Down to Business

Does anyone have brain re-forming tips? Because my brain has turned into a pile of mush and I kind of need it to be functional instead of mushy. Last week was my first full week here, and that meant finally getting down to business and figuring out what needs to get done for this building project. Part of me wishes that I was still in a state of blissful ignorance, but that ship has sailed. This project is going to be A LOT of work, and in order to do my part, I’m going to need to learn very quickly.

To give you a mini-rundown of the project, it’s a relatively small 3-story building. On the first (ground) floor, there’s a bathroom that’s existing, and we’re adding two classrooms, one on either side. On the second floor, there will be three classrooms, and on the top “floor” (it’s being called a “half floor” because it won’t have full-height walls), there will be a multipurpose space and a kitchen.

Here’s the general plan of the ground floor. The two red boxes are classrooms, the blue is the existing bathroom, and the green is the stairs. On the second floor, there’s no big bathroom, and there are 3 classrooms instead.
This is one of the renderings from the EA informational booklet about the project, showing what the finished building will look like (kind of). The building to the right is existing, plus the bathroom which is in the middle of the ground floor in the building straight ahead. The rest will be all new!

Thankfully, I don’t need to worry about any large equipment or electrical panels. That infrastructure already exists, so we’ll be able to simply connect the new into the existing system. The major “uh oh” factor is coming from the realization that even though I did have a relevant job for a couple of years, the things I did were only a small portion of what’s needed for a full design. And, to make things even worse, I don’t know anything about what products are available here or Peruvian design rules-of-thumb. Debbie lent me her code book which is great… but of course, it’s in Spanish. I can understand it well enough, but it’s just one more thing on the list of tasks that are going to take a liiiiittle bit longer than they would at home. Add all of the “littles” together, and I have a lot of work to do.

Volleyball game on the “soccer court” at recess. The new building will be straight ahead (the bathroom is behind those little white tents).

Most of last week was spent on the world’s most tedious task… formatting. You don’t have to know anything about architecture or engineering to know that formatting documents is the worst. In this case, it’s the necessary prep work that will make the actual work go smoothly, but I feel like I accomplished next to nothing because there’s no physical result from my work. It’s also relatively mind-numbing. By the end of the day on Friday, I felt like my brain was made of mush (and it felt like it was functioning about that well, too). The one positive is that I mostly finished, so this week I can get on with doing actual work!

Here’s an awkward panoramic view of the office. We have 5 people sharing the space which is an adventure! My desk is the wooden one straight ahead. This is where the magic and hair-ripping happen.

Instead of having a restful weekend, Debbie decided that we should go on an outing on Saturday. To an architecture seminar. On urban acoustics. In Spanish. She wanted me to meet her architect friends, and I’ll admit, I’m happy that we went. It was fun and the people were cool, but I would absolutely not describe it as a restful day. The morning involved about four hours of attempting to follow acoustics-related Spanish (which thankfully isn’t terribly different from acoustics-related English) and straining to remember the things I learned seven years ago (eek!) in my university acoustics class. Ha.

The topic was interesting though. The presenter just returned from a year studying in Spain, and he presented foundational acoustics information, plus his thesis topic. Side note, I was the only engineer in a room of architects, and that interaction is apparently the same no matter what country you’re in. Any time math was involved, I was basically called out with a, “but you already know this, don’t you?” I mean, no, not necessarily, but I do know how to use a calculator so I can figure it out..? Ugh. Architects. (I’m kidding, I’m kidding.) ANYWAY, his thesis looked at different road geometries (like raised roadways vs. sunken roadways vs. roads with walls, etc.) and analyzed how well the various configurations controlled the noise from the traffic. There was also a practical portion in the afternoon where we took sound measurements at various locations along a nearby street. It was fun! It reminded me of university because architecture/engineering students are always doing weird things in public for their classes. Buses kept stopping and trying to give us a ride because it absolutely looked like we were waiting for something.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, and my brain was even more like mush than the day before. So yeah, probably not the best strategy for a brain revival, but good nonetheless.

Aside from work and my mushy brain, I’ve just been trying to keep myself sane. I’ve been attempting to work out on weekday mornings… I feel like I should at least do SOMETHING to offset the fact that I spend the rest of the day hunched over my computer screen, slowly pulling my hair out.

View of the mountains from outside of the office.

On one final note, if you’re wondering why you have yet to hear about Patagonia, it’s because of the internet. And also me. And mostly the interaction between me and the internet. Long story short (and vague), I decided I needed to change some big things about how my blog is set up to better suit the complicated disaster that it’s grown into… which meant that I needed to learn things about how the internet works. Which is something that my brain refuses to understand. BUT we survived (both me and my brain), and I think I kind of maybe sort of figured out the things that I needed to figure. I know, I’m oozing with confidence. In conclusion, ignore anything that doesn’t look quite right about my blog page because it’s a big ‘ole work in progress (but if you find something that doesn’t work, please tell me and then ignore it), and fear not. Soon enough, I’ll be confusing the heck out of you by talking about Peru and Patagonia at the same time.

Life Update

Hi friends!

If you’re thinking it’s been a while since you last heard from me… yes, it has. It’s been a crazy time for me! As you know (though from my much-delayed blog posts, you’d never guess), I’ve been home for about 6 months now, trying to discern my next step. Much has happened over the last few weeks. My brother Mike and I went on a somewhat spur-of-the-moment trip to Patagonia (more on that later)… and even more excitingly, my plans for the rest of the year came together!

What are these exciting plans?” you ask. (Or maybe you didn’t ask, but I’m going to answer anyway.)

I’ll be spending the next 10 months in Peru, returning to Esperanza de Ana, the Christian ministry where I volunteered two years ago (January – March 2017). Esperanza de Ana is dedicated to family preservation and restoration, partnering with families in crisis in order to create stronger, safer, and more stable home environments.

Looking out over the Esperanza de Ana campus

Last time I was there, I co-taught a summer school class called Mini-Engineers with the goal of exposing the kids to new ideas and career paths. We taught a unit on urban planning, and the students built their own “kid cities”, complete with stop signs and traffic lights! Then, we changed gears and built robots! (That pun was 100% intended.) It was fun to see the kids get so excited about the things they created.

Me with one of the completed “kid cities”, holding a robot.

One of the kids made a little playground, complete with puff-ball people!

I spent the rest of my time in Peru focused on the campus’s lighting and electrical systems. There was no accurate documentation of the existing conditions, so I surveyed the buildings, created updated documents, and recommended changes for a more effective system.

Now, Esperanza de Ana is in the middle of an expansion project. Their after-school programs have outgrown the current classroom space, and they’re planning to construct a new building with five additional classrooms and a multipurpose space. I’ll be joining the team to design the lighting and electrical systems and help manage the construction! Whoa.

Playing games at a summer school birthday party

“That’s so cool,” you say. “How can I be involved?

I’m thrilled you asked! First, if you know my mother, you can assure her that I will be careful not to fall off any cliffs, that airplanes DO travel to Peru and she is allowed to travel on one of them (long shot, I know), and that I am not lost to her forever.

Second, you can pray, specifically for my adjustment to life in Peru; for safety throughout my time abroad; for the project planning and execution to go smoothly; for Esperanza de Ana, the work they’re doing, the staff and the families; and for my fundraising efforts.

Debbie (my architect teammate in this expansion project adventure), me, and Julie (one of the other full-time missionaries at EA).

Third, if you’d like to help make this project and my involvement possible, you can support us financially. Since this isn’t a paid position, I am fundraising for the 10 months that I will be in Peru to cover room and board, flights, and other expenses. If you would like to join my support team, contributions for room and board can be sent to Armenian Martyrs’ Congregational Church (tax-deductible) by check (memo: “Lara Kaiserian mission”, 100 N. Edmonds Ave, Havertown, PA 19083) or electronically via PayPal (amccpa.org/give/, “Make Other Donation”, type “Lara Kaiserian mission” in ‘ special instructions’), and those for flights and other expenses can be sent to me directly (via mailed check or electronically, message me for info).

Also, fundraising for the expansion project is still in progress, and you can donate to that through Esperanza de Ana’s website HERE (that’s also a good place to see more information about the project).

Finally, fourth, you can keep reading my blog to stay updated on all the happenings in Peru.

On that note, what does this mean for the blog?

I’ve thought a lot about this, and I don’t want to abandon my last adventure. I visited some amazing places with some amazing history (increasingly becoming my favorite thing to learn about), and I still want to share it all with you.

That being said, get ready for your head to spin. I’m going to keep you updated on what’s happening in Peru (probably about once per week) while also continuing our jaunt across Europe. BUT, just to confuse even more and to get you in the South American spirit, we’re going to hit PAUSE on Europe and explore Patagonia together first! Mostly because I’m so excited about Mike and my trip, and if I wait to talk about it chronologically, we’ll be lucky to get there by 2020.

In summary: Peru posts will be ongoing, Patagonia posts coming soon, and we’ll head back to Europe after that! (Pretend that’s not confusing at all.)

Okay, that’s all for now! Thanks for bearing with me, for encouraging me during my six months of uncertainty, and for being my faithful travel companions. Pack your bags for another adventure!

❤ Lara

Sunset view… I don’t mind getting to see sunsets like this again!

In Case You Were Worried That I Fell Off a Cliff…

I’m happy to inform you that I didn’t, and I’m sorry to have worried you.

In case you wanted proof that my blog hasn’t been hijacked by a robot: As you can see, I’m alive and well and enjoying catching up with friends! (Or maybe that’s NOT real Lara and I’m just a robot with very impressive disguising abilities. We’ll never know for sure.)

I know you haven’t heard from me in a while, and as you might guess, we have a LOT to catch up on. For starters, I’m back in the USA! I got back about a month ago now (whoa! Time flies!), and I’ve been spending my time catching up with family and friends and readjusting to life in a country where I can actually communicate with people. Reverse culture shock is VERY real, and I honestly think it’s worse than regular culture shock.

To answer the #1-most-frequently-asked question (please please don’t ask me this), I don’t know what’s next for me yet. At the moment, I’m working on a few personal projects, helping my parents out, and looking into every option for my future. If anyone has any thoughts, I’m now accepting life path suggestions! I’m not kidding. If you have any ideas about jobs that you think might be a good fit for me, I would be happy to hear them!

While that’s all getting figured out, I want to finish what I started with my blog. My last blog post was from Bath in England, but that’s far from the last place I visited. Between the travelling, sightseeing, getting to know people, and keeping up with my journal, most of my days were packed from morning to evening. I was getting stressed out trying to keep the blog going as well, so I decided to stop worrying and focus on enjoying the rest of my time abroad. Now that I’m back and have a little more free time, I’m excited to tell you about all of the awesome places I visited over the last few months! Trust me, you’re going to want to stick around to hear about them!