Sunday, August 06, 2006

Some quick thoughts:

- I'm having a typical busy summer. When I mentioned to a friend that I was going here and there, she said, "you don't have to do everything at once - you're not dying." No, as I said, I am just having a typical summer - the only difference is that what was "work" or "consulting" or "jobhunting" in past summers is now "clearing, packing, reading up, studying French."

- If I knew I would be coming back ot my stuff as is and to my own bed, it would be easier. But I'm not even putting the bed in storage! I just started to pack, and it turns out that the things that I thought would be easy (books and photo albums) are not - not visible until off the shelf, there was some damage (luckily not to the photo albums) so some choices had to be made!

- I went to the dentist last week - had to update my records for the Peace Corps (last paperwork I sent them was two years ago) and as I was reading the cover note I noticed that the Peace Corps does not pay for cleanings while you're there! I can't imagine going without cleaning. Surely they have dental work there - or I'll have a cleaning when I come back here. Perhaps it's just one indicator of what I have to get used to. No dental cleaning!!! Maybe this will finally be the incentive to get rigorous about flossing (the date with the dentist did it for a while, but that was a long time ago).

- I went to a Sister Cities meeting the other day - invited by the friend I saw at the festival. Interesting bunch of women (I don't know if the committee is all women, but the meeting was). They were discussing the marketplace they are running in the Cultural Center the first week in December. Those of you who are in Chicago should go! You'll be able to buy carpets and other artisan items! Somehow - even though I am leaving in a month - I ended up on a committee (to help get corporate sponsorship). I could definitely become involved if I do move back here. There are also local organizations of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and Friends groups for each country. So I'll have new communities to be a part of and participate in! Friends and family can join too (though it isn't that obvious when you go to the web sites...I'll add links!)

- And on the subject of community - obviously, my main volunteer community has been Princeton - both the class of 1980 and the Princeton Club of Chicago. But I've also been a part of the Tigernet community - a set of discussion groups on various topics. I'm in the process of starting two new discussion groups - princeton-peace-corps, for anyone past, present, future in the Peace Corps or anyone else interested, and princeton-africa - not that I'm an expert (I also think there's a big difference between Northern and Sub-Saharan and that maybe they warrant separate groups), but the Alumni Council regional affairs people thought it would be nice to have such a group, so I agreed to start it. And - coincidence? -there's a Princeton Journeys (used to be called Alumni College) trip to Morocco next April! I volunteered to join the group for a dinner or day-trip and maybe explain my project if it fits into their itinerary - we'll see if we can work that out when I get to my site. It would be great to get a dose of Princeton!

- Back to the move - my massage therapist (out of the goodness of her heart) took my tree a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who didn't know the tree, it was my father's ficus - I had it with me and repotted it and repotted it and it grew and grew and took over a large portion of the room. I'm glad someone agreed to take it, but I miss it. I know it's only the beginning - now the packed boxes will start to sprout, if you will - but that corner does seem more empty (also more spacious). Note - I told her that in two years if she is attached to it she could keep it, if she isn't I'll get it, and if - well, if, you know - it's lived a good life and she is not responsible.

- I just bought some washable skirts last week - not bringing anything that needs to be dry-cleaned - and I think this week I may start looking through my closets to figure out what's going with me and what I might need to have sent. They said long skirts and blouses and if that's not okay to think about your commitment to living in another culture. Luckily, it is more than okay with me. They also said lots of fleece and long underwear - "the cold country with the hot sun." That's bulky, so some things may be designated to be sent. But nothing is guaranteed to go through. The more beat-up something looks, the better. I do have clothes that qualify for that! And then they don't have to come back!

- And further on sending - I read in "What to Know Before You Go" that packages with red ink seem to go through more easily - for some reason customs officials are more reluctant to open them (this is generic, not Morocco. The Morocco book said brown padded envelopes are better than boxes).

- One of the things from "Understanding Arabs" is that they just don't get why a woman wouldn't be married. "I haven't met the right person" just doesn't make sense to them. The book recommends making up a fictitious boyfriend or fiancee back home. I don't want to lie, but I also want to fit in culturally, and the point of the book was to learn how to adapt to the culture. I've been thinking about how I can do this, and so far my solution is to come up with a combination of characteristics that includes all my boy friends back home.

- I've been concentrating on French, but also listening to the Arabic lessons on the Peace Corps web site. Haven't retained any yet (a little French, oui) but I was pleased to come across the Arabic word for chocolate last week. After Finland and Russia I thought the first word I would learn in any language is "thank you." Well, "chocolate" is a good one to know too!

- Thinking more about electricity - first of all, "What to Know Before You Go" seemed more encouraging - the majority of the business development people have it. And it makes sense - from "Guns, Germs and Steel" that I slogged through earlier this year - if a society can support artisans, that means its basic needs are met. The water and sanitation volunteers will be more remote - the business development almost by definition will have a little more!

- This weekend I re-read the Morocco Welcome Book and the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook, now that it's getting closer. One of the things I re-read is the Internet policy. Turns out that I cannot profit from anything published on the web. I can publish writings or a journal later and make money, but not from anything I post here. I have always thought I'd like to write a book and thought that this would be a perfect opportunity. And maybe I will keep a journal as well as this blog. But I think it's more important to keep friends and family informed than to write a book. I am giving up potential future gain to write to you! (I also added the disclaimer to the first entry).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I thought I'd check the photo-uploading ease on blogger (it is easy! So I hope to be able to add more). This is from the walk to the light at the North Avenue Beach - one of my favorite walks. The tall building is the John Hancock building, one of the first buildings I learned about in my first civil engineering course; because of that course, I switched into the engineering school in order to major in civil engineering. The building where I live is the red brick building about halfway along on the right (it's a twin building; I live in the north one, the one to the right). Lake Michigan is my "big swimming pool across the street" - in fact, I am headed there shortly. I have a feeling my skyline is about to change dramatically! I'm up on the 14th floor, and the street noise of Lake Shore Drive is nice white noise - it sounds like the gentle tides of the lake (if there were gentle tides).

I've been telling people that if I were moving to Morocco for 2 1/2 years and coming back to this apartment I'd be overwhelmed, and if I were moving out of the apartment where I've lived for 19 years I'd be overwhelmed, but the combination of the two is completely overwhelming! Yesterday I stopped the cable, internet, phone, TiVo, Peninsula Spa, and Blue Cross as of September and arranged for auto-bill-pay of my credit cards and for my absentee ballot. That took all morning! I'm working on a will and living will and power of attorney. I asked my friend/lawyer if I could specify, "now when I die, now don't think I'm a nut, don't want no fancy funeral, just one like old King Tut." He recommended that I leave that out....

People have done this before - moved. And moved to other countries. And joined the Peace Corps. I just haven't moved in a while, and I haven't done anything so - adventurous? Out of the mainstream? Challenging? I measured my suitcases the other day - you're allowed two suitcases L+W+H no more than 107 inches, and a carry-on - mine were exactly 107 inches! I still can't imagine narrowing things down to fit - even though I have a carton of books that a friend will send me already picked out, and am planning to fill at least one more carton with things to send. As I said to someone, I am not a minimalist. His response was, "I imagine many of the people who go into the Peace Corps are." He's probably right!

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