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It feels surreal that after months of reading other Fellows' blogs, my very own is going up on the website. I could post about how nervous and excited I am for eight months in Ecuador, but I've been feeling like a broken record since April. For my first blog entry, I think I'm going to be a little more selfish if you'll bear with me. While I'm ultimately taking this gap year to broaden my horizons and impact the global community in a positive way, my motives are not entirely altruistic. If we're being totally honest, I'm partly doing this year just to see how much I will change and grow. I want to be as full of a person as I a 19-year-old can be when I come back (if that makes sense). So, in the spirit of encapsulating who I am at this very moment so that I can document how I change, here is who Reina Markert is as of August 1st, 2017, at 9 pm. I've broken it down into three tiers for your convenience.

Tier 1 (things a classmate would know)
– I am not a picky eater, although I am not a fan of raw tomatoes.
– I am tall and blonde. Veryyy Scandinavian/Minnesotan (they're basically interchangeable). The average American woman is 5'4", placing me 3 inches above the average. The average Ecuadorian woman, on the other hand, is 5'0", so this is going to be really fun… 
– I am irrevocably a dog person. 
Tier 2 (things a friend would know)
– I am punctual to a fault. My mom was supposed to drive me to a doctor's appointment today and she went to get some groceries. We were cutting it close, and she almost made us late. I'm not proud of this, but in the spirit of authentic storytelling, let it be known that I sulked the whole way there. In the end, we made it with five minutes to spare, so I really shouldn't have been so moody, but I was. Punctuality has been engrained in me. Because of her chronic tardiness, being best friends with Lily Moen has made me a more patient and tolerant person, and I am grateful for that (even if the process was painful). 
– I have seen The Office at least five consecutive times through, and that's not counting random episodes. If you say a quote, there's a 95% chance I can name the character, context, and season.
– When I tell people where I'm going, they ask me if I'm fluent in Spanish. I hate this question. What is fluency? How do we know when we hit it? I'm still learning words and grammar in English; does that make me less fluent? Someone once told me that fluency is when you can hold a conversation in that language, but by that logic, I've been fluent for years. My answer is "almost." Almost…
– I need at least seven hours of sleep. I've tried functioning on less, but it wasn't pretty.
Tier 3 (things an immediate family member would know)
– I am only clean when other people expect me to be or they're using the same space that I am. I'm happy to let my room be a hellscape but I'll be damned if I don't wash a pot in the kitchen after I'm done using it. 
– I'm not scared of my own death, but I'm scared of losing the people that I love. Sorry, was that too heavy? I'm trying to think of little-known facts about me, but I'm pretty much an open book.
– I'm pretty much an open book. Sometimes I like to be mysterious, but that ruse dissipates pretty quickly. 
If you've made it this far, then congratulations. Shoot me a quick note about what you liked (or didn't like) or about what you want to read more about in the future. As I go forward in my blogging, I hope to keep it 100 with you guys. I know that my family and friends and teachers will be reading this, but perhaps more importantly, future Fellows will be reading this too. I hope to provide a clear picture into my eight months in Ecuador not only so that future Fellows can know what they're getting themselves into, but also so that I can see how I've grown. There have been a lot of long sentences in this blog post. Sorry, Mr. Crow. 
For now, here is the Reina of August 1st, 2017 at 9:33 pm, signing off.