About two months ago, I found out that the youth program at my church back home in New Jersey, Central Presbyterian Church, raised $1600 for the Network of Libraries that I'm working to establish here in Nicaragua. I couldn't have been more thrilled that youth so many miles away (and the incredibly hard-working adults that made this happen of course) were able to raise the money to support community-owned lending libraries here in Nicaragua. Through my mom's Spanish-teaching resources, the money was used to buy books in Spanish, and each kid who participated got to choose a book and put a dedication sticker with their name inside. The real question became how to actually get all these books down to Nicaragua. While I've found the postal service to be mostly reliable here, it would have been a great loss for the books not to arrived.
Claire and Kim, the two amazing women who organized the entire project, threw out the idea of me flying home for Mother's Day weekend and bringing the books back, because the children were doing a special service that day and could present the books to me (with the added bonus that I could surprise my mother!). My dad stepped in with the purchase of the ticket and last Thursday, I got on a plane at 7am, and my brother and sister picked me up from Newark airport that night. My mom was having a meeting at a local restaurant and my whole family entered the restaurant, me last. My mom was a little confused and then completely shocked to see me. The brilliant part is that my dad caught it all on his little video camera.
Being back in NJ felt remarkably normal, which sort of surprised me. I hadn't actually been in the United States in 8 months, and I think in some ways I expected the place to change as much as I feel changed by my experience here. Relaxing, stress-free, lots of great eating (Indian, Thai, Japanese...mmm I love different types of Asian food and it's hard to find here!). Plus, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. I could actually wear jeans without sweating during the day and slept with blankets at night. Riquisimo. I don't think I'm a tropical-year-round-type-of-gal, although who knows what I'll be saying come next winter in Seattle with gray skies and constant rain (or so I've heard).
Speaking of which, I will be in Seattle starting in July and already have an apartment! Check out pictures here. It's in downtown Seattle and the apartment building has a Whole Foods, Bank of America, Starbucks, and an 18-seat movie theater that can be reserved. Next step: finding a job.