Since the return of my trip, I have found it so hard to be in this moment. It feels more like those moments I remember and the ones that will become. I have not been able to focus at work for many reasons but a huge one being the Peace Corps. I can't wait to quit my job. I will be happy to leave it. I have been feeling uneasy more than anything because having the spirit of a dreamer; I have been particularly jaded with the constant routine of it all. Now, I eat, sleep and breathe PC related talk, thoughts, plans and dreams. I was extremely grateful to have received my invitation before my trip but it also became an overwhelming few weeks of excitement. As soon as I was on that plane leaving NYC, it was hard to think of PC related things when my excitement also focused on my trip. I made sure to deliver everything by its deadline. However, it was tough to concentrate on that aspiration statement, when you're hyped up on caffeine, beer and lack of food intake. Nonetheless, all was complete and to my best ability for that moment. This moment all I can think about is what will be.
I am extremely happy that I was able to have that opportunity to go back to Wisconsin prior to departing for Ecuador. I had an amazing time filled with memories that will last a lifetime. When I arrived in Milwaukee, I was greeted by the first friend I made in Wisconsin, my old roommate, my best friend, now more like my family, Crystal. I was able to spend five wonderful days with her, catching up and enjoying the moments. During our time together, I met her new boyfriend, who was a sweetheart and some of his friends. We spent time with her sister Mandi, who I love, at an Admiral's game. We got to see some of the amazing Drop Kick Murphy’s and go to some old bars I use to spend time at. On Sunday, I was able to have dinner with Melany and her soon to be husband Will. I was so happy to have gotten to spend time with them both, it's been too long. It was sad to leave Crystal but also exciting that I was not yet finished with my time away.
Monday night I was dropped off at Daniele's house, my best friend, other half, on the other side of Wisconsin. On Tuesday, I attempted to rest and complete PC related work but unfortunately was consistently annoyed by Daniele's cute dog. On Tuesday night, we arrived at the car rental completely psyched for the known and unknown parts of our road trip. I hopped in the driver seat first because Daniele had been working all day. We didn't wind up leaving Milwaukee until about 6pm. It's been awhile since I drove on the open road and boy did it feel good. There is nothing like just taking control of that wheel, riding through the night with an open sky, a whole world of opportunity lays ahead of you....mine lead to an immediate speeding ticket. Maybe I was enjoying the open road a little too much? But hey, the adventure doesn't truly begin until things go wrong! The best part of the road trip was my companion, who couldn't be more of a perfect match for me. We complement each other so well and in the end, that is what made the trip worthwhile. There is really no one else I could see myself doing this with and was so happy to have had the opportunity to see the country before I leave it with such an amazing person like Daniele. We arrived in Omaha, Nebraska around 2am on a Tuesday night. I had previously researched a historic bed and breakfast for us to spend the night at. Daniele saw a few pictures online and thought the place to be creepy. When we arrived, we were greeted with warm and friendly middle of the night hospitality. I had got us a deal at the cheapest price for the suite. It was a beautiful home with wonderful history, next door to also the only castle in Nebraska, coming in at 35,000 sq ft. I would say I got my fill of Nebraska.
From here Daniele drove through the wide open, flat, gray plains of Nebraska. Our host had informed us of the 7:1 ratio of cows to people, it was no lie. There was not even a place to stop for gas. As we reached the Colorado boarder we realized that the tank was empty. Daniele pulled off an exit to what seemed like a ghost town from a horror movie. It was a deserted gas station, broken down and ancient. We could not have laughed harder at the sight. We arrived in Denver around dinner time. I had found a cool brewery downtown and it had delicious food and beer. We didn't get to spend enough time in Denver. I would like to go back one day. I got a feeling of comfort there.
I decided to drive the remainder to Crested Butte, CO where we were going to spend a couple days with my lovely friend Jeselle. There were no major roads leading to this valley, so back roads, through the Rocky Mountains it is. As we began to exit the city, a plethora of Jesus paraphernalia popped up, that began the whole adventure of Jesus throughout the trip. HE was everywhere we drove. As my mom would say, watching over me. Hey maybe someone was because I always got the shit end of the rides but trekked it through with memories and laughs! We began seeing signs-Watch out for Wildlife. Watch out for Elk. Watch out for Deer. Watch out for falling rocks. Avalanche Area. Curvy Road Ahead.13,500 elevation. As we drove up, the snow began to fall thicker. A thick ice cover the part of the bend and-boom: right into the snow bank! It was better than going left, down the mountain! Let me add, we are in a Chevy Cobalt, no cell service and not a car in sight for miles. But wait, Jesus was watching over us, did you forget? A man in a pickup truck, who we thought we lost miles back, miraculously showed up and helped us out. From then on I drove slow, very slow. We wound up having to do about 20 mph the whole way until we were off the mountain. Before we hit the town, hundreds of deer felt like chilling on the side of the road almost making Daniele piss herself, which is always a good time. Arriving in Crested Butte was like a dream, it looked just like it was out of a movie. An immediate drink was in order. The rest of our time in this magical town was amazing with more than a few crazy moments thrown into it. Jeselle couldn't of shown more friendly hospitality and because of her we were able to have a great experience in CO. We were both glad that we were able to make that a stop on our agenda.
For some reason I agreed to drive the rest of Colorado. I seemed to always get stuck driving the most dangerous route with the most beautiful scenic view, which Daniele could never seize to capture. Colorado's mountains stole a piece of my heart. I truly fell in love with the beauty of all that was Colorado and I can't wait to go back there someday. I cannot say that I can see myself living many places at this point in my life but CO is now on my list. We ran into some trouble driving those mountains again but with my excellent driving abilities, I saved us from near death more than once. We stopped at a beautiful trading post on our way to Arizona. Every person we encountered on this trip showed us more than necessary hospitality and friendliness, it felt nice. We stopped at Four Corners Monument which was cool because I am not sure there are many times in someone's life they will be able to be in four places at once...check.
From there she took over the controls, accelerating to make up for precious lost time due to my more than careful mountain driving experience and fear of another ticket. We finally reached our destination of Gilbert, AZ. This was how the whole road trip idea was born. We thought it would be wonderful to see her best friend Nicole, whom I shared memories with. The trip to Nicole was the longest and the lack of food was hitting us. We were greeted with smiles, food and margaritas-can't get better than that. When we woke we went to a fabulous breakfast joint, a brewer’s spring training game, Mexican dinner with some more margaritas, this time prickly pear and then on a light rail pub crawl. We wound up at interesting bars and ended the night with a touch of drama. We woke up early the next day and spent the day in Sedona to get a real feel of the desert. The desert is beautiful but I just did not fall in love as I did with Colorado.
Leaving Arizona, we ditched all plans ahead to visit another friend in the effort to save time and money. This left us feeling a little more alone but a good deal more free. We felt that the real road trip began since we truly had no plans ahead of us. From Arizona through New Mexico, we stopped at many trading posts in search for some prickly pear tea, that we were determined to get. We got to see the continental divide, which was more touristy than anything. We arrived in Albuquerque, NM and I had previously written down a dive located there. Apparently, Albuquerque is not a hot spot but more like the Mexican ghetto with a little sketchiness involved, well the parts we experienced anyway. We arrived at the dive and boy, was it a dive. The “steakhouse” was a cemented building with no windows, connected to a liquor store. We actually hesitated to go inside but stirred up the courage or maybe just the hunger, to go inside. It was a grease pit but satisfied us, definitely not television worthy though. While we were eating, I googled prickly pear tea in the area and a company came up in the search. We decided to head over there. The gps went a little nuts and we wound up in an industrial neighborhood. It turns out this was the location of the warehouse, not a store. We decided to still go check it out. When we arrived, we were greeting with enthusiasm and friendliness. Not only did they agree to sell us products but we also received a tour of the warehouse, how to make and package the coffee, as well as meet the owner himself. It was quite an experience and we were more than glad we decided to go inside. However, after all that effort to obtain the tea, I found out that I could have just gone to my local Trader Joe’s!
We made our way to Amarillo, TX which happened to be the only major town on the way. Daniele was determined to meet a cowboy that night, since we were in Texas of course! However, my passion for bed and breakfasts led us to having a different type of night, than Daniele had imagined! As we arrived to our bed and breakfast, Daniele knew instantly that she had been officially cowboy cockblocked!!
When we woke the next day we drove to Oklahoma City and stopped for some delicious bbq. We drove through Kansas, where this time Daniele was stopped for speeding. Although, this time around when the cop was asking questions and I saw her getting anxious, I nudged her to shut up and tried to flirt my way out of it. As the cop approached the car again he handed her a warning, stating it was because he liked the passenger, score! That night we wound up in Kansas City, MO, where Daniele refused to have us stay in a bed and breakfast, due to the last experience. All I can say is she made up for lost time partying, Happy Fat Tuesday. A good end to our trip to have the craziest memories end it off.
All in all, the road trip was more than amazing, filled with memories that will last a lifetime. I may have omitted some of the embarrassing or inappropriate stories!
I already know my destiny is to travel. Perhaps one day, tired of circling the world, I'll return to one of my destinations and call it home, if not indefinitely then at least for another pause while I shift from one understanding of the world to another. Next stop..Ecuador.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
I have been too filled with excitement, to have posted anything in the past day. On Friday, February 18, 2011, I received the second phone call from my PO, whose name I now know, Brian. This conversation went very smoothly. He told me that he had chosen a program, which he feels best fits my skills. He asked me a few more questions, such as if I was happy with Central/South America departing in June, which I am of course. He also asked if anything has changed legally or medically. He then told me that he was sending my invitation that morning via air mail. I was so excited because it would reach me just in time, before I leave on my trip to Wisconsin/ road trip from the Midwest to the Southwest. On Tuesday, I was texting my mother all day asking if the mail had arrived and she finally told me around 3pm. She did not want to tell me that it came because she knew that I would leave work to come home and open it. It was best she waited because I took off of work the rest of the week anyway and yes, I would have not been able to work for the remainder of the day. The trip home was hard, I was so anxious, my heart was pounding. This is the biggest moment of my life, this determines where I will be spending 27 months, maybe more, of my life. I ripped the envelope open as fast as I could and couldn't even think straight when I read my assignment. I am invited to Ecuador as a HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Volunteer, under the Community Health Program. I had predicted it was going to be either Peru or Ecuador, and could not be any happier with my invitation. Ecuador is such a diverse, beautiful country and I can not wait to experience it. I am currently reading the plethora of information provided to me and trying to calm myself down and take it all in. I sent my acceptance email : I , Marissa Fontanez, am accepting my invitation to serve as a HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Peace Corps Volunteer, in Ecuador departing June 1, 2011. I hereby certify that I have read the Volunteer Assignment Description, Online Welcome Book, and Core Expectations and agree to abide by the policies therein. I did not have to even read any of that to have made my decision, my decision was made a year ago, each day growing more motivated and determined to serve. This week could not make me any happier, officially being invited to serve as a PCV, receiving my small but helpful tax return, going to see my best friends who I consider family and my home, going on a road trip, and paying off my credit card debt in full!! I have a lot of reading to do and can not wait to learn more about where I will spending 27 months, maybe more, of my life.