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I started to collect samples in the field of plants used for women’s reproductive health with the help an indigenous woman from the area – one of the remaining keepers of the traditional ecological knowledge.

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I started my position at Green Leaf Learning Farm last week. This is prime time to prepare to have veggies in the beds come spring. My head is spilling over with seed varieties, plans, and excitement. Here we are seeding! More updates to come soon..

the twigster,

Josephine
Seeding at Overton Park

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I am starting the process of packing up. I am finishing my Peace Corps service at the end of October. I can hardly believe it, but starting to pack is helping me to process it all. Just now, as I was going through some old notebooks, I came across a letter I wrote to fellow Peace Corps Volunteers at the middle point of my service.

Dear Fellow Peace Corps Volunteer,

1. Let’s find comfort in our overlooked accomplishments and more importantly, in the connections we are building. I may not have fixed all of the bio-filters in the communities, and your garden may look a little crispy, but what else happened today? Today one of my english students composed a coherent sentence. Today, I drank really good local herb tea and wrote a report that both my counterpart and I were happy with. Who did you connect with today? What did you do well today?

2. Constantly, try to remind yourself who you are and what you originally set out to achieve during your service. Don’t change your name to fit the language, if you don’t want to. There is nothing wrong with celebrating your culture and your new adopted culture either.

3. Yes, projects are important, but will the number of installed gardens be what you take away from your service? Remember the larger picture and the other two goals of our service.

4. Find your cheerleaders and be your own cheerleader. Seek help from other volunteers; they are going through the same thing you are. Call home too. People miss you and want to see if they can help you somehow.

I love that I am meeting people that I may have never had the opportunity to meet. I love that I am helping to break down the myths of US success in my migrant heavy town. I love that I am seeing life on both sides of the border. What do you love about your site and what you are doing? Focus on that and the rest will fall into place too.

the twigster,
Josephine

Enjoying a carne asada at the non-profit, CIASPE in Querétaro, México.

Enjoying a carne asada at the non-profit, CIASPE in Querétaro, México.

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Close of Service Conference: This group has been the best support during my time in Mexico.

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I broke my biggest promise to myself. I saw a little dehydrated puppy scurrying under a nearby bush to hide from people, and I scooped her up – I scooped her up, wrapped her in a shirt, and speedily walked  to the Huimilpan vet. She was thirsty, hungry, and FULL of fleas. She also had the cutest little chocolate nose I had ever seen.

She went home with me that night. She got a name. I got a new best friend. Canela, or Cinnamon, sweet and spicy at the same time. Her personality perfectly embodied in a cooking spice. Since I had broken one promise to myself, I knew I had to make another. I promised that I would avidly search for a home for her, just like I did with the street kitty, Benny.  I had no idea though that most Mexicans don’t want female dogs. It is not part of the culture to neuter the dogs, and since they don’t want one dog to multiply into six, they shy away from the females.

And so, the search began for Canela’s home. Three months full of numerous posts on Facebook dog adoption groups in Querétaro, calls to dog shelters, and talking up the little pup didn’t get me very far. Until one day, one very nice man, wanted a puppy, and Canela was just the girl.

the twigster,

Josephine

PS: I told myself that a street animal will not come home with me at least for three months. I got attached to this little Cinnamon Bun.

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Spring is finally here in Mexico and the flowers are out and beautiful. 

the twigster,

Josephine

PS: I’m still waiting for the rain to come…

PPS: More photos of a desert in bloom here

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Medical Clearance

The next stage for my Peace Corps application is gathering all my medical information in order to be medically cleared for service. So the past two weeks have been filled with one doctor appointment after the other, with a few road bumps along the way. As I had not yet graduated from my pediatrician to a big girl doctor, I thought this was the prime time to seek a new physician. Conveniently enough, I started seeing the doctor in my building. He is a little up there in age, probably 80 years old. He is also the sweetest, cutest little man, although a little forgetful.

Appointment 1 ran smoothly. I completed all of my blood work, began to fill out the millions of forms, and received a skin test for Tuberculosis. Feeling accomplished, I went home, arranged for some more doctors’ visits and gathered documents about my medical history. The next morning my face felt funny. I looked in the mirror and had Hitch face. Swollen face, swollen lips, the whole shabang. It was one of the most uncomfortable feelings I have experienced. A visit to the physician and allergist, some rest, and lots of meds deflated my balloon face and I was ready to continue on with my schedule of doctor appointments.

At another appointment with my physician he ran an EKG, which showed I had an incomplete right bundle branch block. Whatever that means.  Of course this all my mother needed to hear to begin her attempts of convincing me that I shouldn’t go to the Peace Corps. Mind you, we had no idea what the heart thing was all about at this point.  So today was doctor appointment #6, a stress test and echocardiogram. After running on a treadmill with millions of wires attached to me, the cardiologist deduced that my heart was perfectly healthy. Apparently my physician tends to be super cautious with his patients, a blessing and a curse.

I am almost done with this stage of my application! I have one appointment left to receive some immunizations and then I will mail in all my forms, and keep my fingers crossed that I will be medically cleared and move to the next stage of the process. So exciting! Let’s just hope I don’t hit any more road bumps along the way.

PS: I was majorly distracted from the initial prompt of this post. I wanted to show you the townhouse next to my doctor’s office today that is decorated oh so beautifully. Look at all the leaves and pine cones! The twigster could not just walk by this without stopping to admire and creepily photographing someone’s home. Enjoy.

The twigster,

Josephine

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For the past month I have been gainfully employed at Big Daddy’s diner on the Upper East Side of NYC.  When I wasn’t blowing up balloons for the kiddies, attempting to balance dishes or making a countless number of cookie monster milkshakes, I served people their food. Service with smile of course.  Here are some things I realized as I had shake mix splattered all over my face and a table that left $1 for a $60 meal.

1. Don’t be rude to your waitress when your order is incorrect.

I worked the holiday season at Big Daddy’s and we were swamped on the weekends. Servers ran around like crazy as the kitchen tried to turn out food as quickly as possible. Mistakes were inevitable on both ends. Oh, you ordered an egg white omelette instead of a regular one? Oops. We are happy to fix your order if you keep your cool. I’m sure you make mistakes at work sometimes. Surprise, surprise, so do servers. Give us a break!

2. Don’t alter the menu item.

The item that you are interested in on the menu is like that for a reason. The kitchen does not have every single food option at its disposal, mostly it has the ingredients on the menu. With that said, stick to the damn menu! (I was formerly guilty of this, I must admit.)

3.  An opportunity for a random act of kindness.

Food portions at Big Daddy’s were BIG. Very often people were unable to finish their meals and left untouched halves of sandwiches and even whole burgers on their plates. Seeing as how I would normally pass a homeless person on my way to work everyday, I didn’t have the heart to throw away the food. So I started putting aside the leftovers until I got off my shift and gave very thankful homeless people food that would have ended up trashed. You can do the same thing, a random act of kindness.

4. If you want to order food and have the option, use Seamlessweb.com instead of calling the restaurant.

Servers at Big Daddy also answered the phone and put in delivery orders. While we are trying to bus tables or bring out food, it’s not too easy to take your order. Trust me it is easier for you to do it online anyway. No one asks you to hold on the web.

5. The food industry in NYC is dominated by Spanish-speakers.

Rusty on your Spanish and want to brush up? Become a server.

6. Don’t forget the value of your time. 

There was a fine line between being a good employee and being taken advantage of at Big Daddy’s. Among servers’ responsibilities was restocking the stations after their shift, which entailed multiple trips up and downstairs to the storage room and refrigerators. Sometimes this could take upwards of a half of an hour, especially if you were on bar duty that day. Since servers work primarily for tips with a $5 an hour wage, when they don’t have a table they are not making very much money. Restocking, cleaning the tables and the stations more or less was free labor for the restaurant. Not cool, especially after you worked a double and wanted to get home.

7. Tip your waiters & waitresses, please.

Like I said, servers work for tips. Please give your servers 20% of the bill. If you really have a bad experience with your server, then use your judgment, but please be considerate. It is their living.

8. Money-making.

I drained my bank account so I could live and work in New Orleans with Lowernine.org during November 2011. Therefore, in order to fund my next adventure, the journey west, I needed to save some money. Seeing as how I was seeking a very temporary position, my options were very limited. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work for Big Daddy’s, but I often found myself incredibly depressed after work. After speaking with my sister I realized my problem. I can not work solely for the acquisition of money. It is awful to work without your passion involved, and working primarily for money without a grander goal in mind made me feel like a huge sellout. Ew.

9. One portion per meal, please.

I witnessed just how unhealthily people eat. One mother allowed her already obese son to order 2 hot dogs, a cheeseburger, a side of tater tots, and to top it off, a vanilla milkshake. That kid’s health can’t be good, and his mother certainly wasn’t helping the cause.

10. There are selfish and beautiful people in the world.

I encountered a server who lied about her net sales for the day so she could tip out the bussers and runners less money. Obviously this is totally rude and amoral, especially since the bussers and runners work just as hard as the servers.  On the same token, however, most of my co-workers were amazing people. As I was first learning Micros, the computer system to place orders, I was a fumbling idiot. Quite a few servers took time and practiced patience to show me how to use the system as well as save me from many potentially devastating mistakes. Thank you. Just another lesson about the contrasts in the world.
I gave my notice to Big Daddy’s and this was my last week on the job. I learned a lot and gained a totally new perspective on the food industry and life as a server. It wasn’t the right fit for me, and I am on to the next experience. To all the servers out there, I respect you so much. The twigster, however, has thrown in her apron.
The twigster,
Josephine

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