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Monday, January 28, 2013

GVI round the world competition winner - Claudia Lifton-Schwerner sends her first blog from Mexico marine expedtion!

Trade Puddles for the Ocean
There are several reasons why I chose this lyric as the title of my first blog.  Firstly, this song, amongst many other deliciously beautiful songs by Papadosio (if you don’t know them, you should), has been the anthem for the start of my journey.  This song is the first one I listened to on my way to the airport, in the airplane, and when I finally arrived on the project base.  But the main reason I chose Anthony’s wonderful words is because they literally and figuratively describe the next year of my life.  Just last week my best friend, Maynah, and I went on a hike. Yes, it was a freezing New York winter day, but when you gotta hike, you gotta hike.  We were soaked by the end of our short lived adventure after stepping through puddles of slushy snow and mud. Now, I am sitting in a hammock writing to all of you back home, gazing at the endless, mind-blowingly stunning ocean. 
These past few days have been an overwhelming and incredible whirlwind of new friends (both human and animal alike), new sights, new tastes, and new experiences. Those of you who know me well are laughing as you read this, since you know I am lacking in the smelling department.  The exceptional and diverse group of people that I am spending the next few months of my life with is more kind, open, and genuine than I could have ever hoped for.  Just these first few days have been worth all of the sweat and tears I put into winning this competition.
And when I say sweat and tears, I mean sweat and tears.  It is safe to say that I just about lost my mind during the last few weeks of the competition.  For three weeks I went to my school library every day with two plastic bins full of cookies (40 in each), and refused to leave until I had exchanged each one of them for a vote.  When I wasn’t in the library, I was individually messaging every single one of my facebook friends, and after a little convincing, four of my closest friends gave me their login information, and I did the same to their friends (thank you Maynah, Stacy, Ciaran and Clay). 
After I finished harassing people individually, I moved on to larger audiences; online travel forums, voting exchange pages, animal rights forums…etc. I cannot tell you how many baby smiles and handmade dresses I voted for in exchange for my own votes.  I refused to go to sleep until I had exchanged at least 15 votes, and posted my video on at least 5 forums.  Needless to say, this often went until 4am.  During normal waking hours, I was taping flyers about the competition, with information on how to vote, next to every computer in my schools computer lab, and the computer labs in every college within 2 hours of me.  I spoke in front of all of my classes, as well as the Greek council on campus, lobbying for votes. 
During Paws Across Oswego Counties (the shelter I worked for) biggest fundraiser, I brought my computer and shamelessly played my video on loop with information on how to vote readily available.  My wonderful supervisor, mentor and friend at the shelter, Marjorie Wentworth, pulled her many strings and got me interviews with three local newspapers.  My tireless mother had all of her yoga students and coworkers vote for me, and my closest friends and family did the same. 
I REALLY wanted to win this competition. It was, and is, the complete package of everything I have ever wanted to do with my life; travel, help animals, write, help animals, volunteer in foreign countries, and help animals! I hit the trifecta, or the quadruple-fecta (did I spell that right????).  As I type this I can feel  Dr. Smith, Professor Knapp, and Professor Granelli checking for spelling and grammar errors, and shaking their heads at my run on sentences (yes, I know, and I’m working on it).  You guys are forever engrained in my every written word. 
Over the past two days we have taken our CPR (pictured) and EFR (emergency first response) courses, toured the spectacularly beautiful base, and begun studying the diverse groups of fish and coral.  I have learned so much already, and haven’t even started scuba diving yet! I am so excited, and a little nervous, to begin, and I cannot wait to tell all of you about it. 
But now it’s time for desert! So much love to all of my beloved friends and family back home. Till next week! (I LOVE YOU MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!