Friday, February 25, 2011


I'm here! We got here on the 11th (I think) and have been holed up in a church camp/compound due to the elections (no one in PC is allowed to travel, has to stay in touch, etc). They went smoothly and security was lifted yesterday, so we could go exploring. Lo and behold, an internet cafe! It's pretty beautiful here, though it's still feeling like a vacation since we're only around each other and being taken care of. It's very different from most PSTs, so I'm interested to see how it affects the rest of the two years, if at all.

I sent some letters with a staff member traveling back to the states, so if you get one post marked from America, don't think I'm just hiding out pretending to be in Peace Corps :) I hope to hear back from all of you (hint...) and also from those of you whose address I don't have yet and don't know where to send letters to! I made a video of our walk to the bar, but I didn't bring my flash drive or anything with me since I wasn't sure of the virus issues that may be going on in this roadside internet cafe. Hopefully I'll get a modem or something eventually and will have my own internet to do fun things on, like show you my walk to the bar :)

I feel like since I've been here for so long, I don't really have updates on when we first arrived or any of the million hours of traveling (there were that many, I promise.) We move in with our host families finally tomorrow, so I'll be packing bags once again when I get back to the dorms. FUN.

I love you all and MISS YOU! Please go eat some moes or chipotle or bento for me, go visit Nora and play with my cat, visit my mom and love on my dog... all of those things.

Lastly, I totally and most definitely blessed the rains (down in Africa) the other night the first time it rained :) then I played Toto four times in a row. Bam.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I made it to Philadelphia in one piece :D I'm sitting here in my hotel, going through all of my things once more trying to ditch things. My bags were a couple pounds overweight somehow, but more importantly they were a pain in the ass to drag around the airport. Through the magic of technology, Chelsea and I discussed, while she was on a plane that a) we both feel we have too much, and 2) toiletries are probably the heaviest/easiest to replace. I'm meditating on that while I sift. I swear the Bradt Guide to Uganda was printed on like 500 sheets of 32lb paper. It's a brick.

(7 Hours later) I ended up sorting about 4-5 lbs worth of stuff (that's an estimate) out of my bag and hope to find a post office to flat rate it back to my mom.

(and 24 hours after that) I mailed the box back to my mom... it had in it: a three ring binder, my entire medical packet (not sure why I thought I'd need this in country, I guess I was just trying to be thorough) a flat hole punch, a box of paperclips (I'm going to miss these, I'm OCD about my paperclips), four dvds I hadn't burned yet but did last night, two cds that I hadn't burned yet, but did last night, eyelash curler and some makeup because *cough* some people gave me shit about bringing makeup to Africa, an extra journal, spiral notebook, and I think that's it. Six pounds of stuff. Thankfully, most people here feel they brought too much, but oddly enough, no one can figure out exactly what they brought too much of. I'm sure once I am there a month it'll all make sense and I would know what to pack if I did it all over.

I had a little tiny "oh shit" moment this morning and felt a little sick to my stomach, like I have on and off for the last week. I talked to a couple other people about it though and they said the same thing, so I think I'm normal. It pretty much disappeared when we started the staging orientation stuff and I felt more excited again. I just thought about how the woman who's running the event was in Peace Corps two years ago, and now she's back and her life is ok and she has a job and is like "oh yea, I did that". Transitions are scary no matter what.

We did some skits, a couple icebreakers, at lunch at a pretty famous Philadelphia place (Reading Terminal.... Nora, Emmy, Amanda, and Greeley think Faneuil Hall but giant and more nitty gritty), and walked to the clinic to get our first round of shots (yellow fever). We had a little bit more meeting after shots, and talked about the logistics of travel tomorrow. There are 44 of us, broken into 4 groups of 11, and I'm a group leader. I will be in charge of collecting money from my fellow trainees, collecting passports and plane tickets from the staging coordinator, distributing said passports and tickets to all the trainees, doing a headcount whenever we go anywhere, facilitating the queue (love that word) at the airport, arriving at the gate early to make sure everyone is accounted for, and other such nonsense that should be easy since we're all adults but somehow seems daunting.

It's now almost nine on Wednesday night (this post took me a full 31 hours to finish, and it's still a mess) and we check out of the hotel at 2 am. We take a bus to JFK and fly out at 10:40 tomorrow morning, getting into Johannesburg, South Africa at 9 am (1 am est). We depart Joburg at 2pm, and get in to Entebbe, Uganda at 7:05 pm (which will be 11:05 am est). 24 hours of flying plus 8 hours worth of time changes plus we have to look nice getting off the plane in Entebbe. I am pretty sure that if I hadn't had this staging experience with everyone else going with me I would be a lot more of a mess than I currently am.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

'Twas the night before staging

I leave for staging in nine hours. Whoa. I'm pretty much all packed, except for the stuff in the bathroom that I'll use to get ready in the morning. My bags are at 79.4 lbs and I'm crossing my fingers that they stay that way. I really would love to have had them well under 80, but I'll take what I can get. I am pretty surprised that they're that heavy, I thought I did a better job at not going crazy. My packing list was obviously amended during the process, so I'll post the new one eventually. Or maybe not. Whatever, I'm moving to Africa. I took a picture of the before, during, and after packing (two of Danielle trying to climb in my bag this afternoon, a couple of the dog laying on things so I couldn't get to them, etc), but my iphoto is being sketchy and not showing the new imports. I'll try again in Philly.

My cat is at her new home, with my friend, Nora, who is the only person who loves Nadia as much as I do, and therefore the only person who should have her. I hope she adjusts well, I hate the thought of both girl and cat being stressed out and at odds with one another for 2+ years. I'm pretty stoked, though, that everyone who visits Nora while I'm gone will get to see her and love on her (if she lets them) and think of me.

I got a fantastic message on facebook tonight that made me smile so so big... it ends like this: "in closing, i am so happy for you and know you are going to love the fuck out of being in africa. and just think, only 27 months until you get to move to boston! be safe out there, and keep in touch!" Poetry.

I really do have some pretty amazing friends. I love you all, a.o.t.h.

Lastly, we've been told that we will be incommunicado for the first three months or so after arriving, even to the point where they're going to be collecting email addresses from us as staging to email FOR us that we arrived safely. No news will definitely be good news during that time, so please don't get too flustered that I'm not posting my hilarious status updates like I usually do. The best best best most awesome way to keep in touch with me during this time is through LETTERS!!!!! (You know you love getting letters in the mail!) So don't ask me about the blog or facebook or skype, just write me a letter and we can pretend like it's 1995 and the internet is still a baby. Do it.

Liz S., Peace Corps Trainee (or PCT)
PO Box 29348
Kampala, Uganda

Tips for successful communications:

  • Write Air Mail/Par Avion on the envelopes (if it goes surface mail it could take months)
  • Draw religious symbols, bible verses, "God Bless this Package", "Sister Liz" etc. to instill a guilty conscience into would-be mail thieves.
  • Padded envelopes work best, as they're seen as letters rather than prizes (as opposed to boxes when sending something more than a letter, like pez, green tabasco sauce, or aquaphor)
  • Undervalue everything, no more than $20 or $25 for sure, and say it's educational materials or something generic, boring, and good natured.
  • Obviously you will use my real last name and not just the initial, I'm just trying to be careful on the internet ;)
  • Number the letters so I'll know if some went missing (and therefore nothing you're saying is making sense)
  • You don't have to wait for a response to write again! If we're waiting for a response to write back, but the letter was lost in some weird Ugandan fashion, it could spell disaster! (or just no letters) So just send me things when it strikes your fancy, not just because it's "your turn to write"
  • Send me random, funny stuff that made you laugh, chances are it will make my entire week. I'll do the same for you.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

zen and/or panic, take your pick.

(wrote most of this last night, was too emotional to post it)

I don't have a phone anymore. Well, technically I still have a phone, but it won't ring if you call me because I don't have a phone number any longer. I called AT&T a few weeks ago to ask about canceling my service, and the guy told me to call back closer to my billing date since it's on the 7th of every month. I figured I could be without a phone for a day or two, since we're leaving on the 8th, and it wouldn't be a big deal. Apparently no longer having the phone number that I've had for 11 years was a bigger deal to my psyche than I thought it would be. (I obviously need to be less connected to stupid things, so this will be good for me.) When I called this afternoon the woman told me it'd be disconnected tonight. I panicked a little, but then forgot about it. Until we were at the bar waiting on the patio for a table. A little message popped up saying that there was no SIM card installed. All the sudden it hit me (it does that every now and then) that I'm moving to Africa in two days. Actually four, but I'm leaving home in two. I cried for about 3 minutes and then laughed. Most of the evening went like that; it'd hit me, I'd cry, and then start laughing.

That quote by Anais Nin, “and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” never quite hit home like it has in the last few weeks. I always appreciated it though I never understood why there was risk staying tight in a bud. But there is, and it's gotten painful. Whenever someone asks if I'm nervous, I think to myself that I'm more nervous about what my life would end up like if I stay put. Yes, I have lots of people that I love here, but my life would not be full of passion and adventure here. This experience is going to make my life intensely more rich. Simply put, when I was a baby, my parents did not dream of me growing up and being too scared to try new things.

This morning after brunch my best friend noted that we were all standing around, avoiding getting in our cars to leave. She said she wanted to just keep standing there so I'd miss my plane, but I said that eventually she had to go home to Tampa and back to work and that would leave me in Gainesville, still not doing anything special.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I should probably start packing

Can one get buyers remorse from purchasing too much underwear? Because I'm pretty sure I just did. I spent about $1000 today (exaggeration) on a ton of things such as deodorant, lotion, sunscreen, face wash, duct tape, ziplock bags, 25 pairs of underwear, two bras, a million batteries (which after getting home and actually remembering what I'm taking, are mostly getting returned), a dress, a new tag for my dog's collar that has my mom's number instead of mine (sad!), a smorgasbord of cat related items to go with my cat to her new home this weekend (just got a tear in my eye typing that), a frisbee, a dress, a cardigan, and two shirts. I'm pretty sure things are being returned to at least three stores tomorrow. One of my bras broke when I was in California, so they were on my list today. I saw some reasonably priced ones at Target, but I've bought the same bras from VS for the last, like, four years, so I just thought I'd run in and grab a couple without even having to try them on... except VS decided to redesign my bra. Not cool. I was flustered so I bought two (great decision making skills right there) but I think I'm going to return them and head back to Target and just get some much cheaper Gilligan & O'Malley or whatever their brand is.

Also, I got home tonight and found some poop in a pair of bronze colored ballet flats that I liked a lot. I think one of my pets is trying to send me a message...

Lastly, some pictures, because I haven't posted any in a while :D

"Africa" at Disney's Animal Kingdom... we were all joking about how I should take notes because PC is going to be exactly like that.

"look up" tattoo, the green stars are the same ones that are in the corners of the pages in the HP novels. They're green because that's the color ink on letters from Hogwarts. (Fact: I seek out emerald green pens to write with) My foot is in front of the maps that I just got, one of the world and one of Africa. I'm pretty stoked about them. You can also see the beginning of my packing list... please excuse the sock fuzz on my toenail.

Cutest box of matches ever. I will be bringing the empty box since I can't bring matches on a plane.

Sunrise as seen from my plane last Thursday.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

look up

Got the tattoo :D I'm sitting here with a bandage on my foot, but I'll take a picture tomorrow and share it. (It may or may not have elements of Harry Potter in it, but I'd be willing to bet that no one would ever guess which ones) I'm planning on taking beyond excellent care of it so that it will be nice and healed by next Thursday night, which is when I will get off a plane in Entebbe.

Tomorrow my day is full of: turning in paperwork to FINISH my tutoring job once and for all, lunch with a friend, shopping at wal-mart for odds and ends in the toiletries department, heading to the mall to shop for 83 more pairs of underwear, importing the last of my cds into itunes, copying all my episodes of arrested development onto the external hard drive, getting three months worth of BC pills, and, oh my, this list just got too overwhelming for such an hour.

Lastly, my amazing friend got me a bracelet from this organization, based in Uganda! I can't believe she searched it out and found it and everything, I felt so loved when I opened it! I want to buy them for everyone now :D If you're looking for a unique gift, you should definitely check them out! Shout out to Tija's friends, too, who have a nifty nonprofit in Northern Uganda, and are soon starting something up in Peru.