Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Just More Pre-Departure Information

So, since I've been getting a lot of the same questions, I decided to take this opportunity to answer some of them. For those of you who read this often, you probably know the answers to all of these and will, therefore, find this entire post redundant. For those of you who don't read this often, you probably don't care, and will find this post pointless.

Here, my friends, is a list of (complete with answers) my FAQ's:

1. Are you nervous?
answer: Duh! Of course I'm nervous; I'm going to Africa! That being said, my excitement SERIOUSLY outweighs my nerves.

2. Can you get packages?
answer: Yes. Here is the deal on mailing me stuff, at least from what I can gather (more information will be posted when I get it). It is expensive, there is no way around it. For letters, the required postage is $0.98 and it will take 2-3 weeks to arrive to me. Make sure to write on the letter or package "Air Mail" or "Por Avion" or it will take up to 6 months to reach me. Packages: Flat rate boxes are cheapest, but it is still going to be pricey (isn't my love in return worth it?). Packages will take 5-9 weeks to reach me via airmail and 6 months for ground mail. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I get 6 months of duty-free shipping. After that, anything that is sent to me that is valued at over $20, I will have to pay duty taxes on. (Hint: ship used goods *wink*) What are good things to ship? From what I read, it sounds like juice mixes (crystal light type things), candy, pictures of you, spice packets, ect are great. Anything that I wouldn't be able to get there that would make me happy, and ship well really. I'll put up my shipping address soon where the "about me" blurb is right now.

3. Will you have internet?
answer: Not for the first 8-10 weeks. After that, definitely every once in a while (monthly), possibly more. I will find out later in Spring.

4. Do you have a packing list?/ What are you bringing?
answer: Here is a copy of my packing list.....its overwhelming.

General Clothing

  • Lightweight, all-weather jacket
  • Hooded sweatshirt or fleece
  • Sleeveless dresses and shirts (note that Volunteer teachers cannot wear these in the classroom)
  • Swimsuit (one piece)
  • Bandannas or handkerchiefs
  • Sun hat (baseball cap)
  • Good-quality raincoat
  • Small umbrella (On principle, I refuse)
  • Durable, easy-to-wash pants
  • Shorts and other clothes like drawstring pajama pants for lounging around (doctor’s scrubs are ideal)
  • Women can and do wear trousers for traveling and in the cities
  • Teachers need lightweight dresses/skirts that go below the knee (no slits above the knee, and not tight-fitting)
  • Cotton slips (waist to knee and waist to ankle)
  • Very durable, practical clothes (not nice, dressy clothes)
  • Some nicer clothes for in town (dancing, restaurants)
  • Lots of underwear, bras, socks
  • Heavy-duty sports bra
  • Belt
  • Money belt
  • shorts (longer, knee-length shorts for women) for biking
  • Sturdy work gloves (if you garden)

Overall advice: do not bring a lot. Just three to four outfits for staging and beginning of training.You can find just about everything in the markets. Malawians dress very conservatively, and will espect the same from you!


Durable shoes are an essential investment

  • Teva or Chaco sandals
  • Sneakers and/or hiking boots (Boots are handy for rainy season)
  • Shoes (close-toed and good to stand in all day; for anyone who teaches)
  • You can get flip-flops in Malawi (but according to current volunteers they're all crappy and wear out so you have to buy a new pair every month so bring a pair from home)
  • Dress shoes

Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items

  • Favorite brand of tampon
  • Face/hand/body lotion
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo (just a 2-in-1 to get through training)
  • A few toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste (just one for training)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Multivitamins
  • Short supply of razors and blades
  • Two pair eyeglasses if needed
  • Hair-cutting scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Lip balm
  • Prescription drugs (three-month supply)


  • A sharp kitchen knife
  • Rubber spatula
  • French press (if you appreciate good coffee)
  • Kitchen towels
  • Send foodstuff to yourself before leaving: specialty/herbal teas; Kraft Mac & Cheese powder; Cliff,Luna or other energy bars.

Miscellaneous But Important Items For Serious Consideration!

  • Sturdy water bottle (e.g., Nalgene)
  • Lightweight, travel, waterproof tent w/ground cloth
  • Leatherman/Swiss Army knife
  • Compact sleeping bag for cold weather
  • Laptop
  • Bungee cords or backpack straps
  • Fitted and flat twin sheets, or double if you need
  • Flashlight or headlamp with extra bulbs
  • Shortwave radio
  • Solar-powered rechargeable batteries with recharger
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Headlamp (very popular among PCVS!) and/or wind-up flash light
  • Converter and adaptors (220V here. Small multi converters/adapters work well.)
  • Good dictionary
  • U.S. stamps (so you can send letters home with travelers)
  • Flash drive!! We provide a 2 gig version, but you may want more of your own.
  • Camera
  • Field guide for flora and fauna of sub-Saharan Africa
  • Seeds for herbs and vegetables
  • Battery-powered alarm clock (I have a wind-up clock)
  • A couple of thirsty towels (this one entertained me)
  • English dictionary, Thesaurus
  • Sunglasses
  • Some zip-lock baggies
  • Watch - think cheap
  • Jewelry - like the watch
  • Personal money (you can keep it in the safe at the Peace Corps office)
  • Games (Scrabble, cards, chess, Frisbee, etc.)
  • iPod/mp3 player (Please note that erratic energy, heat, humidity, sand and dust will do a number on all electronic devices)
  • Musical instrument (harmonica, guitar, etc.)
  • A few novels (to swap after reading) I'm brining The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galexy, The Three Musketeers, Pride and Prejudice, and Peter Pan
  • Hobby materials like sketching pads and pencils
  • Day pack
  • Luggage (should be tough, lightweight, lockable, and easy to carry)
  • Hiking backpack
  • Sharpies
  • Crayons, markers, colored paper, colored pencils and cheap paint sets
  • Children’s books
  • GRE prep materials
  • Unbreakable French Press
  • Misc pictures from home and calendar showing scenes of the US

I'm not bringing everything on here, obviously. Also, I am bringing things not on here. This is just a general idea from PeaceCorps and previous/current volunteers to get an feel for what is needed. At least, because of the backpacking I've done, I already have a bunch of the basic things that would normally cost an arm and a leg (eg. Boots, backpack, sleeping bag, ect).

I guess that pretty much covers the questions I've been getting. I can't believe I have less than a month left. If you know me, and know where I live, or know me well enough to contact me and see where I live, I am having a going away party on February 6th. Stop by, eat food, hang out. I am going to try to cook some traditional Malawian dishes like nsima ....that might end badly but there will at least be an attempt.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Travel Information

I just made reservations with SATO travel to fly to Philadelphia on February the 25th. I'm going to be at my pre-training staging event one day early since it takes a 6 hour flight to get to Philadelphia from Seattle and I have to be there by 1:00pm on the 26th. That means one day less to say goodbye to family and friends but one day closer to my great African adventure! I think I'm starting the stage of my excitement where sleeping is going to be rare. If you all thought I talked about Africa a lot before, I'm at a whole new level now.

I guess this means that I am going to have a ton more little updates like this until I get in gear enough to be too busy with preparations.

There is no one in the house with me right now to listen so, WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Getting ready

As you can see (maybe), I've done some tweaking with my layout. New picture, also, check out this disclaimer required if I am going to publicize my blog once I'm in Malawi ------------------>

So, as of now, I'm doing little things to get ready to leave. I'm picking up this or that at the store, staring at my suitcases trying to decide if I would rather bring more stuff or a guitar, getting student loan stuff together, avoiding packing. It sort of hit me last night that this is coming up very quickly.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Peace Corps with my international flight and staging event information. Here is what I know:

Staging will be in Philidelphia, PA (not D.C.) and it will last for about 20 hours.

Here is my schedule:

1:00pm- check in/registration
2:00-4:25pm-Who we are and what's expected of you
4:45-7:00pm-What you expect, What's next, and closing

1:30am- check out of hotel
2:00am- bus arrives for loading and departure for JFK airport, NYC
10:30am- Flight departs for Malawi

As for flight information:
On United Airlines, we fly from JFK to Johannesburg, South Africa. 15 hour and 10 minute flight. We arrive in South Africa at 8:40am (Johannesburg is in the same time zone as Malawi so there is a 10 hour time difference). At 10:00am I flight from Johannesburg to Lilongwe for 2 hours and 25 minutes. I arrive in Malawi at 12:25 pm.

In short:
10:30 depart JFK, New York
8:40am arrive Johannesburg, South Africa
10:00am depart Johannesburg
12:25pm arrive in Malawi

I am finally starting to get nervous but that is only because this has been 9 months since I graduated, but really a year waiting. This time last year I has already interviewed and was waiting to hear. Exciting times.

In other news, I am going to play around with different templates and feedback would be appreciated (that doesn't seem to ever be a problem). So, let me know what you like and don't like, you're the ones who are actually looking at it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In Motion

Let me begin with a review of 2009, which proved to be a very exciting year (yes I know this is a couple weeks late). In 2009: I worked a lot of jobs (5) as usual, graduated for Pacific Lutheran University with my BA in Econ with a concentration in International Economic Analysis and a minor in Business, four days after graduation I left for Holden Village for four months, had the best summer of my life, came home, attempted a road trip, failed said roadtrip, spent time with my family, pierced my nose, and have been reconnecting with a lot of people from Holden and PLU...even a few from high school. As good as 2009 was, 2010 will be better.Late last year, Meredith, an old roommate somehow managed to scrape together a car to visit me!! It was great seeing her!

Since January 1st, I have been on 5 airplanes, 4 trains, 9 buses, and 8 different cars (none of which were my own). I have spent time in the Seatac, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, and Salt Lake City airports. I am excited that my methods of transport from here on out are only going to get more interesting. That being said, my next 40 days at home are going to include a lot of home time because I have a lot to get ready here before I can leave for Malawi. Ok, that's enough, on to what I've been up to the last couple weeks, and pictures!

Just before the new year, a good friend from Holden came to stay with me for 6 days. We went sailing, hung out in Seattle, went to Ikea, soo exciting. I had a good time showing her the magic of the Pacific Northwest, and she had a grand time (being from Wisconsin) experiencing, what I would later in the week learn is, warm weather. Being that it is SO "warm" here, and actually not raining for a bit, Hannah, my Dad and I took the opportunity to go sailing! It was cold, but beautiful. Good job, January.

My father is a dignified man, as visible by the sun behind his head. It was a good day, overall. After sailing, we went down to Seattle, I'll spare you all of the pictures I foreced her to take being a tourist (with the space needle, with Pike's place, with Yoda, with Tom Hanks's picture, ect.)

The evening I took Hannah to the airport to go back home, our dryer broke so Jeff and Diana and I went to the laundromat so I could do some laundry because I was leaving for Minneapolis, MN the next morning. Somehow this happened.

Those details are a little fuzzy still. Either way, eventually, I finished my laundry, packed up and went to sleep for a few hours before I had to get up the next morning so my WONDERFUL sister could drive me to the airport at 3:00am.

The plainride went smoothly, I flew to Denver, then to Minneapolis. I got there, my friend Maren (I stayed with her) from Holden picked me up from the airport and thus my Mid-west adventure began. Everyone should note that it was 45 F when I left Seattle and I was already sleeping in long underwear. When I landed in Minneapolis it was 14 F and was emediatly informed that I was lucky it was so warm there for a change. It should also be noted that 14 was the coldest I had ever felt.

Maren: What do you want to do while you're here?
Amy: Stand on a frozen lake, drink Caribou coffee, and see the Mall of America.

Maren: No problem

Here are some things I learned right out of the gate: "You have to respect the ice."-Maren Evidently, "respecting the ice" means you have to waddle when you walk...and waddle I did. I also learned that when you first walk outside, rather than taking a deep breath to enjoy the fresh air like I am used to doing in wonderful, wonderful Washington, you have to hold your breath and then proceed to breath in slowly. Not following these simple directions will, absolutely, result in coughing and then having the locals make fun of you. This is a reflex not easily learned. I learned that if you are standing on a frozen lake and you wrap your scarf around your face for extra protection from the cold, that makes condensation on your glasses from breathing. Then, if you stand outside like that for more than a split second, your glasses freeze. Yes, I said freeze. They look like they were just foggy; take my word for it.

I also learned that Minnesotans have to put fake mountains on the walls of their Caribou Coffee's so they can pretend they have mountains. Oh Minnesota, you silly, silly folks.

Inside the Mall of America, there is a lego museam..I can't even make a lego helicopter.

There is a sculpture park, and in the middle is this 1,200 lb cherry on a spoon (famous?). I stood bye it because the pond surrounding it is frozen (frozen bodies of water stood on so far: 2). That was interesting. We didn't very thoroughly investigate the rest of the sculptures because it was soo cold that day. Even with 2 pairs of pants on, a t-shirt, long sleeve t-shirt, flannel, fleece, sweatshirt, jacket, hat, gloved, scarf, it was too cold to be out for more than 20 minutes.

I did learn that it is a bad idea, however, to try to climb the giant spoon because, that is not respecting the ice, and the ice gets angry and makes you fall on your face. I learned my lesson. Thanks for being on top of the camera, Maren.

Maren took me to a place where I got to throw peanut shells on the ground. This, really, has nothing to do with Minnesota, but I've always wanted to, so it's exciting in my book.

What's next in the random collection of things I did in Minnesota? A kite festival on a frozen lake (frozen body of water number 3). Fun fact, if you are at a kite festival, flying a kite on a frozen lake, at sun set, after the sun sets, what you once thought was unbarably cold, becomes, lets get to the car as fast as we can because I think I'm on Pluto-cold.

After the kite festival, Katy took us to a local coffee shop where she has a bunch of her FANTASTIC photos hanging from all of the places she's been. We had ice cream there because since it was -12F, there was a 25% discount to give incentive to eat it. That's right.

Another fun fact: the Mighty Ducks trilogy was filmed for the most part in Minneapolis, MN. We watched the movies, then drove past Mickey's diner (a few scenes from the movie) on our way home from the Minnesota Science Museum where we saw an exhibit on the Titanic (very interesting, go if it comes to a city near you).
That pretty much concludes my Minnesota adventure. Monday morning, Maren dropped me off at the airport on her way to work and I was on my way. I flew from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Denver, to Salt Lake City, and finally to Seatac. There I took the lightrale (train number 1) to Seattle and caught the bus to Everett where I was picked up and taken home.

The next morning I woke up early again, got a ride to the everett station, hopped on a bus to Seattle and got on a train (#2) to Vancouver to visit an old roommate, Kristen and her boyfriend Andrew (also a friend from PLU).
Seeing as I was only in the magical land of Camas for 23 hours, it was a sort of whirlwind of tours of the town, and catching up with each other. It was so good to see her, and everyone I've seen, especially keeping in mind that I won't see them for at least 2.5 years.

The next morning, Kristen and Andrew dropped me off at the train station (#3) where I took the train to Seattle. Once in Seattle I hopped on the sounder (train #4) instead of a bus because the Sounder honors Amtrak tickets (interesting). Jeff picked me up from good ol' Everett station and took me to church where I had some things to do, then someone from church took me home. I pretty much went straight to sleep, woke up this morning, and here I am. It's been an exciting couple of weeks.

Now, I am faced with all of the thousands of little things I have to do before I take off. I need to get rid of all of the things I won't want come June 2012, fill out paperwork, ect ect.

I hope this update will satisfy for a bit because I don't forsee anything exciting coming up for a bit.

40 days until I leave!