Thursday, August 30, 2012

Deep breath.

In less than 48 hours I will be in Los Angeles with the rest of the Peace Corps Trainees getting ready to head to the Kingdom of Tonga. Crazy.

I feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff getting ready to jump. 
And the people I have talked to say that whatever is waiting for me at the bottom is going to be awesome. So awesome.


I'm ready for the jump - or at least I'd like to think I am. But because I can't see the bottom of the canyon yet I don't know what to think. What will it be like? What should I expect?

So I'm a little scared and nervous, but also really super deee duper pumped to finally get to see. 

I hope I'm making some sort of sense.

Guess I'll have to see what happens Saturday.
I'm so ready!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Thoughts on Adventure and Music

Not too much to report here. 

Still packing. And unpacking. And repacking. Lots of packing.

During seasons of change I sometimes find myself gravitating back to the same music. It seems that listening to the same music reminds me that change is a good thing and instills in me the sense that I can do anything I put my mind to. There is a particular song that I tend to listen to during periods like this ... it's been the same song since 1994. Yeah, you read that right.  

Even though I have a crazy love of all things Disney, it is not "I Can Go the Distance" from Hercules or "I'll Make a Man out of You" from Mulan. It's not even Disney.

It's this song.

It's called "New York" and it's from the Little Women Soundtrack. It's the moment in the movie where Josephine March decides that even though she loves her family, she's in need of adventure and following her dreams so she decides to head to NYC. Even though I'm not heading there, I think it's pretty applicable to this moment in my life. Do you have music that you come back to?

Also, I really liked these pictures. Have a happy Monday.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How do you feel?

I am realizing that the closer I get to my departure date the more I have been asked some version of the question: "How are you feeling?".  It happens a lot. I assume he/she is asking how I am feeling about leaving, moving to a new country (which I didn't know existed until 2 months ago), taking on "the hardest job you'll ever love", being gone for two years ... that sort of stuff. It's a pretty loaded question, but I usually respond with some version of:

"I'm excited and a little nervous, but mostly excited. Yep. Excited about does it."

The truth is, that every day I go through a roller coaster of emotions when I think about this adventure.

But I think this might be normal... Maybe. Maybe not. 
Here's really what goes on in my head when I think about the Peace Corps.

Currently: how I feel about how my packing is going.

How I feel most of the time.

How I feel when I learn more about all the interesting things I will be doing/experiencing.

How I feel when I think about meeting new people and friends.
It's mainly positive and really exciting.
I need to read a thesaurus and figure out a new word ... "exciting" just isn't cutting it anymore.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Grilled Peaches, Gorgonzola and Walnuts

I'm avoiding packing my apartment. I don't enjoy packing and cleaning. It'll get done.

In the mean time I thought it would be a good idea to get my fill of foods that I may not encounter in Tonga (I'm guessing this is the majority of my current diet) and also that remind me of the places I have lived and loved here in the good 'ole U.S. of A.

This time of year Colorado is known for their peaches. Mmmmmm peaches.

So today I decided to make a scrumdiddliumptious lunch that was inspired by this post.
I tweaked it to include what I had available in my fridge (since I should be working to clean that out - see Mom, I'm making progress). 

Here's what I came up with:

9 days.

Today I visited the elementary school that I taught at for the last two years. I was greeted by smiling faces, many hugs and lots of questions about what I'll be doing for the next 27 months. I sure am going to miss that place, but the Peace Corps provides the resources to stay connected to a classroom (of your choosing if you wish) and send/receive packages from abroad so I won't feel too disconnected. I'm excited that my former students will get the chance to share this adventure with me. It's crazy to think that they will be half way done with 7th grade when I return (I taught fourth grade here in the states).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How to Spend 15 Hours in a Car

Yesterday I drove from the Midwest to Colorado. To pack up my life near the Rocky Mountains and say goodbye for two years.

The drive from Wisconsin to Colorado can be best described in one word: flat. 

Soooo flat, people. 

This is the seventh time (7!) that I have made this drive by myself. I do it in one shot. One day. That's it. Some might call that silly, but I find that roadtrips are exciting... even if they are by yourself.

So what do you do in a car... by yourself... for 15 hours?

Here is how I spent my Monday.

Before starting the engine:
  • First things first, put your cell phone away. Across the car. So you're not tempted to play with it and distract yourself from your goal: driving across the country in one piece. 
  • Make sure that all the mirrors are set to the appropriate angle. 
  • Plug in your iPod and make sure that it is set to your "Disney" playlist. 
  • Make sure your GPS is charged.
  • Pack some snacks: I appreciate Pluots (plum-apricots), trail mix, a water bottle full of cold peach oolong tea and a Nalgene full of cold water.

Here is a breakdown of what I did:
32% - Think.  Thought about the next 2 years. About Tonga. About meeting new friends and helping a community out.
15% - Sing. Made up my own Disney musical using the vehicles around me as chorus members. I don't think that most of them knew what was going on, but it was great and at the end my voice was horse.
3% - Count things. The number of semis you pass, the different color cars, the miles... whatever works.
 15%- Dream (with your eyes open).  Imagine myself driving an Airstream across the world (and in my dreams it floats and has boat-like capabilities).

35% - Make up stuff. Poems, stories, talk to yourself. It's all good. No one can hear you.

That's it. It was a long, but good day. And now I just need to do it all again on Saturday (in the opposite direction). Woot. Woot.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Pack light" they say.

The packing has commenced.

If you were to compare me to my fellow PCVs I'm sure I am in last place in terms of packing (silly, camp), but I'm getting there. A ginormous trip to Target and REI and I'm making progress. Slowly. But not too slowly, I mean I depart in 11 days. (11 DAYS. I'm not counting or anything. Derp.)

So what do you pack when you know you are moving away for 2 years?

The Peace Corps says to "pack light", but it's turning out to be more difficult than I thought. Especially when I have been feeling like I only really understand 2% of what it is that I am preparing for. 

Here's a picture of my packing list (please ignore the handwriting and the scribbles).

So what am I really nervous about (in terms of packing)? Mostly... it's the clothing.

If you have met me in real life you know that: I don't exactly dress up. It's a good thing then, that I am moving to a country and into a culture that expects women to wear dresses and skirts and "dress professionally" every day. Every day. (Fist pump).
This is my backpack ... which is empty now, but soon will be filled everything I'll need for the next 27 mos.
That's okay, though. This experience is meant to push me to do things that I wouldn't normally do. And dressing up happens to be one of them. I mean I don't hate wearing skirts and dresses, I just choose not to. Don't get me wrong ... I'm not complaining and I'm not against wearing skirts. I'll do it. And maybe even enjoy myself.

I have been in search of skirts and dresses that are going to keep me cool (the weather averages 75 degrees F year round), keep my shoulders covered, and aren't extremely uncomfortable. I've been pretty successful so far (Special thanks to St. Vincent DePaul for being a good source of rad skirts and dresses and for not breaking the bank!).

Pretty fabrics.
Side note: It's extremely hard to pack with Ms. Abby hanging around. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

All I Can See

My friend Emily introduced me to this song this week. I'm obsessed. I can't get enough of it. The chorus is my favorite and the lyrics seem to convey exactly what I'm feeling right now. Here are a few lines from my favorite part of the song:

The revolution of the earth around the sun
is the perfect lesson of how it should be.
So if I can I'll learn
to journey and return,
to never rest till I've seen all I can see...

I want to learn a completely new language,

one I don't understand.
I want to help someone lost, someone helpless,
with the strength of my hand.
I want to come to the base of a statue built
before they counted the years,
and there I'll fall with my face in my hands and cry
and feel their hope in my tears.

This adventure is going to be filled with exploring and learning. And I'm ready.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mālō e lelei! Hello!

One of the things I am most excited about when I think about my Peace Corps experience is learning a new language. It's going to be tough. The last time I learned a new language I was 18 and it was Spanish and I was in high school. It didn't matter if I couldn't conjugate a verb correctly or whether or not I could roll my l's. There is a little bit more pressure this time - I have to learn this language in order to live and work in my new home. Maybe this pressure will help with learning it quicker? Who knows. 

The Peace Corps provides its volunteers with language lessons before departure. There are nine Tongan ones and I haven't been able to access them recently (Peace Corps was doing some website updates) so I have been looking elsewhere to learn basic Tongan. I practiced as much as I could at camp. Here's some of what I have down so far.

1 - taha
2 - ua
3 - tolu
4 - fā
5 - nima
6 - ono
7 - fitu
8 - valu
9 - hiva
10 - hongofulu

Other Phrases:
Hello: Mālō e lelei!
How are you?: Fēfē hake?
What is your name?: Ko hai ho hingoa?
Thank You: Malo
No: 'Ikai
Yes: 'Io

Here's to learning more!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tonga? That's in Africa, right?

The title of this post describes a situation that has happened at least a handful of times since I have started telling people about my adventure into the Peace Corps.

They might be confused because when I initially described my desire to join Peace Corps I mentioned how neat-o (yeah, that word is still in my vocabulary) it would be to travel to Africa. This didn't happen due to a severe allergy to fire ants, but I'm not complaining. Everything happens for a reason.

Now here I am... headed to the South Pacific.

Back to Tonga.


Here's a quick lesson about Tonga - let's call it Tonga 101. You ready? I bet you are.

Top 10 Interesting Facts about The Kingdom of Tonga (according to me):

1. Location: The Kingdom of Tonga is located in the South Pacific Ocean. See the above map.

2. Nickname: The Friendly Islands

3. The Kingdom of Tonga is the last remaining Polynesian kingdom in the South Pacific. Which means that Tonga has a king.

4. There are 170 Tongan Islands. Only 36 of them are inhabited. 

5. Population: 102,000.

6. What is the capital of Tonga? Nuku'alofa. I'm very excited to learn how to actually say that. The " ' " means that there is a glottal stop. The glottal stop is something that I have no mastered yet. In time, hopefully I will.

7. Food and feasting are an important part of Tongan society, and the feasts of the Kingdom are renowned throughout the Pacific. Tongan diet includes: spit roasted suckling pig, steamed fish, coconut cream, octopus, yams, taro, sweet potatoes and cassava.

8. The official currency of Tonga is the pa'anga. Right now, $1 in the US is equal to 1.75 pa'anga (TOP).

9. The highest point in Tonga is Kao Island.

10. The literacy rate in Tonga is 99%. What a great number. I wonder what America can learn from Tonga?

Until next time... I think we'll talk about the Tongan language next.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's crunch time.

Camp is finished for the year and am now back in the midwest waiting for my departure day.

I still have to head out to Colorado to pack up my life and make it back to Madison before my departure day on September 1st.

There are so many emotions, people. I can't even...

I'm still working on my novel long to-do list, hoping that I'll finish it in time to leave. It's not easy organizing your life back home when you know you'll be leaving for 2 years.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

1 month.

I called the travel agent today and booked my flight to staging.

I leave 1 month from today.

I can't believe how close it's getting.

Here are 10 things I'm excited for (in no particular order):
1. To learn about a new culture.
2. To learn how schools in Tonga work.
3. To meet people and create more relationships.
4. To try new food.
5. To learn a new language.
6. To be catapulted out of my comfort zone and try to navigate completely on my own.
7. To write lots of snail mail.
8. To make memories.
9. To be "off the grid".
10. To chronicle this journey.