Friday, January 28, 2011

Last leg of the tour

I'm in California right now, I got here yesterday and I'm leaving on Tuesday. My brother and his family are out here, so I came to see them and say goodbye and happy birthday to my brother before I leave for such a long time. My nephews are pretty adorable and will be full grown men by the time I get back (exaggeration, they'll be in 2nd grade and kindergarten when I return, but that seems so grown up for how they are now).

I have a week left in the states when I get home to Florida, and all of the sudden that seems like no time at all. All along I've had this pretty decent timeline in my head (and on paper) of what needed to be done when, and there was always this trip as a buffer between getting things ready to go and actually going. I haven't packed anything yet. I'm not as worried about that as one might think, considering the length of the trip I'm going on and my destination, because the best advice on packing from the most knowledgable people (those who have done this, and those in country) has been to take what makes me happy, some underwear, and enjoy my time left with friends and family. Sounds good. Although, I did just go by two more things: a cover for my Osprey pack so the do-dads and belts don't get snagged in a conveyor belt when I check it, and a short wave radio that, sadly, runs on AAA batteries. (I'd wanted a hand-crank version).

I am thinking about getting a new tattoo before I go - completely impulsive and irresponsible and possibly unsafe, but I kind of love it... One of my best friends had a dream (after lunch with me and a cry fest about missing me, which in turn made me cry) that I had a tattoo (and she may have had one too I forget) of a little planet and an alien ship and some stars and the words "look up" to remind us that we were still under the same sky... I already have a tiny star on my foot, and I feel like the words "look up" would make me happy when I'm lonely. I have to figure out if a week is enough time to heal it before I step off a plane in the middle of Africa, land of crazy diseases. I'm sure PC would not approve.

Lastly, I wanted to share the coolest project ever that I get be a part of. I know that the PC blogosphere is pretty close knit, so you all may already know about this since I'm super late posting about it, but I'm so excited to have been in the actual real life, not online, conversation that conceived the idea :) Kim, Jessica, and I went bowling last weekend with the UF group of PC applicants, RPCVs and the UF recruiter, and we started talking about a journal project that Kim is involved in with some of her friends in Vegas. She thought it would transfer awesomely to PC and we agreed. Basically what has come of it is this: Snapshots of Service. Over the course of 2011, 50 volunteers who leave for service in 50 different countries will be mailing each other a journal that everyone will have a small section to do what we want with. We'll have it for a week before we mail it on to the next volunteer. I'm getting the journal second, and then I'll get it again about a year or so in. Hopefully if this all goes well we'll look into getting it published to add to the many resources for future PCVs written by RPCVs (just like the Unofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook!)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The other side

Yesterday was intense. I got up around 4:30, deflowered the french press coffee maker I'd bought the day before (along with about 100 other items, ouch) and got started on setting up my garage sale. Three hours, two cups of coffee and a nip of bailey's later, things were in full swing and I was wired. I sat in my freezing cold driveway watching people paw at my things, talk to themselves, ask if any of the stuff left in the garage was for sale (um, no? that's why it's not out here with a price tag on it) and then low-ball me for everything. At the end of the day some friends showed up to hang out while I packed up the left overs and drove them to goodwill. I kind of regret getting rid of my green bathing suit top and my silver mirror, but the top didn't have a matching bottom, the Ugandan welcome book says to bring a one piece, and the mirror was pulling away from the frame in one corner, so I'm just going to get over both things and move on with my life. We got sushi for lunch, and while it was delicious, I paid for it later. I fell asleep from about 3-5 in the afternoon and woke up feeling so incredibly sick. I'm sure it was a combination of getting no sleep the night before, too much coffee (my stomach doesn't handle the acid well, so I'm usually just a one or two cup girl) filling myself with udon noodles and raw fish, and then stressing out about the fact that all of my earthly possessions were gone. It felt like I was on a different planet or in a different time zone.

I am so incredibly excited to begin this...

Friday, January 21, 2011

a good place

I just woke up from a dream that did not start, but ended at my staging in Philly in two and a half weeks. I had not filled out any of the required paperwork, not gotten a power of attorney, and had to write a statement responding to "What qualities do you, as a Leo, have that should make us feel more comfortable giving you a PC PC (Peace Corps Purchase Card) when most likely you have little to no credit." First thing I did was panic because of that whole they-changed-the-zodiac thing, and I'm not a Leo anymore (but I will always count myself as one, they can change it for the next group of kids being born, I'm grandfathered in as far as I am concerned) then I wrote about was how I am an amazing budgeter (because I can be when I want) and how I actually do have good credit because I am a grown up who had lots of things in her own name like a cell phone and utilities and cable and leases and credit cards with zero balance. Apparently I was writing all these things on a piece of day old toast, because the paper/toast kept crumbling away. It was a mess and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have let me on the plane had I not woken up soon thereafter.

I hung out with some friends last night who were all pretty excited about my adventures, which in turn made me more excited. One guy reiterated what I am trying to remember when packing: "I'd go with the clothes on my back, minimal everything else, and buy all the cool shit they have over there. They've got to have some cool shit." Thanks Jordan :)

I feel like I am in a very good place getting ready wise. I've finished cleaning out my storage - which involved going through every single box or bin and repacking what I want to keep (much to the chagrin of my mom...) and making a HUGE pile of things to get rid of. I am having a garage sale, weather permitting, tomorrow, after which I'm taking all the left overs to Goodwill and will be done with that phase. I'm doing all the financial stuff today, going to my bank, calling credit cards, etc. Next week I can focus on getting the paperwork all filled out and finalized, I leave on Thursday to spend a long weekend in California with my brother for his 38th (holy shit) birthday and to say bye to my nephews. I will get back and have one week to pack. I have a goodbye party/night out with drinks on the Saturday before leaving. When people ask if I'm ready to go, all I can think is "I will be when it's time..."

Lastly, the Kindle is for sure growing on me. I got all the free books I could find that sounded the least bit interesting, and then I spent $250 on everything else I've wanted. Oops.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I bought a Kindle. Or, A Commentary on American Society and its Consumerism

I caved. I am still uneasy with my purchase, no matter how much people tell me it's the greatest thing in the world. I feel like I'm betraying my childhood obsession with perusing the bookstore near my moms shop, sitting for hours and getting lost in a copy of The Babysitters Club, or staying up until three am reading The Diary of Anne Frank, only stopping because my mom came in and physically took the book away. My heart sank a little when I clicked "place order", and I still haven't gotten very excited about it. I wonder what my dad would think. He had a library of books in his house, some of which I've kept and some I've gotten rid of (though it honestly pained me to do so). He was also into technology though, and had to have the latest and greatest everything.

I think I figured out another reason why it's not sitting well with me either - I'm taking with me technology to make my life easier and more comfortable while I'm living in a developing nation. None of the Ugandans I live with or work with are going to have Kindles, they're not going to be fretting about reading their e-reader in bright sunlight, or how long the battery lasts or the classics they can get for free since the copyrights have expired. If they have books at all, they're going to be paper and ink. If I'm truly to integrate into my community, shouldn't I just do as they do? People have asked me how I'm going to deal with bucket baths and pit latrines while I'm over there, and I just say that millions of people do that every day of their lives, why can't I do it for two years? It's certainly not going to kill me, it's just different from what we know here. I think I just feel uneasy accumulating unnecessary things (because let's be honest, that's what they are) to make my life easier. I am not trying to preach or condemn anyone here, because I am just as guilty of it as anyone, it just seems like in America we have all of our basic needs met, so we have begun to see "wants" as "needs". I have an iphone that I'm addicted to (though that lately has been making me uncomfortable too, but that's another entry), I have a laptop, three digital cameras, two ipods, etc., etc. All of these things make my life easier, but where is the line between want and need? I need to communicate, but do I need facebook at my fingertips and a million apps? I need to listen to music, but do I need 10,000 songs in my pocket? I love taking and looking at pictures, but my dslr is honestly ridiculous (though I do love it!)

There is just such a dichotomy that I'm beginning to be way more aware of as I get closer and closer to the biggest change of my life so far.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

my other four-fifths

I'm sitting on my bed, half under my covers, drinking a too-sweet raspberry coffee, surrounded by my pets (all both of them, if you count that as being "surrounded") I just got home from my "Good-Bye" weekend with my four best friends. I don't even know if they can be described simply as best friends, because they are the closest things to sisters I have in my life, other than my sister-in-law, Jackie :) The five of us grew up on two parallel streets in the same neighborhood; Jenny, Jamie, and me on one street, Kristina and Sarina on the other. Jenny's mom and mine met when they were pregnant with us, and Jamie moved in two houses down from us when we were three or four months old. I forget when Sarina and Kristina got there (I want to say it was before they were born?) but either way the five of us entered the same kindergarten class in August of 1988, already BFFs.

We sometimes had the same teachers, sometimes didn't. Sometimes we were all in a fight, sometimes closer than close. Sometimes we broke off in twos or threes, or did our own thing, but that's what sisters do, right? We graduated from the same high school and went to college - four of us at UF, Sarina an hour and a half away. Jenny and I lived together for most of college (except freshman year when we were in different dorms) and Jamie had a key to our place so she could nap on our couch between classes. When Jenny moved away for grad school it was the furthest we'd ever been from one another. We even have a matching pair of cats, now separated by a two hour drive, but I am pretty sure they have forgotten about one another.

My girls took me to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, despite the fact that not one of them has read the books or seen the movies. They put up with me being a total geek about every detail there, wanting to ride all the rides, and knowing the answer to every question they had. I bought a Gryffindor scarf, which is conveniently the same colors as the flag of Uganda, so I can bring it with me and say I'm being proud of my new country (not that I wouldn't have brought it with me anyway...) They made me a cup with my name on it, and lyrics to our song (Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer, duh) and Jamie bought everyone a bottle of wine called Five Friends. We ate cheese and crackers, made dinner, went out to breakfast, slept on couches, and talked late into the night. I cried a few times when it hit me that I haven't gone through any major events in my life without at least one of these girls by my side. Kristina lived in France for what felt like twenty years with her boyfriend turned fiancee turned husband, and we knew she was coming back, but me going to Uganda feels different somehow. Africa is different from France. This will be new.

Left to right: Me, Jamie, Sarina, Jenny (pregnant with Emmie), and Kristina. This was in 2009 (over new year's) when we went to Busch Gardens for Jamie's bachelorette weekend.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happiness hit her like a train on the track

I decided the other day, that despite all those times when I thought, "I'm so incredibly happy, I could die right now and it would be ok..." I'm really, really glad I didn't. I would have missed so much. I don't really have much else to say on that subject other than I feel lucky to be where I am in life, and to have somehow learned how to let my life be, and to be happy in it. From this side of that lesson, it wasn't a particularly difficult or complicated lesson to learn. I wish that everyone who is still on the other side could see that. I wish that anyone who is struggling with that could just know how easy it is once you let it happen.

I spent a few hours at my storage unit today, and threw out about 7,832 pieces of paper that had to do with grad school and my first two years of teaching. I tossed out articles I had printed, binders with section separators still labeled, paperclips on stacks of copies I'd made and never used. It was at the same time painful and wonderful. Painful because I thought back to the hours I spent in my classroom making things to hang on walls, cutting out lamination, all the things first year teachers do that they don't have to do again after that. Except I did because I taught a different grade my second year. All those main idea activities, samples of art projects, expository/narrative writing prompts, handwriting practice sheets, multiplication games, place value posters... ugh. At this point though it isn't going to change anything to dwell on it, so I may as well relish in the fact that I don't have to worry about all that paper ever again :D

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

time just sped up

I am a big baby. You know why? Because I cried during the fireworks at Disney on Sunday night. Yep, it started at that part when the kid recites the "star light, star bright.." poem. My mom gave me a birthday card that said something to the effect of, "You're grown up now, but you're not really because you still know all the words to that poem, so you'll always be my kid" so it always gets me (I'm at a loss as to which birthday it was though). I also got teary-eyed describing a Publix commercial to my friend (the one where the kid makes a valentine's day cake and then gives it to his mom... sniff). And then there was the time I cried in the bar when Laura and I were telling each other about putting dogs to sleep. WHY we were talking about putting dogs to sleep when we're both big softies is beyond me. I got the sniffles walking to my car after saying bye to Laura, which I got a handle on after reminding myself that she and I have gone long periods of time without seeing each other before, and that I'm coming back eventually. Lastly, I sobbed for about a minute and a half talking to myself about the ending of this one really great book on the car ride home from Disney. Suffice it to say I laughed at my tears a few times this weekend.

I am home now though and just made my flight arrangements for staging. The date got moved up a day, and while it's only 24 hours, it scared me a little how close it is. I'll be flying to Philly on February 8th, arriving at 2:30 pm. I got an email from SATO (the gov't travel agency) confirming my flight, and it said they paid $443 for me to get to Philly, but I just looked it up on Expedia, and the exact flight I'm taking only cost $146. Hahaha, ummmm...? Where is that extra $300 going??? Anyway, registration is at 6:00 pm and then we have ice breakers and clinic appointments (ie: lots of shots), and "what to expect" meetings all day on the 9th. On the 10th we check out of the hotel at 2:30 am, drive to JFK, and fly to Johannesburg, South Africa. We get into Joburg at 8:40 am the next day, have a 5 hour layover, and then fly to Entebbe, Uganda at 2:00 pm, arriving at about 7:00 pm. Um, wow.

Friday, January 7, 2011

i am wiped

I just spent all day at my storage unit, sorting, throwing out, and packing my car. I brought home seven boxes and some odds and ends that have now been reduced to three boxes to keep, two to get rid of, one bin to fill if I need it, and one box that has been flattened. I unpacked boxes and looked at each thing individually, so I feel pretty confident in my sorting. I got rid of plain martini glasses, and kept the fun ones, ditched the cheap plastic cups, but kept the glasses that were from my dad. I think I'm going to try to have a collective effort garage sale in a couple of weeks, so hopefully I will make a buck or two off my crap that I've been paying $72 a month to hold on to. Silliness.

I also started my packing pile. It looks kind of pathetic right now, and honestly I'm second guessing some of the stuff on my list. I approached it with the mindset that I can get what I need in Uganda, so I should bring useful things that also make me happy. It just seems like a of things make me happy. We'll see what ends up happening. My sleeping bag arrived yesterday, and while I did not sleep in it (sorry) I sure as hell rolled around in it for about 15 minutes. It's soft and puffy and bright yellow. After it got here, I got a little itchy on the I-want-to-order-more-PC-stuff front, so I ordered my headlamp and leatherman multi-tool. My backpack was ordered yesterday as well. For anyone who didn't see the comments on my pervious post, Osprey no longer does the pro discount for PC, which I think is pretty shitty. I ordered mine through which gave me a discount and was super nice about me being in PC. Love them.

Going through my books tonight made me seriously rethink getting a Kindle. I am so opposed to them in theory though that I don't know if I can bring myself to do it. I hate that books and physically printed things are going the way of the dinosaurs and cassette tapes; it honestly makes me sad. I have loved books and reading my entire life. I love the feeling of pages turning, being able to flip back and remind yourself what happened somewhere in the middle without having to flip back page by page by page. If there was someway to guarantee that I could get every single book I now own on a Kindle for free, I might be more tempted, because after all, I've already paid for the right to read all these books, I don't want to have to pay for them again.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

five weeks!

Five weeks from tonight I will be sleeping in a hotel room somewhere, rooming with someone I just met, getting ready to fly to Kampala. That means that in five weeks and two days, I will be IN Kampala :D Craziness. (Note: i have made about an inch worth of progress on that whole cleaning out thing I started on Sunday. Ugh.)

I would like to thank Nora, Sarena, and Lindsay so far, for contributing massive amounts of music to my Fill-Liz's-iPod Challenge PC2K11. I have NO idea what I got from you ladies, but I know that someday when I'm listening to stuff while cleaning my hut or washing my undies by hand or something else interesting like that, I'll hear a completely random song, check to see what it is, and smile while I think of my friends who are working to expand my musical IQ.

Also I am so stoked to see so many 365 projects going up! I tried to start one in September and sucked at it. I forget how far I made it, but it wasn't even a month I don't think. Maybe I'll try again.

On the packing front, my sleeping bag is set to arrive tomorrow, and you better bet on the fact that I will be sleeping in it! I also purchased 4 luggage locks from LL Bean, because I had a gift card from there for a small enough amount that it needed to spent on something random, like luggage locks. Lastly I am pretty sure I've settled on the Osprey Ariel 65 pack, but when I went to purchase it with the pro discount I was told that it expired on the 31st (which sucks considering I'd just gotten it on the 30th) and needed to reapply for it. I did just that, but haven't heard anything back yet. Boo. Sorry if this entry seemed like a middle schooler wrote it, I took some melatonin and I think it kicked in.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I hate being in transition

I love change, I really do. I love starting fresh and that little kick in the pants feeling right before you make a change happen. I just hate being in the middle of a change. Whenever I moved, I had to wait until the last minute to pack, because I knew that as soon as I started I'd need to do it all that day. I hated living with boxes everywhere, half in my life, half in limbo. I'd have to unpack and hang things within a day or two at my new house, and then put away all the evidence that suggested I hadn't already been living at that new address for quite some time. I've moved ten times in the last ten years, sometimes once a year, and other years I'd move two or three times. I guess what prompted all this is the fact that I decided to start cleaning out my crap this evening. I started by straightening up my room, then I made my bed and commenced sifting through my underwear drawer. That's how one starts getting dressed in the morning, so I figured it was as good of a place as any to start cleaning out my life. I threw out a lot. I figured little lacy fancy pants panties probably won't get very far in the hand wash situation I will have going on in my new abode. Kind of sad.

I moved on to the closet and other drawers eventually, stopping only to bring a bag of tee-shirts to one of my favorite families who is not my actual family but probably should be counted as such. We chatted for a while and then I made my way home to bag everything up and begin sorting my bathroom stuff. I threw out headbands I never wear, bottles of nail polish that are old and sticky, bottles of perfume that I'm not going to wear before I leave, half used acne wash that I stopped using (much to the chagrin of my forehead), and suntan lotion that won't be used before February. It feels amazing to go through and clean things out, but at the same time I can get carried away and throw out too much and be left with four things to wear. Oops. My mom came in my room more frequently tonight than she has in a long time, making small talk, noticing how big the pile was getting. She commented that it was a little bit sad and asked if it had hit me yet, I think as a way of saying that it had finally hit her.

I have two bags of trash, three bags to donate to goodwill, one for a friend to sift through to see if she wants anything, a small pile of nicer clothes to try to sell to a consignment store, and several things set aside for specific people. Somehow my room doesn't look any different. Maybe because everything I cleaned out was hidden in a dresser and the closet anyway? I'd like to start bringing boxes home from my storage unit and going through them with the same gusto that I had tonight. I'd like to say that I can get my things whittled down to an amount that will fit in my closet here at my mom's house. My little brother is taking my furniture (because it's really family furniture that was my turn to use) and I'm sure I can go through everything and toss a bunch. What is honestly worrying me is all my classroom stuff. That shit multiplies every time I go check on it, like it has the Gemino curse on it or something (HP reference, anyone?). I can't wait to have all this done with so I can concentrate on packing. I don't think I'll feel the rush of excitement until then.

I'm super excited about tomorrow though, I'm going to pick out a backpack :) I know I should try them all before buying one, so my friend offered to take a road trip to a bigger city in order to do so. I'll most likely pick out the exact one I want and then order it online via one of my fabulous PC discounts. Five weeks as of Wednesday.

my patronus would be a gator

Saturday, January 1, 2011

In 2011

I will go to Disney for the first time in ten years. I will see all four of my best friends at the same time. I will fly to California. I will give away or sell a majority of what I own right now. I will move half way around the world. I will live with a new family and learn a new language. I will get stamps in my passport. I will turn 28. I will probably get diarrhea. I will hopefully not get mango fly larvae under my skin. I will have my natural hair color for the first time since high school. I will take pictures. I will continue to write. I will miss my dog more than I understand at this point. I will camp, hike, sleep under more stars than I have ever known to exist. I will cry in frustration. I will cry because my heart will be too full. I will pay attention to my life and love it.

In 2010

I started a new job, which I both equally loved and hated. If you know me and heard all about my classroom last year you will understand that last statement. I saw the best musical ever. I wore really colorful shoes. I celebrated my niece's first birthday. I drove the longest distance I had by myself (which isn't really all that long). I fell in lust with sweet tea vodka. I served on a federal jury. I dyed my hair black. I "moved" to South Carolina. I went hiking more than I ever had before. I got stung by a jelly fish for the first time. I became infatuated with Charleston and with driving on mountains. I slid down a rock. I remembered what I want my life to be like. I applied for Peace Corps. I moved home. I tailgated. I started to write again. I photographed almost everything. I got over my fear of needles. I went to football games. I learned how to pole dance. I taught English. I met more new people than I have in a long time. I cooked an entire thanksgiving dinner. I flew to Boston and had the most amazing vacation of my life (that might be an exaggeration, but I would have to think long and hard to come up with a rival). I switched to whiskey. I got accepted into Peace Corps. I got a giant yellow duffle bag and a new iPod. I got iced. I stayed up late. I got sick of cell phones. I paid attention to my life and loved it.