Sunday, January 30, 2011

Goodbye!

Hey all! I am leaving tomorrow (Monday) for staging in Philadelphia! I will try to get on one more time while I'm in Philadelphia, and then I don't know how soon I will be able to get on again after that. Please keep following my blog and check in on me! Send me letters and/or e-mails- check the "Contact Info" tab if you don't have it!

P.S. Fellow Peace Corps Journal Peoples: I will be changing my blog from the "Applicant" section to the "Zambia" section tomorrow, so if you would like to keep up with me, please look for my blog under "Zambia"! Thanks!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Letter to Family & Friends

 Here is a letter the Peace Corps gave us to distribute:

January 2011
Dear Families and Friends,

Greetings from the Zambia Desk at the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to the Peace Corps circle of friendship. We receive many questions from family members and friends about life in Zambia over the course of the Volunteer’s two years of service, so we would like to offer you advice and assistance in advance.

1. Irregular Communication. (Please see #3 for the mailing address to Peace Corps' office in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia) Mail in Zambia is fairly reliable. Volunteers find they generally receive mail and packages from the United States two to four weeks after it has been sent. The same is true in sending mail from Zambia. Of course, there are exceptional cases in which a letter or a package might arrive within a shorter period or be substantially delayed. Some mail may simply not arrive. We suggest that in your first letters you ask the Volunteer to give an estimate of how long it takes for him/her to receive your letters, and then try to establish a predictable pattern of how often you will write to each other. Also, try numbering your letters so that the
Volunteer knows if he/she has missed one.

Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is a rewarding experience; however, there will also be times that Volunteers will feel frustrated and they may write home telling of their "war" stories. Letters might describe recent illnesses, frustration with work, lack of resources, information, and infrastructure, etc. While the subject matter may be good reading material, it can often be misinterpreted on the home front. Volunteers have a support network in country, which includes other Peace Corps Volunteers, counterparts and community members at their site, as well as Peace Corps/Zambia staff. The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps/Zambia maintains a medical unit with full-time medical officers, who provide for the Volunteers’ primary health care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatments, are available in Zambia and in South Africa. If the Volunteer is seriously ill, they will be transported to South Africa or to the United States.

If for some reason your communication pattern is broken and you do not hear from your family member, you may want to contact the Zambia Desk or the Office of Special Services (OSS) at Peace Corps Washington at 1-800-424-8580, extension 1470. Also, in the case of an emergency at home (death in the family, sudden illness, etc.), please do not hesitate to call OSS immediately, so that a message can be sent to the Volunteer. Use the above number during regular business hours (9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday). After hours, or during weekends, the Peace Corps Duty Officer may be reached at (202) 692-1470. Tell the operator your name, telephone number, and the nature of the emergency and the Duty Officer will
call you back.

2. Telephone Calls. Telephone lines in Zambia are fairly reliable. During the pre-service training though, opportunities for the trainees to call the United States will be limited. Most Volunteers purchase cell phones. Volunteers may or may not have residential phones; however, some Volunteers, use public phones, or find that a neighbor or the organization they work with has a phone they are able to use to make and receive calls. They will be able to inform you of telephone numbers where you might reach them once they arrive at their permanent sites.

The Zambia Desk maintains regular contact with the Peace Corps office in Lusaka through phone calls and e-mail. However, these communications are reserved for business only and cannot be used to relay personal messages. All communication between family members and the Volunteer should be done via international mail, personal phone calls, or e-mail. Volunteers may have access to e-mail at Internet cafes on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on their location.

3. Sending packages. Parents and Volunteers like to send and receive care packages through the mail. Unfortunately, sending packages can be a frustrating experience for all involved due to occasional thefts and customs taxes. You may want to try to send inexpensive items through the mail, but there is no guarantee that these items will arrive. Even though many Volunteers choose to get local post office boxes, you may also use the following address to send letters and/or packages:

Name of Volunteer, PCV
Peace Corps
P.O. Box 50707
Lusaka
Zambia


It is recommended that packages be sent in padded envelopes if possible, as boxes tend to be taxed more frequently. For lightweight but important items (e.g. airline tickets), DHL (an express mail service) does operate in Lusaka. If you choose to send items through DHL, you must address the package to the Country Director, c/o U. S. Peace Corps/Zambia, 71A Kabulonga Road, Kabulonga, Lusaka, Zambia (the phone number for the Peace Corps office in Zambia is 260-21-1260377, as DHL will need this information). If you send the item to the Country Director, no liability can be assumed. For more information about DHL, please call their toll free number, 1-800-CALL-DHL, or visit their web site at www.dhl.com . Other courier services do operate in Lusaka - DHL is only one possibility.

I hope this information is helpful to you during the time your family member or friend is serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia. I understand how frustrating it is to communicate with your family member overseas and we appreciate your using this information as a guideline. Please feel free to contact me at the Zambia Desk in Washington, D.C. if you have any further questions. My phone number is 1-800-424- 8580, ext. 2329, or locally, 202-692-2329/2307.

Sincerely,
Jolie Carey
Zambia Desk Officer
Ext: 2329

Friday, January 28, 2011

My Bags

Two Checked Bags & One Carry-On Hiking Pack :-)

Video Test

Just testing how easy it is to upload a video on here:
video

DONE Packing

The scales at Publix agreed this morning---- exactly 80 lbs. So, that means my bags are packed and staying that way! Nothing else is going in or out of them! If I find or think of any other little random things, they will have to fit in my carry-on (although there is not much room left in there either).

I also cleaned and packed up my bedroom this morning. I separated my remaining clothes into a keep pile and a get rid of pile. And we decided at the last minute that we will go ahead and have a Yard sale tomorrow morning to try to get rid of stuff :-)

I also took some cups of loose/spare change to the coin counter at Publix and made $30! Woohoo! Definitely wasn't expecting it to be that much b/c it was just pennies, nickels, and dimes.

Only a couple days left!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Things Accomplished

My day got better as it went on. I *think* I have my bags packed and ready and weighing at exactly 80lbs. WIll go weigh them on the Publix scales tommorrow just to confirm.

Also, my W-2 that I was complaining about earlier showed up in the mail today. So I worked on and finished my taxes tonight! Yay!

A Few Projects

If any teachers are reading this and are interested in having their class correspond with a peace Corps Volunteer (me), please take a look at the information here and e-mail me ASAP if you are interested in doing it!

Also, I am participating in a brand new volunteer created project called Snaphots of Service. I will actually be the very first one to take the journal with me and write in it! Other PCV's- if you are interested in joining please e-mail Kim!

Anyone else going crazy?

So, I've been pretty stressed and frustrated the past few days....so many little things to get done in so many different directions...my mind is so scattered!!! And that just makes me grumpy and jerky to those who are just trying to spend their last few days with me. Sorry everyone!

Some things that have caused me lots of stress in the past couple days and I feel should be boycotted:
  1. Passport Photos
  2. Rain Pants
  3. Taxes
  4. Packing
Obviously, none of these can really be boycotted....but I REALLY do not like them right now! Well, I accomplished/completed at least the first two (passport photos and rain pants), and hopefully will soon be finished with #4 (Packing). # 3 (Taxes) on the other hand will probably cause me more stress in the coming months, since I still haven't received my W-2 from the school district and thus will NOT be able to complete my taxes before I leave :-(

Monday, January 24, 2011

1 Week

Today is Monday and my last day of work. Next Monday I will be on a plane to Philadelphia. Next Wednesday morning I will be on a plane to Africa. Woohoo!

I don't have any more progress with being ready, since I spent my weekend in Gainesville. But, I did have an amazing time! Got to hang out with my cousin Brendan & his girlfriend Beth, Chad, Wendy, Amy, Liz, Kim, & other PC people. Got to check all of the best drinking games off the list on Friday and Saturday nights. Got to go to a PC Bowling party. Got to play paintball all day Sunday. And got to eat buy 1 get 1 free Moe's twice! Overall, a great weekend....although it was hard to say goodbye to some of my favorite people :-(

I don't quite have a plan for this week, but I definitely need to sit down and make a list. Hmmm, maybe I'll do that right now.....

  • transfer money out of extra savings account & then close it
  • finish Power of Attorney forms
  • buy last few things needed (rain pants, TSA locks, travel toiletries)
  • final pack, weigh-in, re-pack, final weigh-in of luggage
  • print out all necessary e-mails, paperwork, and contact info.
  • figure out what we are doing with my phone 
  • make phone calls to friends/family
  • pack up bedroom in boxes
  • hopefully solve/finish tax stuff?
  • visit with family & friends

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Packing List

So, I added a tab at the top of my page for my packing list, or you can click here http://jessica-peacecorps.blogspot.com/p/packing-list.html It is pretty thorough, but still a work in progress. Enjoy!

I just got an e-mail with lots more information about Staging, Travel, or first few days in country, and the 3 months of Training. I will try to put some of the info. up here later. They stressed the fact that we will not have e-mail/online access very much during training, and to encourage our family and friends to send us letters because that will be our main means of communication! Most volunteers will also buy a phone during training, but it is very uncertain when/where there will actually be phone service.

I'm heading to Gainesville this weekend for my last visit. Then I'll be finishing up my last couple days of work next week, and then finishing up my packing! 11 days left!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

14 Days Left...

Got all of my financial/banking stuff settled on Saturday :-)

Biked 18 miles tonight :-)

Last day of work will be Friday :-)

So...I guess I'll change my blog title...

seeing that another applicant titled her blog the same exact thing. Oh well, seeing that I have an invitation and destination now, I guess I could change it to "Jessica in Zambia" or something like that. I actually really suck at coming up with creative titles. So, please comment and give me some suggestions!

Friday, January 14, 2011

1st Weigh-In

So, I put my 2 checked bags on my neighbor's scale tonight....keep in mind that I just packed what I had/needed/wanted with no idea of the weight of things while packing, and at this point I have everything in there except for my underwear....also keep in mind that my 2 bags combined cannot exceed a weight of 80 lbs (and not one of the bags can be more than 50 lbs by itself)....so anyways, the results of my first baggage weigh in are....

Rolling Duffel: 38.7 lbs.
Rolling Suitcase: 41.7 lbs.
= total of 80.4 lbs.

I'd say that is pretty darn good for the first weigh in! I can't believe I got it so close on the first try! I was getting pretty scared that they were too heavy as I was rolling them over to my neighbor's house. I have to admit, it was kinda difficult to roll both of them behind me...which PC makes it clear you better be able to carry/roll all of your own luggage around!!! But anyways, I am pretty happy that I will only have to do a minimal amount of shuffling items around and see what I might take out of the suitcase so I can fit my underwear in :-)

Monday, January 10, 2011

So....not really a big deal...

I got my phone call from the APCD in Zambia right away this morning....totally not as big of a deal as I was thinking. I must have been one of the first people she called, as I think she was starting at around 8:30am, and I got my call around 9:00am. Anyways, she didn't really have much to say, nor did she have much to ask. Basically, she just asked if I had any questions. Luckily I had prepared a few questions beforehand... so she answered those and that was basically it. So here is some of the new info. I found out:

There are 29 people in my Education group leaving on January 31st. I will be assigned a language and a host family/house towards the end of the first week, after returning from the first site visit (to an existing PCV's house). We will be biking a lot from the very start of training...living with a host family, then biking possibly to a separate village for language group, then biking to another possible village for education/job training. There are limited possibilities for working with Early Childhood Centers/Schools and almost no chance of working with any kind of Special Education programs (although she will keep her eyes and ears open for anything of that sort). And finally, from reading my resume, she expects me to have more to share and contribute to our training group because I have had prior teaching experience where others in my group have not.

Other than that, she just said to make sure I bring: a tent, sleeping bag, and headlamp. Check!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Contact from APCD & PTS....and more packing...

I got an e-mail from my APCD (Associate Peace Corps Director) and PTS (Program Training Specialist) (both in Zambia) on Friday. They wanted to introduce themselves and let us know that they are currently reading through our resumes and aspiration statements to try to get to know each of us a little. They also said that they will be calling each of us for a 5-10 min. conversation one of the mornings this week. Also included in the e-mail was a letter from a current volunteer trainer and a suggested reading list (of which I already went out and picked up 3 of the books at the library).

I am making progress with packing, although I only have the weekends to work on it, because I am living at my nannying house during the week b/c of the no car situation. But, last weekend I packed all of my gear type things, and have my rolling duffel bag filled up (although I have no idea what it weighs yet!). This weekend I worked on the clothes. I went through and tried on each thing to make sure I really wanted to bring it or not. Then I started packing the clothes into plastic ziploc/space bags. These will then pack into my large rolling suitcase. By next weekend if I have both bags pretty much ready, I am going to bring them to Publix to weigh them....and then, based on the weight, who knows how much I'll need to change or weed out! lol. At this point my carry on bag is empty. I think I am going to pack my shoes in it b/c they are bulky/heavy. And then I will leave the rest of the room open for whatever doesn't fit into my checked bags.

I am making a packing list as I pack...I know that's kinda backwards lol. But, I am more just trying to keep track of what I have packed and how much of each thing I have packed. I am not going to post my list yet, because I wouldn't want to risk anyone criticizing it at this point....I feel like I might have too many clothes & other miscellaneous things packed at this point. So anyways, I will post my list when I am totally done and satisfied with it :-)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Staging!

Yay! Got my Staging E-mail & booked my flights with SATO!

Monday, January 31, 2011
2:15 pm- Depart TPA
4:45pm- Arrive PHL
6:00 PM- Registration- Official registration as a Peace Corps trainee – turn in your completed forms.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011
7:00 AM- Registration
7:30 AM- Meet in lobby for departure to clinic. To avoid taking duplicate vaccinations, bring a copy of your physician’s proof of immunization to your Staging event.
8:00 - 10:00 AM- Clinic appointment
1:00 - 3:45 PM- Icebreaker Who We Are What’s Expected of You
3:45 - 4:00 PM- Break
4:00 - 6:30 PM- What You Expect What’s Next Closing

Wednesday, February 2, 2011
2:00 AM- Check out of hotel
2:30 AM- Bus arrives for loading and departure to New York JFK Airport
10:40 AM- Flight departs for Zambia

Thursday, February 3, 2011
Arrive: Johannesburg, South Africa (15 hr flight)
Arrive: Lusaka, Zambia (2 hr. flight)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Carless for the Next Month

So, I sold my car today. Made a big whopping $300, but oh well, it's better than nothing. And I actually feel kind of relieved to be rid of it and not have to worry anymore about it breaking down. It will be a little tough getting around for the next month....but I'll just remember my motto for everything these days and tell myself "I'm just practicing for Africa".

This is a great answer for many questions, such as "Why haven't you shaved your legs?" "Why are you sleeping in a sleeping bag?" "How are you going to survive without a car?" "What?!? You don't have heat in your house or car?" "When was the last time you took a shower?".....best all around answer....."I'm practicing for Africa"

Had a great weekend with Chad :-) We didn't really do anything for New Years Eve, but we still had fun just hanging out and watching movies. We all (Mom, Dad, Michael, Brendan, Chad, and I) went to the Outback Bowl game on Saturday and watched UF kick butt! Well, kinda lol. They actually had some pretty sucky plays, but somehow ended up still pulling off the win. I'm not a very serious Gator Fan, so I am able to cheer them on, but also laugh when they make pretty bad mistakes lol.

My goal for this next week is to start sorting through my Africa stuff in the other room and start on my packing. I'm kinda excited about it, especially b/c all the cool new things me and my sister picked up at the Dollar Store after Christmas :-) They actually had a lot of handy little supplies for me!