this blog is on hiatus

In training this afternoon, we received word that our blogs must be password protected (or every entry must be pre-approved by our Regional Director).  Rather than close this out entirely, I'm going to put it on hiatus and start up a different blog for my time in the Peace Corps.

I will be sending out reader invitations to folks who expressed interest in reading about my Peace Corps adventure.  If you didn't receive an invitation e-mail from katymac to be a reader of the new blog and would like to be able to access it, please send me an e-mail and I'll send you an invite.  There may be a wait depending on what sort of internet access I have.  Patience will be rewarded.


I am in Ukraine

Not much to say right now as I'm running on only a few hours of sleep since Tuesday morning.

Travel here was relatively uneventful.  There wasn't any lost luggage out of our group of 106 people.  Only minor travel injuries (cuts, bruises) and no lost people.

The Peace Corps staff is wonderfully welcoming and super organized.


thus it begins...

Greetings from DC!

Staging (pre-departure orientation) was informative and an excellent use of five hours.  I especially enjoyed meeting all these folks (there are currently 106 of us slated to board the plane for Kiev tomorrow) who have been through the application process, the departure preparations, who have similar aspirations and anxieties, people who will be watching my back for the next two years.  I remarked (to myself) in orientation today that the Peace Corps does a good job of selecting people to serve; I was generally impressed by everyone I met - folks were personable, good at public speaking, game for anything.

I have to say that while it doesn't seem real yet, I am ever more eager for this journey to begin.  Not long to wait.

It may be at least a month before I am able to post again (about 70% of volunteers in Ukraine have access to internet, and those not necessarily in their town), but I will be writing posts and saving them up until I have internet access.  Worry not.  I shall be just as chatty as I've been on any other trip.


the countdown begins...

Yup.  48 hours to go...  I leave Sunday at 4:24pm. 

Am I ready?  Mentally, pretty much.  Physically?  Well...  I pre-packed last night and was happy to see that each rolling duffel weighs about 40 pounds.  Even with the few things left to pack, I think I'll come in comfortably under my 50-pound limit.  I love that sort of surprise. 

Today, Mom and I wandered around suburban Atlanta;our goal was to find a couple of souvenir tea towels and have lunch in downtown Stone Mountain.  Instead, we had a surreal shopping experience in a flea market sort of antique store and found cool spoon holders made by a potter in Stone Mountain and little reindeer figures carved by another local artist.  After all, no one is insisting that gifts to my host family have peaches, peanuts, and Confederate soldiers on them.

I haven't been to downtown Stone Mountain in 10 years or so and  many of the cool little stuff shops are now empty.  A little sad, we decided to try for lunch in downtown Lilburn. The Blue Rooster, a wonderful breakfast/lunch cafe and bakery, closed its doors January 8th.  Again, a little sad, we headed to downtown Lawrenceville.

Success!  Along the way I stopped at Central Gwinnett (haven't been there since I graduated... many years ago).  Months ago, I'd come across the suggestion that a high school yearbook can be an excellent teaching tool for TEFL classes.  It's also cool to look through and see how the high school experience has changed (and not changed).

Lunch at the Uptown Cafe in Lawrenceville.  Mediterranean.  Soooooo good (truly, if you're thinking you might be up for a drive, go there, you will be happy).

Now it is time to un-pre-pack and pack for good.


New Orleans

The Friday that was my last day at work was also the day I drove to New Orleans. It had been planned as either a weekend to commiserate (if I did not get into the Peace Corps) or a weekend to celebrate.  My girlfriends and I chose the most convenient weekend for four busy schedules and, a wonderful surprise, we were there the first weekend of mardi gras celebrations.

Here's my favorite shot from Saturday... we were in the take-out line at Cafe du Monde when this waitress got off shift. She sat down, pulled out a pink cloth and set about dusting the powdered sugar off of her legs, then her shoes. It must be a small misery to spend your workday delivering piles of powdered sugar. I, unsurprisingly, ordered my beignets without sugar (I do not enjoy sticky fingers nor messy food).

Saturday night we went to a parade in Uptown because the parade of the Krewe of Pygmalion turned onto St. Charles Avenue less than five blocks from where we were staying.  I was surprised by how fun it was (factoring in the whole crowd thing). Exciting. My pics turned out terribly for the most part, but I like this crowd shot.

Most of our weekend was spent wandering and eating. The house where we stayed (a vacation rental by owner property) was delightful.

The way home was long.  About 20 miles south of Atlanta we were brought to a stop - not two minutes after H. said "I might have to pee" (translation - can you stop at the next exit?). An hour later, we were set free (the authorities on the scene still unable to figure out how to pull the toppled tractor trailer off its side). The first exit we came to had an open McDonald's. E. and H. headed to the bathroom, I to the counter. Nothing like a milkshake to help you forget the hour of your life that was sucked into nothingness by an unexpected traffic jam.

It was a good weekend.


packing, part I

Some Peace Corps volunteer blogs give their packing lists and these lists seem so sensible.  I, on the other hand, have so many things in contention for going that there is no point making a list.  I am aiming for sensible. There has been one round of culling and there will be at least one more.

It is not space that I fear running short, but weight (my LL Bean bags are wonderfully roomy - I have the ice blue and the guide gold, I like to think of them more as electric turquoise and school bus yellow). Everything must fit into two 50-pound bags, a carry on and a personal item. I must be able to manage everything on my own. Tricky, that.

The carry on is of overnight bag size (and will serve as such while I'm away); this will be packed with a week's worth of necessities in case my checked bags are delayed. The personal item will be filled with my electronics, a trashy travel magazine or two (or three - which I will further justify by saying I can use these in my classes), and food.

I have requested a vegetarian meal, but things do go wrong.  A side of rice drenched in airplane-chicken juice will not sustain me for the transatlantic flight. Protein bars, nuts, dried fruit, an apple, a banana, a chocolate bar, and crackers.  And lots of water.  It would do no one any good for me to arrive in Kiev hungry, dehydrated, and grumpy.


preparing to pack...

The waiting time is a good part of this preparing-to-leave process.

A short while ago, I acquired a rolling duffel from LL Bean (an obnoxiously lovely teal color) and I started tossing things into it that I though I might take with me. The bag is overflowing... I have yet to pack all the clothes I will take, let alone the shoes. After staring (in dismay, I must confess) at the bulging teal beauty, I began to think along a more ascetic line. A few wonderful parts of my life from home are necessary, but as few as I can manage. Things I don't use here, are unlikely to be things I use in Ukraine with a few exceptions (notably being the sleeping bag and the ice gripper things for my shoes).

I am prepared to miss many material things, but there are folks in Ukraine pickier than I and they have found material comfort. I'll be fine.