Preparations

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Preparing for Peace Corps is both simple and daunting. There are various tasks one must do to prepare such as:

•  application (resume, essay, interview)

•  read the required Peace Corps lessons and literature and complete some quizzes

•  have numerous medical exams and vaccinations

•  study the language you will be using; Duolingo is a Godsend for this task.

•  pack & store the items you will leave behind

•  tie up loose ends on projects, conversations, promises, etc.

•  gather supplies and pack it all into a small suitcase and duffel bag/backpack (say what??)

•  tie up loose ends on projects, conversations, promises, etc.

Everything has been fairly easy and straightforward to accomplish. The medical exams required signatures from attending physicians and that was at times, tricky. And there were so many tests required including one I’d rather not specify, but all seniors need them. But it was the simplest of tasks that stymied me: buying a raincoat and waterproof hiking shoes. They will be necessary during Guatemala’s long rainy season. The task made me ponder what the conditions might be like in the mountains during rainy season, and too much pondering is not a good thing. I posted a question on the Future Peace Corps Volunteers Facebook forum:

What kind of shoes/boots do you recommend getting for living in the western highlands of Guatemala? The volunteer job description says that there will be a lot of walking up and down mountains. I assume that means foot-paths or roads that can get muddy during rainy season. So I’ll get hiking boots and carry my work shoes in my backpack (right?) Anyone want to suggest a boot brand they recommend?

These were my two favorite answers because they brought me right back down to earth:

Emily in Uganda offered, “also, remember that they probably have gum boots available in country for really cheap. Don’t go broke before you get there.

Shawn in Micronesia replied, “Don’t buy anything too fancy looking. It’s better to have your footwear blend in with what the locals wear… ask the pcvs what is advisable for footwear… So wear what the locals wear, if they can walk through mountains with what they wear, then you shouldn’t have any issues either.

Even so, I didn’t want to go unprepared. Deciding to table the task, I told my daughter, “I’d rather buy a new Tibetan sound bowl instead of rain boots.” Fearful that I was serious she replied with sheer brevity, “Are you insane?”

Speaking of Tibetan bowls, I did buy myself a small, handmade Tibetan bowl to take with me. I lay down and place it on my upper chest and strike it with its leather-covered mallet. It is as good and healing as a meditation. It calms me and takes me to a place in-between waking and sleeping. I consider it a great addition to my personal wellness program.

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Anyway, when I caught myself overthinking it, I went back to relaxing and trusting that it would all work out. So, yeah, it all works out but sometimes you trip first. One day I bought what I thought was a raincoat from a trendy high-priced resale place. It was not a raincoat! but it was expensive. Eventually I found a sturdy raincoat that will allow me to have layers underneath for the cold mountain air.

As for the boots, the hard part was determining which brand and style would be good for me. I valued the good advice  I’d received in the FB posts but decided that at my age having comfortable feet will be a necessity, not a luxury. I’m less concerned with shoes for other occasions, but for hiking in rain I need to be wise. I finally decided upon Ahnu Sugarpine waterproof hiking shoes. What a relief! As I prepared to go to the camping store to buy them, my daughter said that she’d just met a woman that morning who wore a pair of Ahnu Sugarpines and raved about them. Apparently the woman’s friend had hiked all over Europe with the same shoes and had given them a glowing report. As a result, my daughter wanted to buy me a pair as a present. Uh, wait, what? Now I have my Sugarpines and they are sweet. God is good and so is my daughter!

So that’s my story, morning glory. As I write this, it’s only 18 days before take off! I  wonder what it’s been like for other Peace Corps Invitees as they prepare for departure?

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