Packing has been difficult. Hours spent in aisles — the stores escape me now, they all blend together. Wal-Mart, Bass Pro, Kohl’s, ShopRite, Amazon; I feel like I’ve done enough shopping for the rest of my life. Two voices in my head have been constantly battling each other while I’ve slowly added things and ticked them off my Big Guinea List.
- Oh my god, the food. All the volunteers in Guinea say the rice and sauce gets OLD. We need the food. Pringles, cheese, tuna, taco seasoning, CANDIES, let’s get it all, we cannot survive off of rice and SAUCE C’MON. Definitely need that. Let’s get it all. FEAST!!! YES!!! FOOD!!! BRING IT ALL!!!
- (and lately, this has been overpowering the other) Isn’t it kind of ridiculous how much money you’re spending to live in poverty? Don’t people in Guinea live, day in and day out, off the supplies in their own country? And here I go, traipsing in with my Official American Shit because their shit just isn’t good enough for me. A part of me almost feels like dumping out all my bags and just going in BLIND with nothing!
Reality, however, is somewhere in between the two. The foods that make me feel guilty now will make me smile and think of home months down the line. The solar charger and technology I brought will help me ease into a drastically different life. And… two years is a long time and two 50 pound bags isn’t that ridiculous.
I am privileged. I am lucky. I am in for a big culture shock.
I recently met a PhD student from East Africa and he told me to prepare myself. That I was going to see a lot of things that disappointed me, made me sad, made me feel guilty for not being able to do more, to fix everything, to help them all. But, he said, that it was most important for me to not focus on that and instead focus on how, despite every hardship these people face, they are still dancing, smiling, and laughing.
Right now I am over-packed, over-whelmed, and under a lot of stress. I’m taking one big deep breath in, one big deep breath out and letting go. Letting go of America, of my guilt, of my worries, and of my fears. I’m going into Guinea open; to new friends, new experiences, new challenges, and new lessons. Thank you to all who have supported me this far and who will continue to support me along the way.
Now let’s go dance.
I kid you not — these are the following three sentences the website I am using to study French** just asked me:
Aimez-vous la nourriture africaine? Êtes-vous prêt? C’est grave.
Do you like African food? Are you ready? This is serious.
Thanks, Duolingo. No pressure at all. Back to frenching, packing, cleaning, and worrying. 18 days.
**sidenote: http://www.duolingo.com is an AMAZING resource for anyone looking to learn a language! C’est bon!!
Staging — Today I received my much-anticipated staging email! Here are the goods:
- Check-in is at 12:30pm on December 1st, 2013 in Philly
- December 1st: workshops 2:00pm – 7:00pm, business casual attire
- December 2nd: 8:00am check-out, 8:30am departure for airport
- Flight Itinerary: Air Brussels departing from JFK (7 hrs, 25 min) and arriving in Brussels in the morning. Air Brussels departing from Brussels after a 5 hr layover (8 hrs, 30 min) and arriving in Conakry, Guinea at 6:55pm on December 3rd.
The hotel and flight is all paid for! Luckily for me, I live close to Philadelphia and won’t have to take an additional flight but I know off the top of my head that a few people in my stage are from California — sorry guys, but sucks to be you ;). I look forward to spending my last night in America (for a while…not forever!!!) in Philly. This city means a lot to me. I spent a good chunk of my college years at house parties and concerts, underground and big name, in this city and I’ve eaten my fair share of cheesesteaks. One last night on South Street topped off with a steak (wiz wit) sounds perfect.
Spending — I’ve been a good girl and have done as I said I would in my last update… bought the frickin’ world! Well, maybe that’s over-exaggerating, but as the boxes begin to pour into our house it may seem that way to our neighbors. Some things I’ve bought:
- hammock w/ rain fly and mosquito net for those hot Guinean nights and travel adventures
- chacos — sandals and waterproof hiking boots
- solar charger, 4 watts
- portable speakers, rechargeable
- drakon 45 by marmot aka awesome hiking pack
- 2 lightcap 300s aka water bottles with solar panel LED caps that transform it from a bottle by day to a lantern by night (AWESOME, RIGHT??)
- alert whistle / compass / waterproof matches / lanyard combo
- sunglasses to go over my regular glasses (gonna be a real fashionable look y’all)
- freeze-dried meals…because who doesn’t go crazy for re-hydrated beef stroganoff?
As you can see, I’m doing good in the crap department! I still need a few small items — knife, battery fan, kitchen supplies, clothing items — but for the most part I am done shopping. I feel like a little kid at Christmas waiting for these packages to arrive, but I guess it almost is Hannukah so it’s pretty fitting. The next task is to pack it all!!
Stuff — My mood is pretty good these days. Mostly, I’m excited. This is my last week at work and… I never thought I’d hear myself utter these words… but I’ll really miss it. I have some awesome co-workers who, aside from their inability to understand my desires to join the Peace Corps, really make my Monday – Friday pretty awesome. So, here’s to you Sheehy Glen Burnie! I’ll miss you guys! And if any of my readers are looking for a car… we got some fine salesmen! 😉
The next few weeks are probably going to fly by and be somewhat of a blur. I’m trying to pack it all in, though! The week before Thanksgiving, my mother and sister and I are traveling to Florida for my cousin’s bar mitzvah. That will be a nice family adventure and a good way to get my mind off of my upcoming trip — plus it’s gonna be gorgeous and I’m totally hitting the water! Thanksgiving / Hannukah / Thanksukah / Hannugiving is going to be a blast. Turkey and latkes, at once? I’m super glad I’ll be home to enjoy that with my family.
Basically, I’m excited. And ready. Well — as ready as anyone ever is in these situations.
On February 7, 2014 I will be sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer (upon successful completion of PST, of course!) and I will end my service on February 7, 2016.
Currently, I’m afraid. There’s a lot going on now; tasks to complete, languages to learn (aidez-moi!!!!), specialty items to order, bags to pack, affairs to get in order. It all seems like SO MUCH and the days keep on ticking away. I’m finding it rather tempting to slip into a panic mode. I am making a huge life-changing move — I’d be kind of worried about myself if I wasn’t worried! But worrying is one of my largest flaws and something I am constantly trying to improve. So, we’re kicking the panic to the side and focusing on the amazing adventure ahead.
That being said, I’m slacking hard. I’m going to buckle down and get my stuff together.
My plans for the last week of October :
- practice French every day
- buy all the things I am getting online for Guinea
- participate in a conference call with my CD and stage
- try not to worry and instead happily spend the time I have with the ones I love
Souhaitez-moi bonne chance!
Part of this process involves a lot of reading about what’s to come. I will leave you all with a few tidbits I’ve selected from these documents:
At this point, you should not count on having access to anything qualifying as “high speed” in Guinea, though technological changes are underway.
You will be arriving at the beginning of the dry season. It will be hot and generally dry, so be prepared to wear light clothing with the appropriate degree of coverage…Long skirts, dresses, or trousers and light, sleeved cotton shirts are appropriate for women.