Wednesday, September 26, 2012

TO DO--Eight days to go!

I have eight days until I head off to LA, and then nine days until I fly to Vanuatu. In short, @#$@SDASAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I both feel like I have basically done everything already (I have -- haven't I?) and also that there's an endless supply of little nitpicky tasks that I need to accomplish before I go. Things like:

1. Vote. Conveniently I got my emailed ballot last weekend, and so all I need to do is stop being hilariously lazy, print out the dumb thing, and hunt for a stamp.

2. Cancel my contract with AT&T. Allegedly, they'll let PCVs use the military pause on contracts and will let you take a timeout while still keeping your number, but you have to call them once a year to keep it active.

3. Find (or buy) new USB connectors for my DS and camera.

4. Actually decide what bags I want to take and start putting stuff in them. I was feeling pretty ambitious this morning and started to iron clothes, then proceeded to melt a bit of cheap plastic lace and get green bits stuck on a tshirt. Urgh. I now have a vision of moving to Vanuatu with everything I own covered in little stupid green bits. Clearly I'll be the classiest and most attractive elementary school teacher ever to hang out in my village.

5. Finish doing media things -- change all of my .epubs to .mobis and take things off of my laptop and move them onto my external hard drive. My CD drive is messed up so I currently don't have any movies on my drive, but other people in Group 25 sound like they have a bunch of stuff ... Hope so! Otherwise, I'm going to be relying on my kindle and In Our Time Podcasts from BBC Radio 4 (you seriously can hear every capital letter when they read it aloud) and I suspect that will get really old, really quickly.

6. Clean out my closet of all the clothes I think will look childish, dumb, or freshman girl on a night out  on a twenty-five year old. I'm also trying to get rid of basics, like white t shirts or leggings, since I think I'll probably just want to buy new ones when I get back.

7. Decide if I want to update this blog with a giant data upload once every few months or if I want to snail mail my blog entries to someone in my family and have them put things on here.

I guess that those are the main things that I have to do... That, and possibly say good bye to Houston. I'm not sure if my parents will still be here when I come back (they're not sure, either) and it's sort of bittersweet to think about every little errand being the last time I go here and everything. Meh.

I think I must have used up all of my nervous energy on worrying about whether or not I'd be accepted to PC, so I don't even feel very nervous about any of this. I've just had the longest summer of my life (May-October) and I really am ready to go. Just eight days, though ...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Staging Update!

I've been putting off updating this blog for about two weeks in the hopes that inspiration would strike and I would write a really fantastic and insightful post. Hah! However, since staging is now exactly two weeks away (eek!) there's no time like the present to explain a little more about what I've been up to and where I am going.

At the moment, I'm still packing for Vanuatu, and I'm pretty sure I'll be packing up until the last possible minute. My Kindle has about five hundred books on it and I've been trying to put as much music as I can on my laptop. I seem to have bought some weird external hard drive that doesn't automatically want to work with my newly-prettified Mac, so I'll need to have my older brother check it out this weekend before I can put any movies or TV shows on there. According to all of the current volunteers who've been on Facebook the past few weeks, there's a big community external hard drive in the main office in Port Vila that everyone shares off of, but it's always good for new volunteers to bring whatever they have, also, so that people have a wider variety of materials to look at. As far as actual packing goes, I have my hammock; my snorkeling gear; about twenty pounds of peanut butter, spices, hot sauce, fussy little drink packets, and tea; yoga mat; a couple of pairs of shoes; pocket knives and a big ceramic knife; Nalgenes; a world map and a map of the US; an American flag (need to go looking for a Texan one); my old flute; and a bunch of other odds and ends (jogging armband, Timex ...) . I only have a hundred pound weight allowance, though, and it's possible that I could have to carry that hundred pounds five hours up a mountain (no joke--one of the current vols actually lives five hours up a mountain) so I am a little concerned that I'll wind up with too much stuff ...

As far as clothes go, I have a bunch of knee and calf length skirts, two dresses, and a bunch of shirts which I hope scream both "professional teacher" and "easily washable." I'm planning on getting more clothes when I get there, since I do want to look like I'm wearing the right things (island dresses with bold prints on them, here I come!) but the main thing I'm trying to figure out now is how many non-work clothes I want to bring. The packing list said to bring a dress to go out in Port Vila in, and the current volunteers on Facebook have said that it's worthwhile to have American-style clothes to putz around the house in, but I'm pretty sure I can't wear American college-age shorts or leggings outside of my house without causing alarm. It sounds like my parents are thinking of coming for Christmas 2013, and that's another thing--assuming that they'll come visit my village but that we'll also go to the capital and around some, I'll probably want some clean, stain-free western style clothes as well. Maybe I should try to guess now what I'd like to wear in a year? Watch as I'm the one volunteer in the history of the program who actually adores Vanuatu food and I promptly gain fifty pounds. I doubt that will happen--it sounds like the food there is very root vegetable-based, lots of taro and sweet potato, and generally kind of bland, but who knows?

I don't have a lot of time left to figure things out, though. I'm leaving tonight to go to Richmond for the weekend, to see my family one more time before I go. Friday I'm getting lunch with my grandmother and at least my Uncle Richard (not sure about Aunt Carol or anyone else) and then hopefully going to the hospital up in Reston to see my grandfather. Saturday, I'm hanging out with Nick and Anna, and tentatively getting coffee with Naseem, who'll be another volunteer with me in Vanuatu. Sunday, it'll be Ben and Alyssa and I think a little of my Aunt Patricia and Co., and then Monday, it's back to Houston. I've been saying bye to and touching base with a lot of people over the past few weeks -- went to New Orleans over Labor Day weekend with Marina (which was amazing!!), went out one last time with Emily to the most Texan dance bar we could find, had lunch/dinner with friends, and it's kind of ridiculous to believe how soon I'll be out of Houston, maybe for good if my parents do move. I've been trying to eat everything that sounds tasty and do everything that sounds fun one last time, even though that's a bit of a tall order.

As far as staging/start of service goes, however, this is the timeline at the moment:

October 4: My mom and dad are taking the day off from work to see me off for my 12:35 p.m. flight to LAX. I'll get in around 2, at the same time as a couple of other volunteers, then head over to the Radisson in the airport. We have to be checked in by 6 p.m., but then the evening's free. I assume I'm going to be getting dinner with other volunteers, and about a dozen of us decided that we're going to go see the midnight premiere of the new Tim Burton movie that night. I will have kind of an early day the next day, but Lonely Planet Vanuatu said that there are two movie theaters in the whole country, and one of them shows movies in badly-dubbed French, so it should be kind of a blast.

October 5: From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I have staging. They said to wear professional attire, but since I don't have infinite space in my luggage, I think I'm assuming that means "look like a clean adult human being" and I'll wear one of the teaching outfits I've packed. It's like a long pre-training info session where they talk about safety and expectations and stuff like that, I think, but also a way for us to introduce ourselves to the other volunteers. Most of us won't work near each other, but we'll be in the same training village for about three months together, so it's important that we get to know each other. Around 10:35 p.m., my flight will leave for Auckland, New Zealand!

October 6: Owing to the International Date Line, we skip this day.

October 7th: Arrive in Auckland. We have enough time to go through customs and change out of leggings and into our island clothes, and then it's a three hour flight to Port Vila, Vanuatu!

We'll be in Port Vila for a little while, and then we'll head over to Efaté--I don't know exactly when, but I'll let you all know as soon as I do. Only two more weeks to go until this all gets started!