Pre-departure

April 19, 2015

It fits!

It fits!

The bags may burst at the seams at some point during the next few weeks, but everything fits.

Categories: Morocco, Pre-departure | 2 Comments

April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

I have two weeks left in site and entirely too many emotions to put together a coherent blog post.

Thus, some bullet points in no particular order:

  • I’m mentally preparing myself for the costs of grad school. Mentally preparing myself for the foreseeable future of the cheapest rent I can find and the cheapest food I can stomach. Dave Ramsey makes me want to pay off debts I don’t have yet.
  • A few coats of a light pink nail polish keeps me from biting my nails, which I have been doing for as long as I can remember.
  • My chababs just kicked butt in the Write On! Creative Writing Competition!!!! Out of the 14 of my kids who participated, 7 won regional awards. Out of those seven, two won national awards. I’m so proud.
  • I get to do another library training next week, which will be my last big piece of work.
  • It does not feel like I only have two weeks left.
  • Over the course of my Peace Corps service, I will have read 134 books, provided I finish one book this week and one book next week. 45 in my first year, 72 in my second year, and 15 so far this year, one to finish this week and one next week.
Categories: In site, Morocco, Pre-departure | 2 Comments

March 16, 2015

COS emotional wellbeing update.

Last month: euphorically happy at the though of returning to America, land of burritos and movie theaters.

Yesterday: Liz walked into the kitchen to find me sobbing over a halfway made salad for trivial reasons.

Feelings are hard. Blogging about feelings is hard. Leaving is hard.

Categories: In site, Morocco, Pre-departure | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Jan. 10, 2015

So I have 100 days left in T- before I have to be in Rabat, 104 until I fly away from Morocco (as in on a plane, not fleeing). And since I just got back from our week-long close of service conference and there is no food in the house except for plain yogurt and a giant city-wide shopping trip has to happen to get more of everything, I’ll just have to blog about my feeling instead of eating them.

A trip through Marrakesh requires a stop at KFC.

A trip through Marrakesh requires a stop at KFC.

Feeling #1 – Transitions are the worst. Change is hard. If I could somehow time travel myself forward to whenever it is I will be feeling “at home” again wherever that I, I might consider it. Goodbyes are important. Closure is important. Most of my stage (training group) I won’t see again. We all leave the country at different points between March and April, some of us are staying longer. And to top it off, unless I become fabulously wealthy at some point in the near future to be able to afford travel back to Morocco, I will probably not see my chababs or my host family or Mounia again for a very long time, if ever. That’s heartbreaking and I wish I didn’t have to say goodbye to them at all.

Feeling #2 – AMERICA IS AMAZING. I get to see my family. I get to go camping. I get to eat an inadvisable amount of any kind of food that I want and I don’t even have to cook it myself. I get to hang out with my sister!!!!

Feeling #3 – America is terrifying. Get into grad school. Find a job to support self. Answer a million questions about being in Peace Corps and Morocco and wanting to represent both things well because I feel tremendously positive about both, but also wanting to give accurate answers without helping to feed any sort of negative stereotype people may have about either, and probably I should figure out how to do that in like a one sentence answer because it’s awful to talk about something that’s important to you and then realize your listener has glazed over a minute into what you’re saying. Health insurance. Moving to a new place. Making a new community for myself. Luckily that’s one skill I’m pretty dang good at now.

Feeling #4 – Yay new things are fun! New school (to be decided), new city (to be decided), new transportation (I’m not buying a car, if I can help it), new life goals (Peace Corps rounds 2-5? yes please!).

Our thank you to staff.

Our thank you to staff.

Close of service conference is one of the few things that is common to PCVs worldwide. It’s your closure, your chance as a stage to sit down together and think about what you have accomplish, what you need to do in your last few months, and what you need to do to readjust to life in America. Out of our group of 95 that originally arrived in country, 77 of us are left, and with two years of a somewhat shared experience like we have had, it’s a sad thought that we’ll never be together as a group again. There has always been another training or something coming up, but not anymore.

This past week we did everything from learn about the final medical examinations that will happen just before we leave to choosing our dates to leave the country to sharing memories about our service. We said thank you to our PC staff that has supported us. We threw a bachelorette party for one of our girls who is getting married shortly after returning to the US. We took pictures and ate good food that is only available at big city restaurants and took multiple hot showers and tried to come to terms with everything and realized we couldn’t.

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

But before all that leaving and saying goodbye, I have a library to set up, camps to run, kids to hang out with. Food to buy…

Categories: Morocco, Pre-departure, Training | Tags: | 1 Comment

Dec. 10, 2013 – My packing list, revisited

Depending on your outlook, packing for a trip can be exciting, because you get to look forward to the place you are going, or stress-inducing, because you’re not sure what to pack and if you’re forgetting something important.

If you’re packing up your life for two years in the Peace Corps, I’d say the whole experience leans more on the “stress” side of the equation. If you’re currently working on getting packed to come to Morocco, embrace the stress (because Peace Corps wouldn’t be Peace Corps without some nerves involved) but don’t let it overwhelm you. Even if you completely pack the wrong things, you can sort that out when you get to country. Except maybe don’t forget to bring a really warm jacket… It’s going to be cold when you get here.

Anyway, here is my packing list as posted on this blog last January. This is mostly what I brought and I thought it would be helpful to go through item by item and say whether I was glad I brought that thing. So here it goes. Bold items are things I’m really glad I brought, italicized are things I wish I had brought a different version of, strikethroughs are for things I wish I hadn’t wasted the space on.

Baggage

  • hiking backpack – good for extended trips in places where there aren’t paved roads
  • carry-on rolling suitcase – if I could have revolutionized my packing process and not brought this bag (and also reducing the amount of stuff I brought) I would have
  • school-sized backpack – for short trips, carrying my computer, hauling notebooks around, buying things at souk
  • duffle bag – awesome for trainings/week-long trips that are too short for the big backpack

Outerwear

  • Columbia jacket with removable fleece lining (wearing on the plane) – I thought I might have been crazy for bringing this, but I’m so glad I did, especially for the fleece lining. It doesn’t look cute, but it kept me warm during training. Also, I haven’t worn it yet since I got to site, but I would have died in a tiny shivering ball of cold if I hadn’t had it those first few months. If you end up not needing a huge jacket, you can always send it home or just not wear it. But remember, there are sites here where your olive oil freezes in the winter.

Shoes

  • hiking boots – very good for walking through mud
  • Mary Jane-style shoes (wearing on plane) – love them
  • hiking sandals – should have brought Chacos instead. My Keens get too many rocks stuck in them
  • sneakers – I brought running shoes, but since I don’t run in my site, I use them mostly for doing other exercises inside. If you like to work out, bring the shoes.
  • flip flops – great for showering in hostels, walking around town; if you are really strapped for space, you can easily get them here
  • everyday walking shoes – I should have picked a more comfortable pair, my own fault

Clothes

  • pants (4 pairs, one worn on plane)
  • skirts (all below the knee) – should have brought longer skirts in general (to the ankle) – see previous post on clothing choices.
  • long sleeve shirts for layering (7) – these are lovely in the winter
  • short sleeve shirts (4) – good for wearing under something loose but long-sleeved in the summer
  • workout and pajama shirts (3) – bring your workout clothes!!!!!
  • button down shirts/blouses – these are nice because a lot of them are ¾ length sleeves and a bit cooler in the summer/can serve as something professional looking if needed
  • what are actually sun dresses but will serve to cover the butt for shirts that don’t already do so (4)
  • cardigans (6) – essential!!!
  • leggings (2) – brought one pair that are fully to the ankle and one pair that are to the knee – haven’t worn the to the knee pair yet.
  • Tights (2) – if it’s cold enough to wear tights, you might as well just wear leggins. Not that they take up that much space
  • long johns (2) – you will live in these during training
  • capris (2) – not long enough to be worn in my site
  • tank top (1) – wish I had brought more for either wearing inside the house during summer or for layering under a shirt with a too-low neckline
  • bathing suit (2) – hotels have pools here! I would also suggest bringing a set of t-shirt and shorts you can wear over your suit in case you’re in a place that isn’t strictly for tourists
  • workout capris (1) – too short to wear outside and too hot to wear inside
  • workout shorts (1) – inside exercising FTW!
  • fleece pullover
  • sports bras (2)
  • regular bras (3) – should have brought more, what was I thinking?!?!?
  • pajamas (3) – I have one pair of heavy fleece pajama pants, one pair of flannel and one pair of sleep shorts
  • underwear (20 pairs) – I firmly believe you can never have too many clean underwear options. Also I like to go for ridiculously long amounts of time without doing laundry
  • socks (hopefully enough and in an acceptable combination of short, tall and workout) – I don’t wear socks in the summer, love them in the winter, bring ones that will keep you warm
  • mittens – The problem isn’t so much being cold outside, it’s being cold inside
  • gloves – thin ones you can work or write in
  • fingerless gloves – love them!
  • warm hat – worn constantly in training, usually inside
  • scarves (2) – if you don’t have one you like at home, they are widely available here – nice big drapey fashion scarves that can double as blankets or pillows, I wouldn’t bother with a knitted winter scarf

Gear

  • sleeping bag – super great if you are cold or traveling
  • sleeping bag liner – like a sheet for your sleeping bag – during the summer I just travel with this if I’m visiting another volunteer
  • towel – mine is a large or extra large quick-dry thing that packs nicely
  • pillow case
  • pocket knives (2) – mine have screwdriver attachments on them, which is what I use them mostly for
  • silverware kit – this is a spoon/fork/knife combination that folds up, I haven’t really used it much, but I wouldn’t say it’s a complete waste
  • headlamp (2) – I love these for reading at night, midnight bathroom trips
  • flashlight
  • umbrella – hopelessly broke during training. It rained a ton. It kept me kind of dry. If you have space bring one, but don’t expect it to survive the winds.
  • Scissors – small to pack, good for art projects
  • markers – Crayola is my most favorite thing in the world
  • Nalgene bottle – no, I lied, this is my most favorite thing in the world. I bring it everywhere. In the summer I drink about 5 a day. Also, Moroccan custom is to share a water glass for the entire table, so if you don’t want to feel like you’re monopolizing the water, you can bring your own.
  • Sunglasses – there is a lot of sun in this country
  • extra pair of regular glasses – required by Peace Corps
  • earrings – nothing that you’re afraid of losing

Toiletries

  • 3 months of medication – you start getting your prescriptions from Peace Corps at the end of training
  • hair ties
  • deodorant – deodorant here is a bit strange, so if you’re in love with a particular kind, bring several sticks of it
  • shampoo (travel size) – shampoo and other toiletries are widely available here
  • conditioner (travel size)
  • lotion
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrushes – I did bring several extra toothbrushes with me
  • hairbrush
  • floss
  • razors – if you like a particular kind of razor, bring extras
  • nail clippers
  • tweezers
  • Diva cup – this is among the top things I am glad I brought with me, makes everything so so SO much easier. Practice with it for a cycle or two before you leave.
  • sewing kit

Computer stuff

  • laptop and necessary software disks – don’t forget your software disks. Your computer might crash here and you want to get it up and running
  • Nook and necessary charging cord – I love my Nook.
  • electrical outlet adapter/converter set – if it works in Europe, it works here
  • camera – preserve the memories!
  • batteries and recharger – I brought rechargeable batteries and a charger, it’s kind of nice to not have to find out how to dispose of batteries
  • DVD/CD case (including four workout DVDs) – workout programs you can do indoors – they save my sanity

 

Stuff for me

  • journal
  • sketchbook
  • pencil case
  • pictures of home – they’re a fun thing to show to your host family – just make sure the pictures don’t show you or your family wearing shorts/tanktops or drinking
  • knitting needles in case – if you like to knit, Moroccan ladies will be absolutely thrilled to see you doing something domestic. Crochet hooks have been easy for me to find here, but knitting needles have not been

Cultural outreach items

  • host family gifts (2 sets) – I brought keychains and some other Michigan-themed items.
  • Bananagrams – games of any kind can be hard to find here – Uno is one that Moroccans love and can be played without English

Important paperwork

  • Peace Corps papers
  • immunization records

There’s my list. I think I stuck basically to it, but there might be some things that got thrown in last minute.

 

My top six items

  • computer
  • Nook
  • Diva Cup
  • Nalgene bottle
  • camera
  • recipe book

 

Top 5 Items I Wish I Had Brought

  • external hard drive for exchanging movies and such
  • Chaco sandals
  • set of measuring cups/spoons
  • address book with addresses of family/friends
  • more long skirts

 

 

 

Categories: In site, Morocco, Pre-departure | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Dec. 4, 2013 What (not) to wear…

December is here and while I normally would be very excited about the coming of Christmas, since I’m here in Morocco, my excitement now is more directed to the arrival of January. That will be my one-year “in-country” mark (from the day I stepped off the plane at the Casablanca airport) and the coming of the newest stage or training group of volunteers! If any of you guys are reading this, mrHababikum (welcome!) almost!

In December last year, I was in the middle of my packing frenzy, trying to figure out what to take, what I would need, what kind of clothing would make my life easier. Sadly I found the Peace Corps-provided description to be somewhat lacking in most instances and misleading in others, so I thought a blog with pictures showing what I wear in my site most of the time might be useful to women who are coming to Morocco for whatever reason.

First, a couple notes.

Much of what you wear as a female PCV here is determined by how liberal or conservative your current location is. Some sites are more conservative than others. In my site, for example, I’m comfortable wearing shirts that expose my forearms. In other sites that would be a no-go.

Usually, you’ll also want your hair pulled back if it’s long. It doesn’t need to be covered. Unless you want to, of course.

This is how my training group dressed during CBT. It was cold. Notice the hats, scarves, coats - worn inside all day every day. Also, fingerless gloves or thin ones that you can still write or type with are great.

This is how my training group dressed during CBT. It was cold. Notice the hats, scarves, coats – worn inside all day every day. Also, fingerless gloves or thin ones that you can still write or type with are great.

You’ll be arriving in winter, which means it will be cold, but likely not the kind of cold you’re used to. Houses and buildings all over the country are built out of concrete block and don’t have heating/insulation, so it’s usually colder inside than it is outside. And by cold, I mean you see your breath inside. I’m not sorry I brought a down vest and long underwear with me. I also brought my ginormous Columbia winter coat with a removable fleece liner, which I pretty much lived in during training.

That being said, summer will eventually come and teach you a new meaning of the word “hot,” so don’t skimp on light but covering hot-weather clothes.

And, of course, as you can probably tell from the following pictures, fashion is not my forte. I’m less concerned with looking good as with being able to go outside without drawing more stares than needed.

On to the pictures!

This is how I walked outside today to run errands around town. It's cold and rainy today.

This is how I walked outside today to run errands around town. It’s cold and rainy today.

It’s cool here, even in the south, now and I’m wearing pants, a sweater and scarf with sandals.

In many sites, women will want to make sure their shirts cover their butts, at least to the length of where a mini-skirt would fall. As you can see, my shirt here doesn’t quite make that, but since I’m wearing fairly baggy pants, I’m not as concerned. If I’m wearing my jeans, which are much tighter, I wear something that covers my rear.

Sundresses are wonderful for covering up your rear. I brought several with me and use them quite a bit.

Sundresses are wonderful for covering up your rear. I brought several with me and use them quite a bit.

A good option for butt covering are either long shirts or a sundress/skirt that you can wear over a shirt. I went to the local thrift store and stocked up. Also, long cardigans are a good option.

Neck lines in my site are pretty high. Usually I try to go with less than a hand width of skin showing or I put on a scarf.

Winter, of course, is cold, so covering up is something you are compelled to do to keep from shivering. In the summer, however, my site is regularly over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with other sites getting even hotter. You still have to cover up.

My typical summer outfit: ankle-length skirt, light button down to cover my arms.

My typical summer outfit: ankle-length skirt, light button down to cover my arms.

For your own sanity, bring linen pants. They’re light and more bearable than jeans. Also, ankle-length skirts.

Peace Corps information somewhere told me that below the knee skirts would be acceptable here, so I brought several mid-shin skirts for summer wear.

Bad summer outfit: skirt shows my shins, upper arms are uncovered.

Bad summer outfit: skirt shows my shins, upper arms are uncovered.

Wrong.

In my site, it’s to the ankle or people will give you some raised eyebrows. If I could change anything about what I packed, it would have been to not bring skirts that aren’t long enough. Also more linen pants.

This is better - a cardigan to cover the arms, leggings under the skirt. Still to hot for summer though. Just buy a longer skirt.

This is better – a cardigan to cover the arms, leggings under the skirt. Still to hot for summer though. Just buy a longer skirt.

The same goes with capri-length pants. They’re just not quite long enough. Some volunteers, however, are able to wear them, so it really kind of depends on your site.

T-shirt and cargo pants. Maybe some people can get away with it, but I wouldn't bank on it.

T-shirt and cargo pants. Maybe some people can get away with it, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

As for shirts, short sleeves are usually too short. I have gone out before in short sleeves, but ended up feeling to self-concious. Even a looser unisex t-shirt is just about an inch too short in the arms for me.

As a remedy, one of my favorite summer clothing items is a super loose and light button-down shirt that I tend to throw on over whatever t-shirt I’m wearing.

Footwear is much less of a problem. Moroccans in my site wear sandals all the time. I brought a pair of hiking boots (which got most of their use in training when it was muddy all the time), a pair of casual Mary Jane-style Keens, a pair of walking shoes, running/sport shoes, and a pair of Keen sandals.

All the shoes I brought with me. Back row from left - walking shoes, running shoes, hiking boots, Keen sandals. Front - Keen casual shoes.

All the shoes I brought with me. Back row from left – walking shoes, running shoes, hiking boots, Keen sandals. Front – Keen casual shoes.

I’m pretty happy with my shoe choices, except for the Keen sandals. I was planning to be tramping around in the mountains somewhere and thought I would need more toe protection. However, I’m in a city and don’t do much hiking. I wish I had gone for a pair of more open Chacos instead, because the Keens tend to collect rocks when I’m walking, forcing me to stop every so often to empty them out. But that’s personal preference.

I also brought a pair of cheap flip flops, one of which I lost while traveling to site. I’ve replaced them with a pair of lovely plastic Moroccan house shoes, which are widely available here in any color you can imagine.

Mine have flowers.

Mine have flowers.

My final piece of footwear was a pair of tall MukLuk slippers which are nice for sleeping in in the winter when you need six blankets on your bed to keep warm at night.

Knowing what I know now, I brought too much clothing. You will start wearing the same clothes for a week at a time just because you won’t be able to do laundry as much as you want. Everyone else does it. You can get by with fewer sets of clothes. And if not, you can just go buy some at the local souk for cheaper than you could in the US.

So that covers every-day outside wear. You should also bring an assortment of tank tops and light shorts that you can lounge around your house in. I never had indoor clothes in the US, but I sure do now. I’m planning to go through my packing list sometime in the next week to sort out what I’m glad I brought and what I wish I had left behind.

Categories: In site, Morocco, Pre-departure | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

The leaving post

And now we’ve come down to it. I knew this would be the hardest week, with Saturday and Sunday being the hardest days. I leave for Peace Corps staging in Philadelphia on Sunday, which is the day I leave home for the next two years. Today being Friday, I’m already feeling more than a bit weepy, or “having all the feelings” as my sister would say.

Feelings, of course, ranging from extreme excitement at going to Morocco all the way down to a deep sadness at leaving a place where I have greatly enjoyed living and my family, whom I love more than anything. Wishing I could just skip these next few days and go right to staging doesn’t make time travel any more of a possibility, and sadness has to be experienced and dealt with.

It’s ok, because even though I am sad to leave, Peace Corps is going to be awesome, simply because I am going to make it awesome. In the past few years, I’ve tried to latch on to the “positive thinking” mentality, one day deciding that my life would be great, and then it was. So far it’s been working and will continue to work no matter where I am.

It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to be excited. It’s ok to ask for help when you need it. It’s ok to be laughed at and make mistakes. If Frodo and Sam made it to Mordor and if Laura Ingalls and her family can cross half the country in a covered wagon, I can do this, no question.

While I’m waiting out “the hard week,” taking deep breaths on a regular basis, I’m also eating as much of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant – Border Grill for all you Marquette County people – as possible and doing things I enjoy, like watching old MGM movie musicals with my sister. Moses supposes his toeses are roses…

I have successfully fit all my desired items into my allotted suitcases, none of which even come close to the 50-pound per bag limit. If I’ve forgotten anything, besides important paperwork which I check and double check that I have every half hour or so, I’ll make due without it. I have to check into my flight tomorrow and print off that information.

My life in four bags.

My life in four bags.

I won’t say “I’m ready,” because how ready are you ever for brand new experiences? But I’m going, and that’s what matters.

Lost”
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
~ David Wagoner ~

Categories: Pre-departure | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Things are in the suitcase and I leave really really soon

At some point this week, I’ll be writing what is likely to be an emotionally-charged and heartfelt post about my imminent (4 DAYS WHAT CRAZY TALK) departure for Morocco, but as it’s way more fun to talk about packing, that’s what we’ll be doing for the time being.

Packing is hard. But also like a real-life game of Tetris, so I guess overall it’s been a good day.

Piling is my organizational method of choice.

Piling is my organizational method of choice.

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A few days ago I did a huge load of laundry and, when it was dry, folded everything and began sorting piles of clothing into what I wanted to take with me, the goal of the exercise being to either figure out how to fit everything I wanted to take with me into my bags or forcing myself to realize certain items simply will not be the most important in Morocco.

Limiting my choices are my Peace Corps baggage restrictions, which allow me two checked bags (with a combined total measurement of a certain amount of inches that I have decided to not worry so much about) that cannot weigh more than a total of 100 pounds (no more than 50 pounds per bag). Also, I get a carry-on and a personal item. As I am responsible for handling all my own luggage, my goal is also to see how little I can get away with packing because ,as anyone who has negotiated the Paris subway system with two rolling suitcases knows, less luggage is a genius idea.

So, checked bag No. 1 is my new hiking backpack (awesome Christmas gift from awesome parents!!). Bag No. 2 is the carry-on size rolling suitcase from my luggage set. Actual carry-on is a small-ish duffel bag. Personal item will be my school-sized backpack, which will also contain the purse I will be using during my trip.

Into those bags I have fit the following items. In about a year or so, I’ll endeavor to tell you which items I was glad I brought and which I had left behind.

Outerwear

  • Columbia jacket with removable fleece lining (wearing on the plane)
  • gloves
  • fingerless gloves
  • warm hat
  • scarves (2)
  • mittens

Shoes

  • hiking boots
  • Mary Jane-style shoes (wearing on plane)
  • hiking sandals
  • sneakers
  • flip flops
  • running shoes

Clothes

  • pants (4 pairs, one worn on plane)
  • skirts (6, all below the knee)
  • long sleeve shirts for layering (7?)
  • short sleeve shirts (4)
  • workout and pajama shirts (3)
  • button down shirts/blouses (8)
  • what are actually sun dresses but will serve to cover the butt for shirts that don’t already do so (4)
  • cardigans (6)
  • leggings (2)
  • tights (2)
  • long johns (2)
  • capris (2)
  • tank top (1)
  • bathing suit (2)
  • workout capris (1)
  • workout shorts (1)
  • running tights (1)
  • fleece pullover
  • sports bras (2)
  • regular bras (3 – black, white and pink-ish)
  • pajamas (3)
  • underwear (20 pairs)
  • socks (hopefully enough and in an acceptable combination of short, tall and workout)

Gear

  • sleeping bag
  • sleeping bag liner
  • towel
  • pillow case
  • pocket knives (2)
  • silverware kit
  • headlamp (2)
  • flashlight
  • umbrella
  • scissors
  • markers
  • Nalgene bottle
  • sunglasses
  • extra pair of regular glasses
  • earrings

Toiletries

  • 3 months of medication
  • hair ties
  • deodorant
  • shampoo (travel size)
  • conditioner (travel size)
  • lotion
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrushes
  • hairbrush
  • floss
  • razors
  • nail clippers
  • tweezers
  • Diva cup
  • sewing kit

Computer stuff

  • laptop and necessary software disks
  • Nook and necessary charging cord
  • electrical outlet adapter/converter set
  • camera
  • batteries and recharger
  • DVD/CD case (including four workout DVDs)

Stuff for me

  • journal
  • sketchbook
  • pencil case
  • pictures of home
  • knitting needles in case

Cultural outreach items

  • host family gifts (2 sets)
  • Bananagrams
  • story cubes
  • map of Michigan

Important paperwork

  • Peace Corps papers
  • immunization records

I feel like I estimated fairly well, since I haven’t had to pull too many things from my original piles. I’ve got my duffel bag and my hiking backpack pretty much full with the majority of my clothes – the duffel bag has several days’ worth of outfits in case something gets lost. The rolling suitcase will have the hiking boots and sandals, warmer weather clothing and other things I won’t need immediately, or at least it will once it’s full. And don’t worry, I’ll weigh everything before Sunday morning. I don’t want to be the volunteer stuck throwing things out because her bags are too heavy.

Also, I still need to procure some packable gifts for my host families. That’s my job for tomorrow.

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Staging information has arrived!

My staging information has arrived!!

Staging is kind of a pre-departure day-long meeting full of paperwork and information for Peace Corps invitees before they fly to their country of service. Lots of meeting new people, lots of safety information, lots of fun (maybe?).

The staging for the Morocco group is set for Philadelphia on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. As there are no flights from Marquette that leave early enough to get me there by the noon registration time, I’ll be flying out of Marquette on the day before, Sunday, and spending an extra night in the hotel. As a group we will then travel to New York via bus to catch our evening flight to Morocco.

I got an email from Peace Corps today requesting that I contact their travel agency immediately to set up my flight, which I did. Now I get to start organizing and packing and filling out paperwork in earnest! And also amassing all the various items I need for my trip.

And learning some more Arabic.

And finish Christmas shopping. It’s my last one here for a while, so I want to make it a good one.

Did I mention paperwork? Packing? Maybe once my brain calms down a bit.

new backpack

P.S. Shiny and awesome new hiking backpack is here! I love it!

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Packing, packing, packing

Actually, no, that’s misleading.

A more accurate description of my day’s activities would be “Thinking about Packing.” I don’t leave for over a month yet and haven’t received any flight information as of yet. Today I started combing through the Peace Corps-provided packing list for Morocco invitees, combining it with lists provided on blogs by current volunteers and the advice of several former Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) who were logged into Facebook at the time of my list-making. Thank you, Whitney!!

I’ve started entering the suggested items from my various sources into a spreadsheet, split into different sections based on clothing, luggage, gear, toiletries, and other items that may or may not be needed at some point during my two years in Morocco.

Progress has been made on the actual luggage front, however. I get to have two checked bags and a carry-on, with the two checked bags not weighing more than 100 pounds total and not more than 50 pounds each. I’ve decided, after a thorough reading of several blogs and thinking back on my study abroad in France which introduced me to the joys of attempting to wheel multiple suitcases at once, on one wheeled suitcase and a large hiking backpack for my checked items. Super excited about the backpack. Mom and Dad ( = most awesome parents EVAR) are buying me an Osprey Ariel 65 pack, which we ordered today, as a Christmas present. So if I have half my stuff strapped to my back, wheeling another suitcase shouldn’t be too bad. And I did order a backpack airplane cover so it doesn’t get destroyed in the travel process.

And for the carry-on, I’m thinking of purchasing a duffel bag (not a huge one). That will leave my school-sized backpack for my computer and any things I need right on the plane.

As much as clothing is the easiest thing to worry about, from what I’ve heard so far, it’s also the thing that’s easiest to take care of once you get to your country. And, surprisingly, cold weather clothing is the thing to bring. Morocco, you might think “Africa” or “desert” or “dang hot.” As the Peace Corps representative who left me a voicemail earlier this week said, “Think Alaska, not Africa.” I’m not sure that’s honestly taking into account how cold it can get in the Upper Peninsula, let alone Alaska, but the point is, it does get quite cold in Morocco, and as it’s often colder inside than outside, the key is warm clothes and layers. So I won’t be leaving behind my beloved Cuddl-Duds just yet, more like buying a few extra pairs.

If living in the far-northern reaches of Michigan has taught me anything, however, it’s how to dress to keep warm, so I’m pretty set on winter clothes. As far as summer clothes go, I figure I’d better be capable of buying clothes in country by the time I need some cooler items, so I’ll worry more about a summer wardrobe when I see what people actually wear in Morocco. I’ll bring a few items, of course, but I’m hoping to optimize my space by bringing some quality cold-weather items. And then hope I get placed somewhere in the mountains.

As far as shoes go, I’m pretty set. A nice pair of Keen “Mary Janes” that are comfortable for walking, but can be used for dressier outfits. A pair of nice walking shoes. A pair of Keen hiking sandals. Flip flops. Maybe some hiking boots? I haven’t decided yet. And I still need to buy a new pair of running shoes, as my current shoes are about to disintegrate.

That leaves a long list of toiletries that will need to be purchased shortly before leaving. And assembling my various electronics – definitely taking the computer along, plus an external hard drive, plus my camera.

And then gifts for host families – I’ll be staying with a family for the three months of training and then again for the initial few months at my site.

Once I get my full list made, I’ll post it and in a year or so, I’ll let you know what I actually used and what I wish I would have taken instead.

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