The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Panic, Reassurance, Repeat.

Things are speeding up now that my departure for the Peace Corps is looming. Every weekend between now and Africa is booked solid. My finances are all shaped-up and locked-down and ready to hibernate for two years. My room is a disaster zone, literally just piles of clothes that may or may not have order to them heaped on every surface and in every corner (there's a box full of socks, I shit you not.)

And of course the low-level panic that's been sitting in my gut since July is starting to flare up on a regular basis. Fortunately it's the kind of panic that I can live and work with. I expect it. I'd be a lot more freaked out if there wasn't any panic at all.

Let's take a look at all the things that scare me about the Peace Corps (this will be fun and not at all an ill-advised feeding session for the panic!)

- I feel completely unqualified for this job. I got a degree in business over a year ago, and proceeded to do nothing with it. I worked as a receptionist at a timeshare. That's not hard! That doesn't count as applicable job experience! It would be one thing if I'd been working on projects and researching newest developments on the side. But no. I've spent the time since developing an almost encyclopedia-like knowledge of monster flicks and Korean soap operas. I was going to make a reference to Dokko Jin here, then got sidetracked by the google and 20 minutes later I'm feeling depressed about how awful Myung Wol the Spy turned out. You see what that demonstrates, right? My academic chops and work ethic have faded out so completely that I don't know if I've got what it takes to do this job justice.

- Not to mention this is all completely unknown. One of the first things that I'll go through upon arrival in Guinea is a language assessment. I STUDIED SPANISH. SPANISH IS NOT FRENCH. I may be able to pick up a couple words here and there, and flesh out the gist of a sentence if it's written down, but let's be honest here: I'm still a beginner. I don't know the pronouns. I don't know the numbers. Basic sentence structure and simple verb conjugation - I don't know! And worse, how the hell do you pronounce the damn words?! I've been trying to learn - lots of online courses and French movies and music - but the pronunciation baffles me every time. Even the FSI's Intro to French Phonology has done next to nothing for my confidence.

- The logistics of packing and moving are freaking me out. I'm okay with arriving in Africa and accepting that I'll be living with less-than stylish clothing. That's nothing new, I'm not fashionable even at home! But there's a two-day stint at the end of November when I'll be wandering around Philadelphia. Phillie's cold, right? Africa's not. So I need clothes to keep me warm and professional-looking for two days, and then those clothes will be next to worthless for the next two years while taking up valuable packing space. Do I buy a flat-rate box from the Post Office and mail them home to my parents? (I'm thinking yes.)

Basically I am completely in the dark about what to expect, and I don't know if I've got what it takes to do the work. It's going to be a huge challenge to take on. But there is an upside to all of this! I knew it was going to be hard when I applied. I'm expecting to freak out and fail a little bit and only slowly and gradually learn how to stay on top. The scare factor is just a small blip on the whole scheme of testing myself, learning new skills and taking on the challenge of living abroad, working independently, and being responsible for projects that right now seem completely out of my scope.

This feeling of panic is unsettling, but it's also familiar: it's the same thing I went through when I decided to drive tour buses in Alaska. I had the time of my life doing that, made friends and had experiences that have shaped who I am, and yes, I even failed a few times, dusted myself off, and got back in the driver's seat. Alaska was tough and harrowing and exciting and unforgettable. The Peace Corps is going to be just like that, only so much more.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How do you feel about Helvetica?

Talkin' fonts at Finn's, using coasters as props.

Make your own heat pad

All the old books talk about rich people having their beds heated for them. Sounds nice, right? But who actually lives in that kind of luxury? Then there are those movies with the characters cuddling up to red rubber bags full of hot water. Nice image, sure, but never made much sense because I've never actually seen one in real life. Then there are all sorts of commercials for athletic heating patches that ease and soothe sore muscles. But who wants to spend all that money on something that likely leaves a sticky residue and seems sort of dumb? Doesn't everyone just pop an ibuprofen and move on? 

Turns out, however, there is a damn good reason that these things are so prevalent in our lives. Warm things are awesome. Whether you're sick, have muscle aches from running or cramps from riding the red wave, an external heat source is all you want. Hot tea, soup, another person's body. All of these come to mind when you're feeling down and want a quick fix to feel better.

With that in mind, let's save some money and make our own heating pad! It'll cost you virtually nothing, last for over a year, and takes about 5 minutes to make. Here's what you need:

a sock

Step 1) Find a big sock. Take one of your boyfriend's, "borrow" one from your dad's closet next time you're home, sacrifice one of those knee socks that you've never worn. The only thing to remember is that it can't have any holes.

Step 2) Make sure the sock is clean. I didn't, and now I'm kind of regretting it. Luckily I'm a dirty hippie that doesn't even use shampoo so I can live with myself. You might not.

Step 3) Put that 20lb bag of rice you bought from Costco last year to some good use. Fill the (clean) sock up to the heel. It should be nice and fat.

Step 4) Tie off the sock. Take a moment to imagine it's full of quarters (or soap) and you're about to go beat someone up. Or not, your choice.

Step 5) Put that rice-filled sock in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. It's gonna smell like rice, but I bet you knew that.

Step 6) Cuddle your new homemade heating pad against your sore spot! Watch a movie, drink some tea, and think about how much money you just saved. Doesn't that feel good?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Not a Haul Video... Yet

Looked on the porch today and oh boy! Three big boxes of toys just for me!

I decided to splurge and buy some fun things to take with me to Africa, but I needed to do it right. I've been unemployed since July, and while I've been comfortable, I'm certainly not rolling in piles of money. It's also really easy to get carried away with thoughts of all the toys and electronics one may or may not need. But anything that comes with me is going with the caveat that it might be lost/broken/stolen, and that's always a sobering thought when considering a purchase. For a few weeks now I've been working on a list, crossing things off and adding new ones, of Stuff to Buy Before I Go. Then I scoured the internet, looking for deals, sales, discounts, etc, until I felt like I was somehow cheating and robbing the stores directly. One thing I can promise you: whatever prices you see quoted on the sites I've linked to, I didn't pay that.

Here's what I got today!

Solio Bolt (there's sun in Africa, how novel!)

Diva cup  (highly recommended by current PCVs) 

This shirt looks incredible on me. Wearing it now!

Chacos, black. 
(The ones I bought in '07 are still good, but probably won't make it through to January 2014.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

10+ years of letters home from my grandma. Typed on rice paper, everything from baking a cake in a can, de-worming the kids, worrying about the communist influence in Burma, celebrating new chickens, problems with the local Buddhists, and bragging to her sisters about only weighing 135 lbs. They're fascinating!

I should probably clarify that

I should probably clarify that my grandma's fine - 96 and still kicking! She just moved to a smaller place and needs to downsize.

Family photo, late 1960's maybe?
First lesson: do not look at the contents of the fridge, just toss it out.
Today only! Adventures in cleaning out my grandmother's apartment. There may or may not be rats. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Oregon Coast

34 years ago yesterday, my parents decided to give things a shot and get married. They seem pretty happy with their decision and are likely to stick it out until one of them dies (they even have their what-to-do-after plans worked out. Mom will move to Seattle and enjoy the city life; Dad will get a dog and a boat and live off the grid.) To celebrate, they rented a condo down on the Oregon coast and invited their youngest to come and stay with them. Not my idea of a romantic getaway, but who am I to turn down a free vacation?!

Hey look, an interpretive sign! The coast is dirty with these, this was one of my favorites.

 The happy couple!

Hiking doesn't come naturally to the folks (anymore), but they made a great effort! What they might have lacked in recent experience they more than made up for with enthusiasm. Honestly, my mom had to practically kick us out of the condo every day. Left to our own devices, my dad and I would have happily drank coffee, read our books, and stared at the waves out the windows for a whole week.


We were pretty tired/sweaty after this hike. It was one of those rare hikes that goes downhill first, so we had to put on our Man Hats for the climb back to the car.

Dad wanted a hiking stick. Lucky for him someone left a pool cue in the back of the car before moving to Colorado.
 The view from the top.

 The view from the bottom!

This was our incredibly tasty dinner after the last hike. For all the times we went to nice restaurants, this one was the best.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

10 mile Hash Run is okay by me! Little tired, tho.