Author: Chase

Agency to Enjoy

Agency to Enjoy

Well, despite some sensationalized news coverage, everything is quite OK here –  safe and sound, 30 miles away from the North Korean border. It’s been an experience to be living so close to a country famous for headlines tied to imminent nuclear fall out. The interesting part being the non-impact it has on the day-to-day lives of South Koreans. In my mind, I imagine the South Koreans have adjusted to this threat the same way Americans must have during the Cold War. Diplomatically managing the situation the best they can, being military-ready, and living life as normal as possible otherwise. What other option do they have? The power is in the choice not to live in fear.

The other day sirens went off at the U.S. military base I live next to. These were the sirens that go off when an attack is imminent. I didn’t realize at the time, but the sirens were part of a drill. I guess I bring this up because when the sirens were going off, my first thought wasn’t “OH MY GOD, IT’S OVER!”…no, my first thought was “Well, if it is over, at least I won’t have to go teach today.”

So, how’s teaching going you ask? 🙂

The kids summer break from school started the end of July, but in Korea most kids don’t really get a summer break. Summer break from school just means more time to go to Academy. So for us, the students summer break meant summer intensive classes. It is a challenge teaching a 3-hour long class to adolescents. It’s a whole other thing teaching three, 3-hour long classes, in one day. Every day hasn’t been like that, but it was enough to take its toll. For as difficult as it is for teachers, I also feel for the students. It has to be frustrating going to so much school, but then again, I don’t think they know anything different.

This has been a great opportunity for me to practice patience, test my stamina, and interact with an age group I’ve had limited experience with prior. I work with students at an age where their candidness can be sweet, or shocking. They help each other and hurt each other. Laugh and cry. Challenge themselves and cheat. Listen and defy. They are complex, mini-adults; but for the most part they are refreshing. With a light that all too often dims as the years go on.

Another perspective this opportunity has provided is a greater – MUCH greater – appreciation for teachers.

Teaching is not easy, and requires a consistent presence throughout the entire day that most other jobs do not. It is a demanding role, and one that don’t believe gets the credit it deserves. I imagine the disparity between a teacher’s work and how they are valued in society could easily be resolved should every adult have to teach an elementary or middle school class for a term. Some countries have mandatory military service after graduation; a mandatory teaching term doesn’t seem too crazy. In any event, teaching has made me think about my schooling, and I can only hope and pray I was as good of a student to my teachers as I am remembering myself to be.

I don’t want to be THAT teacher, but teachers didn’t have THIS problem when I was growing up!

…but the kicker was the beef is not cooked, just mixed with raw egg – and enjoy!

Although this last month has been busy with work, I did have the opportunity to get out and enjoy a few things. A buddy from training came up to Seoul for the weekend. One night we went to the market for dinner and ordered some Korean beef, on recommendation of the local. Sounds good right? We thought so too…but the surprise was the beef is not cooked when you eat it, just mixed with raw egg – and enjoy! All I can say is that we lived, and I definitely prefer cooked beef. In July, I also checked out Korea’s pride festival with some new and old (Peace Corps) friends, and did some palling around the city with some cool people that were traveling through. Living in the area I do is fun, because English speaking people are always traveling through,and you can make friends from all over the world. But the flip side of that is you end up saying goodbye more often than not.

Some friends that aren’t going away anytime soon are my work mates! In August, we went to Ganghwado island to check out the temple there. It is a beautiful temple with some interesting statues, located on the side of a mountain with great views to the sea. There is a true sense of peace watching a monk’s practice. They offer “Temple Stays” in Korea, where you can spend the night at a Buddhist temple and go through the meditations with the monks. I think I will be doing this with my friend Jenni  when she comes to visit in October (Yay!) and will be sure to share some updates from her visit then.

Korean Beef…serve raw, with egg, and enjoy!
Foods at the Traditional Market
Seoul Pride – Peace Corps friends & Co., with a side of glitter
Vancouver buddy, Kris, who was in Seoul for a few weeks ending a 6-month backpacking adventure, and some very rare South Korean pandas
Ganghwado Island Temple with the work gang

Sometimes, no matter how much else there is to do and see, a homemade quesadilla with Netflix, a good book and wine is all I want. 

So far living in Korea has offered me the chance to do and see things I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. My mom teases me about my penchant for seeking all these different “experiences.” It’s a fair jest, but experiencing a lot also does something for the familiar too. It gives me a contrast to the previous places I’ve been, things I’ve done, friends I’ve made and jobs I’ve had; I end up with a deeper sense of appreciation for all of them. I value familiar things: longtime friends, favorite movies, loved books and comfort foods – something consistent wherever I am in the world. Sometimes no matter where I am at, or how much else there is to do and see, a homemade quesadilla, with Netflix, a good book and a glass of wine is all I want. That’s the beauty of life I guess. Our agency to enjoy, share and experience it how we choose. Whether it’s through experiencing the same things in a new place, or new things in the same place, happiness is just a choice away.

We all have our good days and bad, but I find the good far outweigh the bad when I give myself the agency to enjoy. So wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I hope you can take a minute or two to sit back, be grateful for both the new and familiar in life, and find the joy in our shared experience.

Just remember…you could always be teaching! 😉

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Happiness.

A good Friday night in my 30’s…anywhere.


Next Steps

Next Steps

I wish I could say the excitement and good vibes I was feeling at the end of my last post kept going throughout my first month in Korea, but the reality was a bit different. It all changed rather abruptly when I moved from the apartment I was in during training to the apartment I would be living in for the next year. The apartment during training was bright, furnished, and open. When I arrived at the apartment my school had given me, I was greeted by empty darkness. The apartment was a half-basement, with windows that looked at concrete walls. Only after my eyes adjusted did I realize I was not alone. I was sharing this space with many, many spiders. The person who lived in the apartment left months ago, without cleaning, and the spiders had moved in. The place was a mess. I stood in the middle of the room not quite sure what to do. I decided I needed to do something about the spiders before I could really think about next steps. I made my way to the store, bought the biggest can of Raid I could find, went back and sprayed – doused – the corners and walls. Then went outside and contemplated my life.

How much would it cost for a ticket back to Ecuador? Maybe Salt Lake City would be less? I guess a hotel room would be less than both of those…but surely that’s not sustainable long term. But how could I live here now?

I had done Peace Corps; I know how to survive in places with bugs and housing that’s less than ideal, and by the end of my service I was even able to call my Peace Corps housing comfortable. But I could not see this apartment ever being comfortable. It was just too dark. Too depressing. I figured I at least needed to ask to move. The philosophy I go by is the worst someone can say is “No,” and then you are no worse off than before you asked. It wasn’t an immediate yes, but eventually I was given the green light to look for a new apartment; I just had to tough it out for one month in the spider dungeon. I looked at many places, some even worse than the apartment I was already in. I was beginning to wonder if this was meant to be, but then I found it –  the one. The place I knew I was supposed to be. It felt right from the moment I walked in the door, and there was even a sign – a literal sign – that this was where I should be. I couldn’t believe it! I moved in on June 24th and the experience has changed 100%. I don’t dread coming to my apartment now. I have a place to call home, to settle in, and even have a room for visitors! Accepting reservations now 🙂

2nd/Guest Bed 🙂

“The Sign” This sticker was on the AC in the bedroom…the girl living here before worked for the Ecuadorian Embassy. What are the chances?!? It just felt right! 

Aside from the living situation challenges, I was not anticipating the loneliness I felt during the first month. This experience has helped me further realize how lucky I was to have the Peace Corps group I did, and to be in South America. Because the training was so short here, there was not time to build the relationships and support network that were built during training in Peace Corps. We also worked in small groups, so I only really got to know a few people during the week, who are all great, but now working in schools far from Seoul. Additionally, the three other teachers at the school where I am teaching were at the end of their contract. So without time to make friends in training, and teachers at my school leaving, all I had to look forward to after work was going back to my apartment – and well, you can imagine how that was.

My training group – great bunch of people, wish they were closer.

Adding to this is the language barrier. Interestingly enough, not knowing Korean makes it difficult to make Korean friends. 😛 Korean culture also seems to be more conservative in regards to foreigners than South America. My experience in South America was filled with friendly conversations from neighbors, with daily “good mornings” and “good nights” from strangers walking down the road. This doesn’t happen here. I am not sure if it’s because of the language barrier, or just how living in a city of ten million people is? Either way, I miss the warm hospitality of South America.

Thankfully the interactions and time I have had teaching the kids has been fun, and some days it is the only interactions with other people I would have in the day. Other times, friends from Peace Corps that are living here have come to visit me. It’s a long train ride for them to do so, but their visits helped me more than they know. I also have met an English speaking friend or two in the area I live, and the few times we have grabbed a beer or had dinner together also got me through some of the hardest times. Little by little, things are falling into place.

Noami & Eben from PC Guy26! Lifesavers.

So that’s it. As I am writing this, I am happy in my new place; with a table I can actually type on, a couch to sit on and light coming in through the window. I think – I hope – I made it through the hardest part. As the three teachers at my school left last week, three new ones have arrived. It’s new beginnings for all of us. A fresh start to my start. Next steps. I had to remind myself of two things several times during the last month, which I believe to be true:

I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and that no experience will last forever.

This helped me not only get through the tough times, but also remember to cherish each part of my journey. I will not be in Korea forever; the experience so far has been good, and it has been bad, but it’s been just that – an experience. Sometimes I still can’t believe I am here. My name on the door with “Teacher” is something I never expected, but these days the unexpected seems to happen more regularly. No matter what may happen next, I want to cherish the opportunity to be here now.

Teacher Chase…has a nice ring to it, eh? 😉

Until next time,

Peace. Love. Happiness…and a great Independence Day back home!

Also, on the home page I’ve updated my mailing address and can by reached by post now. Old fashioned letters/pictures and your updates are always loved and appreciated. Snail-mail me!

Traditional Korean Market
Myeongdong – like a mini Vegas/5th avenue in Korea
Lockets of Love at N. Seoul Tower – originally meant for couples to signify their unbreakable bond to each other, tourists and locals alike lock inscribed and special padlocks to the walls and posts. I haven’t locked one with anyone yet, but that’s an update for another day. 😉
Seoul Searching

Seoul Searching

If you are wondering how I ended up in Korea, you’re in good company! I didn’t fully believe I was coming here until a day before I left. Life can be fun(?) like that sometimes I guess. So, how did I get here?

After the federal hiring freeze put the job with USAID on hold in January, I decided I better look at some options to fill the time. One of those options was teaching in Korea. I didn’t really think I would end up in Korea, but applied, interviewed, and started sending in whatever paperwork they asked for. The hope was still to have USAID call prior to me needing to make any decisions about Korea, or what to do next. But weeks turned to months and still they didn’t call…and I decided I needed to do something. So I got a ticket booked back to the USA and thought I would head to DC to find work and start figuring out life there; still hoping USAID would call, I figured the Korea thing may be an option somewhere down the road. I got an update on USAID in May; nothing is moving there until next year’s budget is approved. Not great news. I also heard from Korea in May. They wanted me to start training May 22nd.

Decisions had to be made, and fast. For various reasons I decided to go for the Korea option; but then ran into issues with obtaining the necessary visa. It was looking like I would not make the May 22nd training, which was fine, as I still had the ticket booked for DC and would figure stuff out there. But as you now know, I never made that DC flight. This is because the Korean embassy decided they would issue my visa…on May 18th, the day before I would need to fly. So it happened. I packed my bags, put one foot in front of the other, got on the plane and decided why the hell not – let’s go teach in Korea.

Teaching…about that. I hope I am good at it? I have about the same feelings teaching English as I do for giving talks on breast feeding. I’ve done it once or twice before, wondered how I got myself into the situation as I was doing it, and prayed it would all be over soon. So yeah…these poor kids! 😉 But in all seriousness, I think this is the biggest concern I have at the moment. Apparently the company that hired me thinks I can do it, so I guess I’ll rely on their confidence until I get my own. Training starts this week, and hopefully I will feel better about this whole idea once it’s done. Although I don’t have a lot of teaching experience, what I am looking forward to is interacting with the kids. This was one of my favorite parts during my Peace Corps service. I believe supporting and encouraging kids has long lasting impacts far beyond the short time they spend with you. So the students in my classes may not have a teacher that knows all the ins and outs of teaching English, but I’ll do everything I can to ensure they leave knowing someone believes in them. Then, if needed, they’ll at least have the confidence to learn what they need to from another, you know, actual teacher! 🙂

As I pictured arriving in Korea, the only reference to something like this I had was my initial arrival in Guyana through Peace Corps. There were the good parts of that experience and there were the difficult parts; the ones that made my stomach tense up thinking about going through it all again. As it turns out, however, the arrival in Korea has been nothing like the arrival in Guyana. I didn’t have a group of other teachers on the same flight as me to navigate the airports and travel with. There wasn’t staff at the gate in Korea, welcoming me with banners and hugs. There is no one here to hold my hand through the process. My arrival to Korea was something I needed to get through on my own, and that was ok. I actually haven’t really been on my own since I left Peace Corps. The independence, the responsibility, the uncertainty, it all felt good. As I exited the plane on the other side of the world, I had no idea what I was about to walk into.

Yet, this kind of seems to be the theme for me lately. I’m an experience junkie. To be honest, trying to figure out where all these varied experiences are taking me is a tough one. I had, and maybe still have, concerns about adding yet another branch to my already unique tree of experience. Society tells us we generally should pick a career path and stick with it, get good at one thing, plan for retirement, etc. But I can’t identify what path I’m on, or where the work I am doing, and have done, is leading me. As I am getting older, this is a little stressful; how are all these random dots going to connect? I recently read Steve Jobs had said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” That rings true for me. I definitely can’t see how some of my dots are connecting now, so I try to remind myself the picture isn’t completed yet. Sometimes the dots aren’t ready to be connected, but perhaps they will all make sense looking back when the work is done. That’s my hope anyway.

If things going right are a sign you are making the right dots, then I can’t help but feel I am in the right place now. Everything really did fall into place for me to be here (albeit quite last minute). From eleventh hour approvals, to free exit row upgrades on long flights, to a great apartment during training in an amazing area of town, to perfect weather and the innate sense of peace I have – for the first time since I had the idea of coming here, I can say Korea feels right. Seoul has given me an incredible first impression. I am excited to make this dot as impactful and memorable as possible; to do some “Seoul” searching, and in due time, marvel at everything that has connected to it from here.  

Training starts tomorrow.  Wish me luck!

My first morning in Seoul – walking in Namsan park to the iconic N. Seoul Tower
Namsan Park: near my apartment! Filled with running paths and nature trails
Seoul at night with iconic N. Seoul tower lit up
Sunsets in Ecuador

Sunsets in Ecuador

When change is coming, I have a habit of visualizing how life will be different in two weeks from now, one month from now, etc. Of course, change often comes unannounced, but in the cases where you can see it coming, this is what I find myself doing. I am not sure it is the best habit, but I think it brings a sense of appreciation to what I am experiencing in the present moment; prompting recognition that whether the current experience is good or bad – it is unique, temporary, and should be experienced fully.

Change has been a theme since my last update, and will continue to be the theme for the upcoming future. At the beginning of March my family moved from the cool, green, tree-lined river banks of Cuenca, in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, to the warm, blue skied, sand kissed beaches of San Jose on Ecuador’s coast. Overnight my experience of Ecuador changed, and while I enjoyed many things about living in Cuenca, I was looking forward to the new experience on the coast.

I’ve spent the last few weeks waking up to the sound of waves, taking long walks along the beach, and enjoying an epicurean freedom of choice: whether or not I put on a shirt throughout the entire day. It’s been an inimitable blessing to have this time, where I’ve been free to explore the things that make me tick and gain a better understanding of myself. Writing this chapter, a chapter that has also included a deepening of relationships with my family, learning a 2nd language, and making new friendships, will no doubt add value to the remaining story of my life. But like any good book, one chapter must lead to the next, and this chapter is coming to a close.

Two weeks from now I will be back in the United States.

The sunsets over the Pacific Ocean replaced with sunrises over the Atlantic.

The sound of the waves in the morning replaced with traffic and morning news.

The daily time spent together with family replaced with text message updates.

The freedom to choose what I want to do each day replaced with the necessity to decide.

One month from today I will be…

This is the one that is keeping me up at night. Visualizing my situation one month from today involves some dramatically different options. I can’t say for certain yet where I’ll be a month from today, but what is certain is that difficult decisions need to be weighed. A choice must be made. Decisions that will determine where my next chapter begins. But that’s an update for another day.

For today, I am going to continue writing the chapter I am currently in, enjoying these moments and making them count, as the sun sets on my time in Ecuador.

April 22, 2017, Sunset – San Jose, Ecuador


Time Flies

Time Flies

“El tiempo vuela cuando te estás divirtiendo”

Hola amigos y familia!  I can’t believe it has almost been four months since I last updated this blog, and over six months since I finished Peace Corps and left Guyana.  As I reflect on everything since then, I am surprised at how much has happened, because really some days it just feels like nothing new is happening at all.  Time is tricky that way.  Let’s start from where we left off…


If we are friends on Facebook, you may have noticed that one of my best friends, Christian, came for visit to Ecuador. I guess he had this trip planned for a while, and wanted it to be a surprise to me, but as time got closer for his visit there were too many variables of the trip to keep me out of the loop.  Regardless, it still was a great surprise!  I had not seen him in almost a year, and from biking down volcanos in Quito to relaxing at mud spas in Cuenca, his Ecuador visit was a lot of fun.

Biking down Cotopaxi volcano
Biking down Cotopaxi volcano
Steam box after mudpools in Cuenca
Steam box after mud pools in Cuenca
Top of Cotopaxi Volcano
Top of Cotopaxi Volcano


This was a very exciting month for another one of my best friends.  Heather was a constant in my life when I lived in Salt Lake, and for a minute I thought she and I may end up together in old age – single, with a few cats, and a cozy place in Palm Beach.  Luckily for her, she managed to escape that dreadful fantasy by finding the perfect guy, who seems made just for her.  I was lucky enough, thanks to very generous friends, to make it back to Utah for her wedding.  I am so happy I did.  Not only was the wedding beautiful, but it gave me an opportunity to catch up with Utah family and friends.  From a food filled Friendsgiving, to helping with Christmas decorations, to Costco (several times), to (slightly awkward post-election) breakfast dates with family – I was reminded no matter how far, or how long we are apart, I will always have a connection to Utah and the people there.

As with most good things, however, the visit came to an end and I was back to Ecuador in a flash. Luckily, I had something to look forward to there as well.  One of my most favorite people I met through Peace Corps was coming to Ecuador, and would be living here for a few months, which meant I was going to get to spend some fun-filled time with her.  You never really know what you’re going to get with Michelle, but I knew one thing – It wouldn’t be a bad time.  Sure enough, the next thing I knew we were each getting our first tattoos!

And of course, in November, there was also the election…

Heather and Brian - Beautiful wedding, perfect couple!
Heather and Brian – Beautiful wedding, perfect couple!
She escaped our cat future! :P
She escaped our cat future! 😛
Welcome to Ecuador Michelle! Let the good times roll
Welcome to Ecuador Michelle! Let the good times roll
First Tattoo! Much meaning from Guyana and my Peace Groups in it
First Tattoo! Much meaning from Guyana and my Peace Groups in it


Christmas time in Ecuador is pretty cool.  No shortage of decorations, lights, or parades.  Guyana also knew how to do Christmas, with special traditions of pepper pot and black cake.  I have really enjoyed experiencing Christmas in other cultures and the unique aspects they bring to the holiday.  As an early present for me, another friend from Peace Corps came to Ecuador for a visit in December!  This was perfect, as it meant Kelly, Michelle and I would get to spend the holidays together.

But not just us!  We headed to the Ecuador coast with my family, near where my parents and brother were living before the earthquake hit last April.  Spending Christmas and New Years by the beach was awesome.  Waking up to the sound of the waves and morning walks along the sand and surf was the best setting to end 2016.  Another great part of spending the Holidays on the coast was finally getting to meet the friends my family have been telling me so much about.  Needless to say, they have great taste in friends! It was a lot of fun getting to know the people who welcomed my family to Ecuador when they first arrived, and being able to include them in my Ecuador experience.

Cuenca Lit Up for the holidays
Cuenca Lit Up for the holidays


Kelly has landed in Cuenca!
Kelly has landed in Cuenca!



Following a perfect Holiday on the beach with family, the kids (Me, my bro, Kelly, and yes, Michelle) took off on an adventure of our own.  We had heard about a great beach town up north named Mompiche and thought we should check it out.  So here’s the deal – come to Ecuador, and go to Mompiche.  It is a truly hidden gem that is off the beaten path just enough to keep it special, and enough back packers and surfers coming through to warrant a few good restaurants and hostels.  The town has a pleasant mixed vibe of hippies and surfers, and we found the locals and other tourists to be equally friendly. I imagine unhappiness would be hard to maintain surrounded by the beauty Mompiche offers.  As a side note, you won’t find an ATM there, and the closest bank is nearly two hours away, but lodging and food are very reasonably priced.  So bring a little cash, and experience one of the best places Ecuador has to offer.

Something I will never forget from Mompiche is swimming in the perfectly warm ocean, surrounded by bioluminescence, in the middle of the night.  I had heard about bioluminescence, but until this point thought it was over exaggerated or even unreal.  Google it and you will see what I mean. Let me assure you, it is a once in a lifetime experience and something you have to see to believe.  Swimming in the crystal clear water at night, with bright lights flashing and following my every move, felt like I was swimming in a galaxy filled with stars.  Such magic in nature takes your breath away.

The magic of the universe really is all around us.  I was blessed to spend the end of 2016 surrounded by people I love, and to start off 2017 in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Mompiche - Hidden Beach
Mompiche – Hidden Beach
Mompiche - "Down town"
Mompiche – “Down town”
The Kids
The Kids
Some Chileans led a fire side jam session
Some Chileans led a fire side jam session
Mompiche - Me and the Broski at Black Sand beach
Mompiche – Me and the Broski at Black Sand beach

Then, just when you think you’ve figured out the balance of life, there’s a Presidential inauguration.

Shortly after this, during the last week of January, I was informed by USAID that the new President’s executive order on Federal employees has impacted my position – the training class I was to be in is now on hold, for a minimum of 90 days, but with no certainty it will proceed after that time either.


So here we are, caught up to the now.  In the 2nd month of 2017, and I think it’s safe to say the world is changing, perhaps faster than it was 6 months before.  I do not believe that change in itself is bad. It’s natural.  Part of the universe.  And often a catalyst to something better. Can you think of one living thing that doesn’t change?  I believe we are in a collective time of change, and our responsibility to one another in how we respond to it is important now more than ever.

Admittedly, the election and subsequent potential change in my employment and future shook me.  It has been all too easy to be pissed off, angry, confused and afraid of what the future will bring. It was easy to lose my balance, to get lost in my head, to chase negative thoughts, blame, and fear in a loop that gets me nowhere.  There are a lot of things going on that I can’t control, but what I can control is how I respond to them.  Do I choose to be a victim of the world I see? Or do I choose to see opportunity behind the events, outcomes, or people who seem to obstruct?  The world I will see and experience is a reflection of that choice I make.

And that’s where I am at.  Constantly, daily, hourly reminding myself to choose again.  This life will be over in a flash, and in that sense, there’s really no reason in taking negative thoughts too seriously.  Will anything I’m concerned about now matter to me in 100 years? Obviously not.  And even so, what is 100 years in the whole scheme of time and eternity?  A drop in an endless ocean.  My fears and judgements about any situation or person alive now mean nothing in this context – why hold on to them?  So I’m working to let them go.

Instead of holding onto anger relating to current situations or events, I will look for occasions to be the change I hope the future holds.  Action – not anger.

Instead of holding onto fear about a job or the future, I will remain open to the path I am directed towards. Faith – not fear.

It’s easier said than done, and old habits die-hard, but I am trying. And this is where my innate responsibility to you comes in.  A responsibility to live by example, without being a victim of the world, and to empower a genuine peace in others.

So I am going into 2017 with optimism that things will continue to work out, and have a renewed commitment to do my part in creating a kinder, more understanding, and conscious world for all.

I will update again with future plans as they materialize, hopefully sooner than 4 months, unless of course I am having too much fun. 🙂 Until then…

Amor, Paz y Felicidad para Todos!

Llama butt...because some days are just like that...
Llama butt…because some days are just like that…
…but remember, better days are ahead 🙂
Power & Truth

Power & Truth

“Power tempts even the best of men to take liberties with the truth”

– Joseph Sobran

Living in Ecuador has been a great experience thus far.  I have daily opportunities to work on learning Spanish, exercise, explore, eat new foods, read, and spend time with my family.  This is a unique time in my life, and I am trying to appreciate the opportunity I have over any stress that comes with being unemployed.  Being optimistically unemployed also allows for idle time, of course, and Netflix.

If you ever want to question everything, give yourself an opportunity to watch a few Netflix documentaries consecutively that will rattle your vision of justice.  Over the last few weeks, these shows provided me with an education perhaps I wish I could unlearn – although in this case, I don’t believe our ignorance has served any of us well.  After watching “Making a Murderer,” “13th” and “Amanda Knox” I was left questioning the power of truth, or perhaps more so, the truth about power.


13th-640x250 Screengrab of Amanda Knox's documentary "Believe Her" on Netflix 9/8/16 Netflix

The documentaries are extremely well made, and provided me with insight into a wanton system of criminal justice.  The takeaway for me is that truth is often secondary to power, and in fact, people with power are led to define the “truth” to fit a narrative they desire.  Often, truth is lost to power. I will not go into more details on the specifics of these shows, and I hope you will make an effort to see them for yourselves, as this ambiguity between power and truth is taking a center stage in the world today. I think it is important that we are conscious enough to look at the “truths” we are being fed, and consider that they are no more than narratives being expressed to us by those in power. 

“Stronger Together” and “Make America Great Again” – both sound encouraging enough, but what else is being said? Are these pitch phrases cloaking narratives and subtext that each side wants to become our truths?  If you are not choosing “Stronger Together,” then are you divisive and making us weak?  If America is no longer great, and you are complacent in that, are you not “Making America Great Again?” We’ve been divided by the agendas of the politicians, media, and elite interests. Fear mongering at its finest. These agenda’s aren’t serving the greater majority of us. They aren’t serving us in politics, they aren’t serving us in justice, and they aren’t the truth.

stonger-together make-america-great-again

We have a responsibility to EACH OTHER, not to a political party or candidate. It’s too often that people in power exploit our differences rather than celebrate them. Regardless of who wins this election we need to recognize our common Truth, being scrupulous of the narratives being fed and cautious of the agendas behind the messages. I don’t trust the current way our power systems work. Power is not balanced, and this is at the expense of the American people. This power protects the interests of a small minority, veiled in political and social ideologies to create fear. Truth is lost. Recognize that everything we believe, everything we hold dear, and everything we are sure of in relation to our affiliations, race, religions, orientations, or class – all of this has been taught to us in one way or another. I believe, stripped of our learned fears, we would all want the best for our fellow-men and women. We would want each other to be treated fairly. We would want equitable opportunities and outcomes for each other. History has shown us a politician or political party isn’t going to bring this reality, in fact much is done to ensure the opposite.  This fearless and bold way of relating to each other starts with every one of us, regardless of our varied affiliations, race, religions, orientations, or class. Our common Truth is above all of it – and that common Truth is OUR Power.

Check out the documentaries.  Look at the current political rhetoric from an elevated state.  Be a more compassionate human.  I honestly can’t wait until this election cycle is over, and I hope we can let our humanity win, regardless of any political “winner.”

In more optimistic government related news, I hope to not be unemployed for too much longer!  Since May, I have been pursuing a job with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as a Foreign Service Officer.  In June I was flown to Washington DC for an interview, and as of last week I was told the interview was successful.  Pending successful reference, medical and background checks, I will eventually have the opportunity to assist in America’s international development and aid efforts! I believe USAID is fantastic representation of the good that American “power” can do, and I am anxious to help show our international community that America is not as crazy as the 2016 election cycle has made us out to be! 🙂


I will keep the blog updated with the job progress, and anything else that may come up.  Until next time – peace, love and happiness!

Scary Decisions

Scary Decisions

So here I am, sitting in my new room.  My new room, which happens to be under my parent’s roof. As you can imagine, this is a bit uncomfortable – being a 33 year old – yet at the same time, very comfortable, and feels like home. Such is my case of being a recently returned Peace Corps volunteer (RPCV). I enjoyed sharing my experiences as a PCV, so I figure why stop now? And now that I’ve graduated from PCV to RPCV, updates could be related to anything – exciting eh?!? But I think I should start this new chapter by sharing a summary of what it feels like, for me, being a RPCV.

Peace Corps is an emotionally, psychologically, and often physically intense experience. As such, the relationships that you build during the relatively short time period tend to be intense as well. This was the hardest part of leaving Guyana and my Peace Corps cohort. In 27 months, friendships were made that will last a lifetime, and connections with host country nationals built that will withstand the challenges of distance and time. There are a lot of reasons to do Peace Corps, and most are personal to each person – but if you are thinking of serving, know that the opportunity for these rich connections is something I believe unique to Peace Corps, and a significant reason to serve in itself. Of course, the fun you can have once Peace Corps is over is pretty great too…

Taking a “jangada” out in Porto de Galinhas, Brazil
Rio Sunset
Beautiful Rio Sunset
Rio landscape
View from the top of “Dois Irmãos” (two brothers) mountain, Rio, Brazil


Representing US in Rio!
im in rio
I’m in Rio.
horseback riding
Horseback riding in Chapada Diamantina, Brazil
Group pic 2
Some great friends, old and new. Rio, Brazil
christ hike
Hiking up to Christ the Redeemer statue.
Oh my Christo!
Top of the world at Chapada Diamantina, Brazi.
brazil boat
Our beds during 4 day Amazon river boat trip
Simply the best!

Group pic      

When it comes time for Peace Corps service to end, often volunteers find reasons to stay together, extending the inevitable separation from each other and immersion back into the “real world.” This was my case, and I have spent the last two months traveling through Brazil with friends I never wanted to say goodbye to.  I could write an entire book on all the amazing things we experienced traveling through Brazil – we met some awesome people, saw some truly remarkable places, and experienced a fantastic Rio Olympics.  I felt like I could stay in Brazil forever.  Of course, that was not possible, so the goodbyes did come, and now here I am – alone, in my room – in my parent’s house – in Ecuador – jobless and reflecting. 

To be honest, it can feel scary. It is scary being jobless, living in my parent’s house, in a country where I don’t speak the language, where work would be challenging to find even if I could. But you know what? It’s also exciting. It’s also liberating. And I would be wrong to complain or expect sympathy from anyone. I realize I made a conscious decision to be in this situation in the first place. It’s amazing the impact one decision can have on the direction of your life.  My decision to do Peace Corps has altered the entire direction for me.

I believe these “direction altering” decisions are often the hardest ones, however, and correspondingly seldom made. It is not an easy decision to leave your comfort zone.  Of course, this is not new information. Although not frequently made, we have always been drawn to stories of hard decisions.  We like to observe other people making them.  These are the themes in some of the best movies.  Our favorite stories.  The songs that touch us the most.  We like to watch hard decisions being made, and hopefully observe the intended outcome – a happy ending.  But there is a risk, and it doesn’t always work out the way we hope.  Like any investment into a future outcome, direction altering decisions carry a risk – often higher the risk, higher the potential reward.

In the case of doing Peace Corps, it was gut wrenching knowing I would not see my family for months, or years. It was heart breaking leaving my best friends. It was nerve wrecking leaving a fantastic job with people I enjoyed working with.  But in my experience, the more fear associated with decisions like this – the more important it is for me to look into making them.  Arguably, you could say fear keeps us safe.  I would argue fear keeps me trapped.  I knew that in my core – at the depths of my soul – I needed to experience more of this world in a meaningful way.  This was my truth.  But there was immense fear in making the decision to live this truth.  Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and looking back as an RPCV now, I can clearly see all I would have missed out on if I listened to this fear 27 months ago.  My reward was priceless in this case.  A happy ending…but it is not the end. 

I believe at any given time each of us have a truth or two – a desire to do something, desire to go somewhere, desire to be someone that reflects our truth – truth’s where we know a decision is required, but fear is stopping us from doing so.  For me, this type of fear is not safe.  This type of fear is toxic.

And so it was.  Another “direction altering” decision was up after my Peace Corps service.  Do I go back to the United States, to Utah, to Salt Lake City and get back into the life I left and loved?  Or do I continue my journey into the unknown?  There was little “fear” associated with the idea of me going back to SLC, but the truth in my core is still present – there is still more I want to experience in this world.  More places to see.  More relationships to build.  More ways to contribute for me to find.  This may eventually take me back to Utah, or the United States, but not right now. For me, the decision was easy.  At least easier than the first decision was to leave for Peace Corps.  I think this is an important point to make.  Leaving my comfort zone, or making “hard” decisions, seems to be getting easier. Or perhaps, these hard decisions have an added benefit.  Perhaps my comfort zone is just getting bigger.  

I guess that perfectly sums up what it feels like for me now as an RPCV. Peace Corps has given me a larger comfort zone. I encourage anyone reading this to think about a decision they’ve been putting off seriously looking at. Sure, it might be scary. That’s how you know it’s worth your attention.  My advice: Don’t let fear stop you from new experiences.  Don’t let fear limit your comfort zone.

As of now, I will spend the next few months considering my own next decisions to be made. With any luck, I will also get comfortable speaking Spanish, learn about Ecuadorian culture, and make some new Ecuadorian friends and connections in the process. And as a bonus, I get to catch up on lost time with my family and share these experiences and memories with them too! I also recognize this is a unique opportunity for me, and I am thankful for the privilege I have at the moment.

I am looking at some job opportunities with other international work, but the reality is, at this point I have no idea what I will end up doing.  I have no idea where I will end up next.  Scary right?  Yep.  Guess that means it’s worth looking into.

Stay tuned!

Much love.


Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis

Whoa. Two months from now my Peace Corps service will be over. Where have two years gone? As I reflect today on my time in Guyana, I find myself amazed, amused, and anxious. I am amazed at how much I have grown to enjoy this country, and grown as a person. The hectic minibus rides with pounding music, making your brain shake. The heat that covers you like a blanket, ensuring a certain dampness throughout the day.  The expected greetings of “good morning” and “good night,” strangers taking time to acknowledge each other. The neighbors that are always happy for your company, welcoming you into their home. Guyana is filled with its pleasantries and its challenges, and I am amazed I’ve learned to love them all. I am amazed I made it two years.

I am also amused, and delighted, at the work I have been able to be part of.  From counseling  mothers and supporting chronic disease patients, to empowering children through teaching and reading, to working on projects that advocate LGBT human rights and mental health – I have been fortunate to gain experience in doing things I never imagined I would do, and some I will probably never do again (I am not super comfortable counseling on breast-feeding! :P).  Then again, some of the experience has resonated with me, and will surely impact the direction my life goes from here.

This leads us to anxious.  I find that I am anxious about the future now.  I am anxious about who I will be after Peace Corps.  Before leaving Peace Corps, I had a strong identity built up in Salt Lake City.  I had a leadership position at a company I was with for years, and built some wonderful working relationships there.  My friends in Salt Lake had been through the rollercoaster of life with me for over 10+ years.  And although I could be happy in the identity I had then, I became aware of an innate desire to experience more.

As I committed to joining Peace Corps, I realized I would be leaving some parts of my identity behind, but this was tolerable in the sense I would be picking up a new identity.  I would be a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Over the last two years this identity has come with various associations, and as I consider what it is about being a Peace Corps volunteer that I truly value, I believe it’s pride.

As a volunteer I am proud of the time I spent here. It wasn’t perfect or what I expected it to be, but I am proud of the work I was able to complete – both the tangible and intangible impacts made. I am proud of the challenges I was able to overcome. I think this can be said for anyone who has ever identified as a Peace Corps volunteer.

So unlike my transition from Business Manager to Peace Corps Volunteer, I am leaving an identity I am proud to have – yet I do not have an obvious or clear identity to move into next. You could say I am on the verge of an identity crisis! And although I may be having a mild crisis, all is not lost.  Peace Corps has shown me the type of identity I hope to find. Whatever I end up doing, or identifying with next, I know that I want to be proud of the work I am doing. I want to help people. I need to be challenged – intellectually, culturally, and emotionally. I want my identity to grow with me.

identity crisis

In fact, I suppose some of our identities do grow with us – son, brother, friend – and it is these identities I will always be proud of, and need to rely on as I navigate my way through the post Peace Corps uncertainty and mixed bag of emotions I find myself with.

Speaking of uncertainty, my immediate family has survived another type of crisis of their own since my last update! They were shaken up, displaced, and have since moved to a new city in Ecuador. You can check out the experience through my Dad’s eyes here (

I am really looking forward to meeting up with them in August, but shouldn’t get ahead of myself just yet. There are still two months left in Guyana, with lots on the agenda to look forward to. I have two final projects/workshops to complete, Guyana’s 50th Independence Day jubilee to take part in, and a trip to Brazil ahead. I will provide an update on these with the next posting! Until then, some pics with comments are below – much love!

Text I got from my Dad during earthquake  - SCARY 24 hours!
Text I got from my Dad during earthquake – SCARY 24 hours!
This is Lola! I've been watching her for 3 weeks, and she's been wonderful company
This is Lola! I’ve been watching her for 3 weeks, and she’s been a wonderful companion.
Jenni had a birthday!  Happy 34th to my PCV bestie
Jenni had a birthday! Happy 34th to my PCV bestie!


We had Phagwa, also known as Holi, and my favorite Guyanese holiday!
We had Phagwa, also known as Holi, and my favorite Guyanese holiday!
Out Close of Service Conference...we did it!
Our Close of Service Conference…Guy26 – we did it!


My good friend Monica (in the black) finished her time in Guyana - she's missed, and will always be a great friend and mentor!
My good friend Monica (in the black) finished her time in Guyana and has started her next adventure – she’s missed, and will always be a great friend and mentor! (She has a fantastic blog here:

My friend George came for a visit - loved every minute he was here! Especially our trip to Kaieteur Falls ;-)
My friend George came for a visit – loved every minute he was here! Especially our trip to Kaieteur Falls 😉
Guy28 got through training, and are now sworn in official volunteers!  It's exciting for them, and another indication my time here is up.
Guy28 got through training, and are now sworn in official volunteers! It’s exciting for them, and another indication my time here is up.
Top 10

Top 10

With a year passing since my last update, I thought a “Top 10” type list would be the best way to summarize what’s been going on with me down in Guyana, and elsewhere.  So, here we go…

Chase’s Top 10 since 2015


I ended 2015 with a visit to Utah, and a cruise to Mexico, surrounded by family and friends.  Considering #4 on this list, it may also have been my last trip to Utah for some time, but then again – who knows!   I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the year, and as hard as it was to get back on the plane to Guyana – I am glad I did.  It’s the home stretch here and I’m looking forward to wrapping things up.

friends4 friends3 friends1 friends familycruise familychristmas


Last term, Jenni and I finished an 8 week HIV education series at our primary schools.  It was great to co-teach these lessons with her, and encouraging to see how much information the kids retained week after week.  The reported HIV rate in Guyana is relatively low – under 2% nationwide; however, based on observations and interactions with HIV service providers, this number could be significantly underestimated.  The majority of Guyanese still feel stigma around HIV tests, and many don’t get tested who should.  As many Guyanese don’t know their current HIV status, it’s important these kids know how to keep themselves protected before coming of age.  A fun bonus to these lessons were Jenni’s two friends, which were visiting during the last lesson, got to help us with the final day’s HIV Jeopardy game…it was good fun getting “Auntie Shannon” and “Uncle Justin” involved with the kids.


Alright, into 2016…let’s just say the readjustment back to life in Guyana after being away for a month was not as smooth as I hoped it would be.  Starting with leaving my laptop charger in the states, to my phone getting stolen, to hurting my foot and being sick, the beginning of January was definitely a challenge.  No laptop + no phone = no communication, which I really could have used the first few days being back.   As with most things though, it all ended up working out…and thanks to wonderful family and friends (Casey Jr!), I had the lap top charger and phone replaced in no time, all of which helped me get on with the work that needs to be done here.


Something REALLY exciting happened in the beginning of January…something I don’t think I really ever believed would happen, but did.  My parents and my brother, despite their fears and reservations, took a leap of faith into the adventure of life.  After selling almost everything they owned, and packing up the rest, they said goodbye to Utah and moved to Ecuador, South America!  My brother made an awesome video of their move here:  So now my family is in South America with me, although due to required connections, travel time from Guyana to Ecuador is roughly the same as Guyana to Utah.  This is a move my parents have been considering since well before I left for Peace Corps, but I would like to believe that their observation of my experiences here perhaps helped them move the decision along.  🙂  My Dad has been keeping an excellent account of their beginning days as Ecuadorians here: It’s great writing, so check it out!  I am definitely looking forward to catching up with them in Ecuador after my service is done.  More on life after Peace Corps in #9 & #10…


Towards the end of January, the Peace Corps HIV Taskforce put on our 2nd Nursing Student in-service training.  This 3 day training is designed to educate, inform and equip health service providers with the understanding and strategies needed to provide equitable, appropriate, and adequate care to Guyanese marginalized populations (HIV+ persons, sex workers, LGBT Guyanese).  We did a similar workshop last year, and one of the exciting factors in this training was the utilization of peer facilitators.  Select students from last year’s workshop were invited to come help co-facilitate this workshop, which was GREAT!  Observing the workshop’s impact on the participant’s attitudes is rewarding, but to see this same information being taught by Guyanese to other Guyanese is truly fulfilling.  We aim to have a 3rd workshop before I leave, again engaging student facilitators in the process.  The end goal is to eventually work this information into the general curriculum so that all health service providers will have these sessions delivered to them through the standard Guyanese nursing program.  Sustainability baby.

IMG_2527 IMG_2655 IMG_2691 IMG_2694



Suicide awareness and mental health remains to be a major health priority in Guyana, and an area I hope to meaningfully contribute in before I go.  In December I made contact with a U.S. based crisis intervention service that I thought would be a great fit in Guyana.  As luck would have it, not only was the organization looking to expand internationally in 2016, but I was also able to arrange a meeting between the organization and a Guyanese counterpart who expressed interest in helping bring the service to Guyana.  The meeting went well and there was a mutual agreement on the program’s suitability in Guyana!  The service is Crisis Text Line, and a quick summary of how it works is available here: I will be working over the next few months to keep things moving forward with this and will keep you posted!  There are many local organizations also working to help, and I participate in their efforts whenever possible.   I have been working to get a new Peace Corps volunteer placed with such an organization, which is focused on mental health and suicide prevention.  In my opinion, we can’t have enough resources dedicated to this cause here.  A Guy27 volunteer who lives near me, Tony, has also been doing excellent work with kids in our community on self-esteem, expressing emotions, and self-awareness – addressing the problem of suicide at its roots.  It has been great watching his impact on the kids.  We will be working together to expand with similar lessons in schools and other community opportunities.

Michelle, Jenni and I participating in a suicide walk and program launch
Michelle, Jenni and I participating in a suicide walk and program launch


Another important issue in Guyana is environmental health.  Considering the relation to both the Caribbean and Amazon, Guyana has much cultural and natural beauty to offer.  Unfortunately, this beauty is often hidden under layers and layers of garbage.  It must be said that under the new government administration, noticeable efforts and improvements have been made in the capital city, Georgetown.  However, these efforts have yet to reach the vast areas outside of Georgetown, where we all live, and the impact of waste and environmental hazards are still evident.  So, over the next three months we will be having Environment Education and Fun-day workshops at various schools in our region.  The workshops will help kids understand what environmental health is and what they can to do help improve the areas they live in.  The first camp was last Saturday, which went great!  A session about stray animals and taking care of pets was very popular with the kids, and I think even more can be done to educate kids and help them take charge in reducing the amount of stray animals roaming Guyana’s roads.

P1050037 P1050084 IMG_0201 IMG_0200


Number 8 = Guy28!  Believe it or not, the next next group of Peace Corps Volunteers have arrived in Guyana.  This is not only hard for me to believe, but also a new reminder that my own time here is winding down.  I had the opportunity to meet this group during their first week in country, and had excellent first impressions of them all.  It is crazy remembering what things were like for me back during my first week in Guyana, and although it seems like a lifetime ago, I could still relate to most of what they were feeling.  It’s exciting to have more volunteers here because there is still much that can be done.  It’s not always easy to find ways to make your time here feel valuable, but based on my initial impressions of the group, they will have no problems leaving an impact in the areas they serve.



Although I still have over 4 months left in Guyana, my thoughts are increasingly directed towards life after Peace Corps.  I am a firm believer in being present in the moment, so I try to not let the thoughts of the future consume me – but a little planning on what to do after July 3rd is probably in order.  🙂 Luckily, what I am doing first is pretty much planned – this includes an overland trip through Brazil to Rio, and then taking part in the 2016 Summer Olympics!  A group of volunteers and myself have been accepted as volunteers for the games, working in areas like the Olympic village and Olympic stadium.  It will be awesome to again be part of such an iconic international event (I also volunteered for the 2002 Winter Games).    We have found a place in Copacabana to rent for the month, walking distance to the beach.  After the Olympics I will make my way to Ecuador to catch up with the family and work on my Español. I don’t think I could have asked for a better transition from Peace Corps back to “real life!”


Speaking of real life, what does that even mean?!?  Thinking about what to do 3 months after Peace Corps has not been as difficult as considering what I should be doing for the next 30 years after Peace Corps…and I’ve found it to be a bit overwhelming.  I had begun looking into work with the State Department as a Public Diplomacy officer, and took the required test to begin that process at the end of January.  Unfortunately, I did not pass the timed writing part of the exam.  I ran out of time and couldn’t finish the essay I wanted to write in the 30 minutes provided.  This was more than just a ding to my confidence, which it was, but also really disappointing.  It was disappointing because I consider myself a capable writer and should not have struggled to put down a passable essay.  In any event, if I still want to pursue this line of work, I cannot retake the test until next year…which I may do.  But the truth is, it’s hard to predict where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing next year.  In one of my dad’s blog posts he challenged himself to reflect on a few powerful ideas: “What is your dream? How are you moving toward it? How are you living it?”  So aside from closing the loop on my activities here, I think these next few months are the perfect time for me to start really reflecting on some of those same ideas.  With any luck, I’ll leave Guyana with a better idea of what dream I am moving towards.


Where is the Love?

Where is the Love?

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

-A.A. Milne

Many of you may know this quote from Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh.  I know these words from my Mom, who repeated them to my brother and me as we were growing up, and continues to remind us now.  Although the quote is not new, its message remains important to me now.

Unfortunately, living in Guyana has come with a price.  It is accurate to say that if you live here for any reasonable amount of time, you will be witness to the effects of suicide.  It’s in the papers daily.  You hear about it on social media.  You know someone who knows someone that has committed suicide.  It’s happening in the village down the road, the next road over, or the house across the street.  Until recently, I was aware of the crisis here from a bystanders perspective – appalled by the statistical crisis presented but somewhat removed from the true impact of the problem.  Then, on October 26, 2015, Zenita Nicholson died at the hospital after ingesting poison.

I had met Zenita through my work at SASOD, and was immediately drawn to her fearless display of Human Rights activism and welcoming smile.  She assisted me in some grant writing and took part in a diversity panel during a Peace Corps staff training.  Outside of work, I was also able to see Zenita’s fun side – she was energetic and free.  My impressions of her were clear.  This woman was brave.  This woman was strong.  This woman was smart.  And for the 2nd time since coming to Guyana, a person who I would have never suspected to take their life, did just that.

When someone you admire, whose mere presence alone impacts you, inspires you to be better, or brings a smile to your face – when someone like that can’t see their way out of the darkness, you feel something….the only word I can find to describe that feeling is fear.  It’s scary.  It’s scary when brave people appear to cower.  It’s scary when strong people appear to collapse.  It’s scary when smart people appear to fail.  But we can’t be scared, and we can’t live in fear.

Life in Guyana isn’t easy…but the problem isn’t unique or contained to here.  Five minutes of any news broadcast will show you that this world is in trouble, with fear driving nearly every message being thrown at us.  But there is an answer.  Fear can’t persist in the presence of love.  Too often we look for solutions to our problems outside of ourselves – pray for this, and pray for that – when in fact we ARE the solution.  It’s my belief we were created by a perfect source, and our source is correspondingly perfect.  Perfect love.  I think prayer can have its place, but don’t just pray – love.  There will be times when we don’t feel brave – don’t feel strong – don’t feel smart, and that’s ok.  Pray if it helps, but above all else, forgive yourself and love yourself.  Through our love we are braver than we believe, and stronger than we seem, and smarter than we think.

As we love ourselves, we will be better able to give that love to others, and only then can we shine the light out of the darkness, for ourselves and everyone around us.  This is our only obligation.  Our only real function.  This world is a mirror, and it will give us what we give it.  Let’s stop giving fear.

In loving memory of Kristen Higginbotham and Zenita Nicholson