PCV Liz Tarshis

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Volunteer Profile 

Liz Tarshis

Age: 23

Sector: Small Business Development 65

Educational background: Bachelors in Economics and Sociology/ Global Studies and Social Justice and a Minor in General Psychology (I know it’s a mouth full) from Bridgewater State University

Hometown: Born and raised in Newtown, CT

Fun fact: Although the chisme (gossip) about this has already circulated around some of the PCV community, I have a tattoo of E=MC2 on my inner lip. I got it when I was 17, I was a big Einstein fan at the time.

It’s been awhile since I posted a PCV interview. I have been wanting to do more, however, PCVs are busier than you’d imagine. Nonetheless, I’ll post them as they come. Liz Tarshis is one of the few volunteers, I assumed was in the health sector when I first met her. It’s hard for me to remember she’s a small business volunteer. She reminds me of a European goddess, tall, and ethereal features and I like how poised she is, no matter the situation. We call her Tarsh because there are three volunteers named Liz in our group. So get into Tarsh!

Making caras locas with some kids in La Corona Matagalpa

Why did you join the Peace Corps? Did you know anyone who served before? How long have you been wanting to join?

I wanted to join the Peace Corps because I thought it would be a good starting place for a career in International Development. Yet I’m here and I still don’t know exactly what I want that career to be. I didn’t know of anyone in the Peace Corps until about a two years before I joined, a friend of mine had a sister that joined. Peace Corps has always kind of been in the back of my mind. I remember in middle school seeing pictures of volunteers working on agricultural projects in Africa in my history book and thinking, “Wow you must have to be pretty brave to be a volunteer.” It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I realized it was a real option for me.

Did you have any anxiety or fears?

I remember telling my friends in secret that I wanted to join. I didn’t want to announce it publicly in case I chickened out or didn’t get it. I guess my biggest fears were that I wasn’t qualified and spiders.

Is this your first time outside of the states? Where else have you been? What is the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?

I have traveled to Guatemala, Ecuador, Nicaragua once before, China, and Mexico in that order. I had never traveled west of the Mississippi until I realized I wanted to serve in the Peace Corps. All at once I signed up for a bunch of volunteer trips and study tours. I was 19 I think.

Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?

I think every time I travel there is something about the country that I wasn’t exactly expecting. Like the amount of guns in Guatemala, the difference between the Mountain and Amazon culture in Ecuador, the amount of fruit in Nicaragua, the squat toilets in China, and the amount of red heads in Mexico.

Did you speak Spanish before you got here? Do you speak any other languages?

So I definitely thought my language level was a lot higher than it was when I arrived in country. I used to work in a Mexican restaurant and about half the workers only spoke to me in Spanish. It’s only now that I realize that they were talking to be like I was a little kid, “Hooooolaaaaaaa, (long pause) comooo estaaaasss?” It’s fun to talk to some of them now and their like “Wooahh your Spanish thoo!”

So far, what have been the highlights of your 9-month stint in Nicaragua? Have there been any unexpected complications? 

The highlights definitely come from the personal connections. It is the most heartwarming feeling when I go to my training site of Catarina to visit my host family and my host nieces and nephew see me coming from down the street and come running screaming my name and attack me with hugs. It’s adorable. In my actual site, this random insignificant run in really made my day/ my week. I was taking a moto-taxi back from one of my schools and the moto-taxi driver was actually engaging me in conversation wondering where I was from, what I’m doing here, and then we stopped to pick up these two older women. I recognized one of the women from the week before when we had shared a moto and she had lost her glasses. I commented on her new pair and she instantly recognized me and laughed and we chatted about life and children and boys for the whole ride. It was super cute. Unexpected complications have been feeling obligated to do everything all the time and then that guilt you feel when you realize you can’t.

Did you manage to find any hidden gems or unique sights off the beaten path that you would recommend for other adventurous travelers?

I’m not sure how hidden these gems are but recently I went to San Juan del Sur (a very popular tourist spot) with some Nicas. We had a truck and we went to all these other beach spots that took like 10- 20 minutes to drive to on muddy roads. One beach was called Maderas, Marsella, Majagual and the other one La Flor or something like that. They were so beautiful. The beaches were carved out of the sides of the land, nestled between giant rock faces. Not another soul was on the beach, there was light sands, and semi-translucent water. Very enjoyable.

Outside of the PC goals for your sector, what’s your personal focus in your work?

I feel like I don’t really have a focus on my work yet since I’m still getting the hang of things, but something I’d really like to set up is a mentoring program between some university students and some at-risk youth to maybe increase motivation in school and decrease the dropout rate.

Do you have any funny travel stories?

I love those stories of when you run into people that you’re not expecting to see. Nicaragua is so small that this happens all the time. Whether it be someone you met once in a volunteer program during college, or other volunteers every time you travel out of site, or running into your bosses when you’re relaxing with a beer on the beach. However, the biggest coincidence was when I was hanging out in a little café in Masatepe in the department of Masaya during training, and I thought the girl behind the counter looked very familiar but I just shrugged it off. Later as we were leaving I commented to another volunteer that the girl looked just like someone I had met in Matagalpa (a department hours away up in the mountains) two years ago when I had visited Nicaragua once before. The other volunteer excitedly told me that the girl was originally from Matagalpa. I ran back in and we talked and she told me that she had also thought I looked familiar and we spent the next few minutes catching up on lost time.

If you were not traveling what would you be doing instead?

If I’m not traveling I’m usually working, to pay for traveling… and good food.

What’s one thing you do just for you.. like a hobby. Why do you do that one thing?

I’m not sure if I have really developed any hobbies while here, at least nothing that I do religiously. I have, however, gotten really into listening to podcasts. It makes me feel connected to the states listening to all these educational/ current event/ funny podcasts.

Right after swearing in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer

How has being in a relationship affected your service?

Being in a relationship has definitely made it more of an OUR experience instead of a MY experience. It definitely adds another layer of difficulties, whether it be that I feel his stress too, or I’m sad because we both used up all of our out of site days and can’t hang out. However, it is definitely a tremendous support. I never feel homesick when I’m with him and I always have someone to give me a sympathetic ear and the hard truth whenever I need it.

Were you open to dating a Nicaraguan when you arrived here?

I was definitely open to dating a Nicaraguan when I came, and I kind of thought I would after hearing all these stories about volunteers dating nationals. I honestly never imagined I would fall in love with another volunteer.

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