Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The final countdown.

Won’t pretend I haven't had my freakout moments, but the past few days have brought also a sense of calm. I’m ready. It’s long past time to move forward and into this new phase of my life.

My last days in Lincoln have been busy, but with plenty of fun mixed in. A lovely going-away party yesterday eve, with all of my favorite Lincoln ladeez. Homemade sushi night with the adorable Miz Amy. Some relaxing days with the family. A couple of last nights out on the town.

In between all my last-minute adventures, trying to pack myself into two bags and a carryon. I’ve become fairly ruthless about downsizing yet again; a sense of freedom increases with every item I set aside. Can you believe I’ve jettisoned books? It’s true! Don’t worry too much … I’m told Morocco’s Peace Corps office has the best library in the organization.

The Mizzes Amy, Cinnamon and Melissa have been so generous to me this summer … offering up their homes, their vehicles and their attention. Even better, they’e each helped me indulge in last-minute cravings for Mexican food … or at least chips and salsa with margaritas. And of course Miz Krista’s moral support from too many miles away. And everyone else who has given me a boost along this past year’s path … thank you! I’m bringing y’all along on this new journey.

Shwiya b shwiya.

The new blog is up and running at (note those hyphens).

I’m not sure whether I’ll keep posting here or not. Maybe when I need to vent in ways I don’t necessarily want to share with everyone who’s in on the new site. But for now, look for me in my new home.

Thank you for reading thus far. Hope you’ll change the channel to stick around for the coming adventure.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

T minus 10 days.

I've managed to pack up my few summer clothes and household goods and vacate the summerhouse the Bookstore Maven so graciously lent me. A bit sooner than I'd anticipated, but it's all good. My new digs at Miz Amy's feel like home -- a very good feeling, considering the nomad I have been and am about to become.

So in the next 10 days, all I have to do is:

* Haul more boxes to storage.

* Pack for two years in Morocco, adhering to the two-bag, 107-linear-inch, 80-pound limit.

* Get upstate for a couple of days with my parents.

* Hang out with the niece and nephews.

* Last-minute shopping (long underwear – ugh!; some electronics and toiletries, and absolutely no more books or iTunes)

* Hopefully another night on the town (Miz Amy and I planning to see Chris Duarte at The Zoo on Saturday night ... anyone with us?)

* Visit and photograph all the places and people (and food!) I love here in L-Town.

* Hoping for at least one more long bike ride.

* Get serious about studying the beginner’s Darija (Moroccan Arabic) lessons before takeoff.

* Archive all of my photos, documents, music from my hard drive.

* Create a photo album to show my American life to my new Moroccan host families.

* Buy overseas property insurance; pay off credit cards; order enough prescriptions to cover my first three months of training.

* Launch new Morocco-specific blog.

* Family dinner the day before Labor Day.

* Farewell party with las chicas (muchas gracias to Miz Amy for hosting).

* Hitch a tear-filled ride to the airport the morning of Sept. 5!

Blegh. Feeling more than a bit stressed about all I have to do in such a short time. Mostly because I’m so unsure about what comes next, and I’m pretty much not in control. But I also know all that must be done will get done, and it’ll be over before I know it.

Next up: Staging.

My Peace Corps adventure begins with orientation Sept. 6-7 in Philadelphia. This is known as “staging,” when I’ll gather with the other new trainees, in Youth Development and Small Business Development, get a basic lowdown on Peace Corps policies and fill out paperwork.

From Philly, we take a bus to New York, then board a direct, eight-hour flight to Casablanca. (Hard to believe my world can change so quickly.) Next, another bus to Rabat, for a few days in a hotel while we get inoculations (hoping I’m already good on that front!), begin to learn about our program sectors and maybe even see a bit of the capital city.

From there, the intensive 11-week training program begins. My Youth Development colleagues and I will move to Azrou, a small city 2.5 hours east of Rabat. At our seminar site we’ll be immersed in language lessons, develop skills for our new jobs, and learn about cultural adaptability, safety and staying healthy. I’ll be living with a host family in order to further practice my language and cultural skills.

But we’ll also spend a certain amount of time in “community-based training,” traveling in small groups to villages where we can start practicing our job skills. That means we’ll be practicing our ability to work in established “dar chababs,” or youth centers. It also means a second host family and a lot of back-and-forth travel.

Throughout the three months of training, I’ll face regular evaluations on my language and technical progress. Sometime in October, I’ll learn my permanent site for the next two years, and I’ll be sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer on Nov. 20 – two days after my 41st birthday.

Currently reading: "Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books," Azar Nafisi

Currently hearing: "What I Be," Michael Franti

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back from the Southwest.

Sorry I haven't been posting. My mini-vacay in Tucson/Mexico went by in a whir; here's a one-photo synopsis:

That photo is staged, btw ... staged like a fourth Iranian nuclear missile. More good pics on Jill's Facebook page; I'm uploading my pitiful shots to Flickr right now. More to come ...

Tucson was a nice diversion before the Big Trip commences. I can really see myself living there someday ... a crunchy-but-kind vibe, good music scene, surrounded by gorgeous mountains. Almost makes me a bit wistful ... I'm at a stage where I spend a certain amount of time wondering whether I'm on the right path. Natural, I suppose, when embarking on a new path, especially when visibility is hampered on the road ahead and one must navigate solely by intuition.

Jill came and met us for a quick trip to Puerto Penasco. Who knew there was a Mexican beach three-plus hours from Tucson? Didn't hit the road until Thursday evening, but the timing made the drive worthwhile. One of the most amazing sunsets I've ever seen -- not for the sun itself, but for the way it backlit the dramatic clouds cocooning craggy mountains, highlighting organ pipe, saguaro, scrubby cholla and other cacti on nature preserves on both sides of the border.

Next day, after lunch and Negra Modelos on the pier, then bartering for boogie boards in the tourist district, we headed back to the hotel and its neighboring private beach. I'd never been bodysurfing before, and despite the board rash that now covers most of my right thigh, it was totally worth it. The perfect beach afternoon/evening. Cocktails, surf, friends; rinse and repeat.

Back in Tucson, Miz K threw a fantastic birthday bash for herself, complete with live music and the best potluck I've ever attended. Her new friends can throw down the snark with the best of them, and her new beau is an absolute delight.

Now that I'm back in Lincoln I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. Time to pack up the remains of my life here and say goodbye to everyone I love. The two-week countdown begins tomorrow.

Mexico road trip by the numbers:

Badass bitches in Jillie's Subaru: 3

Cameras: 4

Variety of animal crossing signs on reservation highway from Tucson to Mexico: 9 (ram, cattle, human, prairie dog, deer, antelope, coyote, roadrunner, quail

Actual animal sightings: 1 coyote; many stray dogs; innumerable toads

Skipping CDs mended by a single lick of Miz J's saliva: 1

Boogie boards: 3

Collective post-bodysurfing board rashes: 4 (at least)

Sunglasses lost to Sea of Cortez: 2

Toe rings lost: 1

Jellyfish sightings: 1

Jellyfish stings: 0

Chuck Norris joke books: 1*

*Best Chuck Norris joke: When Chuck Norris has sex he is always on top ... because Chuck Norris never fucks up.

Giant "white pride" tattoos on pretty American boy trying to darken his skin on a Mexican beach: 1 (irony, anyone?)

Successful attempts to talk Mexican police out of traffic ticket without a bribe: 1

Vendors eager to sell me a glass pipe: 5 (only me, btw, not the Mizzes K & J. Por que?)