29 May 2010

The Infamous Packing List...Pending Approval of Course

In just four days, I pack my bags and set out for Washington D.C. where I and approximately 40 other volunteers will get together and prepare ourselves mentally, and logistically for our journey to Sierra Leone. However lets be frank, at least I and probably most of my fellow Peace Corps colleagues, have had about a year and a half to do all the mental preparations for a experience as serious as this, then again; Is one ever ready to be a Peace Corps volunteer? From the stories I've read and the conversations I've had with past Peace Corps volunteers, the answer would at first appearances seem to be NO. But somehow that uncertainty, at least for me, makes me that more excited and anxious to get over there.

So what am I to do? Well the least I can do is make sure that my packing list is in order!

Let's review:

 An asterisk (*) signifies uncertainty over the number of the particular item I should bring 
 An (^) signifies uncertainty over whether I should bring the particular item

15 boxer briefs
8 under shirts*
6 ankle socks for running(*)
4 breathable T-shirts + one cycling shirt (*)
1 light Columbia water-resistant windbreaker
2 ties*
2 business casual khaki pants
2 long-sleeve button-down dress-shirts
1 pair dress pants
1 pair swimming trunks
3 sets of traditional African clothing (Tailor-made during my time in Nigeria)
2 long-sleeve shirts/sweatshirts
3-4 short-sleeved button up shirts(*)
2 pairs comfortable zip-off/hiking pants
2 pairs jean shorts(*)
1-2 pairs of jeans(*)
2 pairs athletic shorts
1 pair Merrell hiking sandals
1 pair Chaco sandals
1 pair Keen sandals
1 pair flip-flops
1 pair running or track shoes (^)
2 sun hats
2 belts(*)
4 bandanas
1 Kente cloth (Courtesy of Reimi)
2 African kofia hats (Red and black)

Bicycle lights
Mini travel alarm clock
Digital watch
8GB USB flash-drive
Wall battery AA/AAA charger
16 rechargeable AA batteries
8 rechargeable AAA batteries
Headlamp (Petzl E89 Tactikka XP)
Digital Camera
Solar calculator
Grundig G6 Aviator shortwave radio
Electric hair clippers (^)
Voltage Converter (^)
Small travel speakers (^)

3 tubes toothpaste + 1 travel size
4 toothbrushes
4 packs floss
1 bottle mouthwash + 1 travel size
Small comb
Large tube vaseline
Travel size vaseline
2-4 sticks deodorant + 1 travel size(*)
Travel toothbrush holder
1 large hand sanitizer bottle
3 travel size hand sanitizers bottles
Small travel mirror (^)

1 extra large Eastern Mountain Sports pack towel
2 pairs prescription eye glasses
1 pair sunglasses
1 Patagonia travel sling
1-2 stainless steel water bottle
8x42 Stokes Talon binoculars (An absolute must have for birding)
Columbia travel pillow
Regular size pillow
Tent (Eureka Backcountry 1 solo)
Dreamsack (Extra-Roomy opening)
Magnifying glass
3 Carabiners
Yoga mat (For camping!)
1-2 journals (*)
1 2010-2011 weekly planner
U.S. stamps
12 passport photos
Photos from home
Jump Rope
Yoga ball (^)....Probably not necessary?
Soccer ball (^)
Duct tape
Mini stapler
Swimming goggles
Incense/incense holder(^)
Bicycle seat pack
Bicycle bell
2 TSA locks
Basic bicycle tools
Index cards
4 pack small notepads
National Geographic laminated world map

Birds of Western Africa
Bradt Guide to Sierra Leone
Oxford Pocket Dictionary
College level Biology textbook
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer
Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson
National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky
Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan
History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (To bulky!)(^)
The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas (Could theoretically take me the whole two years to read this thing!)(^)
In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa's botanical legacy in the Atlantic World by Judith Carney (^)

This list is pretty much set with the exception of the few particulars I've listed. To pack it all I have:

An Outdoor brand duffel bag (14in x 30in)
A two wheel suitcase (28in x 19in x 10in)
1 Timbuk2 medium Hemlock backpack (14.20in x 24.60in x 6.30in)

Of course the duffel bag is empty, but this is just to give you some perspective. I don't think this load is too unmanageable at all. I will check in the suitcase and the duffel bag. There are restrictions though. Combined, all checked in luggage can't exceed 80lbs. The heaviest bag can't exceed 50 lbs, and the combined external dimensions of my checked in bags can't exceed 107 inches. My checked in bags combined have an external dimension of 101 inches, just shy of 107 inch limit, and I'm pretty sure my suitcase won't exceed 50 lbs, if it does, I'll just transfer items to duffel bag to even things out.

I hope this helps anyone struggling with what to pack! I'll update the list once I'm finished evaluating what I need and don't need.


02 May 2010

Dental Clearance? And Other Tangibles

Hmm...So it would appear that I've FINALLY been granted the dental clearance that has caused me so much stress the last, oh say, two years. Truthfully, I shouldn't have put it off as long as I did, and truthfully, I probably should have taken care of it back when I had dental insurance at my old job over at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. I'm going to be in a measurable amount of debt for the foreseeable future to the parents...unfortunately. I would have had the money to take care of most of my dental expenses had I received my security deposit from my old apartment roommates in Hartsdale, NY. It was such a complicated situation and I don't feel like elaborating on it now, it will just make me angry all over again. BUT, if Susie and Frankie were truthful to me from the very beginning, and told me exactly where my security deposit was going, I wouldn't have paid it in or the monthly rent, in cash, like some idiot; and I probably would have done something more radical like withhold rent....Ha ha...Right. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

But back to my dental clearance. All they required me to do was a root canal on tooth #13 with a restoration with a full crown. I was hesitant to go the crown route back in February when I first began the treatment. A root canal is a fairly invasive procedure! They are done with the premise that there is extensive decay on or near nerves on the root of the tooth and the procedure is considered necessary to "save" the tooth. The only problem is I, the average individual has a different working definition of what constitutes a "tooth" when it comes to root canals. When I say "tooth", I'm thinking the shiny, pearly whites that I like to show off to all my friends when I'm in a good mood. But to a dentist, saving the tooth actually means saving the tooth root. This is a crucial difference because the root is actually what matters in preserving the over jaw structure of the mouth. You lose the root and you basically don't have a smile in the long run. I originally had the root canal done and restored it with filling which some people do. The only disadvantage is that it leaves your tooth susceptible to crack because you have a huge piece of filling wedged in the injured tooth and it compromises the way bite forces are distributed around the tooth. Needless to say, the Peace Corps was not going to accept that treatment plan so I had to go back and restore it with a crown (Porcelain) with requires a substantial amount of drilling away of the little amount that's left of the tooth. I completed that part of the procedure on Monday, the 26th of April and Fed-Ex'ed the X-rays and letters later that day, and just in the nick of time. My deadline for clearance was 2 May. So FINALLY, I'm done with my medical and dental work and I'm technically physically "fit" to serve, except for one small hitch, I've been informed that I need to be vaccinated against the H1N1 virus. SO CLOSE!!! But it shouldn't be a problem. It's funny though, around the time when H1N1 outbreaks were making the headlines, I deliberately refused to let myself get caught up in the hoopla and hysteria that was circulating. It's ironic that I'm now being required to be vaccinated. Better safe than sorry I suppose?

I can't believe that in less than five weeks, I'll be leaving behind the comfort and convenience of Western life for something that I have romanticized about in my own head. I think my heart skips a beat when I contemplate the reality and inevitability of this novel experience I'm about to engage in. This past Friday I booked my ticket to our two and a half day staging even in D.C. from 1-3 June. We will fly out for Freetown, Sierra Leone on 3 June. Our staging event is sort of like a crash course on things to expect, our conduct as a volunteer, and meeting the other volunteers who on the surface seem excited but the majority of which, I'm willing to bet, are scared shit-less, but that's OK. Our staging will be at the:

Holiday Inn Georgetown
2101 Wisconsin Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20007

When we land in Freetown, there is going to be a "special celebration" at the State House with a lot of publicity to follow. I've stressed in my prior post just how significant our return is and there is a lot at stake! I was told that upon our arrival in Freetown, the Government of Sierra Leone will take our shirt sizes in order to make us traditional African garments. Luckily for me I own a few already that I plan on bringing with me to help facilitate the tailoring of any new garments I may want. Our training will be 10 weeks long and will be in Bo, Sierra Leone. Most, if not all volunteers I think, will be residing with host families during this time. There are so many things that I still need to do! I still don't have my packing list finalized, I have paperwork to complete still (Insurance for my valuables, Pen-pal programs), vaccines to get, and to top it all off, my laptop monitor quit working so now I have to get it fixed, although I'm hoping I wont have to pay anything since this is a problem other Mac users have had. I need to stop complaining and get to work.

On an unrelated note, I'm very happy to hear that we will be getting bicycles once we are posted to our work sites!

More to come...