Departure…

It’s finally here.  Tomorrow, I leave for Staging.  I can’t believe the time has come.  So many emotions surging through me, but right now, at the state I’m in, I don’t have the words adequate enough to describe what I’m feeling, but I’ll try my best.

I went to church with my family this morning, and sitting there, I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on.  I just kept thinking about my family and friends.  What if something happens to my parents when I’m gone?  What happens if something happened to my sister or brother-in-law or my niece or my nephew?  I think I’m more worried about something happening to someone in my family than I am about something happening to me.  I briefly mentioned to my parents that I was really nervous about going, and my mom just casually responded, “This is what you want, so go for it!”  It really helped that she said that, and I was very happy she did.  I didn’t say much after.

Thinking back on this past week, I’ve had so much support from family and friends.  So many friends are SUPER excited for me to go… more excited that I even feel right now.  To be honest, I’m not that excited; I’m just very scared and nervous now.  The excitement left a few days ago after the realization that Staging was just around the corner.  My nerves are getting the better of me.  What if my bags are lost during transit?  What if I miss my flight or my connecting flight?  What if I’m not good at what I do, even with all the Peace Corps training?  What if I don’t learn the language well enough to pass the language tests at the end of training?  What if I get really sick right when I get there?  Mosquitos really really like my blood, so what if I catch a disease or illness that can’t be cured and I’ll have to live with it for the rest of my life?  I know I worry too much, but who wouldn’t be thinking of these things if they were moving to Africa for 2 years?  For the most part, I know these fears are just in my head and once I get there, everything will fall into place, or at least I hope they do.  I’m hanging in there.  I bet in a couple of weeks, I’ll look back on this post and realize that I was being overly dramatic and stupid.  I hope that will be the case.  Plus, I’m just ranting right now.  My thoughts are everywhere.  I apologize for that.

In short, I leave tomorrow morning.  I fly to Staging, and then on Wednesday, I fly to Africa… Goodbye USA!  See you in 2 years!

I think I’m overpacking… as usual…

As promised, I’ve created a packing list of all the things I’m bringing to The Gambia.  The Peace Corps provided us with a VERY LONG and EXTENSIVE list, which isn’t good because it’s my nature to tend to overpack.  Although I’ve listed out everything that I originally had intended to pack, I’ve already started removing things from my luggage because it’s a bit overweight.  We’re allowed to bring 80 lbs of check-in bags (I’m bringing a rolling suitcase and a backpacking backpack), and no bag is to exceed 50 lbs.  Welps… one of my bags is already over 50 lbs, and it wasn’t even full yet!  HELP!

Luggage/Bags:

  • High Sierra A.T. GO 26-Inch Expandable Wheeled Duffel with Backpack Strap
  • REI Flash 50 Internal Frame Backpack
  • Lowepro Fastpack 250 Camera and Laptop Bag
  • Outdoor Products Vortex Daypack
  • Several reuseable cloth and plastic grocery bags
  • Several drawstring bags

Clothing:

  • Merrell Moab Waterproof Hiking Shoes
  • Keen Newport H2 Sandals
  • Havaiana Flip Flops
  • Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11 Running Shoes (I’m a runner)
  • Dress Shoes (for the formal Peace Corps events that we might be attending)
  • Lots of Socks
  • 4 dress Shirts
  • 12 collared polo or short-sleeve button-up shirts (casual and semi-formal)
  • 4 everyday T-Shirts
  • 4 plain white Hanes T-Shirts (you never know when you need an undershirt)
  • 3 long-sleeve shirts (for the cooler season and for traveling to colder climate countries)
  • 2 tank tops (for sleeping in)
  • 1 khaki pants
  • 1 slacks
  • 1 casual gray pants
  • 2 jeans
  • 2 convertible pants (pants that unzip to shorts)
  • 2 shorts
  • 2 workout/sleeping shorts
  • 1 runner shorts
  • 2 swim trunks
  • 1 pair of PJs
  • 1 pair of bike shorts
  • REI Sahara Cadet Cape Hat
  • Outdoor Research Bug Bucket Hat Bucket/Fisherman’s Hat
  • Lots of underwear (Boxers, Boxer Briefs, and Briefs)
  • 3 belts (1 formal, 2 casual)
  • 2 neck ties
  • Beanie
  • 2 bandanas
  • Ear muffs (for traveling to colder climate countries)

Bathroom:

  • Medicines (Clear Eyes, Muro 128 Eye Drops, Hydrocortizone Cream, Anti-Diarrheal Tablets, DayQuil, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Pseudoephedrine (aka Sudafed), Diphenhydramine (aka Benedryl), Fenesin DM (cough medicine), Preparation H (just in case), Cipro Antibiotics (for Traveler’s Diarrhea), Cough Drops)
  • Bar soap and soap container
  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap (Peppermint)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrushes and toothbrush containers
  • Toothpaste
  • Face wash
  • Mini-bottles of travel shampoo/conditioners
  • Baby wipes
  • Shaving gel
  • Old electric shaver (just in case I can’t stand shaving with a razor)
  • Shaving razor and razor refills
  • Q-Tips
  • Floss
  • Cologne
  • Extra empty medicine bottles (they’re good containers to hold random small items)
  • Small portable mirror
  • Nail cutting kit (nail cutters, file, tweezers)

Kitchen:

  • Can opener
  • 4-pack of thin plastic flexible cutting boards (to use also as a clean flat surface)
  • Ziplock bag (sandwich, 1 Quart, 1 Gallon sizes)
  • Small frying pan
  • Sponges
  • Portable camping fork, spoon, knife set
  • Seasoning packets
  • Spices
  • Coffee and teas
  • Crystal Light mix
  • Powdered Gatorade mix
  • Clif Bars

Office:

  • Pens
  • Mechanical pencils
  • Pencil lead refills
  • Lots of No. 2 wooden pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Notebooks
  • Journal
  • Post-It pads
  • Calendar
  • Bookmark
  • Sharpies
  • Highlighters
  • Small ruler
  • Clip board
  • Binder (to hold all my Peace Corps paperwork)
  • Ball of rubber bands
  • Krazy Glue
  • Notecards (lots of it to make language flashcards)
  • Duck tape
  • Packing tape
Electronics:
(I’m an ICT (Information Computer Technology) volunteer, so I think I’m going overboard with the electronic equipment, but you never know when you’ll need it)
  • MacBook Pro 13″ Laptop
  • Sony IC Recorder Mode lICD-PX312 (voice recorder to help with language learning)
  • Ipod Nano
  • Smartphone (to use while traveling and if Wi-Fi is available)
  • DSLR camera
  • Point-and-shoot camera
  • GoPro camera
  • 1TB WD My Passport External HD
  • 120GB Seagate FreeAgent Go External HD
  • 5 Flash Driver of varying sizes (128MB, 512MB, 2GB, 8 GB, and 32 GB)
  • 2 Pelican 1040 Micro Cases (to store and protect the external HDs and flash drives)
  • Notebook Computer Serialized Cable Lock
  • Blank CDs and DVD-Rs
  • Nook Simple Touch E-reader
  • Nokia 1112 Phone with spare battery
  • Eton Microlink FR160 (hand-crank AM/FM radio and flashlight)
  • Ethernet cables
  • Mouse
  • Mousepad
  • GoalZero Nomad 7 Solar Panel
  • GoalZero Guide 10 Plus
  • AA Battery Charger and 2 AAA Adapters
  • GoalZero Rock Out Portable Speakers
  • AA & AAA rechargeable batteries
  • AA & AAA non-rechargeable Duracell batteries (just in case the rechargeable ones die)
  • CD/DVD Jewel Cases and CD/DVD paper envelopes
  • Various software (Microsoft Windows 7 Installation DVD and Activator CD, Microsoft Office 2007 sp2 Installation DVD, Microsoft Windows 98 Installation CD, Microsoft Windows XP Pro Installation CD, Microsoft Office XP Installation CD, Adobe Software (various), Nero OEM Suite (found this old installer CD), other old but possibly useful Windows programs, Mac OSX Snow Leopard Installation DVD)
  • Pedometer (just for fun to see how much I walk around)
  • Plug adapters (x4)

Miscellaneous:

  • Mountain Hardware Lamina 45 Sleeping Bag
  • Pacsafe 85 Anti-Theft Backpack And Bag Protector (not sure how useful this is going to be, but I bought it anyway)
  • SteriPen (handheld UV water purifer)
  • Booklets of Stickers (for kids)
  • Dum Dum lollipops (for kids)
  • Bubble gum (for kids)
  • Altoid Mints
  • Icebreakers Mints
  • 2 Nalgene Plastic Water Bottles
  • 1 Nathan Steel Water Bottle (with 2 extra replacement straws)
  • 2 Small Photo Albums (with pictures)
  • Headlamps (x3)
  • Leatherman
  • Digital wristwatch
  • Sunglasses (1 old pair and 1 cheap new pair)
  • Combination locks (x4) and key locks (x5) (some of these were used on my luggage)
  • Bed sheets (1 Queen and 1 Full)
  • 4 pillow cases
  • Towels (1 Extra Large PackTowl and 1 Small PackTowl)
  • Night eye mask (to help sleep on the plain)
  • Carabiners (you can never have too many)
  • Bug spray (3 bottles)
  • Sunblock (3 bottles)
  • Poncho (x2)
  • Whistle
  • Hacky sack ball (I used to play when I was a kid, and found one in my closet)
  • Playing cards (2 decks)
  • Map of the world (to help me plan out where to travel during my vacation time)

So this is my packing list.  Again, I think I overpacked, and I will be cutting out some of these things, but at least for now, this is what is in my luggage and also scattered around my room.  I’m praying that I get most of these things to fit, but if they don’t, then I’ll have them shipped in a couple months.

Packing…

I’ve started packing!  With about 17 days until I leave for Staging, I’ve already taken over the spare bedroom at my parent’s home and cluttered it with all my junk.  Clif Bars, Nalgene bottles, locks, bags, toilet paper, Ziploc baggies, CDs, DVDs, plug adapters, pants, shorts, shirts, underwear, socks, shoes, duck tape, packing tape, scotch tape, bandanas, hats, hand-crank radio/flashlight, headlamps, etc. etc. etc… the list goes on and on and on, and I’ve just begun.  I hope they all fit.  Definitely crossing my fingers (and toes) that they do!  I’ll post a detailed and organized list of what I’m bringing to The Gambia in another post, but for now, I thought this would be a good opportunity to capture the chaos that is going on at the moment.

Let my 4th decade begin…

Today, I hit a milestone.  Today I turned 30.  The big THREE-ZERO!  Eeeeekkk!  To some people, thirty is just a number, and to me, for the most part, it’s just a number as well.  But there needs to be something said about hitting your fourth decade of life.

At 10, I hardly remember what I was doing.  Let me think a bit… I have to calculate this… at 10, I was finishing up 4th grade and moving on to 5th grade.  At 10, I was still walking to school on my own, but was still not allowed to go to the local park on my own.  At 10, my studiousness kicked in high gear (some might call this the beginning of my “nerdom”).  At 10, I was still hating salads and all foods green and healthy.

At 20, I had graduated high school 2 years prior, and now I was in the middle of my college years.  At 20, I was still trying to figure out what to do with my life, trying to figure out whether or not to switch majors, and trying to land a summer internship to put into my resume.  At 20, Sept 11 had already happened, and society had entered the “War on Terror” period.

My 20s in general, however, was a very busy busy time.   Thinking back, a lot more has happened in these last 10 years that I could ever have imagined.  Living in Australia for a year during college.  Graduating college with a great job lined up right after graduation (something many of today’s college grads struggle with).  My sister getting married and me becoming an uncle of 2 wonderful kids.  Several friends getting married and some now with kids.  Traveling to many MANY places, both in the United States and abroad, and now able to say that I’ve been to all 7 continents!  Completing 3 triathlons, 4 full marathons, and at least 2 dozen half marathons and other running races.  And finally… FINALLY… being able to enjoy my life and appreciate it for what it is, rather than what other people think it should be.  I really enjoyed my 20s, and even though it had lots of ups and downs (and I’ve intentionally highlighted only the ups and neglected to mention any of the downs, since, well, it’s my birthday and I can do that), I’m really surprised (in a good way) how it turned out.

And now, I’m 30.  I feel that there is still so much more to life.  There is still so much possibility, and I feel that my life still has so much potential!  I feel like 30 is going to be a whole new life for me, and it’s going to be very different from anything prior.  I need to backtrack and say that quitting my job last year was been one of the best things that I did.  It gave me time to relax, to de-stress, to really live and savor each moment.  It also helped me realize that I really wanted a career change.  (Aside: you might argue that I’m back at square one since I was trying to find a career back at 20, and it’s true that I was and am again doing the same thing, but at least right now, I know what I want and what I don’t want in my life.)   Moving to Africa is the start of that change.  I’ve begun a new decade of my life, but my new life starts in 26 days when I leave for The Gambia.  I can’t wait!  Let my 4th decade begin…