Peace Corps year 1

less than two months to go…

In less than two months, I’ll be at Peace Corps staging (in Philadelphia, I’m guessing), probably playing goofy get-to-know-you games and sweating the gazillion shots I’ll be about to get.

This is ok with me. I can picture the packing and the repacking and the drive to the airport and the goodbyes and the flights and the other soon-to-be Volunteers, smiling and nervous. I can picture approaching Dakar from the air, nose pressed to the airplane window, and the first moments on African soil. I can even picture the two hour drive to Thies and the late-night stumble into the training center, backpacks and bags and perhaps bunkbeds.

But after that—language training and planting seedlings and a host family and traveling through African streets and towns, wide-eyed and pretending to be as brave as everyone else seems? It gets vaguer.

But even that doesn’t worry me—the first days, weeks, even months of new places, new people, new air and new skies I can deal with. I worry what will happen when the newness fades away and the days become routine. What will that routine be? Will I be happy or desperately searching for my original motivations for setting off for two years in a foreign country, on a foreign continent?

Naturally, I can’t answer any of these questions until I’m there in my dusty room, fighting off spiders the size of my head (or so I’ve heard). Somehow, though, my anxiety about the unknown doesn’t diminish its attraction.

In the meantime, I’ve got a ridiculously long packing list. That, and a ridiculous amount of crap to get from Austin to Baton Rouge on Friday. Who knew a person could “need” this much stuff. I’ve been doing my best to get rid of as much as possible, I swear, but not only am I a packrat (props to my father on that one) I’m also emotionally attached to the dumbest things. Blankets, pillows, mugs, posters, toys, books, even plants. Though if anyone in Austin needs a full size bed, I’ve got just the one for you.

Peace Corps year 1

productivity, of a sort

My main accomplishment for today, other than ripping another shelf of my CDs (iPod-bound), was updating and expanding the Peace Corps section of my website (again). I added to the Senegal page, the job description page, and the application process page… I figured I should spend some more time on it after I discovered that I’m the first result on a google of “peace corps senegal blog.”

I think it still needs more pictures, though.

Peace Corps year 1

$100 lawn job + music dilemma

Friday afternoon I was overjoyed to come home and find that the lawn—both front and back—was freshly mowed. Apparently the guy who had stopped by the week before to ask about doing the lawn had finally returned and accomplished the seeminly unthinkable: cutting the three-foot-tall weeds in the backyard.

When he stopped back by to collect his $30, he offered to use the weed eater on the back porch to clean up the edges. I said no that’s ok, it was a friend’s (borrowed from Jennie and Mark a few weeks ago), what he had done was fine. I told him to feel free to stop by once it had grown back up again.

Monday morning I went out to get my bike on the back porch, glanced over, and saw… no weed eater. Weed eater gone.

And so I have little choice but to conclude that Steve the lawn guy is responsible… It was tucked away, out of sight from the road, and nothing else was stolen—or has ever been stolen from our house. Which instead of making me angry really just made me sad—a little disappointment of human trust.

So now our $30 bargain lawn job has turned into a $100+ lawn job.


In between mind-numbing bouts of editing, I frequently find myself thinking “In five months, I’ll…” or “For the next two years, I won’t…”—everything from what my morning routine will be like to how I’ll miss driving my car or taking endless hot showers. Mostly these thoughts are accompanied by a tingle of excitement and anticipation—even the occasional “holy crap, what am I going to be doing?!” moments.

My current pre-packing dilemma is music. I absolutely MUST have music with me in Senegal. Ideally, as much music as possible on as few batteries as possible, in a form that will hold up for two years.

Which brings me to my two current candidates: iPod vs mp3 CD player.

First, the pros of the iPod: 40gb of glorious hard drive, big enough to hold ALL my music plus digital pics/files; small enough to carry inconspicuously (though not so much if I use the Belkin battery pack); getting an iTrip would allow me to play my music on any radio; no moving parts to trap dust.

Then, the pros of a mp3-capable CD player: about 1/10 the price (therefore much easier to lose/replace); better battery life; could play CDs from friends or bought in-country.

Oh, and the iPod is damn sexy.

So I’m torn. Does the convenience of the iPod’s tiny size/huge capacity outweigh the mental stress (and guilt, to some extent) of bringing such a valuable piece of electronics with me?

I really haven’t decided this one yet—part of me would like to be unencumbered by high-maintenance technology, but the rest of me is fully prepared to lug batteries and adaptors and whatever else around Africa.

In other news, Eeyore’s Birthday Party was postponed due to rain—which is great because there’s a chance I’ll be far enough along on my thesis to schedule a break this Saturday afternoon… Anybody interested?

Peace Corps year 1

(here) it goes…

Welcome to my redesigned, relocated weblog/website. I offer it to you today in the midst of change and excitement and endings and beginnings.

For starters, a month ago today I began overhauling and the blog, which I’ve shifted from Blogger/Blogspot to MT/ Many thanks to Bryan and Ali for their help with this. Also, R.I.P. showcat, though I hope to keep it online for archival purposes, at least until Blogger decides to squoosh it.

Webdesign proved maddening enough to adequately distract me from thesis work for a while. However, seeing as how exactly a month from now I’ll have finished with college classes and have less than 24 hours to turn in my thesis, I figure it’s time to kick this thing out into the world and, I don’t know, start editing some video. All the same, expect a rant or two about CSS and div’s and browsers to come eventually. Design was a bitch.

Other reasons why the switch today? This morning I flew back from spring visit weekend at UC-Berkeley (my photos and Leslie’s), a few surreal days in which I fell even more madly in love with the city, the school, the program, the faculty/staff/students, the trees, the sky, the public transportation, etc., etc…. and then this afternoon I called the Peace Corps offices in DC to officially accept my invitation to Senegal.

And the butterflies in my stomach right now are only the ones that flutter around a momentous decision, not those of doubt or regret. It was strange—I was walking through the Berkeley campus feeling utterly at home, yet even in the golden sunlight coming through the storybook trees, I knew that I wanted to go to Africa in September.

And I do. Berkeley’s J-school was amazing, and after this weekend I’m absolutely certain that I want to study there—eventually. But right now I want the adventure and the challenge of two years far, far from home.

After reading more and talking with more people, I can imagine staging in the US. I can imagine arriving in Dakar and stepping off the plane. I can imagine the bus ride to training in Thies. Struggling with French, learning a completely new African language. Meeting my host family and sitting down to my first meal with them. I can even almost picture my first night alone at my assignment (the night of my 23rd birthday, according to the schedule that arrived with my invitation packet). After that, it’s still hazy in my mind—daily routines, my job, being the only American for miles and miles around… but I want all of it, scary and exhilarating and whatever else it may prove to be.

So there. New site, new plans, blah blah blah. Onward.