Thursday, March 26, 2015

Reporting for Duty

I am medically cleared and ready to go to my post. I got my itinerary and will be leaving Sunday morning. It will be an incredibly long day as I leave here at 10am, get into Jersey by 11:15, fly out at 6pm and land in Austria 8:30am (about 2am here) and after a 4 hour layover there, arrive in Albania at 2:20 pm. (9:20 am our time).
Yesterday I re-packed, cleaned and got another hair cut, thinking I was shipping out today. Now I'll settle in to wait for the next big leaving.
I've been keeping up with my comrades in-country and they all seem pretty content right about now. No sense in complaining anyway. We've all signed on to serve and serve we will.
"Serve where Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service". (Peace Corps Expectation #3) From everything I've read so far the most difficult thing to get used to is the cold (indoors). No one has central heating.
See you in Albania! Mirupafshim! (Goodbye)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Acer Laptops are the Pits

SO, I bought a new mini-laptop last year in anticipation of returning to the Peace Corps. I needed something small and light for travelling so I bought an Acer, which I have really enjoyed. However, 6 months after the purchase, I began to experience problems with the USB ports. I thought the problem was in the mouse but I went through 3 of them and then the ports just pooped out completely. I sent the laptop in for repairs and it came back fine, but I had a weird feeling that this wasn't the end of it. (I had asked them to replace the computer but they refused) Here it is, 6 months later and sure enough, mouse #4 died and I am beginning to experience a feeling of dread. SO, Mouse #5 is on the computer so let's see how long it will last.
Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I bought a new Dell today (what I should have bought in the first place) and it will be here Wednesday. I own 2 other Dells...a laptop and a desktop and both are still in good working order...8 years later.
I should have known better...I am a dumb-ass.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Turning the Corner

I feel pretty good today and think I have finally turned the corner with this Shingles virus. The debilitating pain is now sporadic and the rash seems to have stopped spreading. I am really lucky to have caught this early, otherwise it might have been a very long and traumatic illness.
I've been reading the Facebook posts of my fellow trainees and they all seem to be very happy and content. I'm glad that they can experience these first days of training all together as one group. The process of bonding is a wonderful time and they will be a stronger group for it. Unfortunately, I am missing this time with them but at the same time, I am really grateful that I will be able to join them soon. We have a great group dynamic...far different than the one I experienced when I went to Ukraine. Perhaps it is because this is a much smaller group (55 as opposed to 106) and a longer staging time (4 days as opposed to 2). We also have 10 folks in the group over 50...hooray! I love this. There were only 4 of us over 50 who went to Ukraine.
I wish them well in their new adventures and hope to see them all very soon.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Photos from Staging

Staging is where all the new volunteers gather together for a few days worth of orientation and training. I met a bunch of really great people, including the director of the Peace Corps, Carrie Hessler-Radelet. She's a really down-to-earth person who genuinely cares about our mission. I admire her greatly. Here are a few moments from the last few days.
Albania Group 18 with the director (Blonde woman with her hand on my shoulder)
Out to dinner at the famous Reading Terminal Market


Diane, me, Silke, Sue, Adrian, Cristin and Catherine

Me, Sarah, Carrie, Name?, Alyssa and Jake

Alison and Ron


Smiling Nate (day of departure)

 Me and Alyssa

Blurry photo of me and Carrie Hessler-Radelet

Wonderful Kyle (Country desk officer, Peace Corps)

Beautiful and fun Grace

Super-cool Michael

Doing things the hard way...Again.

Today I write to you from.....not Albania. Yes, you heard me correctly. My group flew out of JFK in NY without me on Saturday morning while I went to the Philadelphia airport to try to get a plane home. Key word here is TRY. So, let me back-track a bit.
On Wednesday last I got to Philly okay and met up with the group of folks who will be traveling with me to Albania. There are 55 in all. It was a great start, beginning with my roommate at the hotel, a woman I have been digitally writing and conversing with prior to our meeting in Philly. Sue is a lovely person and I'm lucky to have met her. We made the rounds in the hotel during PC registration and got to know a lot of really great people. (Our group has a great dynamic and I'm super excited to serve with them). But I digress here.
Anyway, on the plane over I had a pain in my ribs. Not screaming pain, but a discomfort I can only associate with severe bruising. When I got to my room I looked at my ribs expecting to see a bruise but found nothing. I shrugged it off, and subsequently the pain got worse. The follow day during training, I was in the girls room inspecting my ribs and spotted a rash just as another trainee came in and asked if I had Shingles. I told her I shouldn't because I had been vaccinated twice in my lifetime for Chickenpox, the last time being in 2010 when I got a booster of the Varicella vaccine to go into the PC the first time. Later that night Sue suggested that I go see a doctor because her friend had a similar case and said that the earlier Shingles is caught the better. Following her brilliant suggestion I contacted my PC rep at the hotel and over the next few hours we went to the emergency room and a 24 hour pharmacy. I got into bed at 1 AM, exhausted and fearful that I wouldn't be able to leave for Albania with my group...which is exactly what happened. Because of this diagnosis of Shingles, I am now on medical hold and should be able to return to my group once it's cleared up...hopefully within a few weeks.
Side note: The doctor in the ER turned out the be a RPCV...Albania group 9! (Insert Twilight Zone music here, please).
So, getting back to the comment on my TRYing to get a flight home on Saturday. PC booked me a $700 flight to Providence...yes, you did hear that correctly. Last minute flights do cost lots and lots of money. Before I checked out of the hotel, my PC advocate told me he got a text from the airline saying the flight was delayed by 2 hours. No problem. I had to check out anyway and everyone had left for Albania 2 hours previously (that was hard for me) so I figured I would go the airport, have a nice lunch, and then catch my plane home.
That's not what happened.
After waiting for about 3 hours, my flight was cancelled and there wouldn't be another one until the next morning. Well, if you have ever known the pain of Shingles, you'd probably be like me and start crying then and there because all you want to do is to go home and go to bed in familiar surroundings. But alas, this was not going to happen so I stood in line with the rest of the passengers and booked a new one. At the same time I was on the phone with PC who set about trying to find me a place to sleep for the night. Seeing that it was a Saturday night it seems they had quite a tough time trying to find me a hotel room.
Of course, I had no way to get at my luggage either so this meant I had nothing but the clothes on my back and no toothbrush. However, I DID have my laptop, some money and my pills so what the hell...I was so tired and in so much pain at this point I didn't care. US Air gave me a little toiletry kit for my troubles down in baggage claim, and this is where I sat for the next hour or so waiting for confirmation that I would indeed be able to sleep in a bed and not on the floor of the airport. 
One thing I knew for sure, and remembered from the last time I served, Peace Corps always has your back and this time was no different. They booked me into a beautiful hotel room in the airport Hampton Inn and I slept well for the first time in 3 nights.
Yesterday morning I arrived home without incident and in good time from Philly. Mom picked me up, Miss Mouse greeted me at the door, and I am now living in a sort of limbo. Today I will go to the doctor to have her assess my situation. There is nothing to do now but wait. 
One last thing: To all my loyal readers...does this scenario seem familiar to you? Do you remember my other "life-changing" gig in Romania? If not, or if you are perhaps a new follower, please let me redirect you to a blog post from the Paper Girls Studio blog.
http://papergirlsstudio.blogspot.com/2010/11/in-my-dirty-hospital-johnny.html
Enough said for now.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Last Day

Today was my last day at work. I should have been screaming from the rooftops but instead I am feeling so sad about having to say goodbye to so many good folks. To my wonderful colleagues who always showed me respect and kindness...thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will remember each and every one of you.
I will also really miss the ladies I do arts and crafts with. They made me laugh everyday, and showed me a new appreciation for the silly things in life. Today was different though. Today, they made me cry. It was so hard to say goodbye, especially knowing that one day they will forget me. But I will always remember them. Always.

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Baby it's Cold Outside"

...anyone remember the song? I think it was a duet sung by Kate Smith and Louis Armstrong. We began the day at 23 degrees below 0...Fahrenheit, that is. After the wind died down I went outside to re-shovel our path in the backyard. Siberia, indeed.