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!


  1. I really still have no idea which shoes in that picture are "Peace Corps shoes". They all look very unpractical to me. Boots are practical, sneakers are practical, things that don't give instant blisters or make my little toe fall asleep are practical. None of the shoes pictured make my list of practical. But that's just me...

    Love you!

  2. This was my favorite PC blog entry ever. I was sitting here trying my very best to pay attention to every word but I really had to pee and my dog was growling at me to pick her up and put her on the bed, so I had to put down my computer and then come back to it. On shoes: I have been (obsessively?) buying and then returning outrageous, over the top shoes that have NO business going in my suitcase to Uganda simply because I love them and it's hitting me that I probably won't wear heels for 27 months. Also, I found a packing list for a woman that listed eleven pairs of shoes. El-ev-en. On sleeping bags: I ordered this one but to be fair it hasn't arrived yet so i can't vouch for its awesomeness. I think down is the way to go for being lightweight and stuffable. (I also had a gift card from REI that covered part of it) On duffle bags: I got this one though it is 8lbs... it's also 58 of the 107 inches so maybe i need to rethink that, lol. whatever i love it. maybe the next size down would be good? who knows. Also I want to read all of your books. (and you should add Poisonwood Bible to your list - it's the reason i ever wanted to go to Africa in the first place.)

  3. Hahaha...oh man. This post had me laughing for sure.

    I would like to say that the best sandals I ever had while I was living in Kenya were t-strap sandals. I wore them everywhere (I got away with wearing them to work, which prob won't be the case where you are) and they were especially great in the mud/sand. Much better than just regular flip flops.

    I would def check out Eagle Creek (hello 50% discount) because they have some awesome stuff. Their packing system really works and I've been using their stuff forever...going back and forth to school, for my sem abroad in Kenya... Some of their stuff is on the pricey side, but it's totally worth it (in my mind)

    Good luck :)

    PS: I'm pretty sad because as of now, I've only found one other person staging with me and no facebook group as of yet. Rwanda-5 (i think): 0 Bots-10: 1

  4. Kate, the black ones on the bottom left are super-practical. They are flat, casual/business casual shoes by Natural Balance. They will be easy to walk in without being sneakers. Also, all of the shoes in that picture are practical. Practically awesome. Practical for things other than Peace Corps like going out, looking cool, celebrating, and being tall.

    Elizabeth, thank you! I can't imagine finding a way to pack 11 pairs of shoes without having to leave behind something very important. I actually did buy a pair of brown Merrells that have a heel. They will be comfortable and practical. I am also trying to find the lightest, most stuffable, yet warm and inexpensive sleeping bag. I'm waiting until I hear back about the Peace Corps discounts before I buy a sleeping bag or a duffle. Yeah, that's the other thing- I have to measure my pack first before I buy a duffle bag- the size will have to depend on how many inches I have left after my giant backpacking pack. And, The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorite books of all time!! :) I need to re-read it.

    Christine, what brand of sandals were they? I am looking for people's opinions on Chacos vs. Tevas vs. Merrells vs. Keen, etc. I have been looking at Eagle Creek- and actually, my huge pack is Eagle Creek! I bought it a few years ago and haven't really had a chance to use it yet. You should start your own Rwanda Facebook group! Don't worry, I'm sure they'll be as cool as the Bots people.

  5. Another book you should definitely check out is "The Unofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook". It is put together by current and returned volunteers and I loved it! Check out my post on my blog for a more detailed description and how to order it!

  6. Thanks, Katie! I've been meaning to check that out and I'm glad you recommended it because I haven't heard anything about it from other volunteers. I've been reading your blog, too. I hope you hear something soon! The waiting period between medical and placement is agony. Good luck!

  7. Tracy, you know I practically live in Merrells! They have been very good for my crappy feet... and some are cute enough to wear to work. Personally, I can't wait for these to come out:
    Good luck!!

  8. Kelly, I'm a fan of these:

  9. Congrats. When i was reading this i was just laughing especially the shoe section. i too have an addiction for shoes, and now i am worried how i am going to back once my invitation arrived. I am not schedule to leave until July-September quarter. So i have time to practice. Nice book choices, i have read some.

  10. Hi Naffi! Good to know that there are other shoe addicts/PC hopefuls out there. Congratulations on your medical clearance! The waiting between medical and placement seems to be the hardest for lots of people. I hope that you hear something soon! Where are you nominated/hoping to go? Good luck!

  11. Hey Tracy! Great book list! I am definitely gonna have to check some of these out! I was reading the cover of Nine Hills to Nambonkaha and it sounds reeeally good!

    On a SWOS-related note...the PC placement specialist told she still needs to conduct a final suitability review of my app-was this the same for you? If so, was it just another interview, more paperwork?...or somethin else? Just wondering what will come next!

    keep up the great posts :)

  12. Hey Jeanne! I thought Nine Hills to Nambonkaha was a really great read. You should definitely look for it! I found it at the library.

    To my understanding, final suitability review means that they are looking over your application and trying to make sure that they have a slot for you. They might ask for an updated copy of your resume or for clarification of certain things you might have put on your application. Then, once that is done, I think placement usually calls applicants (regardless of whether or not they are SWOS) during the final review of their file to ask a few questions as sort of a follow-up interview kind of thing, but less intense, and not as long. When my Placement Officer called me, she asked me questions about why I wanted to join PC, what I had been doing to prepare, how my partner and I plan to handle the separation, if anything had changed about my availability, etc. We talked for about 20 minutes or so. I think some people have gotten follow-up questions in an email, rather than a phone call, or no follow-up at all before getting an invite. I think it's their way of making sure that you're still ready to go and that you're still qualified to serve so that they can find you a slot and issue an invitation. It seems to be a little different for everyone, though, so I wouldn't try to follow any hard and fast rules.

  13. yes, I have noticed how the process can pan differently for everyone! Thanks for the low down on yours, though! I am always still kinda nervous that the whole SWOS status will weed me out, I guess :P But I am this far along, so what's a lil more :)

  14. I realize this post was awhile ago, but serious question: what have you been using for the organization name when you're applying for the discounts? The main office in DC? And contact person? I would have applied for a bunch already, but I have no idea what to put for those.

  15. I've actually just been using my own address/phone number/myself as contact person. And for org, I just put Peace Corps. I've been approved for all of the discounts I applied for so far- Merrell, BackCountry, Teva, Chaco, ExOfficio, Eagle Creek, Mountain Hardware, NorthFace & Keen. I think if they have questions, they'll just contact you- if there's a place to attach a document, I just attached a pic of my invite letter as proof of service. Hope that helps!