Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snapshots of Service Project

My super cool friend Kim that I met on the blogosphere (and has willingly listened to all my woes via Skype) has started a super awesome project that I am lucky to be apart of! It's called "Snapshots of Service" and it is following 50 volunteers in 50 different cultures departing for their Peace Corps experience in 2011 (the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, are you getting the pattern yet?).

We will be sending two journals across the world from volunteer to volunteer, and twice during our service we will be filling out two pages of the journals with... whatever we want really! A reflection of our service, however we choose to translate it to paper. I am the Malawi representative :) It will be exciting to get the journal when it comes to me, to write in it and see what else is in there! The journal officially departs on its journey at the end of this month, with a PCT named Jessica who is going to Zambia! (which is right next to Malawi by the way) The journey is about to begin!

You can follow even more information about this amazing project at its very own blog, Snapshots of Service. I am so stoked to be apart of it!

(if you are a 2011 invitee out there, contact Kim on the blog if you want to join the project!)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Somebody in Malawi loves Bernard.

Bernard has been attending the Best Friends Furever daycare group twice weekly for about two weeks. He loves it! He gets to play outside for 6 hours a day with puppies in his puppy size group (the teenies!). It is great for him to be able to run outside so much because that is really all he wants out of life. So he has lots of new pup and people friends, is getting more than adequate exercise, and yeay, I can rest at ease knowing he will be attending while I am gone.

Bernard has to wear a collar at daycare- something he does not like to do at home, as he prefers to live his life a wild untamed puppy. Since his collar is kinda big and has several tags on it (jingly jingly jingly jingly) I wanted to get him a more lightweight one to wear to daycare so it wouldn't impede him running and running and running. Then I realize that I should get him a tag for the collar... with my sister's phone number on it, instead of mine :( It broke my heart just the littlest bit. My puppy!!! I mean, hopefully he won't ever be lost that someone would need to even look twice at his tag, but you know. It was like just another thing for really leaving him behind.

Luckily, I got him a tag that came with engraving on the front and back. So the front says "Bernard Angelo" and my sister's number. The back says "MY MOMMY LOVES ME!" as my little message to him and the world that... I love my dog. (I was originally going to write "My Mom is in Malawi" but then my mom and I agreed that that might be confusing if someone found him and thought that his only owner was in a different country... haha)

Catch Bernard on Best Friend Furever's PuppyCam this Friday morning at 9:30am-12pm, and 2:00-5pm!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's a Small World.

I really do believe that it is a small world. Or at least, that feeling the smallness of it makes the bigness of the world seem more manageable. And to help us both feel like the world is a little smaller while I am gone, I just made a "Keeping In Touch" tab on my blog which will have all the information and tips you need to be in touch with me. Currently it is still incomplete- but does include my mailing address for while I am in training (and mail will be the best way to be in touch with me while I am in training)!

This past Wednesday I met up for dinner (at a very delicious Lebanese place called The New Deal Cafe) with two girls who live in MD/DC who are a part of my Malawi training group!! Meaning we're all going to Malawi together in 32 days!! I couldn't even believe there were two other Malawi volunteers going with me in this area. SO COOL! Anyway, they are Kathi and Ilana and they are awesome and I am super happy they are in my group! It was great to meet up and talk some stuff out before going (like our many packing woes and expectations and excitations). And doing all that over Lebanese food made it even better :) They will both be Community Health volunteers like me, so cheers to our future HIV/AIDS work in Malawi over these next two years!

Not too long after I had this great dinner, I heard about a girl named Ellie from St. Mary's College (my alma mater) who is going to Malawi with me! Her story is a little different in that she was already serving with the Peace Corps in Niger. She had been there for 4 months when unfortunately the program had to be suspended and volunteers had to be evacuated for safety reasons. You can read about the program suspension by clicking here. All the volunteers got out safely, and they have a few different options of what to do next when an evacuation happens. Ellie was able to join our Malawi cohort! She sent me a facebook message and I am super excited that there will be another SMCM-er there. She also went to The Gambia during college so we have that in common. So we, by default, have all these cool bonds as a result of our very awesome school. I don't really see how the world can get any smaller!

This past weekend has been extremely amazing, and just another reason that I hope the smallness of the world stays in tact; Because I have a lot of really awesome people in my life who will be continuing their lives in America when I start mine in Malawi. Wah. On Friday, my gracious and wonderful friend Mike hosted a party in my honor at his apartment in Baltimore City, and then we went out to the crazy awesome REGGAE NIGHT that takes place every Friday on the 13th floor bar at the Belvedere Hotel. The music is live and awesome, and there is an amazing view of the city. I danced my feet off and the whole night was incredible. I really love my friends. (The next morning we got the "Best Breakfast in Baltimore" at Pete's Grille, a place I suggest to everyone in the area! Best way to end the friendtime :)

Yesterday, was my cousin Bobby's graduation party- at the 2nd oldest Italian restaurant in the USA (and the oldest one still owned by the same family), Ralph's! What I'm saying is, the restaurant is kind of a big deal and we have had many family parties there over the years (and also had tons and tons of delicious Italian food there as well obviously). It was great to see all of my extended family and celebrate Bobby's success, I am super proud of him- he is like my counterpart in the family because we are about the same age. I love my family (and Italian food) and it was so wonderful to be able to spend that time with them, and it makes me sad to think about the family parties I will miss out on in the next two years :( I actually had my welcome back party there after the first time I went to The Gambia, so who knows, maybe we'll all be back there again when I return in 2013.

This past weekend was so unbelievably great, and it really meant the world to me. These are memories I will never forget, and will keep my heart warm while I am serving in the Warm Heart of Africa! (okay that just sounded really cheesey but I thought and wrote "keep my heart warm" before I remembered that Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa. Gimme a break!) Just accept the smallness of the world people, and we will be in touch no matter where we are! <3

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Nard Dog.

So I have this extremely cute dog. Here he is-
See how cute? His name is Bernard. Yes, I named him after Andy Bernard from The Office, and his nickname is the Nard Dog. I have loved Ed Helms since he was on The Daily Show, and Andy Bernard was the greatest addition to the greatest show ever [THE OFFICE!!] and my dog deserved this punny name. (also, check out Ed Helms supporting the Peace Corps here).

But he's not just a name. Let me tell you the story of me acquiring this extremely adorable dog. It was October 2009. I was living alone and working fulltime in the area where I went to college. My sister texted me asking if I wanted a kitten, as she a friend of hers' cat was going to have some. I was like HELL NO, because I don't like cats. But then I thought... do I want a pet?!?! (besides my extremely awesome betta fish The Red Baron!) and came to the very quick realization that I did want one. So I quickly (and I swear rationally... or do I mean rash-ly?) made the decision to look for a pup to adopt- no puppies, and no dogs too young. Gotta get a dog with his shiz together! So I went to and saw a picture of my adorable dog, smiling as he is in the picture above. His background is a mystery, he is probably between 5 and 8 years old... yes, he is an adorable mystery. And such a sweetie! I sent in my application to adopt him, and 4 days later he was in my apartment, hangin' around like he belonged there (he did).

Now, when I got this dog, I was not anticipating joining the Peace Corps anytime soon- nor did I anticipate that two months later I would be getting a letter from my organization letting me know that the funding for my position would not be renewed and I would be getting laid off within the next 9 months or sooner. AYYOO! Not cool. But by then me and Bernard were BFF, and he likes to travel (i.e. ride in the car, go anywhere, do anything, meet anyone) so I figured whatever adventure was going to happen next, he was game for coming along.

When I finally got laid off (June2010), that summer I was thinking of what to do next and started thinking about Peace Corps. Literally the only thing keeping me from immediately turning in my application was my pup!! And that was the first thing that most people asked when I said I was thinking about applying (Bernard is relatively famous). He was my main reservation. But my sister Kara (who Bernard will be living with while I am away) really put it in my head that now was the time in my life to do Peace Corps, and so I should. So I sent in my application, knowing that I would still have awhile with him before I left.

Now I really can't believe that me and my pup will be apart so soon. There is so much just weighing on my heart. Today, Bernard got a haircut and I won't see him in his overgrown fluffpup stage in person again until.... who knows when.
Overgrown Fluff Pup:

Cleaned Up New Pup/Gansta Gangst:

I love him. And I would probably be more concerned about leaving him if my family wasn't 350% dog people (I like to refer to us as EXTREME DOG PEOPLE! We really are) and if so many of my friends didn't truly love and care about his wellbeing. I know he will be fine. I really can't dwell on it anymore. Because I just have to go! It's my time. and I will be back to snuggle and watch The Office with him until the end of time so... no worries.

Friday my sister and I are going to check out a doggie daycare that Bernard may attend part time after I go, so he can get out of the house and socialize. Something else that will surely put my heart at ease.

(I doubt these will be the last pictures of Bernard on this blog, so I hope you think he's as cute as I do)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brain Melt.

I have a very serious case of brain melting. It means that... my brain is melting. It is because I have wayyy too many things to think about. Such as:

  • Packing List- I should make a packing list. It is mostly in my head. But I have been perusing other PC Malawi blogs and our facebook group trying to think of all the perfect things to bring. But a physically written down list... would be incredibly clutch. I could use that clutch move right now.
  • Going thru my things- I really feel as though I should go thru everything I own. And as far as I can tell, this seems to be something that all PCVs do so... I should really do it. I have been kind of half doing... not spending long periods of time, just seeing things and either throwing them away or separating them from my PC stuff. But I'm scared of it... I have too much stuff. I wish I had so much less... and I could have less, if I went thru it and gave it all away... catch 22.
  • finishing going over the Chichewa lessons... and then doing that about 10000x.
  • LEAVING FOR TWO YEARS AND MISSING EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING WAH (look for the upcoming post dedicated to my extremely adorable dog that I will hopefully not die without)

There's more, but my brain is so melty I can't even write. There are things that I am thinking about and kind of doing- making plans with all my friends and loved ones. This is making me extremely busy (in addition to work) and therefore makes it easy to put off packing/going thru crap. I like my friends WAYY better than I like my crap.

I also did start shopping for things I know I don't have and need. I got some Macabi skirts (they just came in the mail, they are SO COOL) with the PCV discount and I can tell they are going to be really useful- I wish I had them when I was in The Gambia! I got my North Face pro deal as well, so I did some shopping on there too, but still need to do some more. Whenever I shop I feel nervous... because I want to buy the right stuff and because I still kind of can't believe this is happening, as excited as I am. But yeah, still a step in the right direction!

I am trying to keep up with a good workout regime- although I feel like I am falling a little behind as my brain is melting with all of this other stuff- my body just gets tired from the brainmelt. But I started doing the 100 push up challenge and the 200 crunches challenge, so I can say that I am sore from that. I only just finished Week 1, and having never been a person who did push ups or crunches to work out before, it is at least a diversification of my workout for now! I will miss my gym membership when I am gone, but at least I will have something to do in my hut. I figure I will work on doing squats when I get to Malawi... I'm not so bored yet that I want to do squats on my own.

So hopefully, by staging.... I will have the most perfectly packed bags ever, and be able to do 100 push ups to impress my new PCT (Peace Corps Trainee) friends. Surely that will be the best ice breaker ever.

p.s. (I really am trying to relax about packing- without relaxing so much that I don't pack. My PCV friend Mike said by the time you get to staging nobody cares about what anybody packed- just don't forget duct tape. So hopefully this will become my perspective and I won't forget duct tape!)

p.p.s. Got my dental clearance finally!

Monday, January 3, 2011


By this Wednesday, everything I need to turn in will really be into the Peace Corps.

Tomorrow, I will be completing my dental forms and they will be sent in their beautiful next day FEDEX dental envelope to the Office of Medical Services. The dentist was totally understanding and made time for me to get done anything I needed tomorrow, in addition to a super awesome cleaning. When I get my final dental clearance, I am sending them a thank you card.

Of course my passport photos were wrong- because I was a wearing a headband, dammit. So after my dentist appointment, I'll be getting new photos to sent to the passport people as well.

Wednesday, I get the results of my PPD test (I was instructed to do this after my invitation because of my participation in the Rosslyn project). God willing, I don't have TB...

but I have a feeling there will be no hiccups in this last little bit of stuff I have to send off. And then I can really feel clear headed going thru my things and getting more things I need to take abroad with me. Needless to say... WOOOHOOO!!!!!!

(hey other invitees out there... besides a travel backpack, what kind of luggage are you thinking about bringing?? I have like a million questions and I had burdening them all on the people in my facebook group, haha... but seriously. Help. :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I can hardly believe that it is a new year- or that I will be spending most of this year serving with Peace Corps in MALAWI!!! I can't wait to go. Just the change from 2010 to 2011 makes it seem so much closer... and it is!! 7 weeks and 4 days until staging... about that packing list... (I did get the pro-deal discount with Osprey, and just sent them an email asking about travel packs, so hey, I'm getting there!!)

I had a really wonderful new years. I spent new years' eve and most of new years day with my group of friends from high school. They make me laugh so much and I'm not sure I've ever laughed so much in 24 hours. They are a group of people that are so important to me and I will really miss them when I am gone. But never fail- I nominated two of them to be in charge of the "Don't Forget About Renee" committee. And my friend Mike who is a teacher- his class is going to be my correspondence match with the Worldwise Schools program (click to learn more)! It will be a cool way for us to keep in touch. And I've already planned a big night out in Baltimore before I go with all these peoples and more, so... it ain't my last hurrah just yet.

The fates aligned earlier today when I caught my Lesotho volunteer friend Mike on SKYPE! He happened to be on vacation in Capetown, South Africa at an internet cafe logged onto skype at the exact time that I logged onto Skype this morning. We were able to have a lovely video conversation and it was so nice to catch up- and so happy since we probably won't be able to video skype again.... until who knows when. He is planning on visiting Malawi when he COS's (close of service) in August 2012. So it will be awhile before I see him again, but it will be cool for us to be hanging out in Africa too.

I hope all of your new year is starting out just as wonderful!