Let’s grab some coffee…

During the last couple of weeks, I’ve been slowly making progress on Peace Corps preparations, as well as other stuff such as holiday parties, Christmas shopping, yadda yadda yadda.

Right after I sent my Acceptance email to the Peace Corps Office, I immediately started scouring the Gambia blogs.  Right away, I found a girl who lives in LA that went to The Gambia for Peace Corps.  She got back to the States in 2010, so Peace Corps is still somewhat fresh on her mind.  I met up with her over coffee (she’s totally cool and very friendly!), and she gave me some of the lowdown on The Gambia.  Some interesting things that I learned are:

  • Because I’m going to be doing ICT (Information Communication Technology) education, I might be living near the capital or at least near a major city, if not in the city.  According to her experience, that’s where a lot of the ICT volunteers were stationed.  I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, and I have mixed feelings.  I want to be in the possible comforts of electricity and urban living, but I also want to live away from the busy cities and more in the rural areas.  When I think Peace Corps, I think “completely remote,” and I want to experience that.  We’ll see how I feel in July.  I might be resenting that comment.
  • I don’t need to buy myself a portable UV water filter.  I was really nervous about the possibility of having no easy access to drinkable water, but the girl calmed my nerves by telling me that drinking and running water will be available, just maybe not in your house, but there is usually a faucet in the area that you get water from.  I guess I’m somewhat comforted.
  • I will be taking bucket showers for the next 2 years of my life.  Yes, I’ll need to relearn how to bathe using 1 bucket of water, or else I’ll have to go back and forth to fetch water in order to take a bath.  Maybe I should bring some bathing salts or oils with me?  Good idea?  No?  No…
  • I should bring myself some toilet paper, just in case.  The bathroom is most likely going to be a hole in the ground somewhere.  Enough said.
  • Some things I should bring with me or have shipped over: bug spray (lots of it and with 35% DEET; not bug lotion because in the heat/humidity, lotions get sticky on your skin and are very annoying); lots of Claritin and anti-itch creams/medications (oh yay!); good quality kitchen pan and knife (the ones you buy in The Gambia aren’t as great quality and ALWAYS break on you); bed sheets and some towels; Clif Bars or Power Bars (sometimes, you just need some instant food that’s familiar to your senses); combination locks (bring several of them).
  • Don’t eat with your host family too often, at least at first.  When you first move in, keep your boundaries high and don’t open up too quickly.  It’s easier to have your boundaries high in the beginning, and then lower them, than the opposite.  They get used to it if you’re too friendly and they start thinking that they can hang out in your room and start borrowing your things, which is a big NO-NO (I guess for safety reasons).
  • It’s fine to bring my camera and a few other small electronics, but don’t make it known publicly or don’t make it easily visible.  Also, bring lots of locks.
  • Don’t be afraid to say NO to people in your community, even if you feel bad about it.
  • Don’t let someone hold your camera to take a picture of you.  Odds are, they’ll break it.  AND, if you take a picture, then the locals will want to look at your camera to see the picture (since they know that cameras have a LCD screen to view the pictures).  And they’ll do it again, and again, and again.  So go back to the previous lesson, and don’t be afraid to say No.

That was some (not all) of the stuff that we chatted about in the hour that we had coffee.  Needless to say, the conversation got me very excited to go to The Gambia and also quelled some of my fears.

The days following that conversation were pretty mundane in terms of Peace Corps stuff.  It started to sink in that I still have a lot to do before my departure.  I have to write an Aspiration State and update my resume (done and done).  I have to apply for a new Peace Corps passport.  I have to do the Visa paperwork.  I want to renew my personal passport since I still want to travel internationally before I head to The Gambia.  I have to get all my finances together.  I have to get a Yellow Fever vaccination.  The list keeps on going.  I’m glad that I have a lot of time to do all this, especially since the Holidays have been more on my mind lately.  On a sad note, one of my good friends left last week to head back to Montreal for the holidays, and he’s not coming back to LA.  He’s moving to London in January.  BUT… that just means I get to visit London now (and maybe a quick hop over to Paris as well) before I depart for The Gambia.  I love having friends that live abroad. 🙂

That’s it for now.  Happy Holidays!  And Hello 2012~!!!