Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sitting in Cincinnati, eating a Subway veggie patty and feeling loved. Thanks for everyone's well wishes & prayers!

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Official

Less that 24 hours to go! Hard to believe. I am enjoying my last hot showers, my comfy bed, full access to anything I need and technology while I have them. I decided this morning, while driving to work, that I won't miss my commute, cleaning my house, paying bills, the random stalker guy who calls my cell phone everyday, deadlines or meetings while I am gone.

There are of course lots of things I am sure to miss. Probably my friends and family most of all. I feel so blessed to have you all in my life. I know I am sometimes bad at expressing myself, and don't tell people the things I appreciate about them as often as I should, but you do mean a lot to me and I love you very much.

I have several schemes of how to update my blog in the wilderness but am not sure what will actually pan out. I will try to update you when I can but if you don't hear from me, don't worry, I'm out there somewhere and will fill you in when I return!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Can't believe I leave in two days. At noon I will start my malarial prophylaxis, time adjusted for the 8 hour time change so I will take it at 8pm every night when I get there. I will say goodbye to local friends and family this afternoon at our open house. I plan to collect the little odds and ends of things that still need to be packed and get them into my backpack. Tomorrow I have to work a half day. Now I wish there was a way to start the technology withdrawal process, but I think I will just have to go cold turkey on Tuesday.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Welcome Inspiration

I am currently in San Jose for the National Service Learning Conference. I had the opportunity to present a workshop yesterday and have been manning the YVC booth in the exhibit hall the rest of the time. I can escape the exhibit hall when it closes for the plenary sessions.

The main speakers for the morning session were three of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Since it's been almost 15 years since they reached their final refugee camp and a lot of them have been relocated, their stories have been told for awhile. (If you don't know much about them, I highly recommend watching the documentary - "God Grew Tired of Us".) I figured I would hear more of what I had already heard, however, they had some new words of encouragement and hope for the world that I found inspiring.

Here are these brave and strong men who have been through so much and they are standing up and saying that they are inspired by us, the attendees of the conference for trying to engage youth in the future of making the world a better place. It gave me a sense of what is to come in the next month - how people are grateful, hopeful and want to heal the world together.

I also just got to tear down the booth, as the exhibit hall is now closed for the conference. This means I get to attend a workshop about the science of malaria and what needs to be done to stop the epidemic in Africa. This comes at a good time for me, obviously, I start my anti-malarial drugs on Sunday.

I just thought it was cool how today I was given these two gifts of encouragement and knowledge at a time when I am getting a little anxious and trying to get through the days before I go.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Open House

So, if you want to come say bon voyage we are having an open house on Sunday night from 4-8pm at our house. I sent an invitation out on Facebook but maybe you read and we're not friends yet. Anyways, send me an e-mail if you need our address (tennis1grl@hotmail.com) and hope to see you there! We'll have some snacks and drinks and it will be casual.

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's the little things

I turned over the bill paying system to Brian yesterday. He didn't ask many questions, which always worries me, but I'm sure everything will turn out fine.

I switched over all the Netflix slots to Brian's queue.

I stopped my daily e-mails that come in from MSN Money, Groupon.com and MyPoints.

Things are winding up at work, instead of down, but there's not much I can do about that.

The greeting cards are made and labelled with mailing dates for people with birthdays while I am gone.

The time is ticking away.

One week from tomorrow...and I think I'll be ready!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Take 2 and 3 and...

First off, let me just say that I have had a longtime love of packing for trips. Maybe even just packing in general. When I was a kid, after the back-to-school shopping was done, I would pack and re-pack my backpack, pencil case and binders in the days and weeks leading up to going back to school. Anytime I was going on a trip I would make lists of what to bring. I typed them out on the Apple IIe when we got one and every computer thereafter.

Even now, when I get to go somewhere for work or pleasure, I love the whole process of packing and making sure I have everything I need. I follow some of my dad's advice to try and use everything, at least once, in order to justify having packed it. I have space bags and shoe bags and know how to pad the liquids to avoid leakage. I know that if I forget something I can always buy a replacement, but it is annoying to buy something you already have just because of an oversight. (I have spent many rainy days walking to meetings without an umbrella because I have three perfectly good ones at home in my closet.)

So, given my love and talent for successful packing, I have been putting off finally trying to get all my stuff into the bags I have for this trip because I already know several things going into it:
     1) I have too much stuff to bring. (Especially considering I have to bring my own shelter, bedding, mattress, medical clinic...)
     2) My bags have to be under the size and weight restrictions.
     3) I have a lot of uncollected items that will still need to get in there. (camera, chargers, cords, sunglasses, trip papers, iPod, etc.)

I packed all I could into the big bag and then Brian expertly squished all he could into my new backpack. (I abandoned the big backpack in the fear that I would have to check it anyways, as it exceeds the size dimensions.) There was still a pile on the floor (gifts for the children, my travel Settlers of Catan game, camping pillow, shirts, my two pairs of pants), plus the before-mentioned extra things. Hmm, I opted for a cup of tea and reading the paper before we tried again.

We took everything out of the big bag. We started trying to figure out how to do it better. I opted to start this blog post while Brian tried to reconfigure. He called in from the next room and asked what else I needed to bring. The big bag was miraculously able to gain 10 more pounds, lessening the backpacks weight and overcrowding, bringing the checked bag to exactly 44 pounds - my exact limit for Air Madagascar. The backpack is now only half full. Then Brian said, "Now you just have to hope they don't lose your bag because you won't have any clothes." I think I will cross that bridge when...well you know...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

No Squatting Allowed

Well, I guess my plans of hiding out in the Tana airport to avoid missing my morning flight to Fort Dauphin are not going to happen. I was told by the Azafady people that they close the airport at night and people can't sleep on the floor. They are booking me a room nearby instead.

Apparently I will be on the same flight from Paris as one of my co-volunteers. He is not one of the people I have heard back from via e-mail so I guess I will just have to see who seems like a Swedish chef in the waiting area. Several of the other volunteers will be on the morning flight to Fort Dauphin as well, so we will probably get to meet in the hotel before we depart the capital city.

It's hard to believe how soon I will be leaving. I will be in California presenting at a conference later this week so I only have two and half days left in the office. My goal for the weekend is to pack. I am gathering my last minute items and will hopefully be done by the weekend's close.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Last night was my last music team rehearsal at church before I go. I have been on the team for nine years and have sung pretty much every Sunday that I have been in town for over that time. My friend, Chris, pointed out that I will be missing six Sundays while I am gone. It got me to thinking about the other things I will miss while I am away and that things will go on without me.

I started planning this trip, where I would be far away and disconnected from everything I know, in order to have a break from the work I love. I feel at times that I could be more effective there if I had a chance to re-charge myself and get back in touch with why I do what I do in the first place. As I got further into the process I realized that I will really be reflecting on my whole life, not just the professional part. It's a little scary.

I have a journal (so cliche, isn't it) to bring and maybe I will use it for more than a daily log but I might not. I just want this trip to be what it needs to be. No forced agenda, no goals, heck, I might not even wear a watch.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

News and Clotheslines

November-April is the official cyclone season in Madagascar, just in case you were wondering. Apparently there was a tropical storm that hit the southeastern part of the island last Wednesday. 36 people have died and thousands more have been affected. Mudslides have taken out roads that has slowed and cut off emergency aid to parts of the country. Not sure if Fort Dauphin was hit or not but I haven't heard anything from Azafady, so maybe no news is good news.

The sun finally decided to join us in Kansas City today and I took full advantage of the 64 degree weather to treat my clothes with the insecticide. I went through most of the two bottles, I think 1 liter apiece.

I have enough left over for a pair of jeans and anything else I have room to throw in at the last minute. After treating you have to air clothes for two hours. Seeing as it is supposed to snow this weekend I hurried to get them all treated before the sun went down.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2 and 50

Well, I depart in two weeks from today and this is my 50th blog post. You lucky readers, getting to hear 50 random rants from me. Thanks for checking in on my progress. I hope to be able to keep you updated while "in the field". But it will only be once a week at the most. We are only scheduled to visit the town with the internet cafe weekly.

I am getting really excited but also a little anxious, which I suppose is normal. I am just looking forward to actually being there - laying in my tent (which means my bags made it, I made it and I found my way to where I need to be).

Monday, March 15, 2010


Our spare bedroom is a disaster. My goal over the weekend was to put all necessary objects into the "packing room". This included clothes (that still need to be treated), pocket knife, jacket - basically everything I need. I am trying to determine what is still missing. I picked up some individual packets of Gatorade powder on my way home from work today. In the middle of this post I grabbed a handful of clothespins and threw them in too. I also pre-washed my micro-fiber towel this weekend, as the tag suggested.

I think I still need to get some rope - not sure what for, but they suggested you bring "plenty" of it. Hmm, they also recently suggested that you pack a tent repair kit. I don't know about you, but in all my years of camping and backpacking I have never had to repair a tent. Even camping on the point on Eagle Island during a thunderstorm.

Looking into the room, I realize that I have a good start on things. I am going to pull out the Azafady "Survival Guide" and cross-check my stuff sometime this week. (If it's their list, does it count as me making a list?) I think I may have gone overboard with twenty pairs of clean underwear but we'll see what fits.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


When I tell people I am going to Africa they first ask where I'll be and then ask if Brian is going too. When I say no they look sad and say, "What will Brian do when you're gone?" I usually say, "Well, he'll work, hang out with friends and get movies I wouldn't like on Netflix."

When I asked him last night he said, "Cry all day and night and then cry some more."

This is unlikely, but I know he will be lonely. I was in his shoes four years ago when he was in grad school and had to take classes in Rochester, NY, the rest he had taken online. In order to get the concentration he wanted he needed to be there in person. He didn't want to go and leave me but I said it was only three months and we saw each other twice during that time. It's not like I would prefer to be apart, but I think people in a relationship still need their own space. To grow, learn and appreciate what they temporarily left behind. I will miss him too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

First Weigh In

So I packed my bag with all the necessary items that I have to bring no matter what - no clothes, no shoes, no camera or toiletries. The bag came to 29 pounds. Recalling my earlier post about weight restrictions for Air Madagascar, that means I have only 15 pounds left for all the items left out. I have to get the backpacking backpack on board for sure. I need my books, clothes, Frisbee, shoes, personal care items and gum to make the time live up to the latter part of "volunteering vacation" after all, right?

J’ai oubliĆ©.

To say it's been awhile since I properly used my French is a bit of an understatement. I had a few phrases come to my mind when we were struggling to communicate with people in Argentina a couple of years ago. Granted they of course spoke Spanish (where we spoke none) but French was probably still closer than English and I could recall how to get through some situations if only they spoke French.

I won't really need a lot of my French in Madagascar since I will only be in the capital city for a couple of days but I know a lot more of that language than Malagasy so I figured I would start where I could. My mom and dad gave me an English-Malagasy dictionary for Christmas and I have yet to crack the spine. I know that I really should learn a couple of things before I go. So, I will start on a couple things tonight. My plan is to repeat a few words and phrases over and over to myself while going through the packing pile and weeding through what I have in there and figure out what is missing.

I am also going to figure out which of our two sleeping bags is lighter and add that to the "necessities" pile for the first weigh in tonight. I really need to get going on this, so that's my goal for tonight. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The List is In!

Yeah! Finally got the list of my co-volunteers for my trip. 4 women, 2 men total. I am the lone American then there's a chef from Sweden, a student from England, an Irish student living in Spain, a photographer from Kuwait and a student from Kuwait. The are all doing a variety of the available programs. Everyone is spending at least two weeks doing the lemur project except for me. Can't wait to meet my new friends!

Monday, March 8, 2010


Monday has been a trip day without me planning it that way. It started out this morning with me following up with my insurance about their denial of my medical claim for my shots. I knew they wouldn't all be covered but at least the two flu shots should be. They explained that I couldn't put all items on the same line on the claim form (even though they were itemized correctly on the bill) and I would need to resubmit the form. Got that done after work and will mail tomorrow.

Then this afternoon I got an e-mail from Azafady saying they got my deposit transfer for my trip but that it was $50 below the minimum donation requirement. This was odd since I sent extra in case the exchange rate fluctuated between sending and receiving the funds. I was then reminded that there was an 8.65% fee for processing. So on $1150 that is enough to have me under. I will now have to contact Bank of America and try to put the difference on my debit card since the money is due tomorrow. Have been putting that call off all day.

Got home and my Settlers of Catan travel game came in the mail along with the books from the past volunteer who wants to send gifts back to the guides he had while there in the winter.

I pulled out my hiking backpack this weekend and have exciting plans to measure it to see if I can sneak it as my carry-on. I know, things are just really coming along. Three weeks from tomorrow...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Reading List

After brief consideration of borrowing or buying an electronic reader for unlimited reading possibilities I realized that the cost would far outweigh the benefit. Even if I found one to borrow the cost of the books would be almost the same as buying books and I would have none of the risk of having something happen to borrowed property. So, I ordered some paperbacks from Barnes & Noble to enjoy on my volunteering vacation. Here's what I'll be reading - you can read along if you want! :)

Friday, March 5, 2010


I was contacted by Azafady this morning to see if I would be willing to bring some gifts for a past volunteer to the guides he worked with on the project. I filled her in on my baggage restrictions but said that I would try - if the gifts are tiny it's no big deal but obviously I can't really stretch 44 pounds into accommodating all that I have let alone too much more.

It got me thinking that I should try to plan ahead and bring my own small gifts. (The postage to Madagascar is apparently outrageous which is why they try to send things with the volunteers.) I was trying to think of a good idea of gifts to bring that are small but meaningful. My love language is giving and receiving gifts so I definitely don't want to just bring a bunch of gummy bears to be consumed and forgotten. Hmm, what to bring? What represents me in a small gift? I'm stumped at the moment, mostly due to the heat going out in my hotel last night and the shivering in a ball didn't yield much sleep, but I am open to ideas if you've got any!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I was really excited today because I was supposed to get my pre-visit info with all the other participant's info. I did receive some more paperwork to fill out and some instructions on other things I need to try to fit into my suitcase (rope, drop cloth, 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner - wonder if I can make my own from what I have?). I got to approve my personal profile which is short and not very cool sounding, but whatever.

So now, everyone going needs to approve their profile before they can be sent out to the group. More waiting I guess. Something to look forward to for whenever it comes though!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

4 weeks to go!

With less than a month to go, I am still resisting the urge to make a list. Not having a list physically of course forces me to have one in my head. I am trying to sift through my brain at present to figure out what still needs to be done. I am currently in Michigan for work so I can't start sorting through the small mountain of items in the guest room to help me remember what is left to do.

I finally ordered the travel version of Settlers of Catan tonight. I should have plenty of time to hopefully learn better and play with the other participants after long days of tree planting. I also looked through a bunch of websites until I found the perfect, packable rain suit. (Mine is like the one to the left but is khaki instead of banana yellow.)

Last night I sent a message to Azafady about seeing if they knew who else was going to be on my trip and if I had satisfied all my requirements for them. I haven't heard anything back yet.

One thing I am looking to borrow is a hand held luggage weighing device. If anyone in K.C. is reading this and has one, let me know. I am planning on weighing all the must-have stuff I have already so I can factor in how much weight I have left over for clothes. Then I will pick those out and start the clothing spraying with the pesticide treatment. It is supposed to be warm this coming weekend so I should be able to do that outside.