Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Top 10 Coffeehouses in Nashville

Looking for a job is frustrating work. Finding the positions, writing cover letters, formatting resumes, and starting over again… Since I have been doing this a while, and I can’t seem to be productive in my house, I have decided to frequent all the best coffeehouses Nashville has to offer. And rate them.

Note: A coffeehouse is, in my opinion, any place that sells coffee and espresso, and offers free WiFi. And my current drink is iced coffee with some almond milk (Yea, I’m one of those people…).  So I have ordered this drink at each of these coffeehouses.

Note  #2: What is a coffeehouse? Local art on the walls, chalkboard with info about coffee, tables, comfy chairs, organic local brewed coffee for sale, and all the other things that quantify a coffeehouse.

Top 10 Coffeehouses in Nashville

10. Star Bagel. Sylvan Park. No WiFi, which is a dealbreaker. But the coffee and bagels are delicious, and walking distance from my house! 

9. Fido. Hillsboro Village. Best Food Another very popular choice. This place is huge, with a lot of options for eating. They turn off the WiFi when it starts to get crowded, to get the people like me (freeloaders who want to get work done) to leave.

8. Frothy Monkey 12 South. Popular. Tried to go there this morning, and it’s closed for renovations. Still a nice place that can get really crowded.

7. Portland Brew. 12 South. Quiet, even on a Saturday morning.

6. JJ’s Market. Vandy. Quietest Delicious coffee. Beer on tap. Wish I had this when I went to college. Not many outlets.

5. CREMA. Downtown. Best View Looking out from the window, I can see the Korean Vet Bridge, Titans Stadium (LP Field?), some buildings from downtown, and a beautifully view of East Nashville. Clientele: Young people. With occasional business people.

4. Bongo Java: Belmont. Beautiful seating area outside. They don’t have almond milk. Serve their own roasted coffee. Delicious coffee and food. 

3. Provence. Hillsboro Village. Quiet. More of a restaurant than a coffee shop. Fast WiFi.

2. Ugly Mugs. East Nashville. A lot of parking. Great seating, including outdoor!

1. Dose. Sylvan Park/West End. Delicious coffee, with more of a utilitarian space, versus comfy. I am bias since it’s about a mile and a half from my house. Continually good service. Delicious breakfast sandwiches.

This little experience has been a way to distract my mind from the stressors of applying for jobs. Yay for tiny distractions.  Enjoy the cafĂ©! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012


As I sit on my balcony, looking on out Santa Maria Vistitacion, drinking my coffee, I think about how much things have been changing. So many people have left from my training class, and 2 of my good friends from Youth in Development have left in the past 2 months.  It has really made me look at my own service, and wonder, am I happy being here?

This is not a new topic. Being in the Peace Corps, I have had many moments of loneliness and frustration, where I just want to get the hell out of this country. But those feelings pass, and I go on living my life in Guatemala.

Recently, I have been pondering if I genuinely would be happier if I was in The States. And the general conclusion, I have come to is NO. I have a life here. Some of the main reasons I thought I would be happier in The States, were about conveniences. Easily driving to Publix, and picking up some chives, if I want. Not being held down by public transportation, and the lack of transportation that I am allowed to use as Peace Corps volunteer. And the food. Sushi, Thai, Bam’s steak and biscuits, fruit tea, bagels, Greek salad, good sandwiches, and list could continue for this whole page. Besides my family and friends, convenience, and food, there is nothing in The States that is waiting for me.

I have developed a family here. My friends are my Guatemalan family. People have really bonded with their host families, and while I am decently close with my host family from Sumpango, my Peace Corps friends are my best friends/family here. If they weren’t here, I would have left last year. I have a decent work schedule, with plenty of free time, which is something I will never again have. I just put on two Career Fairs for my students, and while the paperwork for funding was/is annoying; I think it was worth it. I have recently been given a larger role regarding the future of my project (Youth in Development), involving planning, monitoring, and evaluation. Program evaluation is what I want to do when I return to the States, and this is a great opportunity to have fun doing some evaluation (I can be quite a nerd).

However, I can’t depend on Guatemalans as a whole. I realize this is a generalization, but in Santa Clara, the people who I work with are generally good. But most of the legwork has to be done by me. I can’t depend on them to arrive somewhat on time, do a correct budget, or make a plan that isn’t full of problems. These are some of the frustrations that I have working with the people. No one has ever said development is easy. But this is part of it. Some of these problems are influenced by the culture, while others are just skills they don’t have. One of the many reasons I am here is to model for my teachers/directors about when to arrive to a meeting. Or to give them trainings on how to do a budget or write up a plan. In development, we must celebrate the little changes. So, I only want small, tiny changes.

I will return to the States in July/August 2013, and I will feel glad of all that I accomplished while I was here. Even if that accomplishment is just being present in my community and modeling good behavior, or modeling what an American is.

I will be happy to return, but for the moment I am happy to be here. I will never have this type of opportunity again, and it has been such a great experience for me. And I am looking forward to the great moments and grand frustrations within the next 9 months.

Paz y Amor

Thursday, March 29, 2012

People-Watching and Me

Staring. People looking. Passing your day in a lovely way. Call it what you want, but it’s still staring/looking at another person and wanting to understand their life or who they are. What are their daily frustrations, joys, etc? What has that person, I am looking at, done today? And how was it different than my day? Would this person have gone about my day or my life differently?
This is what I think people are accomplishing when we people watch. I am guilty of doing it. However, in my life have always been a person who was against it. I don’t like being looked at my people I do not know. No not looked, stared at. Perhaps it’s my nervousness that they are judging me, stemming from middle school or high school. Or it is part of me questioning myself. Whatever it is, I have never been a huge fan. My sister and mom like to go to an activity called “people-watching”, and I have always been adamantly against it. 
This activity has been quadrupled, or more, here in Guatemala. I get stared at each and every day. And I don’t mean a passing glance. I mean a full-on mouth open, eyes-wide stare, for about 20 seconds. Then there are the people who stare, and after I pass them, they start to laugh. This usually involves them saying something unintelligible, in Kiche, which is a language in which I can speak about eight words. The fact that they are speaking in Kiche, makes it worse for my judgement. I have no clue if they are saying something about me or not. Since they were staring, I always assume that they are saying something about me, to try and test myself and tell myself it doesn't matter, which it doesn't. 
It is even worse when I go to my aldeas. I get children coming up to me, one foot from me, and just staring at me. Not staring a word, just eyes-wide staring. I do understand why they are staring. They don’t see too many people with my skin color, and these children usually don’t have a chance to interact with these people. And with my skin color and the fact that I speak English, it is assumed that I have large amounts of money, which leads to more staring, or the dreaded hand-out plead for money. “Quetzal?, Quetzal?, Quetzal?”
The point is that I am still not used to being looked at. But I do think that because the staring is rather extreme here, when I return to the States, I should be able to handle the “people-watching” activity that my mom loves. I also think by being here, I understand the want for that activity a little more. Wanting to understand that person and their life. How did they get here? And in the case of the people here, “Why is she here?” It’s just one of my anxieties that are amplified here, but I know when I return I will be a more confident and self-assured person than I was before I came.
Paz y Amor

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Boring and Exciting is my life

It has been three months since my last blog update. Again, I am such a procrastinator or I do not think that what is currently happening in my life is worthy of an update. I live a pretty normal, boring life. Well as normal as you can be as a Peace Corps volunteer living in Guatemala. Since my last update, I have moved and am now living in a much bigger place. I now cook all for myself. It makes me realize how much I wish I had a fridge, oven, and microwave. I am also a poor person, so I don't have that much money to buy lots of food. Meat, for example, I don't cook for myself. I don’ cook meat for myself for three reasons:
  1. It’s expensive.
  2. It’s very difficult to buy in a portion for one person, and not cost conscious to do that. 
  3. It is sold just out on slabs. Not refrigerated, at all. Which really doesn’t matter if you cook it correctly, but it still grosses me out. 
Back to what I eat. I eat about 4 eggs a day, with bread. Sometimes I have pasta, beans, or rice. As I have stated before, I live a pretty boring life. I go to school and teach, and I come home and usually watch some television program or movie. 
Then again, it is exciting that I only eat certain kinds of food and work in Guatemalan middle schools. I only have cold showers, which is always a challenge to experience, and its always exciting. It is exciting learning a new language, being Spanish or Kiche, which is the Mayan language Santa Clara speaks. I am challenged every day, whether it be by my students and their lack of discipline, a student raising an interesting point, trying to communicate with older Mayan women, who only speak a little Spanish, or just trying to comprehend the transportation systems of Guatemala (all those camionetas, micros, pick-ups, and tuk-tuks). 

My family came to visit me in Guatemala!! Here we are at my mirador, trash dump, and my favorite place in Guatemala. 
Paz y Amor

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Turkey Day, Christmas, New Years, and a Change

November flew by. I went to the kite festival in Sumpango on the 1st. The kites were huge. I loved being able to hang with my friends, have a couple beers, drench myself in the sun, and look at the huge kites. And watch people attempt to fly them, and some people succeeded in that. Sumpango is where I lived during training, which meant I got to spend some time with my host family, which I absolutely loved. When other people went back to Antigua at the end of the kite festival, I got to go back to the house and have a home cooked meal and great conversation with some awesome Guatemaltecos.

After the festival de las bariletas (kites), I was back in site or about 5 days. Then I headed to Santa Lucia for a sport camp with my YD peeps, and after that reconnect with my training class. It was nice to see everyone’s aces and be back in the Santa Lucia office. It felt like training in that there was a routine, and I was almost never bored. But it was also nice to be a real volunteer because we were able to go to Antigua to have dinner, which was quite lovely. Awesome coffee, Peruvian food, good chocolate, and the amazing falafel, were the highlights of my eating in Antigua.
After reconnect, I went back to site for one night, and the next morning I left for Xela (pronounced “Shela”). I was with three other volunteers (Lucy, Emelye, and Jon), and we were suppose to head to the beach on Monday morning. So we got up early, and all of us were on time and super excited. We caught a micro to the bus terminal. We walked though the market, and arrived to see NOT ONE BUS. We asked a couple of Guatemaltecos what was going on, and they said that there was a bus driver strike, so there wouldn’t be any buses or the rest of the day or until the late afternoon. We were all really bummed, considering that for three of us (including me!), we were only going to be there or 48 hours, which meant we couldn’t go to the beach at all. I didn’t want to wait another day to leave; it takes 6 hours to get there anyway.
So we walked to the Peace Corps office in Xela (super nice, by the way). We laid out our options, and decided the first thing to do was to get breakfast. We had an awesome breakfast at San Martin, and then did some Walmart and MegaPaca shopping! Overall, it was tuning into a nice day. I was trying my best to stay positive, and to make this unfortunate situation an opportunity for awesomeness!
We walked back to the Peace Corps office, and eventually, decided to catch a cab back to our hostel in the central Xela. We walked back to the bus terminal to find our cab, and what to our eyes should appear, but a bus to Coatepeque. This was exactly the bus we needed in the morning! We hopped and skipped to the bus, and boarded! The ride was about 2.5 hours. During the ride, Lucy and I played an awesome game of “Name that Country”.
Lancha on the way to the beach!


We arrived in Coatepeque, and the heat was overwhelming. I could already tell I was going to love this trip, as I was sweating like something that sweats a lot (can’t think of an appropriate metaphor). We got on a shuttle or Tilapita. It was and hour and a half ride, and we arrived at this tiny little town. It didn’t look like much. We were instructed to get on a lancha (boat) in order for us to go to the beach. So we got on a lancha, and took the river to a peninsula. During our ride, we saw a beach pig, a peaking view of the beach, and beautiful mangroves. There were beautiful trees, and I would guess that 100 pelicans were hanging out in those trees. It was just a magical sight to see.
Island covered in sand!
We arrived at more beach. We got out of the lancha, and stepped onto beautiful sand. I immediately took off my shoes, and was so happy to walk barefoot in sand. This peninsula/island that we were on was completely covered in sand! No concrete or stone in sight! We walked until we found our friends Janece and Riley. We walked to our crappy hotel, and set our things in our rooms. I then immediately walked to the beach to see an amazing sunset. It was one of the most amazing sunsets I had ever seen in my lie. It was just an amazing experience, with all that stress of getting to the beach, and we made it just in time to see the amazing sunset.
Sunset at the beach
We spent the next night/day at the beach, swimming in the rough ocean, looking at the stars on the beach, swimming in the pool, drinking beer, and having amazing seafood. I awoke on Wednesday, spent some time in the ocean, and hit the road. Jon and I were making our way to Nebaj, Quiche for Thanksgiving. It was a very long trip. Eight hours the first day, and six hours the second day. After a very long trip, we arrived to a totally different part of Guatemala and met our friend Gina. We arrived and had our own Thanksgiving meal, as we had arrived a little to late to eat with everyone else. As we started the main course, everyone else was starting their dessert. I wanted to document everything, but was too delicious to take a picture. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, broccoli, cauliflower, avocado, and an amazing salad. And to top it off, there was wine and pumpkin pie. Yay!
We all spent the next day at a cheese farm near Nebaj. It was nice just to sit in grass and have some wine and cheese. I left the next day to head back to Santa Clara. It was such an amazing trip, and a great tour of Guatemala.

The rest of November and December was spent in a movie and television haze. Since schools ended in November, I was on a summer break of sorts. I had fun times with my friends in Solola and Xela. I ended up going to San Lorenzo, San Marcos to celebrate Christmas with Jacob, Emelye, and Tina. We watched Christmas movies, ate really well, and set off fireworks at midnight on Christmas Eve (which is a Guatemalan tradition). We woke up on Christmas morning to gifts from Santa (Jacob). Santa was so happy with his little snacks of marshmallows and whiskey that he decided to gift us.

Myself, Ashley, Kim, Linnea, and Gina in Solola
On Christmas Day, I got to Skype with my family who were spending Christmas, like every year, in Marietta, GA. I spent an hour and a half Skyping with them. I got to see all of them open their gifts I sent them from Guatemala. I got to see Mom, Hannie, Bam, MA, Aunt Shar, Aunt Sands, Ben, and Chuck! I love my family. Chuck even played a special Christmas song on the piano for me, live via Skype. This was my first Christmas without them, and it definitely wasn’t the same. It was different. I am so glad I spent it with friends; I don’t think I could have handled myself if I spent it with Guatemalans.
That week, I ended up being told that I need to leave my house, because of circumstances outside of my control. It was a stressful and awkward week with my host family. The day after I got back from New Years, I moved into my new house! I am so excited! It is two rooms, with two balconies, and my own bathroom. I know that I am going to be so much happier with more space and a little more privacy.
riley, me, and jon celebrating New Years in Antigua!
Speaking of New Years, it was spent in Antigua with some great friends! We had great food and good times! On New Years Eve, we stayed up till 6AM hanging out. I felt like such a rebel doing that, since I don’t think I have ever stayed up past 4, when it didn’t involve writing a paper or studying.
As I was leaving Antigua, I was running errands around the city. While I was walking around, I lost my wallet. Only I would be in a city that is known for theft, and I LOSE my wallet. I had to cancel my cards, and borrow money. It was a big stressor, and an unfortunate end to a great weekend. But it’s just a wallet; I wasn’t hurt, so really it’s not that big of a deal. 
School starts next week; I could not be more excited. My movie and television haze has developed into a big case of the boredom. I am so excited to finally be able to feel that I am contributing to the success of the people of Santa Clara.

Paz y Amo