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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lauren is the best ever! (except she's getting married without me, what a ho)

Bitch is gettin married without me! UNFAIR.

Last real meal in the states! mac & cheese with roasted garlic and a locally-brewed pilsner!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Going Away

Last night my friends put together a low-key going away party. In order to keep sadness and sentimentality at bay (those are clothes that don't fit too well on us), we started the night with a mission: Bingo! It was more like a scavenger hunt, with a list of Eastside stereotypes to identify ($1,000 strollers, use of Botox, children in designer clothing, Porsche SUV's, etc.) We even played the almost-mythical tab roulette that Nick and Kenny thought would never actually catch on. For the uninitiated: when the bill for the table arrives, you have the choice to opt out and pay your share, which gets put into the pot o' winnings. For all who decided to gamble, credit cards are jumbled together and pulled out one by one. The second to last credit card gets the winnings, the last credit card has to pay the entire bill. One person gets shafted; everyone else is excessively relieved and jubilant over getting free drinks.

These are my friends. Each and every one of them knows the definition of schadenfreude. They're whip-smart, stubborn and outspoken, and masters of their chosen field. They've been with me for years, through loves that have built and destroyed a world, academic programs in far-away places, new interests and hobbies, years of lapsed communication and silence, drunken revelations, and uncounted other memories. Our relationships have stretched and expanded to accept so many changes; now that I'm leaving they'll only become so much stronger. Already I'm missing two weddings, with a third likely. Who knows what other major life changes will crop up? But the beauty of our friendship is knowing that we're in it for the long haul; no one ever fully severs those ties. The shape will change, but the foundation is deeply dug. Twenty-seven months. It's a blip in a long lifetime.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Packing List

It's all finally ready to be shoved into duffle bags, weighed on my parents' scale to make sure I either over or underpacked, and then heavily relied upon for the next 2 years. I tried to follow the Peace Corps' and other volunteers' recommendations, and also use a bit of imagination to put together items that will keep me clothed and comfortable for, at the minimum, 4 months. After that I'll hopefully be acclimated enough to the country that I'll know where and how to acquire anything I may have forgotten. One upside to all of this is that living the outdoor PNW lifestyle makes a person relatively low maintenance, so I don't feel too limited by a lack of hairdryer or 7 types of eyeshadow.

The Bags
REI duffle
used army duffle
40L Kelty backpack
REI flashpack
cloth purse

The Clothes
shoes x4 (hiking, running, Chacos, flats)
coverings/wraps x 5 (1 scarf, 1 Buff, 2 bandanas, 1 sarong)
lightweight black cardigan
lightweight button-up plaid "hiking shirt"
collared button-ups x2
cotton tshirts x3
"dressy" shirts x3 (they defy categorization with my limited girl-fashion vocabulary)
camisoles x4 (spaghetti-strapped, so only to be worn at home or under see-through type shirts)
running shorts, again to be worn at home/ in privacy
sweatshirt x1
REI rain jacket x1
long-sleeved shirt x1
tank tops x3 (not spaghetti straps)
dress x1 (above the knee AND spaghetti-strapped, so only to be used at home. I had to bring one thing in open defiance of logic)
pants x4 (jeans, lightweight & adjustable hiking pants, cotton gaucho pants (thanks Lauren!), yoga/workout pants)
skirts, below the knee x2
bras x6
sports bras x3
socks x6
cotton underwear x a million. Seriously. So much cotton underwear.
bikini x1
Speedo swimsuit x1
sunglasses x2

Office Supplies (no self-respecting business major should leave the country without the entire contents of their local Office Max!)
envelopes x80 (one box, really)
yellow legal pad
French-English dictionary
stamps x40
Moleskine journal x2
colored ink pens x6
Bic pens x a handful
a filofax FULL of paperwork, including 10 very dour passport photos

Electronics & Entertainment
headlamp (AAA)
mini flashlight (AA) (it doubles as a shiv! A very heartfelt gift from my dad)
AAA & AA batteries
plastic-coated playing cards
Solio Bolt solarcharger
Grundig shortwave radio
500 GB external hard drive loaded with movies and tv shows
8 GB thumb drive loaded with this book and nothing else, yet
X-mini speaker
Canon SD4000 PowerShot
fully-charged lithium-ion battery x2
battery charger
SD memory cards x2
my MacBook from 2008 & charger
a baggy full of cords to charge all the assorted electronics
book: The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson (thanks Nick!)

Toiletries/ Girl Necessities
Dr Bronner's soap
Cetaphil facewash
Aveeno face moisturizer
Persa-gel 10 (because you know I'm going to get 6th grade acne the second I arrive in a new climate)
clinical-strength deodorant x2
toothpaste, toothbrush
bobbie pins
hair ties
razor & 6 replacement heads
travel mirror
wide-toothed comb
Diva cup x2
nail clippers
nail polish x4
camp towel
mini sewing kit
pill box full of various studs (the only jewelry I'll have in Africa!)

Gifts for my hosts
sticker sheets x2
assorted face paints
pill box full of those "pills" that expand into animals when soaked in water
various friendship bracelets I made while watching all those Korean soap operas these last few months

and finally, the most important part...

The Food (of which there is not nearly enough)
indian food packets x4
mini candy canes
2lbs Jolly Ranchers (to double as gifts as well!)
chocolate, peanut butter and banana trail mix
Mac & Cheese x3
Panda black licorice x2
creamy peanut butter
dry soup packets x3 (including one for egg drop soup, yum!)
Alfredo sauce packets x2
hot cocoa mix x5
Country Time strawberry lemonade powder
Habanero hot sauce
steak seasoning

If you think I've forgotten anything, feel free to send it to me in the mail!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Sometimes it feels like I turned off my brain over the last year. Today more than usual I can feel the synapses starting to fire again, hear the engine revving, and realize that I'm really fucking thrilled to face a new challenge. It might be more than I can handle, but even if I fail miserably, it's going to be worth it for the opportunity alone.

We've all heard about Panera's "pay what you can" cafes, right? This is the thought behind them: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/10/corporations_must_become_socia.html

And this book, OH THIS BOOK. Stunning pictures and even better content: http://analoguedigital.com/makingdo/

Friday, November 18, 2011


Awful, awful beasts.

Excerpt from Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen

"Walter had never liked cats. They'd seemed to him the sociopaths of the pet world, a species domesticated as an evil necessary for the control of rodents and subsequently fetishized the way unhappy countries fetishize their militaries, saluting the uniforms of killers as cat owners stroke their animals' lovely fur and forgive their claws and fangs. He'd never seen anything in a cat's face but simpering incuriosity and self-interest; you had only to tease one with a mouse-toy to see where its true heart lay."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fine Tuning

I've been fiddling around with my shortwave radio, trying to pick up stations and make sure I understand how it works. Yet to find the BBC, but am listening to an interesting discussion about the religious influences on the formation of the Declaration of Independence.

This little box, only slightly bigger than my iPod, is going to be a tremendously important source of information and entertainment while I'm gone.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Reference Material

Before leaving for the Peace Corps, I'm overwhelmed by thoughts of what my experience will be like. Part of the adventure is the vast amount of unknown variables that are going to crop up. No matter how many books and blogs and articles I read, nothing can predict exactly how it will go for me. I can only put together an outline of general experiences and feelings that I'm likely to go through.

That said, here are two sources I've been particularly enjoying recently:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ross-szabo  Ross Szabo is updating from his post in Botswana, where he works with his wife. As someone with a previous professional career, including experience as a writer, his work is more put-together than most PC blogs I've come across. Whereas my blog will likely be stream-of-thought postings cobbled together with wishful reminisces about burritos, this guy takes the time to think of his audience.

http://youngflaneur.blogspot.com/  There's a heap of PC Guinea blogs that I'm following, but this one stands out for two reasons: 1) the quality of his writing, which is humorous and fun to see how he's going to express an idea, and 2) the video of his living space. Seriously, check out that house! I can only hope I'll live in a place like that. In the same way I facebook stalked the Finnish exchange student I knew I'd be studying with in Mexico and more of less forced her to be my friend, I'm going to track down Tosten when I get to Guinea.

An example of foreshadowing

"... the sad truth is that certain types of things can't go backward. Once they start to go forward, no matter what you do, they can't go back the way they were. If even one little thing goes awry, then that's how it will stay forever."

-- South of the Border, West of the Sun, by Haruki Murakami

My dream is to one day own his complete works.

Friday, November 4, 2011

One week later. Notice the bruise by my ankle? Still, looks better than the last time I got beat up at a hash.