Sunday, January 30, 2011

New PC friendly Wedding Rings

Our new wedding rings came yesterday! I ordered these rings for my partner and myself on Etsy and chose MnMWoodworks because I liked the shine of the finish on the rings and because I wanted more durable rings made from the bent wood method.  I wanted to have a ring made of 2 N. American woods for myself and 2 African wood for my Colin with the idea that we'd have a piece of the other's continent, but Matt, the craftsman behind MnMWoodworks had the wonderful idea of doing the two rings out of one N. American wood and one African wood, but so that my ring would be American in the center and African on the edges, Colin's would be the inverse- African in the center and American on the edges. We loved this idea. I requested that Matt make the rings with recycled wood and he gave me a bunch of different options. We chose Cherry and African Blackwood for the high contrast. I'd been dying for them to arrive, and they finally came last night. They are BEAUTIFUL! They're exactly what we were hoping they would be. We went to a party last night and everyone raved. I'm so excited about them! I hope that we are able to wear them for a long time and that they stand up to 2 years in the African heat and my sweat! What do you think?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Congratulations to Tija, Stephanie and Jessica who all received invitations very recently! Woo-hoo for y'all! Tija will be coming to Botswana as well, so that's especially exciting.  Sherlie, Natalie, Lew, Kelly, and the rest of you RASers, I know your invitations have to be just around the corner! I'm thinking about you and keeping my fingers crossed that the agony of Waiting ends soon. 

In other news, Kim has started a very cool project, Snapshots of Service.  I am excited to become a part of it!

Not much else is happening here.  Feeling the crush of Restless Invitee Syndrome.  Thankfully, it's nowhere near as oppressive as RAS.  My sleeping bag, my rain jacket, my fleece and my Merrells have all arrived and seem to be everything I was hoping they would be and fit well.  Waiting on our new wedding rings and that's about it right now.  Still looking for the perfect duffle bag...

Monday, January 17, 2011

73 days to go!

The last couple of weeks have involved a lot of frenzied preparation on my part. Frenzied? I know, it seems like everything I do is rather frenzied. There are a few reasons for this. 1. I take after my mom's mom in that we are impatient and a little bit attention deficient. When I decide I want something, I can't wait a few hours in order to go get it- it has to be immediate. If I decide to do something, it usually has to be right now or not at all. This will almost certainly pose problems for me as a Peace Corps volunteer, but I hope that it's something I am able to overcome. I will be a better person for it. 2. I am a procrastinator (also problematic for PC service). I do my best work under the extreme pressure of an impending deadline. Most of the time, I am frenzied out of sheer necessity. Now I am frenzied out of lack of any other focus. Everything comes back to, "When I go to Botswana..." or "Peace Corps...". I am sure it's really annoying to friends and family. And I apologize in advance for when I get home and all stories begin with, "In Africa...", "When I was in Botswana..." or "As a Peace Corps volunteer...". Just one of the costs of being my friend. I'll try to bring home souvenirs to make up for it.

Anyway, in my preparation, I have been buying a bunch of stuff that I hope will be useful to me during my time in Botswana. I have not done any meaningful preparation, to include looking at any more Setswana lessons. I was so overwhelmed in going over the first alphabet lesson that I panicked and pushed it to the back burner where it is less intimidating. I promise I'll get to it soon and report back. Back to what I have purchased recently:
1.  New prescription sunglasses from the best online retailer of cheap prescription glasses
2.  A sleeping bag that hasn't arrived yet
3.  Wooden wedding rings for Colin and me. I am greatly looking forward to these. I ordered them from this dude on Etsy. They will be made of recycled cherry and recycled African blackwood. I thought it would be cool for us to have rings made of wood from both North America and Africa. Plus, I didn't want to bring my original wedding or engagement rings because they're too flashy and I don't want to make myself more of a target for theft. The new ones should arrive in a week or so.
4.  A rain jacket and fleece
5.  Shoes from Merrell
6.  Linen pants, a couple of below-knee-length dresses, cotton button-up shirts that will be dressy enough for work yet hopefully wash/dry well and not be too hot
7.  Cotton bras and some underwear
8.  Green vegetable bags, as recommended by other PCVs, to make my produce last longer without refrigeration. They are re-usable, too!
9.  An external hard drive for backing up my laptop and sharing movies & music
10. A teeny speaker for my iPod so that I can host some bitchin' dance parties

I have piled all of my Peace Corps stuff that I want to bring on the twin bed in our office upstairs, but I'm thinking it may have to move to the queen bed in the guest room soon. I still have to find a duffel bag that fits all of my requirements (light weight, wheels, small enough to be within the linear inches requirement, but spacious enough to fit massive amounts of stuff, inexpensive, durable). Unfortunately, I don't think there is a bag that meets these requirements. As I've measured my pack and only have 51 linear inches left for my duffel, I'm thinking that maybe I don't even need a wheeled duffel and can make do with one that I can just carry with a shoulder strap... It will be much easier to find a lightweight bag that doesn't have wheels. 

I'm pretty much set on clothes and shoes (assuming that the shoes I ordered fit me). I do need to get some basics like underwear and socks, but other than that, I think I'm good. 

I am getting excited about the prospect of visitors from home while I'm in Botswana (I know, too soon, I haven't even left yet)!  Normally, thinking about people coming to visit would make me anxious with thoughts about what we would do, where they would sleep, how to arrange transportation, etc. But right now, I'm just wondering how many visitors I will actually get. I know that Colin will visit. He's obligated as part of being married to me, so the only question is when and for how long and whether he'll be able to visit more than once. My mom plans to come. I'm waiting for her to visit my sister and brother-in-law in Korea before I start assuming that she owes me a visit to Botswana, though. My dad will probably not visit because he is not big on traveling, but mom can be a rep. for both of them. My sister-in-law really wants to visit, which would be awesome, even though we didn't make it to Thailand when she was living there 2 years ago. My sister may come if she is able- I know she wants to, but we'll see where the Air Force leads her. Colin's parents probably won't come to Botswana because of an unfounded, yet pervasive fear of bugs and snakes. I have a few travel-savvy friends who I'm pretty sure will get to Botswana at some point when I'm there. Kristin, one of my bffs from college, lived in France for awhile, climbed to Mt. Everest base camp, spent the summer of 2010 in Uganda and is currently in Haiti is the best bet for a visitor. Hopefully, she'll be able to convince the rest of my college girls to make the trip in order to celebrate our 30th birthdays. God, that makes me feel old! I'll be leaving the U.S. in my 20s, and coming back in my 30s! Yikes! It's almost like time travel!

I'm two weeks away from becoming a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. This means that I have made my goal weight and will have maintained it for 6 weeks. I'm getting used to being this healthy size and weight again, but I'm really worried about gaining it back during Peace Corps. I know that while I'm in training and staying with a host family that I will have very little control over what I eat and even how much as a matter of cultural sensitivity and decorum. I am also learning more about food in Botswana, and it seems to be pretty starch-heavy. There's not much use in worrying about it now, I know, but I've worked really hard to get back to a healthy weight and I'd prefer to stay this way forever this time rather than yo-yoing. 

I wondered if anyone else came across this article- it's over a year old, but I haven't heard anything else or been able to find anything else about Peace Corps policy regarding volunteers who become HIV positive while serving. I found this older article as well, and this one. Does anyone know more about this?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Shoes and Books

Last week, I finally completed my updated resume and Aspiration Statement.  Both seemed far too long, but whatevs.  I feel like I can't possibly convey my goals when I don't really know what will be asked of me.  Basically, I'm going to try really hard not to suck.  I hope that what I wrote doesn't sound like B.S., because it was written from the heart, but I can't imagine that I've said anything that hasn't been said by almost every other Peace Corps nominee.  "I want to change the world", "I want to be a better person", "I want to make a difference," blah, blah, blah.  Trite, but that's the gyst and I can't help if it's true.

I also started shopping for stuff I might need.  For those of you who know me, you might understand that I have a slight shoe addiction.  When Colin was deployed to Iraq the second time, I bought almost 30 pairs of shoes while he was gone.  I really love impractical shoes.  The strappier/higher/stilleto-eyer/ridiculously-colored, the better.  Shopping for Peace Corps shoes is difficult for several reasons:
1.  I am easily distracted by non-Peace Corps shoes.
2.  I am trying to avoid Safari shoes or Tourist shoes
3.  I am supposed to dress professionally (which to me would normally mean something like this)
4. ... but I also need to be able to walk for A LONG TIME in hot weather, which sometimes makes me look like this: 
5.  Practical shoes, while comfortable, are not my favorite in terms of appearance, most of the time.
6.  In an ideal packing world, I would bring 1 pair of each of the following: boots, sneakers, sandals, casual flats, dress flats, heels, flip flops.  I have 80 lbs.  This is not happening.  I am impractically trying to find one pair of shoes that fits all of these categories.

I ended up buying two pairs (one pictured below) that I may or may not keep.
One of these things is not like the other!

I've also been looking for a sleeping bag, a new jacket for rain that I can also add another layer underneath when it's cold, a big rolling duffel bag that doesn't weigh 10 lbs. or more (wtf???) and doesn't cost a million dollars, along with countless other things (very few of which are included here).

I'm also looking for new reading.  I have read a few Peace Corps books:
1.  Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village, by Sarah Erdman:  Awesome
2.  Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Malawi by Kris Holloway: Awesome
3.  Mango Elephants in the Sun by Susana Herrera
4. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle by Moritz Thomsen
5. Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a year) by an Ocean by Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery: Hilarious
6.  From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps by Geraldine Kennedy
7.  The Insider's Guide to the Peace Corps: What to Know before you Go by Dillon Banerjee: Very helpful!
8.  First comes Love, then comes Malaria: How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won my Heart and a Third World Adventure Changed my Life by Eve Brown-Waite
9.  All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman
10. A Life Inspired: Tales of Peace Corps Service by Various Peace Corps Volunteers
11. The Ponds of Kalambayi by Mike Tidwell

Books that aren't about Peace Corps but are awesome and relevant anyway:
1. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
2. 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen

Books I want to read:
1.  The Village of Waiting by George Packer
2.  Cry of the Kalahari by Mark James Owens and Cordelia Dykes Owens
3. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith
4. The Lonely Planet Botswana and Namibia by Matthew D. Firestone and Adam Karlin

What I am reading right now (Peace Corps-wise):
 HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa: Understanding the Implications of Culture and Context by the United Nations

Those are all that I can think of right now.  I'll add more if I come up with any.  If you have any recommendations or thoughts, please send them my way!

Anyway, that's all for now! I'm going to go back to online shopping, blog stalking, and applying for Peace Corps discounts from various retailers. Oh- and- we started a Facebook group for this April 1st Botswana departure group.  If you're out there, find us!