5 months in El Harino and I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming group.  I stayed there for hours with the kids crawling all over my lap, reading stories, and looking at photos.  They told me they plan to frame a couple they have with me in it.  I talked with Antonia about her recent snake bite incident (she spent five days in a hospital in Chorrera) and about her fifth baby due to arrive late June.  I talked with Ceferino about his farm’s progress (he’s had a lot of luck lately with papaya!) and about how well his fish tanks are doing.  MIDA recently promised to bring him even more fish, but he expressed skepticism that MIDA would come through.  While I hope they do for his sake, I can’t help but be annoyed that they continue to only help the two families in El Harino of the same political party as them.  I am leaving information on pending fish projects to my follow-up volunteer and considering that the political party in power here in Panama is now changing, I am curious to see how MIDA will function under new management.  Anyways, after a few more jokes about fitting 4-year-old Rebeca in my suitcase, I said “see you later” to a beautiful home.  As soon as they were out of sight, I couldn’t hold back my tears.  I wonder when the next time I make that hike will be…

Flashback photo of when I lived here in June/July 2012
Flashback photo of when I lived here in June/July 2012
After making the rounds to visit as many houses as I could, came the Despedida “Goodbye” party that El Harino threw for me.  We got to combine it with a one-day visit from Heather, El Harino’s previous Peace Corps volunteer, which helped lighten the mood.  Nevertheless, for me it was a very sweet, but also sad event.

Cute decorations and cute kids
This 8-year-old cried when reciting a poem to me so of course I broke down as well
What party would be possible without arroz con pollo?
By far, the best letter I have ever gotten.  Ever.  From an 8th grade boy.  Rough translation (that doesn’t do the cuteness justice):
I write this letter to Lila to say goodbye from the community El Harino.  Lila, you were and are a good Peace Corps volunteer in El Harino, you participated in all activities in and different parts of the community.  I appreciate you because you held trainings that grabbed peoples’ attention like your motto “Save now and you’ll have for forever” and the training about coffee and others.  For this I congratulate you for everything that you’ve done in El Harino and I’m sad because you’re leaving the community.  I would like you to stay more months, but you can’t.  Ciao Ciao Lila, hope everything goes well.  We’ll remember you always, Ciao.  In this letter Elian Valdes, student of Wuendoli Martinez at the El Harino School, says goodbye and so does my family.  Ciao Ciao Lila.  I hope your favorite team wins the world cup (I’m going for Uruguay).  Hope everything goes well.  God bless you and your family always.

I had a few days in between my Despedida and my actual departure from El Harino.  During those days I hosted many visitors and was invited to a few more personal despedida meals at close families’ homes.  I was gifted more food (plantains, oranges, bananas) than I had time to eat and tried to give things away to other visitors.  I was told many times in different words how much I was appreciated and how I had brought new ideas and taught new skills to people in El Harino.  This was all again very sweet and sad.  Throughout the week the comic relief was provided by my shower, which decided to completely break and flood my house.  My landlord and neighbors repeatedly tried to fix it, but each fix lasted no longer than a day (or 20 minutes) before the tube busted open again.  This made packing up more challenging, but gave me an excuse to sweep the floor very clean.

Second host-family cutie
Second host-family special goodbye dinner (including fish from a fish tank and veggies from a garden).

Two cultural differences made all these “see you laters” tougher for me:

1) Everyone wanted my stuff.  After two years working to show people I am not just some white person here to give handouts, I suddenly found myself bombarded with questions like: Can I buy your cooking pot? You have a radio, right? How much for your mattress?  When someone moves homes in the US, it is not culturally appropriate for their friends and neighbors to act like such scavengers, but here, I just had to get used to it.  I sold a few bigger items to the first people who asked me and held off on the rest until the day before I left.  My “garage sale” went alright and many stayed to spend extra time with me and brought me more going-away gifts.  People said the things I gave away /sold will remind them of me.  I had to laugh when I saw a grown man snag my purple AYSO soccer jersey from 7th grade.

Dollar store on the left, free stuff on the right
2) People here don’t usually hug.  They always say hello and goodbye with a limp handshake.  There was no way I was going to accept this with my “see you laters” so I went in for the hugs with mixed results.  Some were super awkward because people literally don’t know how to position their arms (not to mention the considerable height difference).  But some were great and even included a kiss on the cheek (or two, or three … weird?).  Even after my “won’t take no for an answer” hugs, some still felt compelled to close with their typical handshake.  To each his own.

My last few days in Panama were spent in the capital city going through Peace Corps' tedious Close-of-Service process.  This involved paperwork, interviews, medical tests, etc.  Sounds fun, right?  Luckily, several other volunteers were also COS-ing with me so we actually did have some fun and supported each other through it all.

Receiving my Peace Corps certificate of completion from Panama's Country Director
Last night dinner with 20 volunteers

Moving on

On a personal level, I have formed meaningful relationships in a foreign world and have been truly happy for two years, despite the hardships.  Leaving is painful and I predict reverse-culture shock will be … a shock.

On a professional level, I have learned that while there are no perfect solutions to international development problems, I now have a much deeper understanding of their complexities and their possibilities. I look forward to applying what I know and expanding on it at Wharton / UPenn as I pursue my MBA and focus it on social impact and sustainable development.

I am heartbroken and excited to be moving on. I would do it all again without changing a thing.  Thanks for following along and accompanying me through what has been an awesome adventure, a learning experience, a roller-coaster, a dream.  I couldn't have done it without your support.

Remember my number that I had since I was 16? That number is mine again.  Call it!  Keep in touch.  Hasta mañana.

I will miss this view from my window