The Purge

I’ve started packing!

I have three piles – what I’m bringing, what I want to keep beyond my service, and the ???? pile to give away or trash. It is truly amazing how much stuff I have accumulated in only 3ish years since I’ve moved back in with my parents.

Since November I’ve been buying things here and there that I knew I’d need for Ethiopia (a fantastic backpack – Osprey Nova 33 from REI – (10/10 would recommend), packable solar lanterns, a super lightweight suitcase (I caught a great deal on that one, thank you Marshalls!)…and so many ebooks. I’ve been tossing everything into a bag in the corner of my room, and forgetting about it, so the time has now come to pull it all out and deal with it.

I guess I enjoy packing? If you ask my sister or friends, they’d probably say I obsess over packing. That is probably true, but what it really is, is that I have to spend a lot of time packing to make sure I don’t over pack. (I have a latent tendency to stop thinking critically and just throw anything into my suitcase that I might need in a panic…it’s terrible. It’s an unfortunate habit I picked up from my mom.)

In 2005 we went to visit our family in Hawaii for three weeks. Judging from the luggage she packed, you would have thought we were moving there in an incredibly inefficient manner. It was embarassingly awful. We had a full medical kit – cough syrup, Advil, medical tape, several different kinds of bandaids and gauze…..No one in our family was sick at the time. I think we had enough clothes for a month, all of us. And there was a washer and dryer in the house where we stayed.


Another time we went camping for two-ish nights? Maybe three? I think we had the entire contents of our kitchen with us. She certainly brought a full pot and pan set, and many types of lunchmeat. (I’m definitely not complaining about the food – thats a habit I’ve picked up and I’m ok with. I always have a granola bar on me and it’s saved me more times than I can count. I’ll find myself lost in my to-do list for the 5th time in 20mins, and realize it’s 2:30pm and I forgot to eat breakfast or lunch.)

Anyway, I spread everything that is definitely going with me to Ethiopia on the living room floor and became immediately overwhelmed. Luciano made himself right at home in the middle of everything while I stared at the mess and tried not to panic.

And then I went on a week long camping trip and ignored it all for a week.

(Just kidding. Actually, I went on the camping trip and thought about it all week.)

So now I’m home again. Facing the pile with a clearer head thanks to being in nature. I have always felt at home in the woods, and this past week was no exception. I’m so grateful to the KWS class of 2017 for welcoming me along on their trip. If any of you are reading this – you are amazing, and I wish you the knowledge that following your heart is always worth it, you are always stronger than you think, and for major decisions, your voice should always be the loudest voice in your head.

T minus 21 days….here it comes!


A Few Random Thoughts


While I never actually doubted that I’d be cleared, it was still an enormous relief to receive that email.

Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative has lost it’s branding, however from all I’ve been able to gather it is just an empty, petty PR move by the current administration to erase the Obama legacy. Sorry dude, it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. The content, training and emphasis on gender equity in the education sector of the Peace Corps will stay.

I spent the last week with the 6th grade of the Kimberton Waldorf School helping to chaperone their trip to Kroka – an amazing community where “wilderness meets consciousness” in Marlowe, NH. It was a gift of an experience for many reasons. The simplest being that I was able to spend a week with little to no running water and no electricity. I was able to step into a completely new environment and take that emotional roller coaster of feeling out a new life for a week – and then come home and hug my dog.


Something Important to note…

world-map-painted-with-watercolors_G1Vve6c__LAn important disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Ethiopian Government.

i.e. Everything posted here has been filtered through my world view, and is based on my opinions.

All photos are mine, are public domain, or have the source cited.


Of Med Clearance and Vaccines

Two posts in a month? What is this madness?

Six doctor’s visits, eight vials of blood, a new pair of glasses, full dental ex-rays and over 130 pages of paper later…and my medical paperwork is finally in.

A month late.


Having a nurse for a mother is helpful for understanding medical things, but knowledge dissuades fear. Since I wasn’t scared of it, I thought it would be easier and quicker than it was. Oops.

I headed into my PCP appointment thinking that I would be walking out of that appointment with my paperwork completed. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Even though I told my doctor the appointment was for Peace Corps medical clearance and a physical….she was still completely blindsided. (She clearly had never completed a Peace Corps medical clearance packet before.) I was blindsided because I thought I had an appointment with a doctor I knew…so it was uncomfortable all around.

As a nice contrast, getting my Yellow Fever vaccine was WONDERFUL. The woman who gave it had helped many people going into the Peace Corps before. Even better, the general fee ($135) was waived. If you’re in the Philadelphia/Main Line – ish Area looking for travel vaccines – I highly recommend the U Penn travel clinic. Parking was tough, but everything else was great.


If you’re working on your medical clearance for Peace Corps and somehow found my blog – things I wish I knew:

  1. You need your passport to get your Yellow Fever Vaccine. A photo copy of it works.
  2. Book your doctor’s appointment in advance. Wayyyy in advance. At least a month before everything is due.          -_-
  3. If your health insurance covers lab tests, you’re set. Don’t even worry about trying to find your childhood vaccine records. Just get the blood tests.
  4. It is worth it to call around asking dentist’s offices whether they give people discounts if they’re headed into the Peace Corps. But again, book appointments early.
  5. The amount of paperwork is OVERWHELMING, and fairly redundant. Take a breath, a few hours, and pour a glass of wine. Then try and figure everything out.
  6. PDFsam Basic – a free .pdf editing software. Super helpful for pulling together all the scans into one document to submit everything.



Happy International Women’s Day!

Only one day feels so inadequate; just like only a month for Black History??

Today has been a good day to sit and think. (And write.) And as always, drink copious amounts of coffee.

This past year I had an epiphany/realization/re commitment to being unapologetically intersectional feminist. I’ve always been a self-labeled feminist, but my idea of what that means has become clearer, and more inclusive over the years. (When I was seven, I simply wanted all the women to win at jeopardy, and all the princesses to slay dragons a la The Hero and the Crown – Robin McKinley; or even save the princes like in Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine.)

Sometimes even I am questioning why I’ve just signed up for 2.5ish years in a country that will ask me to give up some of my freedoms as an unmarried woman. The only answer I have is that “it’s worth it”. Whatever “it” is – this experience I’m on the edge of.

It feels like I’m about to jump out of an airplane for the first time, hoping that the parachute in my bag is packed correctly. I know I’ll be able to pull the handle to open the chute,  but I’m hoping I have the guts to jump out of the plane with my eyes open, enjoying the ride. I’ve read stories of other people’s experiences, I’ve heard about the common challenges, I’ve visited places without running water or electricity for a few weeks; but there’s really nothing that can prepare me for what this transition is going to be like. I’m coming to terms with that. I’ve mostly made peace with that.

I’m really trying.

Anyway, in honor of International Women’s Day, to celebrate small victories, here are some women breaking ceilings that I didn’t hear enough about.


Catherine Cortez Masto is in the Senate representing Nevada. She’s the first Latina senator, and she’s the granddughter of a Mexican immigrant.

(photo credit: NBC)


Tammi Duckworth, in the Senate for Illinois – she’s the first female senator who has seen combat, and the first Thai-American woman ever elected to Congress.


Kamala Harris – She is only the second African-American woman ever elected to the Senate. Representing California, she’s also the first Indian-American senator. Before being elected to the Senate, she served as Attorney-General for CA.

01222016-Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal is representing Washington State, and she’s the first Indian American in the House. She immigrated to the US at 16.

(photo credit – Seattle Times)


Stephanie Murphy is the first Vietnamese-American woman in the House of Representatives, representing Florida.

Other notable women I enjoy following:

Samantha Bee, because everything.

Ana Navarro, Republican Strategist, because she’s a fearless leader in calling Trump on his bullsh*t. Almost everyone else I follow, I follow because I agree with them on policy. She is very clear about what are policy disagreements between political parties, and what are human rights, civil rights, basic common decency and constitutional rights being trampled.

Valarie Kaur – powerful, powerful speaker. If you are ever feeling hopeless, watch her on YouTube.

There are so many more – from Audre Lourde to Roxane Gay; Linda Sarsour to Caitlin Moran. And Jenny Lawson. (The book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened made me sob from laughter. Sobbing. Tears running down my cheeks, clutching my stomach from laughter. Reading that book is some serious self-care.)

The list is endless. So I’ll leave you with a playlist of inspiring TED Talks, if you’re interested.


Tis the Season of Paperwork

The past few weeks have been a rollercoaster – emotionally, physically, and professionally. And then Thanksgiving came along, with endless food, and good family. We were a small  but wonderful group this year. I had the opportunity to handwash a lot of dishes, and had a brilliant flashback to my childhood.

When I was little, my mom would set me chores to do that would take  f o r e v e r. I think most kids feel this way, but I was the human interpretation of a graph where the line approaches, but never actually reaches the horizontal axis. I would get started, and then half- or three-quarters of the way through my task, get completely side tracked. Productivity would come to a screeching halt.

When washing dishes as a kid, this meant that I would play with the bubbles, the faucet, and daydream. My mom would find me 90mins later with a few cups still to wash, and over half the bottle of soap gone. Washing the dishes on Thanksgiving brought me back to that peaceful daydreamy place. If only I could hide in that bubble forever.

Black Friday I worked 11 hours straight. There is absolutely no way to prepare for that onslaught of crazy. You just keep going and breathing, leaning on your co-workers emotionally (and physically), and drink as much coffee as your stomach will let you. I drank 36oz+ and wasn’t even buzzed. Yesterday was just as bad, but I survived the 13hrs of work. Today my body rebelled, and I was forced to take a day off. So here I am, finishing the post I started three weeks ago.

I was able to keep the opening sentence.

I am this otter. I want this Christmas to be wonderful, and cozy, and full of all the people I love. And I definitely want to stick my tongue out at all the cranky people.


As far as Peace Corps prep goes:

I’ve gotten fingerprinted and have some legal paperwork to send in. It’s on my to-do list for tomorrow. (For real though this time. It’s been on my to-do list for at least two weeks, but it’s happening tomorrow.)

I have a list of things to ask my doctor, once I figure out my health care. Again. And a handful of vaccinations I need. And a dental exam.

And then a long list of financial things to figure out.

It all gets overwhelming, fast. So here I am curled up on the sofa, trying to ignore the world outside my blanket. I want to be able to take care of everything, tie up all lose ends at once and pay off my bills so I’m free to hang out with friends, plan and pack….

It doesn’t work like that?


That’s why even the simplest thing – bringing my completed paperwork to FedEx – has been stuck on my to-do list for two weeks.

I need to get better at small steps. And being ok with those small steps.

And not get sidetracked by making endless bubbles.

One Last Time

Every job, every industry has idiosyncrasies – pros and cons – but I’d argue (tiredly, over a cup of black coffee with two add shots) that there isn’t anything worse than working retail during the holidays.

I happen to have had the dubious pleasure of working at the King of Prussia mall – a “retail destination” – aka a really really big mall that most people get lost in, for 4 years. Book rush at a college with only one bookstore (looking at you Villanova) is pretty bad, frappy hour at a busy Starbucks comes close too, but in my biased opinion, Black Friday through to the second week in January at KOP mall is worse.

Tea in glass cups
*internal screaming commences*

It’s not a week you can gird your loins for, or a few hours each day that you just have to keep breathing through. It’s a hellish day that you can never quite recover from, where the music keeps grating, and just when you think “it’s getting better!”, you get slammed with angry people returning things they didn’t want and who are pissed they still hate their families just as much as they did last year. (The week after Christmas? Unequivocally worse than the week before Christmas – which is filled with people looking to buy something, anything, and who then get angry with the sales people that things are out of stock. New Years Eve is the real celebration for people in retail – it’s almost over!!!)

Prior to this, I’ve found it hard to write about retail because I’ve been “stuck” in it so long. It’s been a self-imposed “stuck”, but it’s been too depressing to spend time writing about it when I’m living it. I usually just want to recover during my free time with Netflix, my dog, several warm blankets and a mug of something that may or may not be alcoholic. Before I got back into my vocal training, this season was THE time to smoke. Now I just get jittery with caffeine.

This year though – this could possibly be the last holiday season ruined by working retail. This thought is so painfully hopeful, I’m having trouble trusting it. It’s like an ankle injury that’s been hurting for so long, you don’t want to put your weight down too fast on it – just in case it rolls again. It seems like a fantasy that’s too perfect to be real. Like Santa, or a good book-to-movie translation, or a thoughtful and respectful presidential debate.

(Side note – can we just vote already and get this done? As much as I love watching the late night talk shows – let’s just do this please.)

If you’re reading this and thinking “what??? it isn’t even Halloween??” good for you. You don’t work in customer service. My store put up Christmas things last week, and we weren’t even the first ones I’ve seen.

Anyway, last holiday season in retail – thinking about it I get a turning in my stomach, and a painful leap of joy in my heart. So to my fellow customer service workers who aren’t out yet, here is my oath:

I hereby promise to never forget my roots; to always be nice to sales people, to never sell them out to their managers, to always try to make their day better, and to never never never never ask them to check the mythical back closet for hidden inventory.

So one last time, one last season. Before I retire to my vine and fig tree.

And fly to Ethiopia (!!!!!)

Here we go.