This is Marvin

My photo
Harichaur, Baglung, Nepal
Let's see, I'm currently 23 years old and I'm from Los Angeles, CA. I studied Latin American Studies at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), woot woot class of 2012!!! I let optimism and hope lead my way and I love it! I'm also currently a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Nepal as a health volunteer for the next 27 months, so I'm super excited for the next adventures awaiting to come!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Winter Wonderland in Thailand and My 2014 Game Plan

Thailand is a Tropical Paradise

Happy New Year! I was very fortunate to have had the chance to spend Christmas and New Years with a wonderful group of friends in an awesome country such as Thailand. This is my second Christmas and New Year where I’m away from home as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), but I am excited to announce that this will be my last. 2014 here I come!

Anyways, I wanted to share my adventures in Thailand with you and encourage everyone who reads this to make plans to go to Thailand in the near future.

I can’t even begin to describe Thailand because I had so many great experiences therefore, it’s hard to put them on paper.

After serving in Nepal for over 16 months, a group of my favorite PCVs and I decided that we wanted to take a vacation and explore a different part of Asia and luckily I convinced them to go to Thailand. The group was comprised of my friends Alejandro, Nate, Alejandro’s sister Ana, Ethan and Ethan’s girlfriend Tara. We decided to take 20 days of vacation and I do have to say that I was a bit overwhelmed by amount of time we were taking off. I never had such a long vacation and I was pretty worried about the money. Thankfully, my mom and dad were very generous this year and gave me a good Christmas present! We got our plane ticket back in July so we were scheduled to be in Thailand from December 16th through January 3rd.

Time flies and next thing we know were on Royal Nepal Airlines and off to Bangkok. The flight was very quick as it only took about two hours and a half. If you’re in Nepal and you’re on a budget then take Royal Nepal Airlines! CHEAP!

I’ll divide my trip based on the locations that we visited and I’ll do my best to summarize everything.


So the plane is delayed and I arrive in Bangkok in the afternoon. Coming to Nepal I actually had a layover in Bangkok so I remember the being there, but this time around I felt as this airport was new to me. I was amazed to see how developed this airport was! This is embarrassing, but I was so excited to see a water fountain where I took my sweet time drinking its cold water.

Once in Bangkok we had to find our way off to our friend’s house. Now a couple of months before leaving a guy named Justin contacted me and offered to let us crash in his and his boyfriend’s (Marlo) house. I posted a comment on the Peace Corps couchserf Facebook page and I am so thankful that Justin hit me up. It’s crazy because Justin was a PCV in the Philippines and he actually worked with my current boss, small world!

Now after I checked out of the airport and grabbed my bag I had to beg someone to let me use their computer because I needed to get the directions for Justin’s house. It was such a breeze to get to his house thanks to Justin’s specific directions and Thailand’s great public transportation system!

I stayed in Bangkok for about four days because we had to wait for Alejandro’s sister who was on her way from Miami.

Let me say that Bangkok is such a cool city! I never knew that it was that ginormous and developed. The streets are so clean, there is street food everywhere and malls on each corner. My favorite part of Bangkok was the fashion and style that the youth have. Boys and girls are so well kept with their clean-cut looks, tiny bodies, flawless skin and appealing fashion statement. At many points throughout Bangkok I felt that I was underdressed for walking around the streets. Oh and everyone is always on their smartphone. I love how creative Thai people can get when it comes to choosing a case for their IPhones.

On had a day to roam around the city so the boys and I went to Wat Po and Wat Arun where we saw so many cool temples. We also saw this huge Buddha statue that they call the “Sleeping Buddha”. The temples are so pretty and decorated with so much colorful and shiny detail. We crossed the river to see more temples and we got a delicious ice coffee. One thing about Thailand is that Thais do love their coffee because you can find a coffee stand basically everywhere.  God knows how many iced coffee I drank throughout the trip.

One night Justin and Marlo took us to this place called Wine Connection, a restaurant where they specialize in wine, and fine dining (I think). The cool thing about this specific trip was that it was on Wednesday, which means unlimited wine and appetizers for four hours! They had rose, white and red wine. You pay your fee and you get one glass of wine and once you’re done you can go get another one. I’ve never drank so much wine in my life. Wine Connection is like a hidden jewel because only foreigners who actually live in Bangkok go to Wednesday’s Wine Connection. Tourists do not about this place so it was cool to meet a lot of people who are doing real work in Bangkok.

We met a really cool group who were getting ready to go dancing so the boys and I decide to tag along. Before the club they decided to go to one of Thailand’s infamous “Ping Pong” shows and let me say that it definitely was an experience. After trying to come to terms with what I just saw, we finally arrived at this place called Levels somewhere in Bangkok. Unfortunately, they didn’t let Nate in because he was wearing shorts and flip-flops so he storms out and goes back home. Alejandro and I stay because we were wearing jeans and closed toe shoes. Levels is a really cool place because they have cover artist playing throughout the night. They have a special if you’re in a group of five they’ll give you a free bottle. I would say that my first club experience in Bangkok was great!

After spending a great time in Bangkok with Justin and Marlo it was time for us to move on with our travel plans. We go back to the airport and pick up Ana and we headed off towards our next adventure. It’s crazy because I was talking to Ana prior to this trip and we became really good friends over Facebook. I was so excited to meet her, but tell me why the first thing that I tell her is that she looks like Kristen Stewart. I’m surprised she didn’t slap me, but after seeing how she didn’t kill me I knew that we were going to get along. I have a weird sense of humor towards my friends.

Ana didn’t know what we had in store for her. Poor thing just got off a 33 hour flight and next thing she knows is that she’s about to embark on a 13 hour train ride. We arrived at the train station and I was freaking out because we hadn’t gotten the tickets just yet. This lady almost tricked us by making us go through an agency, which means that it would have been way more expensive! Luckily we were able to get the sleeper cars for the train even though it was leaving at 3pm therefore we were going to arrive in Surathani at 3am. The train finally came and I had one of the employees transform my seat into a bed and next thing you know I slept for the entire 13-hour ride.


It’s about 4am and I arrive at Surathani with the gang. Thankfully Thailand doesn’t get that cold in the early hours of the morning. We find a little restaurant and get breakfast around 5am where we find out that we have a 5-hour bus ride to take at 7am. I looked at Ana and I could tell that she was ready to punch us all in the throat. The bus comes and again I sleep the entire way.

Let’s see, Phuket is a very interesting place. We stayed at Balcony Hostel on Patong Beach. The hostel was really nice. It had hot water and the accommodations were great and we were lucky to have our own room because we were a party of four. The wifi was super fast and the staff was so chill.

Walking around Phuket
Once we put our stuff down, the first thing we do is head out towards the beach. We stop by at a local 7/11 and get some beers on the way. I come from Los Angeles where the beach is a thirty-minute ride away, but I never really realized how much I missed seeing the ocean and how calming it is. I mean there were tourist crawling all over the beach, but it was great to put my feet in the water and watch the sunset!

Ethan and Tara met up with us in Phuket and it was really great to see them! Throughout our time in Phuket we did plenty of things. We spent most of the time lying on the beach where I was making sure that I got that caramel gloss that I love. We went around around to other beaches, ate tons of street food and met great people.  I even gathered up the courage to ride a yet ski with Alejandro! Talk about adrenalin. This is where I found my new best friend, Mr. Mai Tai. A Mai Tai is this cocktail made in heaven where you can’t taste the alcohol but you can definitely feel afterwards.

One of the main reasons that we wanted to go to Phuket was to see the famous Koh Phi Phi islands. We took a day trip to this island and I fell in love with it. I’ve never seen beaches so clear and sand so white. Unfortunately, we decided to do a day trip where we really should have stayed for about two or three days. I would definitely call Koh Phi Phi an island paradise!

In Patong we were very lucky to meet up with Nick, another PCV who was traveling with his family. Nick’s mom Martha was very kind and invited us for a Christmas Eve dinner in this very nice and classy hotel. I mean it was really classy! I didn’t know anything about the dress attire and I end up wearing my bright turquoise shirt with my jean shorts and ripped up Toms. I mean most of us looked like real Peace Corps Volunteer except Tara and Ana who got all dolled up. I felt very much underdressed because everyone around us was wearing suites and gowns and what not. Even the staff didn’t look like staff because they looked like they were part of the party. It took a Mai Tai or two to get over my self-consciousness about how I looked.

Looking like real PCVs at a fancy dinner

The dinner was to die for because it was all you can eat buffet status! I had so many pieces of steak! It was also very precious because even though I was away from home, I could feel the Christmas spirit in the air. It was a combination of being around a great group of friends, having a mom present, the Christmas carols playing in the background, having an Asian Santa Clause and receiving a Christmas gift from Martha. After dinner we all go to the beach, light up lanterns and set them off into the starry night. Thank you Martha for making 2013’s Christmas a special one!

Merry Christmas

After a wonderful and special Christmas dinner we all get ready and go DANCING!!! Patong has this street called Bangla Road and OMG it’s a huge street filled with bars and clubs all around! By this time we had made a group of friends back at the hostel and we all decided to meet up and tackle on this street. It was great to hang out with people from all over the world, well mostly Europe. Within this new group of friends there’s Sidney whose from Brazil. So Sidney and I decide to take off to the watch a drag show. It was so cool because the drag show was only performing to Christmas songs seeing how it was about one in the morning. Christmas can’t be Christmas unless you hear “All I Want for Christmas is You” by good old Mariah Carey. I can’t complain about Christmas Eve because it was filled with friends, family, great food, great drinks, dancing and drags!

Christmas with some lovely drags

The next day was hell because we were all exhausted and we had planed to move on towards our next destination on Christmas day.

Koh Phang Nang

Now traveling to Koh Phang Nang was such a pain because at this point we were having internal drama with our group dynamics lol. I mean it was bound to happen, but thankfully the long ride to Koh Phang Nang cleared the air and good thing it did because the main reason we wanted to travel on Christmas Day was to make it in time for the famous Full Moon Party!

We arrive at our reserved bungalows at around 7pm because the cargo ship that we took was moving at a glacial pace. Anyways, I was super excited for these cute little bungalows next to the beach, but next thing you know the owner is beyond wasted and extremely rude so we decide to lose the deposit and find somewhere else to stay. 

It was pitch black and I was worried because I didn’t want to miss the Full Moon Party and I just wanted a place to put my stuff. We tried a couple of places but they were either full or extremely expensive. Thankfully my deer friend Nate found this amazing place called Surana Bungalows!.I mean I felt it in my guy that this was the place to stay because the staff was so kind and they were playing Christmas music in the background. The owner Tong was such a sweet heart and gave us a great deal for two three-bed rooms.  I put my stuff down and take shower and head down to the common area for dinner. I have say that Surana has the best Pad Thai in all of Thailand! Now that I was clean and my tummy was full I was ready for the Full Moon Party. Sadly, Ana was not feeling well so she had to stay in so we gave her some meds, jumped on a taxi and headed out.

The Full Moon Party is something beyond this world! Everyone was painted, wasted and I’m sure many of them were on drugs too. The Full Moon party screams HOT ASS MESS in all directions. People are making out, they’re dancing, drinking buckets of alcohol, peeing in the ocean and playing with fire. I found this table and I basically posted there and danced until about three in the morning. There were so many people around that we were all bound to get lost so we decided that everyone is on their own. After dancing for five hours straight I was beat up. I got some iced coffee and headed home hoping that Alejandro and Nate were going to be okay and it turned out that they were. Full Moon Party…check!

Fierce-ness at the Full Moon Party

Again, we explored the island and again I found another island paradise. The island had such a relaxing feel to it because everyone there was there to hang out and chill. One cool thing that I did in Koh Phang Nnag was to walk to another island. The water was very shallow where it rose up to my waist thus allowing me to cross. I mean besides the Full Moon Party we took it very chill and just explored the island as much as we could. Surana is the place to stay if you want to chill out because their playlist was composed of the chillest music that I’ve ever heard before (I think it was European)!

After making the mistake of not staying in Koh Phi Phi for at least a day we decided to cut short our stay in Koh Phang Nang and go island hoping and post up for at least a day to explore.

Koh Tao

Tell me why the trip to Koh Tao was such a mess. The ferry ride that we took was basically an oversized yet ski that was flying through the ocean and hitting these massive ways making everyone jump off their seats. Thankfully it was only one hour and a half, but for others it was not a fun ride. Poor Ethan threw up the entire way filling up about two huge black plastic bags. Towards the end of the ride I got a bit sea sick, but good thing I didn’t puke my brains out.

At the pear all the taxi drivers were trying to real us into their car by they telling us that everything is booked and they were right because everything was packed. Ana and I decide to post up at this pretty little beach and order some food while we let Alejandro and Nate find a place. Just by chilling in that beach I knew that I was going to like Koh Tao. It definitely had fewer tourists, which was nice for a change. As I watch the sun sink into the ocean a good feeling came across me and I realized how lucky I was to be where I was. What could possibly go wrong?

So Nate and Alejandro return and they’re so excited about the place that they found it. They said it was a bit far, but that it was great. Nate was trying to sell it to me but something was telling me that this was going to be a mess. We get to the bungalows and next thing you know the lady is all screaming at us saying things that I did not understand. I mean the rooms were very affordable and I mean we got what we paid for. I don’t even remember the name of the bungalows, but good thing that we didn’t stay much in them. I didn’t like them at all because they were hella janky and I do admit that I was angry with Nate who happened to be my roommate. I sucked it up and just didn’t pay attention to it even though everyone knew that I was bitching inside. Sorry Nate for being such a Diva!

Well Koa Tao was really nice too! We went around the island, found this cool restaurant where we saw the sunset. We stayed in Koa Tao for about two days and most of the time we posted up in the same beach where we initially arrived. It was a great beach, with good food and wifi so why not. I think it was a private beach that belonged to that resort but we didn’t care and acted like we were staying there. We did go to another private beach and we posted there too, so we could go snorkeling and kayaking. Snorkeling was so much fun but I’m sure it would have been even better if I didn’t have my floating jacket. I can’t swim very well and it was pretty deep so I didn’t want to risk it. Sadly, all of the coral was dead and the water was a tad bit murky, but I did get a chance to see cool little blue fish.

So Alejandro had a little incident at this beach, which he still is blaming me. I was building this sand castle and next thing you know Alejandro grabs some of the sand and throws it at me and of course I do the same. Next thing I see is Alejandro leaning forward with a face filled with pain! This guy went along and hit one of his toe on a piece of coral and his poor toe was bleeding like crazy. Nate goes and gets him a bandage and it was so funny because Alejandro was freaking out for his toe. He was wondering if he had to get surgery. He blames me for the accident, but I didn’t physically go and cut his toe lol.

At night we all went to this fire show where I had one too many Mai Tais in a bucket. The fire show was so awesome! These talented young boys are doing so many tricks with the fire. For example, they have a baton, they spin chains that are on fire, they limbo under a fire bar and even jump fire rope. Thanks to the liquid courage I decided to jump a rope that was lite on fire and surprisingly I did very well. I also walked under the fire limbo. I’m sure I would have done it even if I didn’t have liquid courage flowing through my body. Oh and we also tried laughing gas. I only did it once because I heard that it kills brain cells.

Fire Show

The two days that I spent in Koh Tao were super fun except for the jancky bungalows we stayed in but oh well its part of the experience.

Koh Samui

We had an extra day left around the islands so were off to Koh Samui, the second largest island of Thaialnd! We arrived late into the afternoon and quickly found a taxi to take us to Chewang Beach Raod. I actually reserved a hostel on that road which I was pretty excited for, however earlier on that day I get an email saying that there was a mix up and that they had no rooms available. Consequently, we had to go to the beach and search for the hotel ourselves. This time around it was Alejandro and I that found a hotel because Nate didn’t want to go through the Koh Tao ordeal once again. Basically he didn’t want to see me bitch again, which is totally reasonable.

Chewang Beach Road is pretty crazy because it comprises of this huge street with restaurants left and right. We found out that this road is overly expensive in comparison to any other island that we’ve been too.

Okay so Alejandro and I find a hotel which had three two bedrooms for a reasonable price. I’m all for it, but Alejandro was a bit on the fence. I simply thought that he was being dramatic but he was right. Somehow we ended up staying in a brothel house or a house designed to house prostitutes. Our neighboring rooms where basically the home for all of the girls that worked on the go-go dance clubs surrounding our hotel. Alejandro you were definitely right!

I was going to be there for one night so I wanted to make the most of it. Plus, I found out that one of my Thai friends was going to be on the same island. We all decide to meet up at this place called ArkBar, which was having its usual beach parties. Now I don’t know how to describe this beach party, but according to Alejandro and Nate we basically went to a “Jersey Shore” type of party. I didn’t know what that meant because I’ve never seen the show but I’m assuming it meant “trashy”, which it definitely was. However, the one good thing about the party was that it had really good music. I was dancing the night away per usual and tell me why you could pet an iguana for 100 bhat? What a mess!

I lost the boys and Ana once again so I decide to get some 3am McDonald’s. I have to say that I’ve never been happier to have a plate of artificial food. Those French fries, McChicken and coke was beyond delicious! Good thing Nepal doesn’t have McDonald’s otherwise I would be there all the time.

Classy people in a trashy scene

Chewand Beach Road was one trashy place so we all decided to get out of there as soon as possible! We wake up, pay our fees and simply take the ferry back to Surathani because by this time New Years Eve was the next day and we had to make it back to Bangkok.


I’m so happy that we ended up going back to Bangkok for New Years Eve. I didn’t get enough of it when I was there at the beginning of the trip. Plus by this time I had enough sun because I had that caramel gloss that I was dying for.

We take the 13-hour train ride back up to Bangkok and arrive at 7am. Unfortunately, our hostel doesn’t allow check-ins until 2pm so we had to figure out something to do. Even though check in isn’t until 2pm we still go to our hostel just to bum around and put our stuff down.

Nap Par Hostel on Ko San Raod is a must stay! It’s cheap, the iced coffee is really good, the staff is so sweet, and it’s pretty and around a great location. I hit up Justin and Marlo and thankfully they come to the rescue us by grabbing lunch and showing us around the area.

It’s finally 2pm, we check in, we shower and we get dolled up for our New Years Eve celebration at Justin and Marlo’s! It was great because they cooked us a great New Years Eve dinner. We played this games, dance on their rooftop garden and drank some Mai Tais.

Happy New Year

After we had dinner we all freshen up and get ready to head out to Silom to welcome in the New Year. Silom is the gay capital street in Bangkok and seeing how Justin and Marlo were hosting we decided to tag along. I was so excited to welcome in the New Year with tons of dancing, many Mai Tais in my hands and with a great group of friends. The entrance fee was 300 bhat and you get two free drinks with it. Now you’re suppose to give your ticket for each drink that you get, but every time I went to get a drink I got showed my ticket and left. I mean the bartender knew what I was doing but he smiled at me and let me go. I think I had about four to five drinks for free. Happy New Year!

January 1st was a sad day for all of us because this was the day that Ana had to get back to good old America. Alejandro, Nate and I were suppose to drop her off at the airport and we were suppose to take off to Pattaya but plans changed a bit.

Luckily January 1st fell on Wednesday and you know what that means….Wine Connection! This was the best because my goal was to make sure that Ana got on her plane beyond wasted and thanks to all you can drink wine I made it happen. It’s 8pm and we all head out to the airport and by this time Nick meets up with us because he’s also in Bangkok. We take a taxi and oh my I feel awful for the taxi driver because we were acting a fool. 

Wine Connection

We get to the airport and we head out towards the check in center and good thing there wasn’t any line to make. So we check Ana in and Nate decides to ask for a wheelchair because apparently Ana’s foot was broken. Keep in mind that Ana was gone at this point so she didn’t grasp what was going on. Alejandro and I jump in and support Nate with his idea and we confirm that Ana’s ankle was twisted/broken and the lady was like are you sure and we all said YES with the straightest face that we could make. I turn around and I start laughing uncontrollably because I see a man coming with a wheelchair. He was coming to get Ana! We all get together and take one last group picture and send Ana off on a wheelchair. I mean we had to make sure that she boarded the plane.

Sending Ana off on a wheelchair

We were all suppose to leave on the January 3rd, but our plans were changed once again. The morning of the third we were all getting ready to leave, we packed our bags but we all had this feeling that something was off. Justin is the best because he calls Royal Nepal Airways and he finds out that our plane is not going to come and that we’ll have to leave on Sunday. At first, I was shocked, but after realizing what just happened I got so excited! TWO more days in Thailand! We unpacked and went back to sleep.

Thanks to those two days I got a chance to do a many other pending things around Bangkok.

Yay for Thailand

I went shopping like no other because the clothes in Thailand is dirt cheap and very cute. We saw “Captain Phillips” on IMAX in this very fancy mall. I mean the theater had chandeliers hanging around! I drank my share of expensive Starbucks, which was fabulous! But most importantly, I got a chance to dance more and hang out with my wonderful crew!

Also, I got the chance to see one of my friends from back home, Cristian. He’s currently in the JET program and living in Japan, but it turned out that he was going to be in Thailand during the same time as I was. It was so nice to see a friend from back home. I met his friend Isabel and we immediately got along. The night that we all met, Alejandro and Nate were dead from too much partying so they decided to stay in, but thankfully Cristian and Isabel haven’t partied that much in Bangkok. So we go clubbing and oh my we have a wild night! The next day when we met up they approached me with caution because they knew of the damage that I could inflict. I mean Alejandro told them to not let their guard down when they’re around me. I mean what can I say? If you’re going clubbing with Marvin then you’re absolutely going to have a great time!

Woot Woot L.A

Well two days flew by and it was actually time to leave. We packed our things and had one last meal with Justin and Marlo. Saying goodbye to these two wonderful individuals was awful because they truly made our experience in Thailand that much richer.

My big sister, Justin

We went off the airport and thankfully our flight was labeled on the departure roster. We were going home. There was no line in the check in section and we swiftly went through all customs, I guess not that many people were on their way towards Nepal. Were there on time, but the lady says that the plane has been delayed an hour and we were not surprised. We all had some extra Thai cash left so we decided to have our last meal at Burger King. This has to be the most expensive meal that I had throughout my time in Thailand. Between Nate, Alejandro and myself our simple orders came out to be about $30 bucks. Oh well, we had no use for Thai money in Nepal. It was funny because we had to pay with coins and what not because we weren’t sure if we had enough. Best chicken sandwich ever!

It’s late afternoon and I’m staring through the gigantic glass into a beautiful and perfect Thai sunset. So many emotions are running through my mind as I see our plane getting ready to let us in. It’s really funny because the plane only had 20 passengers so everyone took their own row.

Well, Thailand was nothing but fun. I’ve partied like no other with the best crew of friends ever, had too many adventures and created life long memories. I couldn’t have asked for a better vacation!

The Crew in Ko Phi Phi

I’m back in Nepal and it feels great even though it’s freezing. I’ve made a “2014 Game Plan” listing my personal and professional goals that I wish to accomplish while I’m in Nepal and I’m looking forwards towards making them come to life. I’m refreshed and energized to make this last stretch count. I only have about 10 months left in Nepal as a Peace Corps Volunteer, thus I have to kick it in to high gear and really Make it Happen!!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Magic of Nepal

   I really haven’t done a good job at keeping my loved ones updated in regards to what I’m doing and what has been going on in Nepal as a Peace Corps Volunteer or simply as Marvin.

   Where do I start? The last time that I updated my blog or emailed you I was reflecting on my one-year mark. I realized that time doesn’t really change a person, but the experiences that life places on one’s path. For example, I always thought that once I reached my one-year mark back in September I would come to see a different Marvin and in a way I did, but it wasn’t what I expected.  As I was writing my last blog I had a hard time forming my thoughts let alone my experiences in writing.

   However, I did come across one experience that REALLY made me reflect on the time thus far that I have spent in Nepal. It happened during Nepal’s most festive festival of Dashain back in October. We had quite a few relatives come over to our house because it was our turn to host the holiday. There was an unlimited amount of food and yummy goodies. The atmosphere reminded me of Christmas. Besides the blissful feelings around me the reason that this holiday made me put everything into perspective was due to my host mom, Putali. In Nepal when someone’s relative dies they’re not allowed to give “puja” (blessing) for one year. My host mom was under this restriction because of her mother’s death last year, however by the time that Dashain came around that one year was up.

   My time at permanent site has truly been amazing and I have my host mother to thank. This woman truly symbolizes Nepali people’s attributes of love, kindness and selflessness. She has taken it upon herself to help and guide me throughout my time in our village of Kouleni. She introduced me to everyone in my village, she always hears me out and somehow she’s great at understanding me with my novice Nepali. Now the reason that this holiday was so special was due to the fact that my host mother was able to give me “tikka” (blessing) during Dashain. I’ve been living with my host family for nearly a year and my host mom wasn’t able to give me tikka because of her mourning.

   On this special day, I was sitting down on a straw mat next to my host sisters where a procession of people were lined up getting ready to give tikka to my host sisters and I. My grandmothers splash me with the vivid red powder, then it was my my uncles and aunts' turn, then my host dad and finally my host mom. I have no idea why, but my heart was pounding as my host mom was getting the tikka ready to go. She sits in front of me, grabs the red powder and smoothest it across my forehead. During the process, she was directly looking into my eyes and saying the most wonderful things that a mother could say to a son. I was holding my tears as much as I could, I refused to let them fall, but I know for a fact that my host mom noticed. I still can’t properly describe the feelings of joy, happiness, and love that filled up my heart. Way back when I found out that I was coming to Nepal everyone insisted that Nepal had something magical about it. After a year of living in Nepal I never felt that magic until I celebrated Dashain at my permanent site. My host mom’s love exposed the magic that I was overlooking for so long. However, I can now say that I have experienced Nepal’s magic and I’m glad that I have another year to live in it.

My host mom giving me tikka for Dashain

   That was back in October and thankfully things are still wonderful to this day. Permanent site is great! I’m loving my life in Nepal and I’m at the point of my service that I feel confident and proud to call Nepal my home. I’m very comfortable in village, my Nepali has greatly improved and I feel like I’m part of the community. Yes, I’m the foreigner and that will never change, but my villagers see me beyond a foreigner or volunteer because they see me as a son.

   In regards to work, I’m very happy to say that things are popping! My youth organization (GYS) has successfully completed the youth development training that I conducted with the help of members from different organizations. It was a long 20-day training spread out between the months of September and October. The training revolved around nine different topics, hygiene, nutrition, agriculture, dental hygiene, general health, first aid, self-empowerment, AIDS/HIV and Smoking, Drugs and Alcohol. We even had a ceremony recognizing the completion of the training. In short, I am beyond proud of GYS and the work and time that they put into the training and organization itself. They truly have made my Peace Corps experience that much richer.

   Unfortunately, GYS is currently on a break because school started once again therefore I had to focus my time on something else.

   I’m very pleased to say that I’m diligently working towards making my Village Development Committee (VDC) Smokeless Free by promoting the construction of Smokeless Improved Cook Stove (ICS). My fellow PCV, Chad Chalker is working with the Tilden Project, a British organization that’s funding the construction of the ICS in his village. After learning that the Tilden Project has kindly agreed to extend its financial support for the promotion and construction of ICS to other PCVs in Nepal I jumped at the opportunity seeing how the need in my VDC for ICS is quite high. The project consist of finding three individuals who will take part in a five day training where later on they will go into their villages and build ICS for any family who needs them. The Tilden Project will provide the financial support for the stoves itself, thus it’s a great deal! I’ve arranged meetings in all nine wards of my VDC in order to pass on the word and find the three trainees. Thus far I have attended six and I have found two ladies who are very interested in participating in the training and in making it happen! I have three more meetings to attend where I plan to find the last trainee and thereafter I’ll have everything I need in order to get to get the project up and running. Wish me luck!

   Also, I’ve been on Peace Corps lockdown due Nepal’s elections that took place on November 19th. Aside from the two bombs that blow up in my village the night before the elections, everything went smoothly. Nepal is making history and I’m lucky to see how it plays out.

   Furthermore, I’m very excited to say that I’m off on vacation next month! I’m going to…THAILAND! I’ll be away for about three weeks enjoying the sun, eating great food and having the time of my life. I’m going with two of my favorite PCVs, Alejandro and Nate. We have everything planned, hotels and flight booked and all I need is a couple of nice swim shorts. I’m definitely taking advantage of the fact that I’m in Asia and exploring other corners of the world. I hear Thailand is a tropical paradise and that is why I’m very much looking forward towards spending Christmas and New Years in a great country with great friends!

   To wrap things up, I do hope this small message gives you glimpse of what my life in Nepal is like. I try not to go into great details about my experience because I don’t want to overwhelm any one with small little things. I try to pull out the most memorable and positive aspects of my experience and share them with you.

   Well the main purpose of this message is to wish you very happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones. Do me a favor and please eat as much as you can. This is the holiday to give thanks for all of our blessings and that is why I am thankful to have wonderful, influential and positive individuals like yourself in my life. Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Nepal, however my Peace Crops group will be getting together in order to cook our very own Thanksgiving dinner. Enjoy your black Friday shopping and your preparations for the holiday season and spirit!

   In short, I hope all is well back in the states. I’m very sorry for my inconsistency in updating you with what is going on in Nepal, but just know that all is well. Taking it day by day and with a smile each day. Nepal has in many ways tested my nerves and will and in every test I find that my optimism always pulls me through. No matter where we are, we can never forget that optimism will always help us out in our darkest moments in life. Please take care of yourself and don’t forget to stay in touch.

With warmest wishes,

Marvin Gamez-Crespin

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A 1-Year Reflection

           September 9, 2013 marked my official one-year anniversary of touching Nepali land. Stepping out of that plane I never really imagined that a year would go by so quickly and now look at me writing this blog.

            You know how you never really know how much you change unless people tell you or you come across something, but even then you’re still in denial. Well, this past Sunday the new group of Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Nepal and I and another PCV were selected to be the welcoming team. Seeing and interacting with a new batch of newbies really made me look back to what I have done in Nepal for the past year. Before anything let me just say that receiving them and helping them out during their first week in Nepal was a HUGE breadth of fresh air for me.

            Being a Peace Corps Volunteer has really made me grow in so many ways that I didn’t think would be possible, both professionally and personally. However, the only reason that I have grown so much up to this point is due to the mistakes and hardships that I have encountered throughout my time in Nepal. It’s crazy hard when there are so many attempts of trying to introduce new techniques to my village or trying to start a conversation about certain topics and receiving a non-receptive attitude or response. At times I have days where I don’t want to leave my house and just run away from Nepal. I would consider myself an extravert and a social butterfly, but sometimes Nepalis have TOO much energy, that even I can’t handle. It really sucks when not only things in Nepal are not going right, but things back home as well especially with family. Also, there are some days where I’m like what am I going to do here? How can I really make a difference? I ask myself these questions when I’m laying on the floor of my room or when I go up my village to a quiet little place. These days are my funk days that I don’t like to have, but I have come to learn and accept that they’re part of the Peace Corps experience. If I didn’t have those days where I feel down or upset, I wouldn’t be a REAL PCV, well that’s what I tell myself lol.

            Well anyways, enough of the hardships and sad stuff, I’m an optimist so let’s talk with some optimism. I am very thankful that I had these hardships along the path because they are evidence that I passed the first test of completing my first year of service. I think things are picking which makes me very happy. One thing that I’m most proud of is my Youth Organization, GYS. GYS is truly keeping me going! I’m working on this Youth Development training that I’m having with them. It’s a 20-day training that revolves around health, nutrition, agriculture self-empowerment and other topics. Thus far the kids are loving it and I am too. Working with the youth has so many benefits for the future so I hope that this leaves some sort of impact. I’m also working on a training that will promote rabbit meat as an alternative source of protein. I have three rabbits with me who will help me start it all up by breeding. There are other project ideas that I would like to present to my village so we’ll see how that goes.

            But as I mentioned in the beginning, having the new group of volunteers really made me reflect and look back to what I have become to this day. One year may not seem like a long time, but in a year with Peace Corps seems like a lifetime of personal growth. I swear this past week as I was giving trainings to the new group about culture, diversity and what not I really felt accomplished and satisfied. This new group’s age range is pretty wide, but it didn’t matter if some were older or more experienced, they were listening and paying attention to what I had to say because I had been here for a year. I have that experience under my belt! I was sharing my experiences, my ups, my downs, my worries and my accomplishments with them which was the trigger for my self reflection! I was trying to figure out what I was feeling through this past week with the new group and then I realized that I felt proud of myself. Even though I haven’t saved the world just yet, I felt proud to recognize how far I have gotten since I left my mom back in Los Angels. 

            Peace Corps isn’t easy by any means at all, but I am in fact very happy that I took this leap of faith! I have so many people to thank back home for their support, but especially my N-199 family! I don’t’ know where would I be if it wasn’t for their constant support and love!

            On September 11, 2013 I turned 23 which was crazy because I spent it in a training hall with the new group where my 22nd birthday I also spent it in a training hall, but that time I was part of the new group. Time does fly.

            Well I only have a little more than a year in order to complete my service in Nepal and I’m looking forward to encounter many more challenges along the way. I’m looking forward to see what life has in store for me throughout this year, but in any case I’ll be ready to face it head on!

With much hope,