Thursday, September 30, 2010

Samoa Obsessed

Ever sat in a cube, dreaming of living here? I did.

With only a few days to go before heading to L. A., then on to Apia, Samoa, I'm so ready.  And so not ready.  Lots of details to take care of.  Paperwork, selling my car, trying to pack the proverbial 489 lbs of stuff into a five pound bag.

I was at the attorney's office yesterday.  We were talking about my lack of sleep, caused by waking up every 45 minutes to try to remember if I packed "blank", which I know I just couldn't live without.  Or, did I do "whatever"?  "Blank" can be anything, and the reality is, I could leave with the clothes on my back and would get along just fine.  And as to all the stuff to be done, it will happen.

My attorney told me about the saying "don't rent space in your head to someone else".  My problem isn't so much someone else.  It seems I've subletted a sizable portion of my brain to my worrying self.  So at three a.m. this morning, when I sat up in bed fretting about something inconsequential, I evicted myself.  My brain calmed right down and I drifted into a dream in which I arrived in Apia with suitcases packed only with Oil of Olay.  Whatever.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Food, Sand and Friends

Sunset over the intercoastal.  This was the view from our table at J.B.'s.

On Wednesday, my Boston buddy and I headed to New Smyrna Beach to my favorite restaurant, J. B.'s Fishcamp.  We met some other friends there, who just moved to Florida this week.  Ironic that one of my best friends moves here, just as I'm packing up to move out.

We sat out on the deck, enjoying clams.  Actually, Ralph and I enjoyed the clams and we all enjoyed the look on Dan's face as he tried a clam and definitely didn't enjoy it.  Then we ate alligator, coconut shrimp, crab, cajun shrimp, flounder and lots of hush puppies.  Great conversation and an amazing view of the sunset.  And the ray, that was swimming a foot away from our table.  Oh, did I mention the manatees and the dolphins?  Yup, it's my favorite place.

I love New Smyrna and anytime I'm feeling stressed, unhappy or just have the mullygrubs, I head to the beach.  I seem to be able to breathe easier after I cross the causeway from the mainland and the ocean is in view.  The power and constancy of the waves reminds me of how minuscule my problems are, in the scheme of things.

I've had a lot of nonsensical thoughts while preparing for Samoa.  The other day, after buying an aluminum water bottle, I commented that I didn't think it would keep the water cold.  My friend correctly pointed out that the water I put in it wouldn't be cold to begin with.  Duh.

Another day, I was trying to figure out when I could make a final trip to the beach.  I wanted to soak up the comfort of the waves and feel the sand one last time.  Then I realized that I may be leaving New Smyrna Beach, but I'm heading to an island.  Duh, again.

Thank you to the Peace Corps for sending me to Samoa.  It's a far cry from the Arizona desert where I grew up.  Nice to know that for the next two years, I'll be surrounded by the environment that brings me the most comfort and joy.

By the way, "mullygrubs" is that feeling you get sometimes, when nothing is really wrong but it just feels like your skin doesn't fit right and smiling doesn't come easily.  Don't know where the word came from.  Maybe it was a family thing, but I've used it since I was a kid.

The ray that kept cruising the water just below our table.
We walked on the beach after dinner.  That's my head on the right.  I was hiding behind my buddies.
What can I say.  I'm hot and the men love me.  The best part was that the friend taking the photo kept having "problems" and made us redo the kiss about 10 times.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Some-oa Shopping!

My friend from Boston is here and she's a shopping maniac. That's a good thing, since I HATE to shop. She loves nothing better than a day spent going store to store, mall to mall, checking out every item. My idea of shopping is race in, buy it, race out and don't do it again for six months.

With her enthusiasm spurring me on, we spent the last two days at a flea market, mall and innumerable stores. I now have everything I'll be packing. Great news, for current volunteers - I bought an external hard drive and will be filling it with music and movies to share. Bad news for blog readers. I bought a Flip video camera, so will be boring you with hours of "isn't this a pretty beach" video. Today, the challenge will be to see if I can fit it all into my luggage.

I've gotten more communications from the Peace Corps in preparation for leaving in 12 days. More forms to complete. One suggested I purchase two important books for training to bring along. Which I did, although it cost $97 and will take up space/weight in my luggage. More information on reimbursement (or not) for luggage. My advice to other applicants is to have a stash of cash to help with unexpected, last minute expenses.

The good news is that we'll be in a hotel in Apia for our first 11 days of training. With WIFI and air-conditioning. Then, we'll head to four villages in the Safata district of Upolu, which is on the southern shore of the island. Looks beautiful.

I also got a terrific email from Kit.  She and her husband were in Group 15 in 1974.  They're my age and she had some insightful words of encouragement for me as a "more mature" volunteer.  Thanks, Kit - I hope you'll come to Samoa while I'm there.  We can compare life stories and experiences in Samoa.

Must run. I have to do a packing dry run, trying to figure out what goes in carry-on, and how to sort out everything else, since I'll only be taking some of my stuff with me for the 7 weeks of training in Safata. The rest will be stored at the hotel in Apia until I head for my permanent home. Then, we're off to the attorney's office to sign the Power of Attorney. Tonight, dinner with more friends at my favorite restaurant in New Smyrna Beach. Life is very good.

On Sunday we did the Winter Park canal tour. Weather was perfect and it was beautiful.
I'm gonna miss my pool, but am happy to report I have a new hat.  This one looked great, until it went into the lake while I was bass fishing one day.
  Some of my new purchases:  headlamp, mask and snorkel.  No, they were not meant to be worn at the same time.  I'll be the biggest nerd in Samoa.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Life in Samoa?

Not much time for a post today. It's been a busy weekend, with a very successful garage sale completed. I'm pooped and estimate that I hauled at least 750 lbs of books and other assorted treasures out to the garage/drive-way. Thankfully, most of the stuff is sold and the rest will be picked up tomorrow.

I was excited this morning to get a Facebook friend request from Blakey, Samoa Group 81. I've been seeing her photos and reading about her in blogs. She seems to be radiant and optimistic and having her "friend" me is as exciting as if Oprah decided to give me a call. I felt the same when I got an email from Group 81 Matt. Okay, so I'm a bit star struck about Group 81. Can't wait to meet the whole group and hear about their experiences.

Found some video on that I really enjoyed. I think it may give a fairly accurate picture of some aspects of village life in Samoa. It's a BBC show by Ray Mears. Enjoy...

Life in Savaii - Part I
Life in Savaii - Part II
Life in Savaii - Part III

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Travel Orders Received to Samoa

I had a moment last night. Had to take a deep breath after reading the email that contained the specifics of my departure for Samoa. It's happening faster than expected. Registration is on October 4 in Los Angeles and we depart for Samoa the night of October 5, after a day of briefings.

The good news is that the way I'm interpreting the information, we do get to take two checked bags and one carry on. Weight limit is 80 lbs for checked bags. Air New Zealand will only allow 1 checked bag but we'll be reimbursed for the second bag.

The garage sale prep is well underway and the house is starting to look empty. Except for the garage, which is bulging. Yesterday, it was hard. I'm selling cookbooks that I've collected for thirty years. Today, I'm picking out just the ones that mean the most to me and am cheerfully chucking the rest into boxes. About 20 boxes. Of cookbooks. Nobody needs that many cookbooks.

Now I just have to change the dates the movers will be here to pack up everything else.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Samoa 83 Travel Update

Group 83 going to Samoa and the group going to Tonga are scheduled to begin staging in L.A. on October 5. So, I planned to have the movers at my house the morning of October 4 so I could have a relaxing afternoon in a hotel near the airport, flying out the morning of October 5.

Then it occurred to me...what if staging starts early on October 5? Based on nothing but my own delusional thinking, I'd been assuming that October 5 would be our departure date, rather than the date we needed to arrive. What an iodot, as a friend would say. Per Dan, staging normally starts in the early afternoon. If I can get a flight from Orlando to LAX and make it there in time for staging, that's what they'll do. If not, they'll book me to fly in on Monday, October 4. Hmmm.

Dan said we should receive our travel information emails by Friday, latest, this week. That should help clarify things. But best-case scenario, even if they can get me a flight on October 5, that's going to be one long day. I guarantee I'll be tossing and turning the night before I leave. Heck, I do that before I go on a vacation, because I'm excited. And I'm talking about exotic destinations like...Detroit. So, doubt if I'll slumber before Samoa.

Then, it's about a 4 1/2 hour flight to LAX, assuming a direct flight. With the three hour time difference plus sleep deprivation, I'll be starting out at a deficit. Hate to have my head hit the table during the first session.

So, I'll probably fly in on the 4th, even if I have to pick up the hotel tab. Guess I better call the movers.

Another question I had was based on a comment in Matt's blog. That Air New Zealand was now only allowing 1 checked bag. 2nd bag is $100. Dan assumed (and see where assuming got me, above) that PC would allow us 2 bags and pay the fee. Hopefully the travel email will clarify, or we can confirm with the travel folks.

Meanwhile, the sorting and packing continue.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Update on Samoa Group 83

I just got some info from Dan, who's the Country Desk Officer (he's been very helpful, btw). Per Dan, there are 22 of us in Group 83 for Samoa. 20 of the group are in their 20's. Two of us are "over 50", which is the polite way of not giving the ages of the more mature volunteers.

We'll be going through staging in L.A. with another 25 folks who will be serving in Tonga. We'll stage together, fly together to Samoa and then the group of 25 will fly on to Tonga.

Group 83, Where Are You?

Those of us heading to Samoa on October 5 are known as Group 83, because we'll be the 83rd group of volunteers in Samoa. There are multiple groups in-country at the same, on overlapping schedules. For example, Group 81 will be coming home in December of this year, Group 82 will be returning in December, 2011 and we're scheduled to return in December, 2012.

PC applicants hear about the close bonds that are created between volunteers. Seems that when there's only one other person within an hour's walk who speaks English and understands why you're sobbing because you washed your last clean underwear 3 days ago and it's still not dry, you tend to bond.

So far, Lindsey, Rachael, Danny, Katie, Jenny and Karen/David (married) have come together on-line. We won't officially know how many are in our group, or meet in person until staging in L.A. on October 5, but we're all anxious to find out who else is in Group 83.

Two others in our group have started blogs: Lindsey and Rachael.

Communications so far show that most of the group ranges from 22 - 26 years old. Yup, I'm the only one with an AARP card. All have Bachelor degrees and a few of us have Master's. We all seem to be heading for a role in education at either primary or secondary level. We come from different parts of the country. Jenny and I are both from Florida. We've all gone through months of interviews, essays, medical and dental testing and we're so ready to go.

We're also anxious to meet the rest of our group. So, Group 83, where are you?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Samoa Ambivalence

It's nice to know I'm not the only one feeling ambivalent about my upcoming move. I'm excited about moving to Samoa. I can't wait to go. On the other hand, it's too soon! Time is moving too fast and I'm not ready to leave yet.

I read a blog from another "almost volunteer" and he's having the same feelings. Then I talked to a friend who's relocating to Florida in two weeks. She described it as "surreal" - knowing the dream of a lifetime is about to come true while letting go of the security of home is hard to do.

It's like standing on a cliff, ready to jump into the water far below. Taking that first step is terrifying and yet you know that the thrill is going to be amazing.

I'm creeping closer to the edge. Two rooms in my house are filled with packing boxes. The "to do" list continues to grow. Today I'll take another baby step as I sort things into three piles: garage sale/give away, pack for storage and pack for Samoa.

Applicants can take a one-question survey when they sign in to check their status. The questions change periodically. One was something like "Are you nervous about leaving for service?" When I answered it, about 60% weren't nervous. Makes me wonder - does that make me a chicken or more in touch with the magnitude of the change I'm about to make?

Either way, I'm not backing away from the cliff. On October 5, I'll be on the plane, taking some deep breaths and enjoying the thrill of leaping off the cliff.