What impact did PiLA have on you/your life?
PiLA gave me the opportunity to travel across Latin America and see the operations of social businesses from the ground up. It was an amazing opportunity to see enterprises that have an impact on local livelihoods and made me more interested in looking at business solutions to poverty. At the same time, focusing on business solutions showed me their limitations, particularly for building up civil society and for the most vulnerable members of society.
What was your most memorable travel experience during your PiLA fellowship?
Professionally, the site visits for Global Partnerships were always fascinating. On one field visit with a coffee cooperative, the pickup could not make it up the hill because the back tires were spinning out. As someone that grew up in a rural area, I was the only person that realized that the weight distribution was a problem, so I tossed logs and large rocks in the pickup bed before convincing my supervisor to sit in the back with me. We made it up the hill and the next client we interviewed was laughing the entire time after hearing our story and seeing us roll up in suits in the back of a muddy pickup.
Personally, during Semana Santa and the suffocating heat of April, I escaped to Little Corn Island to become dive certified. Dark, deep water freaks me out so I decided that I wanted to go diving at night. Five of us went out on a little boat with only a sliver of a moon, and when diving, you have to fall backwards off the boat into the water. I was the first one in the water and for a minute worked on remembering to breathe in the middle of the pitch-black ocean. Sinking down, each diver lit up their flashlights and everyone looked like astronauts flying through space. A special light made the coral glow in bright blues and reds and after about twenty minutes, we turned off our lights and sat in darkness on the ocean floor. Slowly, little bioluminescent microorganisms lit up the water, in cascading chains going up and up. It felt like we were sitting in the middle of the Milky Way.
What do you miss most about your PiLA year?
I miss my friends in Nicaragua and how close everything is – from the capital city you can drive twenty minutes and be on top of a volcano, forty minutes and be swimming in a volcanic crater lake, and you are just one hour from the beach. It is incredible to have so many beautiful landscapes right at your fingertips. Every month in Nicaragua I had the opportunity to explore a new and stunning landscape with amazing friends.
Restaurant recommendation in your current city
The creatively named Little Ethiopian Restaurant on 9th Street. I’m really into anything that isn’t gallopinto (sorry, Niki).
Princeton fellows are global citizens and we value civic engagement. During our year in Nicaragua there were a lot of defining moments in the United States, how did you stay civically engaged in matters of your own country while living abroad?
I was carefully following the presidential election from abroad, as well as my state referendums and local candidates. The day after the election was really difficult because every single candidate and referendum I had supported had lost. Being abroad, I felt limited in what I could do, so I signed up for 5calls and made calling circles. Calling circles are essentially a group of people where anyone can propose a call and each person in the group then has to call that representative and post a screenshot within 24 hours. It is great because it keeps people involved with pretty minimal effort, promotes accountability, and for each call script you create, you know that 5 other people are also speaking to that representative. This was a great way to stay up to date with political developments at the local and national level, and support one another to be more engaged.
I was also following the Women’s March very closely and six days before the march, a friend asked me if I was going. I had assumed I couldn’t attend, but checked flights and flew to D.C. two days later with my supervisor’s blessing. I am so glad I did!
Your Nomination for next Alumni Spotlight: Jesus Salas