Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Great Tent Fiasco

This latest update comes to you all from the keys of my shiny new (and highly cherished) lapTot. I was recently gifted an itty-bitty Toshiba netbook from my cool, cool aunt (shout out to my amazing aunt Tammie), and now have little Tot as a companion on my forthcoming adventures. While visiting my aunt, I spent some time relaxing, acquiring a few new clothing items, and reveling in the fact that my packing was shaping up, winding down, and very much under control.

And then the news came in...

As part of a particularly enthusiasic group of Trainees, we are literally flooding our Facebook wall with helpful bits of research, information, tips, and tricks (As a note: while it is probably likely that ours is the first group to have been connected to FB for so long that we are more attached to it as a resource than previous groups and therefore are utilizing it to a higher degree, I choose to think it's because we are super-cool). Yesterday morning, word comes through the grapevine that Trainees are "highly recommended" to be equipped with a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad." TENT?! SLEEPING BAG!? Panic ensues. I mean really! Do these people realize how much a TENT weighs?!?!

Apparently during training we will be taking, shall we say, 'little trips to the countryside.' These are called site visits, during which we will be split into groups, packed into Land Rovers and shipped off to actual Volunteers' sites to stay for a few days and experience village life as we should expect it to be. This I knew before hand. What I didn't realize is that we are expected to provide our own sleeping materials for these trips... Not that a sleeping bag would be a bad thing to have for other occasions, but a tent? Not happening.

So the discussions exploded. Who's packing, who's not, who's sharing with whom...I even offered my snuggling services in exchange for a space on someone's floor. In the big scheme of things, I don't suppose this is that big of a deal. Part of why we signed up for this whole thing is that we want an adventure, and part of what will make us successful is our ability to get creative, be flexible, and improvise. We probably don't even need anything, which is why the packing list that they give us is only full of suggestions, guidelines, and recommendations. We pick and choose what we absolutely can't live without. The significance for me was the wake-up call that this gave me. I thought I was doing fine, but now I feel like "Am I forgetting something really important?" The stress of packing was not something I was feeling. I had my tech squared away, my communication all strategized, and some leisurely shopping for the odd pair of socks or trousers in my future. And yet as I tottered hopelessly around the shelves of REI, my eyes glazing over with the slickest, sweetest stuff for the travel-savvy explorer (like chewable balls of energy, zippered suitcase organizers, and an ice pick-cum-boat anchor), I realized that maybe I was waaaaay more unprepared than I thought. I was totally content with my new lime green word-combo luggage locks, but suddenly they seemed so paltry, insignificant compared to how much stuff I was missing out on.

After an evening of frenzied research, I came to the following conclusions:1) I am not a turtle, I do not carry my house on my back, tent. 2) I am a small person, I need a warm place to sleep, therefore...kid's sized sleeping bag, rated to +30 (I also get cold easily, which is why I asked to go to Africa). 3) I will, in all likelihood, bring something that I will never need and/or use, I will not bring something that I do need and don't realize it, stressing about packing. I refuse to let myself get worked up. End of story.

I have a feeling that we will all be laughing about this one 'round the campfire in a few months' time. "Hey, remember that one time when we were all freaking out about sherpa-ing our way through these site-visits? Hardy-hardy-harr! Here, have some misquito netting..." Goodtimes. 'Til then...


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

28 days later...

Only this time, it's not zombies invading Hollywood or New York. Rather, an estimated 53 starry-eyed and dream-laden PCT (Peace Corps Trainees) will invade the relatively quiet and peaceful country of Zambia. From the Facebook wall we've been blowing up for the past few months, I have the sneaking suspicion that, for better or worse, said African country will never be the same. I'm totally stoked.

That's right kids. While retreating away to my grandparents' ranch in the middle of nowhere this past week, I received an e-mail from the PC Staging desk with the final details ("Reporting Instructions." With capital letters. Oh yea.) of when and where we will be leaving. The date has been moved up a bit, and we'll be leaving from Philly, apparently. All in all, very exciting news, especially the bit that said we will begin this mind-blowing adventure at 2:00 in the morning. How's that for a starting gun, eh?

Time to get serious about packing, I guess. With regards to my last post about my little shoe Problem, let's just say that I reached a stand-off of sorts. My sandals, I think, will work well, although the blog-o-sphere will be the first to know if circumstances turn otherwise. As for my matronly mules that I still can't bring myself to buy... well, it will probably be down to the very last minute before I reach a solid decision. Right now, the predominant opinion among myselves is that just because we are moving to Zambia doesn't mean our style will change. Why bother trying? I know that I will definitely sleep better beneath my mosquito net at night just knowing that I have a smashing pair of pumps standing by in case the need arises. My luggage weight limit might make this difficult decision for me...

All in all, time is ticking on and the days are flying by. Lists generally aren't my thing, but I have been reverting back to scribbling on a variety of handy tablets to ensure that I don't forget something critical (like gummie bears and canceling my health insurance), a technique I perfected in while in school during finals week. I haven't really had time to ponder the weightiness of these last few weeks home. I'm sure the moment will come soon, and when it does, I will have a variety of insightful revelations to wade through and match with overwhelming emotions. Until then....