Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Never Enough New Mexico Chiles

I made the last stop on the farewell tour last week. The destination was Santa Fe, NM. It was an opportunity to see my friend John's new casita, enjoy the lovely dry weather and see how many chiles I could eat.

It was a quick trip, but a lot of fun. John knocked himself out to make me feel welcome in his beautiful new home. Perfectly decorated with furniture and accessories that complement the adobe style of the house. The fresh flowers and margaritas were icing on the Spanish cake.

The timing of the trip was perfect. The weather was warm and sunny, with cool evenings and low humidity. Plus, it was harvest time for Hatch green chiles. You know how tents sprout around the 4th of July, selling fireworks? This time of year in NM, it's tents with giant roasters set up, selling green chiles. The aroma of the roasting green chiles is amazing. I couldn't resist and was willing to leave clothes behind, if necessary, so I could bring some of the fresh chiles home. Luckily I was able to cram ten pounds of chiles in my suitcase and still pack all my clothes.

We dined at a number of popular places offering Nu Mex cuisine. My favorite was La Choza, with Tecolote Cafe coming in a close second. El Parasol is great for take-out and wins my award for best tamale in Santa Fe.

I grew up in Tucson, a city known for Mexican food. Santa Fe is different, but equally good. Spicier, for sure. In Tucson, you have to choose, red or green sauce. In Santa Fe, they accommodate those of us who are indecisive and serve Christmas style - both red and green.

I'll miss John and my other friends. And boy, will I miss Mexican food.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Samoa, Packing and Project Management

Now that I know I'm headed to Samoa on October 5 (via staging in L.A.), I've started shutting down my life at home. As an experienced project manager, it's no big deal for me. A couple of phone calls and I'd arranged for packers/movers and storage for the valuable items (aka crap) I've accumulated over the years.

I've also signed the paperwork to rent out my house for the time I'll be gone. Plus, made lists of "garage sale", "craigslist.com" and "storage". My calendar is full of things to do. Next week, Santa Fe for the final leg of the farewell tour. The following week, garage sale and post ads on craigslist.com. The following week, my Boston buddy returns to help with shopping and packing and celebrating.

That's also the week my friends from Michigan officially move to Florida. So, I sent out evites for a party to celebrate their arrival and my departure. Very casual. Hot dogs and burgers on the grill, along with some crock pot baked beans.

A perfect plan, right? I thought so, until I heard myself describing the party to my Boston buddy last night and as I said the words "hot dogs and burgers on the grill" I realized that the grill will have been sold the previous week in the garage sale. Along with the crock pot for the baked beans. And the pool toys/outside furniture. Oh, and did I mention the living room furniture was going on craigslist.com?

Project management 101 - always remember to check your dependencies and GANTT. Or, you'll end up with a list of RSVPs and no grill.

Some of the junk I've already removed from my garage.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nightmare About Samoa

In my dreams last night I was in Samoa. It was beautiful and the people were wonderful. The nightmare was that I was the only one who couldn't speak a word of Samoan. I was trying to say "thank you" in Samoan. I couldn't. The experienced volunteers kept laughing and saying "It's easy! Just string together a bunch of vowels and toss in some random consonants and glottal stops."

When I got up this morning, I hit Google. Here's how to say "thank you" in Samoan. "fa'afetai".

I'm going to practice.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I'm Going to Samoa!

I just got my invitation and am very excited to report that I'm going to Samoa, leaving October 5. I'll be there until Dec. 9, 2012.

Too many emotions to write about. This is a dream come true. Huge thanks to Matt for his daily reports on being a PCV in Samoa. Between his blog and my time in the Cook Islands, I feel like I have a small sense of what I'm in for.

Now, I'll start reading the 5 lb invitation package.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Where Am I Going?

Will it be Tonga?

Or Samoa?

I've been over-the-moon excited since learning last Thursday that I've been invited to teach in the Pacific Islands, beginning in early October. I assumed it was Tonga and tried to get the placement officer to confirm that during our call. She gently said "I wouldn't get your hopes up too much for a specific country, since we place teachers in many Pacific countries."

I just assumed that was prevarication and that I was headed to Tonga. Then I read a blog entry from October, 2009. A couple was headed to Tonga to begin service. And they stopped in Samoa - to drop off the trainees who would be serving there. So, does that mean I might be serving in Samoa?

I'm thrilled to know that I'll be heading to the Pacific Islands in October. I will be happy with any place they send me. Samoa, though, would be particularly cool because I'm a faithful reader of "Matt's Samoa Blog". He seems like a cool kid and it would be great to meet him before he finishes service this year and heads back to grad or law school. Through his blog, I feel as if I already know what I'll be walking into in Samoa, which would be kind of cool. Then again, Tonga would be pretty amazing, too. So would any of the other Pacific islands.

Really, is there a bad option?

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Got THE Call

Yesterday was a great day. I got THE call from the Placement office telling me that an invitation letter is in the mail, offering me an assignment in the Pacific Islands, teaching primary school, beginning in early October. I'm guessing Tonga.

The day was made even better because I had a full day scheduled with friends, so was able to share my news and excitement. I was having coffee with a good friend when I got the call. Then was off to lunch with friends who really empathize since they're in the process of relocating across the country and have a lot of balls in the air. Then off to dinner with more friends who understand how much this means to me.

In between, called my Boston buddy who immediately started checking flights so she can come down and help me celebrate and pack. Amazing, since she was just here and spent several days listening to me drone on constantly about the Peace Corps.

Great news, celebrated with good friends. It absolutely could not have been a better day.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Finally! Medically Cleared.

I don't have it in writing yet, but according to a wonderful nurse in the Expert Unit (really, that's what it's called) of Medical Services, I have been medically cleared and my file is being passed on to Placement.

For those not familiar with the PC application process, that means I've been dentally cleared (which cost several thousand dollars to replace some old crowns, etc.), legally cleared (which was free but required submitting paperwork from everyone involved in my financial life) and now medically cleared, which cost hundreds of dollars for doctor's visits, lab work and a box of chocolates for the doctor's staff for all the help they provided in getting all the necessary paperwork completed.

The next step is Placement. As I understand it, someone in Washington will review my professional and educational background and try to match me to a country/job that needs my skills. Since I have both teaching and business consulting experience, I assume I should be fairly easy to place.

I don't know when I'll be placed, which makes planning beyond the next few weeks challenging for both my professional and personal life. What to tell a friend who wants to book a flight to come visit me in Florida in October? It would be fun, unless I'm on my way to Tonga or Niger or...

It's been almost nine months since I applied to the Peace Corps. Now that I'm on what I hope is the home stretch to my invitation, I can handle a bit more uncertainty. I don't care when I leave or where I go. I'll just be really excited when I know.