luggage, hard drives, and insomnia...Oh my!

   I have 38 days until my Peace Corps journey begins! Crazy, huh?! Time is going by so fast. Yesterday I spent time figuring out my luggage situation, which initially I was stressed about. I ended up finding two carry on sized bags and both have wheels, which I was happy about. Along with my hiking pack, which I will check, I think I will have plenty of space for what I'm bringing.
   Last night I spent time with two of my best friends, one who is in the process of moving to her new apartment. We sat in an empty living room on the floor eating sushi and chatting about life. When I told them I had been nervous about packing for Botswana both laughed at me. "You are insanely great at packing. Do you not remember those Alternative Spring Break trips during which you had one bag with everything you needed and everyone else had four. YOU do not need to worry" they told me. I tried to explain how this is VERY different. This is TWENTY SEVEN MONTHS and not a week or two. This is going to AFRICA.They both just smiled and said "Shep, you will figure it out. You always do.Don't stress".  I love their simple reassurance and how sometimes that is all it takes to make me feel atleast a little more at ease.
   When I got home I went through my closet stuffed with random Botswana gear. Sorting through it and organizing it, while trying to pack some of it made me feel so much better! I realized that I actually don't have that much that I need  or want to bring, and that feels very freeing! I packed a lot of my summer clothing that I will not be wearing here in Maine before April and some other things that I got specifically for Botswana. Now I get to go through my pictures and figure out which ones I'm going to bring and which will be left behind. I'm kind of excited about that. I also get to figure out how to use the external hard drive I got and how to get my favorite movies and tv shows onto it.
   Overall, I'm very enthusiastic about going. I would say that at this point I am much more enthusiastic than I am nervous. (Obviously, I'm a little nervous too). I haven't been sleeping that well because this is how I get when I'm enthusiastic aboutanything ever, and going to Africa is kind of a big deal. Although not  being able to get to sleep until late is at times greatly annoying, I am glad that the reason for my insomnia is because of something I'm happy about. I really do feel lucky to have this opportunity, and I can't stop smiling about it.


42 days and Funny Kids

   42 days until I peace out to Africa and here is where my life is at...

   I told my students about my leaving last week during a wing meeting.  It was difficult telling them, but freeing at the same time. I actually have a funny story to go along with this. One of my students was not paying any attention and was texting and spacing out during the meeting right when I told them I was going to Africa and loudly said to a student sitting next to her about 10 minutes later, "Wait, we're going to Africa?" to which about 20 other students responded with "No, SHE is!" in unison. It was a great lesson in paying attention for that student and provided me with an amazing dose of comic relief.
  I still have a month left at work, and I'm honestly finding it very difficult to focus. I put a smile on my face and push through and am trying to enjoy the moments during which I feel like I'm helping a student or having fun with them. For example, we randomly had a dance party on my wing the other day, and I tried to learn how to dance "the jerk" and ended up looking ridiculous but laughing a whole lot. Moments like that help.
   This weekend I will have four days off because I have a lot of personal days. My aunt and one of my cousins are coming up to Maine to visit, and I want to be able to spend time with them. They probably won't travel up this way again before April, which means this will be the last time I see them before going to Africa. We have plans of snow tubing, eating, shopping, and going to my little brother's dance rehearsals. It will be nice.
   I spent the weekend before Valentine's Day going out to dinner with two of my best friends, and it was glorious. We ate so much. I also received some pretty fantastic tokens of their love including a candy heart ring and a card about bugs haha. Actual Valentine's day was spent working and dealing with some tough situations with students treating each other very badly. However, in the end I was able to help them resolve their conflict, and I think gain some respect for each other. I think that is what I like most about my job right now; teaching my students to try to see things from each other's point of view a little. Today I saw a room of girls who told me two days ago that they could never get along again or respect each other talking and smiling, and then I watched them go into the cafeteria to eat dinner together. I'd be lying if I said that didn't put a smile on my face.

   So I will make it through the next month thinking about moments like these and by spending every chance I get away from work with those I love.

I'm happy, and life is good (with a side of crazy)


To-Do list

This is NOT a list of Botswana preparation, but it IS a list of things that will keep me sane and happy as I enthusiastically prepare for my big adventure.

celebrate an early Valentine's day with some of my best friends by getting dressed up and eating large quantities of Chinese food

Watch my brother dance

play in the snow

visit Greenville and Bar Harbor

eat a Maine lobster

watch and download episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Glee" like it is my job

laugh with my family and friends

eat homemade mac and cheese

eat buffalo chicken flavored anything and everything

use my nail salon gift certificate  given to me by a wonderful friend

go dancing

scrapbook and smile while looking at old pictures

spend time with Benny, Oliver, and Maggie ( my family's dogs)

eat anything with peanut butter cups in it

do Pilate's work outs and laugh at myself while doing them

try to learn a little guitar

sleep in

take long showers

go to Denny's late at night like old times and have some honey mustard

smile, breath,  and remember that everything will be OK


Another type of Count Down...

   I feel like I keep counting down the days I have left before I leave for Africa, but something I have not been counting down is the days I have left at my job, which is now 26. Although I'm looking forward to finishing up so I can focus my attention on preparing for Africa, I am somewhat glad to still be working because it gives me something else to focus on. I work as a Residential Advisor at a school for 16-24 year old students, and the wing I'm in charge of has 35 students on it. I've only been working there since I moved back to Maine in August to live at home for a while. During my time there I have made some positive connections with students and staff. I am going to miss them. My co-workers know now, and they have been very supportive and encouraging. One of them told me my life expectancy was going to go down, but another RA and I had a good laugh about his comment because who says that to someone?!  I know he meant well and was just trying to express concern for me though, which is why I am able to laugh it off. Another one of my co- workers is going to cosmetology school and cut my hair for me and treated it with a special conditioner all for free as part of one of her assignments, which was very nice of her. I will truly miss my Co-Ra and mentor who is in her 60s, from Argentina, and is both one of the kindest and toughest people I have ever met ( and absolutely hillarious). She was one of the first people I told, next to my supervisor, and her response was "Well, Kristen, you have to do, what you have to do".
    The students do not know yet, and I was advised to wait until only a couple of weeks before leaving because they "may not listen anymore" or may "stop caring", but ultimately it is up to me. I've decided to tell them this week because I feel I owe that to them. I have built trust with them, and I feel it is best to be honest. Overall they are very hardworking, kind-hearted students, and I have faith in them being able to handle the change and continue to maintain the same sense of community on the wing. Also, it is possible they will hire my replacement sooner than later, and I am actually hoping that happens.
Anyway, the counting down continues


52 days...

   In 52 days I will be on my way to Botswana. I will be leaving my family ,friends, and 3 dogs. I will be saying some final goodbyes; though, I feel like I've already started to say some goodbyes or at least have been preparing to. Through this whole process I have been very enthusiastic. All of my friends and family know that I talk about it non-stop and usually with a huge smile on my face.  I think a couple of days ago was the first time it has actually felt real that I'm going, and I broke down a little. It is difficult to explain, but I was writing down addresses and  important phone numbers for myself to take with me and for my family, and I guess it just hit me like a ton of bricks that this is REAL. I didn't feel like being around anyone, which anyone who knows me is a rare occasion because I'm typically a people person. I was sitting in my room by myself after watching one of my favorite TV shows, which was not at all sad, and started to tear up. It is hard because my family doesn't really get it. They are supportive, but I don't want them to think I am having second thoughts because I am not so I don't really talk about it with them.  I've been reading blogs of others going to Botswana in April, and some of them sound slightly freaked out as well so maybe this is normal?  I am not complaining or whining about going because believe me, I feel so lucky to have this opportunity. I'm just scared to put it simply.