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Melinda rock climbing

More Than a Cidery–Melinda’s Story

If you have been to the taproom over the last few months, you would have had the pleasure of meeting Melinda Russell, one of our trusty cider slingers. Bittersweetly, she left us this month to start a great life adventure. She will leave Longmont in November to start her training to become a Peace Corp volunteer in Uganda. We got to talk one-on-one with her about it. Her story and future plans are too good not to share. 

What made you want to go into the Peace Corps?

 The idea of traveling kick started it. Back in high school, I studied abroad in Spain and my eyes were opened to the world out there to explore. Then in college, I worked for a non-profit organization in a lower resource neighborhood and that experience helped me see the importance of education. It was not a job to make a lot of money, but it was so fulfilling to see the success of the people I worked with and see what they can achieve. I spent time in Africa before as well when my best friend started a pre-school in Ghana and I helped get it going. Being in Ghana gave me a taste of what the Peace Corps life would be like: bucket showers, the cultural differences, no electricity. A real glimpse into the type of life I’d be signing up for. I want to be part of a community that is something different than I know and am used to. 

Over time, I started thinking more and more about the Peace Corps and several times tried to write the essay but backed away. It is a huge commitment and other things were happening in my life. Like I started a relationship or moved towns or changed jobs. I wasn’t ready yet for that kind of big life change. 

It always stayed in the back of my mind though. Then, I got out of some of life’s anchors including a relationship. I left my 9-5 job and left Tahoe. I thought, now is the best time to do something like that. The ball kept rolling, and before I knew it, being in the Peace Corps and going to Uganda came to fruition!

What will you be doing and when do you leave?

I will be an English Literacy teacher in Uganda. I will work in an elementary and middle school. The literacy teacher works closely with the teachers and helps to teach them effective ways to teach English. 

After a few weeks of initial training and placement interviews, I will learn which region I’ll be in and language I’ll be speaking. I will learn the local language, whatever local dialect the community speaks. The Peace Corps is a 27-month commitment with the opportunity to extend if I want. 

I already speak Spanish and I would have had a leg up if I got picked to go somewhere that speaks Spanish, but I figured if I was going to be pushing beyond my comfort zone to this level, I might as well challenge myself just as much by learning a completely new, non-Latin language. We’ll see how it goes! 

How are you preparing for the adventure and are you scared?

Working at St. Vrain Cidery has been a great place to be while I get myself ready. A fun place to be and allowing me to make money (before I go volunteer for 2 years) and have time to do all I need to do. I have video conferences with tasks to do before I leave. They are getting me prepared and giving me some direction. But honestly, the reality of leaving hasn’t fully hit yet. I imagine the weeks before I’ll get more anxious. I do plan to have a blog and keep a journal to have some sort of outlet to express what I am going through. 

The nervousness comes in waves. I am mostly scared of getting sick. I am trying to not have too many preconceived notions, though. When I make a decision, I go full throttle in. It is like a switch that goes on. Then I have to adapt after. If I hesitate, I’ll never do it. I tell myself, “you’ll figure it out and make it through.”

We know you love rock climbing. Will you rock climb in Uganda?

I absolutely hope to climb in Uganda. I have decided to pack all my climbing gear plus some extra shoes and a harness, just in case I find a willing participant to join me. We will see where I am placed and exactly how much free time I have, but I do know there is some great climbing out there. I need to be open to the chance that I can’t rock climb on a regular basis, but I will find a way, even if it’s spending my available time off going on small trips.   Whatever happens it will definitely be an adventure to find the crags of Uganda.

 More than a cidery

Supporting our staff in their lives is important to us. We encourage anyone who comes through our doors, whether that is staff or customers, to go after the big things in their lives. Go Melinda. You inspire us. We’ll miss you but we will be cheering you on from afar. And we’ll keep following your story, wherever it leads (and hopefully it leads you back to us one day!) 


If you’d like to follow Melinda’s journey, she’ll be in touch with a blog when it is set-up. We’ll link it from here.