Staging Day 1

Getting There

The most frustrating thing about Day one was my plane flight. I have spent the last month flying all over the country and my flight was never delayed in fact twice we left the gate before our scheduled time, I had no where I had to be so it would not have mattered how long i was delayed then. But 060708 when I had somewhere to be at a set time – what happens? You guessed it! almost a 2 hour delay. At least they let us off the plane after 45 minutes. Philly airport was having weather! I missed lunch. Good thing I got a Dr.Pepper and some chex mix when we deplane.

The Group

The majority of my group are recent graduates either this year or last year. There is one gentleman who is at least 70, and I thought I’d be the oldest! One woman over 50 who’s serving with out spouse and a 50+ who is originally from Ireland. The remaining PCTs are under thirty but a few years out of college. There are two married couples. One twin without his sister. Pretty evenly distributed between male and female.

The main trainer, Sheila, is not a Peace Corps staff member. She is an outside consultant who has run staging events for the Peace Corps for 15 years. Jennifer is the Peace Corps country liason at PC Headquarters. She’s a RPCV – Returned PC Volunteer and Kate is the coordinator for this staging event, also a RPCV.

Sara

Since our flights were messed up I did not meet Sara until registration. On my way to the registration table I saw some PCVs. You know them by the blue folder we all carry. I said hi and someone who looked very familiar she said ” Are you Vicky?”

“Yes” I replied.

“I’m Sara! I recognized you by your shoes!” she exclaimed.

After I turned in all my paperwork I had some time to get to know the other volunteers and some help doing it with an ice breaker. Felt like one of Jeanette’s Volunteer Breakfasts!

The first session was about the Goals of the Peace Corps. We discussed what about the Peace Corps attracted us. We had a chance to write what about the mission was most important to us.

For me, the most important aspect of the Peace Corps mission is making a connection with people of another culture. I want the learning and teaching to flow in both directions.

We also wrote our personal definition of success.

I know that I am a successful volunteer when…

a member of my community asks me for advice.

I am invited to family or community functions.

I see that spark of understanding in one of my students eyes.

I make a friend.

Sheila discussed briefly about our support in Ghana

Then we discussed our anxieties and aspirations. We broke into 5 groups. The assignment was to make a list and draw a picture, Very interesting and fun!

Then Kate talked about administrative stuff.

I would like to thank each and everyone of you who reads this blog for supporting me for the next two and 1/2 years. Your tax dollars are feeding, clothing, housing and entertaining me starting from staging. Thank you. I knew this before but getting my staging allowance yesterday made it real.

Dinner

Ate Thai food with Sara and Stephanie.

Last phone calls

Before sleep I used my cell for the last time and called my mom, Jack and Beth.

Sleep

Reflection

Day one staging certainly made my adventure more real. It is finally sinking in that I am going to Ghana for two years. But I am still calm and not afraid. I just know that this is what I am supposed to do.

-vc

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Cleaning House

This week I have been cleaning my office. It’s amazing how much paper I have felt the need to keep in 13 years.  Most of the stuff I never looked at again once I filed it.  But it was fun to look at it now and remember my career here.  I found a tech newsletter I wrote for monthly for about a year. The minutes from tech team meetings and the web redesign project.  Instructions and manuals for software we don’t even use any more. Many good memories. I choose to overlook the bad ones!

And as I have seen things on my desk they remind me of people here I have given them the item. I feel the need to leave pieces of myself at LRW Library  in the place I have been at for so long.

-vc

Moving again!

Today I am sorting through my belongings yet again in preparation for another move. I have had a hard time facing this one and have found something else more important the past three weekends. I move next weekend so it’s time to bring my stuff to the Salvation Army.

For me clothes and shoes are the hardest things to let go of. As I sort through my remaining clothes so many memories come back. I remember when Beth and I bought our twin Flip Flops at the Yankee Trader on one of our Belfast weekends. The breezy July day on the coast where Liz got married comes to mind when I look at that white top. Helen helped me shop for that outfit. These red sandals are so comfortable maybe i’ll bring them even if the leather does disintegrate in the tropics. Oh I wore those boots when Eric and I went to Cape Ann on that rainy fall day. My L.L. Bean coat! Jeanette has a blue one just like it! I tell myself the memories will still be there.

Clothes and shoes say so much about your personality and what you do. So in another way as I shed my old job and my American lifestyle it feels right to shed my old clothes and shoes. As the person I will become emerges my clothes and shoes will reflect that change.

So vc quit stalling, get off the computer and take some more steps to your new life! -vc

Crossing things off the list

I am crossing things off my to do list.  This weekend I ordered my shoes from teva.  Thanks Teva for supporting Peace Corps  volunteers with discounts.

My new camera is on the way.

Finally have my ATM card from my new bank and Liz’s post office has the paperwork to ok my mail going there and Liz picking it up.

What’s left? A LOT

Getting rid of clothing.  Moving AGAIN! Getting my address out to people.  the list goes on.

-vc

Shedding again!

Oh boy I am selling my stuff again in preparation for the big move to Ghana.  Today I contacted B&H Photo with a list of all my photo equipment to see what kind of trade in they will give me. I really do not need three cameras. I don’t need 15 different filters in two sizes. I don’t need a big tripod. I never use it and a  little  one will travel so much better. I now have three camera bags. I don’t need three camera bags! So I am waiting for there estimate so I can send the stuff to them.

I sold my XO today. The new owner is very happy. I am glad. It just wasn’t going to do what I wanted it to do.

I sold my desktop today as well.  The buyer will wait until next week to pick it up.

I am trying to sell my enlarger and other misc.  darkroom equipment.

I am trying to sell a TV and a VCR.

That’s about it!

Getting down to 80lbs of junk is hard work!

-vc

Social Dilemmas

The Peace Corps Website has some materials to help me prepare myself for my new culture.

There are three situations and I am only certain of one answer.

Situation 1

HOLDING BACK?

You work as an environmental educator in a government ministry under an older host country national—who is much less technically competent than you. At staff meetings, you routinely outshine him, which causes him acute discomfort. Today, he asked you not to speak at meetings and especially not to disagree with him, even, and especially, if what he says is incorrect. What should you do?

my thoughts:

First I don’t think I would publicly correct this person. I am a new comer. I am trying to establish a relationship with him. BUT if I had I would apologize for not showing him respect. I would then say maybe I have been talking too much and I will let others have the floor more often. I tell him I will share when I have something important to add.

I wouldn’t say I won’t talk at staff meetings but admitting that I might talk too much is a good way to show humility.T And who of us doesn’t talk too much! Then saying  I’ll speak when I have something important to add reminds him I do have something to contribute. I would also remember that I can have an influence one on one and if a local staff member brings up something I would like to do it will carry more weight.

-vc

Any other thoughts are welcome!

Zinzin Road by Fletcher Knebel pt.II

Did not like this book one little bit.  The writing was mediocre. The characters were one dimensional. The beauty of Africa never really came through.I really didn’t get feel for living in another culture.  What i did find interesting was the question of where do you draw the line between following your beliefs and not meddling in the local politics. I think this group went way over that line many times.

I am still looking for the Peace Corps book that will do for me what Chinua Achebe’s book did. His book transported me to another culture. I want to read a book that will take me into the lives of the people in the community where the volunteer is serving.

So on to Mango Elephants in the Sun by Susana Herrera.

-vc

More sure all the time

Tonight I went to a Peace Corps Recruitment meeting in West Hartford.  I really went to talk to other people and encourage them to ‘go for it’. Instead I got more encouraged myself.

Meryl, who served in Cote D’Ivoire, encouraged me the most. She talked about learning more about yourself. She talked about a spiritual journey. She spoke about her country and the people she met with love and affection.  She said that we had so much to offer with all our life experiences. Pretty much she confirmed the good things I had hoped would happen. I know my experience will be different but at least my expectations and hopes are not off the charts!

The gentleman who served in Panama encouraged me because he said that volunteers are their own best support group. He indicated that there was much visiting between volunteers in his country. It will be nice to know that the people, like Sara, that I will spend an intense 3 months with, will not be out of my life after that. ( how many commas was that?)

The Panama RPCV and the others also indicated that we needed to be very proactive and make our projects. The PC does not send us in with a to do list. We are to evaluate the needs of the community at our site and work with them to met those needs. That is scary and empowering!

I took the chance to ask Meryl about climate and what she would suggest I bring. Umbrella she said right off. Good for rain and for sun. Good shoes too. Very important because you can’t get them there. And like almost every other RPCV she said she brought too much stuff with her. She said the economy is truly global, at least in the bigger cities. She also confirmed that local clothing is the way to go. It’s a looser weave and looser fit; both are better for the heat. And to the relief of all my co-workers who won’t have to save the ends of the toilet paper rolls from work, toilet paper is available in the larger cities. She tried to describe how the locals slush themselves clean with water but I think that is best left to the imagination!

Last bit of advice from RPCVs for PCTs. Medical is God. So if you really feel you need something figure out a way to get medical to say you must have it.

I am going to be in Ghana this time in June! Less than four months!

-vc

Passport and visa

Today I went to Peaberry’s  Cafe in Simsbury to finish my visa and passport applications. There were too many

distractions in my room! Peaberry’s is the cafe my daughter Elizabeth manages.  It’s like Cheers. Her staff are friendly and welcoming as well as putting up with me singing. jumping up and down and staying for hours some time.

So the applications are filled out. Liz checked them over for omissions or errors and then I FEDEXed them off. A productive morning with good tea, excellent cinnamon buns and great company!

-vc

The Will

What is it about going to Africa that finally made me decide to write a will? I have never really had that many assets in my life. The biggest asset was when we owned or rather the bank owned the house and we payed the mortgage on the house. but some how John and I never managed to get around to making a will.   I think we played the odds and figured we both wouldn’t die at the same  time.

So writing the will brings up many questions. So many that instead of working on my will this morning I writing about working on it! Is there something special I want to leave each child? Or do I leave general intructions for them to divide my estate equally. What does equally mean? Monetarily, emotionally or item to item?  When what I really want is for there to be no fighting and family divisions over the piddly estate I will leave.

Who will be my executor?  What about power of attorney if I’m going to be so far  away.

What about a funeral? I hate them but aren’t they for the living? So maybe I should just say I want to be cremated and if they want a casket for a viewing it should be a plain pine casket.  An Eco friendly internment of my ashes or scattering at a place that I loved like gull pond at Gordon or bearskin neck Rockport?  too many questions!

So on that cheery note I have to head off to MPOW.

-vc

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