Sharing My Peace Corps Experience

Last night, I had the fantastic opportunity to share my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer with students at the University of Oregon by participating in a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) Panel Discussion!

a. tanya, me, and babycya copy

Serving in PC Ukraine from 2005-2007 was amazing, largely because I was able to be part of the amazing Kytsiuk family. In this pic, I was making Pelmeni with Aunt Tanya and Baba Masha. 

It was great. I was able to share very briefly about my experience in Ukraine and answer questions students had about living abroad and experiencing life as Peace Corps Volunteers.

Here’s my general takeaway and advice for anyone considering serving in the Peace Corps.

  1. Do it. If you have an inkling that you want to do it or if it seems like it’s something you would do – Do it. You could do many different things – go straight to grad school, get married, start a family, begin a dream job in Washington DC, but I need to be honest with you – the two years you spend in Peace Corps will impact your life in a way and challenge you as a person in a way unlike anything else. Try it. If you’re willing.
  2. Take something quirky with you to keep your head on straight. Peace Corps can be lonely and can really challenge one’s sense of identity. I recommend you to take one material item that has some meaning to you. I took a ViewMaster with me to Peace Corps Ukraine. I had several sets of the Viewmaster films that my sister would send to me every few months. That Viewmaster kept me entertained when I was tired of rereading the books on my shelf and needed a break from reality.
  3. Don’t be so picky about where you go or what you want to do. The beauty of Peace Corps is that you have a chance to go to a place that needs your help and expertise AND – they are ready to share their culture and community with you! So try it. Trust the Peace Corps placement people – I think they’ll do a great job placing you!
  4. Be okay with missing out what’s going on in the U.S. There are many sections of pop culture and modern history that I missed out during my Peace Corps experience. And I missed changes in my friends’ and familiy’s lives – that’s okay. Be okay with being absent. Be okay with having a different direction in your life. And be okay with coming back to changes to your world in the U.S. after two years.
  5. Journal and take photos. Give yourself a chance to document your experience and keep those memories. When you come back to the U.S., you will have so many opportunities to work on the Third Goal of Peace Corps, sharing your experience. So make sure you’ve gathered enough material. And be at the ready to share it when you get a chance.

I would not be who I am today without my two Peace Corps experiences. I am so proud of what this organization provided for me, the people I met and loved along the way, and the many things I learned both in Ukraine and upon returning to the U.S. So truly, if you’re considering joining the Peace Corps, do it.




My Crush on Aaron Burr

Ever since I first listened to the Hamilton Soundtrack over a year ago, I have been struggling with a very serious issue. After listening to every rhyme and every lyric of every song, I have completely become attached to Aaron Burr. I know! This is appalling! He’s a menace! He has no morals and changes his opinions to fit fall fashion. But he’s also incredibly sensitive and sweet and charming… or so I think. (It could be that I find Leslie Odom, Jr. to be the most attractive cast member, but that’s another issue.)


The Hamilton Soundtrack is a full win, every time. 

What I like about Aaron Burr’s character is that he’s so relatable. He’s like so many people I know: students studying majors they hate in order to please their parents, sisters adhering to their husband’s desires and wishes for their homes and careers, neighbors working jobs they don’t believe in to pay for their rent and transportation costs, and advisors like me enforcing regulations that were created to restrict learners from experiencing higher education in the US as fully as it should be. Aaron Burr was human. And humans have faults and struggles that make them… people. 

And people are flawed.

Despite what the hero, Mr. Alexander Hamilton thought of himself, he was also flawed. I think of Hamilton as that guy in meetings that you hate seeing. He’s the guy who makes you feel like your work isn’t enough, that you haven’t done your part to make the world a better place. He’s the one who would want exchange change immediately and wouldn’t learn a thing about the way things work. Hamilton could easily be me when I get on my high horse on occasion. And no one likes me on my soapbox. Or anyone on a soapbox for that matter; it’s unattractive.

So… to put this in perspective, I’ve come to the following conclusion: to be a reasonable candidate in the dating world, one needs to become a politician like Aaron Burr. Correct? Or am I way off? Dating is all about being relatable. Am I right or am I right?

Tata for now!


That Time We Got Lost On The Way to Canada

My parents and I are seasoned travelers. We’ve traveled Western and Eastern Europe together, gone on roadtrips to Washington, hot spots in Oregon, and even Disney adventures to California and Florida. This weekend was to be the first time the three of us traveled up north to our neighbors in Canada. Only… it has taken us 22 of the projected 8 hours of travel and adventure and we still haven’t made it across the border. Here’s what happened.

Around the time we passed Seattle in I-5, my mom asked me to look up the route to Anacortes. “That’s where we’ll catch the Ferry to Victoria,” she said.

I looked up the route.

“We need to travel to Friday Harbor,” she said while driving.

“Do we have to take another ferry from there?” I asked.

“No. We go to Friday Harbor,” she said.

I looked at the map on my phone, sure that there was more to the route.

“After we get there,” she said, “there will be bridges.”

That makes sense, I thought. Because between Friday Harbor and Victoria, there was definitely a bunch of water.

I didn’t question her too much. You see, my mom is a smart cookie. She spent a good chunk of her formative years in Washington state so by default, I see her as a complete expert on all roads and things related to this wonderful state.

But she didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

After we first checked in to the Ferry line at about 6:00 PM, we ended up getting a reservation on the 10:30 Ferry. So… we got out of line and went into Anacortes to spend time in the city – eating dinner and playing a card game our family holds dear.


From Instagram: “When you realize at 11:33 PM on a ferry… in the middle of Puget Sound… that you are lost on your way to Canada. Yes, my passport might work, but my mom’s navigational skills are slightly challenged. Glad Pa Bunn is asleep right now. #ShouldaGrabbedMyRoadAtlas #RoadTrippingItToCanada #TravelWithTheRents #Travel

At about 11:35, when we were on the Ferry on the way to Friday Harbor, my mom came up to me and said, “Rece, I think we’re on the wrong Ferry. This doesn’t go to Canada.”

“There’s not a bridge that goes over to Victoria?” I asked.

“Nope,” she said, as her eyes continued to soak in the shock.

“Canada is avoiding us!” I said. “Like the guys on Bumble.”

And we both laughed.

My dad woke up out of his mini sleep and I had to tell him the news. He thought it was a joke. Nope. We’re really still going to be in Washington State tonight.

Then I brought up the first ferry line we had gone through– “When we passed the lady our passports, she sort of laughed us off and said we wouldn’t need those.” I just assumed that the word, “Yet” was the natural ending to that sentence.

My parents both shook their heads.

“We didn’t plan well on this trip,” I started to laugh hysterically. “It’s like when a group of four-year olds sneak into their parent’s car and pretend to be ready to drive to Canada.”

Really. That’s what yesterday was like. We were a small gaggle of children taking off on an adventure without a proper map, the critical thinking skills to question our intuition, and a bag of Halloween Oreos; clearly, the perfect combination for an amazing adventure.

Tata for now.


Adult Friendships with the ‘Rents

I’m friends with my parents. It’s unlike many of the other friendships I’ve formed recently such as when I’ve forced co-workers into friendship through humor and stimulating conversations. And it’s different than the friendships I’ve had since high school when we became friends because of our love for coffee shops to order Italian sodas after school.

This friendship with my parents has developed through travels, both domestic and abroad, and from the various times I lived with them as an adult as I figured out my next life step.

I haven’t lived with my parents in over four years, but I do still travel with them, visit them at their house for a weekend every now and again, and attend Oregon Ducks football games with them. Essentially, we like to hang out now and again.

But today, my parents are exercising their squatters’ rights at my apartment. What am I talking about? Well, my parents came to stay with me Friday night before the Ducks game on Saturday. Then had planned to go home after the game, but my dad was tired so they decided to stay a second night. When my mom realized that an NFL game was on this morning, they decided to stay a bit longer. I find it hilarious. My TV is a 13-inch VCR/TV combo that I bought back in 2001. It’s a crap television, but I have cable. My parent’s don’t have cable so watching NFL football real-time on my 13-inch TV is absolute heaven.

When they started joking with me about them overstaying their welcome, I laughed. I really don’t mind as long as they respect my decision to blog and write letters while they watch Marcus Mariotta and company take on the Oakland Raiders. (I’m not really a football fan; I attend Ducks games entirely for the social aspect.)

I think it’s fun to be friends with my parents. It changes the dynamics of what we’re able to do and how I can spend my time with them that likely differs greatly from how my siblings interact with them.

One of my prouder moments of our friendship also came this morning when my dad and I talked about women’s equality. He told me that our conversations in the past year about women’s equality have made him notice things differently. He noted that movies from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to films made in the 1990s depict female characters in small, traditional roles of secretary, mother, etc. and that there were no strong, female leads in films he has seen. My immediate thought: Duh, Daddy. It’s relatively recent that female actors are in key roles in film. But – as Tina Fey joked in her sheet cake skit on an edition of this summer’s SNL Weekend Update – people won’t show up for those powerful films with strong female leads. It’s frustrating. And yet honestly, I am incredibly grateful that my dad is starting to notice this and that he finds it weird. His friendship with me alone should show him that sassy and strong female characters make any story, travel, and adventure more interesting.

I enjoy being friends with my parents. Despite the fact that I disagree with their politics, I find them quite wonderful people. And I appreciate having an adult friendship with folks who are the very reason I was brought into this world. It’s kind of cool.

And honestly, if they want to exercise their squatters’ rights in my apartment any given Sunday, I’ll just learn to make due and enjoy it.

Tata for now.


Long-Term Relationships and Beards

I didn’t realize that men with beards were better for long-term relationships. Clearly, they have longer-term commitments to their facial hair and food scrapings therein, but whether their beard would affect how long they could be in a relationship with me never crossed my mind… until today.

This morning I learned that researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia did a study with 8,520 women to see how men were rated based on attractiveness. Men with full-beards were rated as the best for long-term relationships.

I guess this might be accurate. I mean, at this point, both of my sisters are married to men with full beards and they are in long-term relationships so… that’s enough proof, right?

While this article has taught me a bit about us women’s perception of what men will bring us relationship-wise. I don’t know how accurate or real this may be. Does perception ever equal reality? Don’t some men grow long beards simply because they know women are starting to think this brings stability? And how damaging is it to those of us women who might actually really believe beards equal long-term commitment when guys read this and start growing out their facial hair to get more action?

Though I appreciate the effort the researchers at the University put into this study, I think it might be a load of B.S.

Until next time,


Why is DACA under fire? Simple answer: White Supremacy

I’m fed up with President Trump and the leeches he has working for him in his cabinet and at the White House. Not only has the narcissist continually made a mockery out of our country, but today, his administration solidified their White Supremacist ideals by calling an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Is it fair to call them White Supremacists? Yes, it is. Could you imagine if the Native Americans had stood up to the white folks and told them that they needed to leave the country that was becoming home? And why aren’t we talking about this on a day like today? This call to “rescind” DACA is clothed in white sheets of bigotry and hate.

Honestly, I’m fed up with our inability to create diverse communities here in the U.S. It’s getting out of control. We continue to fight, hate, ignore, and live in fake worlds without real investment in diversity and integration.

The other day, I was talking to my dad. He asked me if things were still segregated in South Africa. He trusts me and values the fact that I know some things about the country I visited a few years ago. I told him that yes, things were still segregated, “similar to here in the U.S.,” I said. His eyes shot up. He shook his head slightly, confused. And I told him how segregated we are in the U.S., how Portland, Oregon continues to be less and less diverse as people of color move out of the central part of the city. I spoke of the areas in Corvallis and even here where I live in Eugene. My dad was appalled. How could this be the reality in the year 2017? White Supremacy! We White folk continue to luxuriate in our power and dominance. It’s pretty gross, quite frankly, and it needs to stop.

When I think of what we can do to change this, I think of today. We can do so many things this very day to stand up to hate and challenge whiteness and White Supremacy. Today wasn’t a fair day. The Dreamers given hope with DACA should not be threatened today. Without even looking at the economical actions we’ve taken as a nation to force migration to the U.S., just think of the children. Should children be punished and forced to leave their homes for the actions of their parents? (Notice that I didn’t say crime, but rather action? That’s because I have very liberal views on immigration.) I don’t think they should be. In fact, I believe that American should be/must be a haven to anyone who wants to live and abide by the freedoms afforded us in this great country.

With DACA under fire, I fear more young Americans (and yes, they are as American as you and I could we set aside the bureaucracy of paperwork) will have to jump through hurdles like Kevin did when he first left the U.S. as a teenager. While I admire Kevin’s story and journey to the U.S. and to LBCC where he studied as my advisee, I believe people deserve more opportunities and respect than this. I believe every person deserves to reach their full potential and we’ve got to do something to work towards that.

And to be honest, readers, the way to achieve this is to challenge White Supremacy, call out our horrendous president, and work towards building a better land of freedom and democracy for all.

American Fairy Tales

“Everything will out alright in the end. And if it isn’t alright, clearly it isn’t the end.” (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, John Lennon, or perhaps Paolo Coelho)

Since early childhood, I have been anxious about the ending of stories. Would there be a foot-popping kiss? Would the princess still be able to travel after the wedding? This led me to be one of those inappropriate readers; I would often go to the back of the book to ensure that the characters were left on solid footing before I would truly dive into the literature. This, of course, did not happen with the Great Gatsby – I wonder if I would have finished the book had I done this back then.

Needless to say, I managed my anxiety by ensuring that stories had appropriate endings before I would invest in them.

As I’ve gotten older, this has changed a bit. Life has taught me that things don’t always end up the way you had expected or planned. If they had, I’d probably be married with children. Or perhaps, I would still be living abroad, taking pictures for National Geographic. Instead, I am here sitting at home in workout clothes, sweating while writing this (I don’t just sweat incessantly, it’s actually hot outside these days).

Along with my own life not turning out the way I had imagined, I’ve started to realize how unpredictable good movies and books can be. It has been a while since I invested in a truly predictable book, but I used to do it a lot. I always knew that the couple would end up together and that I could read about the wedding dress and flower arrangements. Fast forward to today when I went to a movie that I had only heard about once. I watched the preview earlier this afternoon and decided to actually get up off my couch to go watch it.

The movie was called Tulip Fever. It’s a film set in 16th Century Amsterdam when the tulip trade was pretty intense. But the film really wasn’t about tulips. Rather, it was about love, lust, passion, and longing. As I sat in the theater, watching the tale unfold, I really didn’t know how it was going to end. Would there be happiness or death? The funny thing is that I believed either option would be good for the characters. I’m not going to spoil it, but telling you how the film ended, but rather let you know that it’s worth the watch. It’s worth the agony, the frustration, and the worry. Movies, like life, don’t need American fairy tale endings. In fact, aren’t they more interesting when they keep you on your toes a bit?

That’s it for now. May your day have an above par ending as you close out this long weekend.