Monday, June 9, 2008

Staging: Staged.

Staging ended today. I am an official Peace Corps Trainee. I don't know any more Swahili, but I'm pretty confident that the taxpayers will provide enough for some decent training. Word on PC Avenue is that training is physically exhaustive... 8AM - 6PM, six days a week. They came through with the PC concept of "walk around money," or as I have come to call it, "beer money." DC has been awesome!!

Turns out that the first obstacle has already risen for me. As I was registering yesterday (the first thing PCVs do with the PC), the first woman in the gamut of workers recognized my name and said, "Ohhh... you're Andrew."
"Yyyeahh..." I respond.
"You're a special situation."
"Uhh... okay."
"Haha, you look nervous."
"I'm having trouble with the standard situation. I don't know how I'm going to handle any special situations."
After a good laugh (read, she laughing and myself with a halfhearted grin on my face), she explained that I wouldn't be flying with all of the other volunteers when we head out tomorrow. Instead, I'll be getting a later flight and meeting them in Zurich after they have a layover in Frankfurt... definitely a plus for your's truly. I get to hang out in the hotel an extra two hours and, coincidentally, this allows me to pick up the package that was overnighted to me since I left my camera at the homestead. It just goes to show you that half of everything you do is luck and the other half is how you look while doing it. Turns out I'm damned lucky and damned good looking.

Until I get the official wording of the PC disclaimer, this one will have to do:
This blog is my personal work and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Peace Corps.

Now I'm immune, right? Maybe... but not as immune as I'll be tomorrow morning when I get vaccinated. Au revior!

Saturday, June 7, 2008


There we have it. That's what I'll be living with for the next two years, excluding a few medical items provided by the taxpayers. The above items are packed away into a hiking backpack, a wheeled piece of luggage and a carry-on backpack. In an amazing stroke of luck, my group is allowed to keep all of our luggage with us throughout training as opposed to leaving one at the Peace Corps office during our pre-service training (PST). That made packing and distributing weight soooo much easier... a fact much more appreciated as I found this out after the trial pack.

It's 1:15 AM and I'm typing away, avoiding some paperwork that is expected of me upon arrival. My flight departs from Columbus at 9:25 tomorrow morning and arrives an hour and a half later in Washington, DC. My country director sent me an itinerary for the first few days and, since the whole thing is busy and complicated, the gist is that we'll be getting to TZ on the evening of the 11th, doing some traveling and training, and meeting our host families on the 16th. Naturally, I'm nervous as hell. I hope they like Frank's Hot Sauce.

I'd post more, but it's going to be a long day tomorrow and for me to put up with it, I'll need a few hours of sleep. Take care everyone and I'll see you in a couple years!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

On roller coasters and waiting

Something funny happens when your only responsibility becomes watching weeks turn into days and days into hours, counting down to the beginning of the next two years. In my last post, I mentioned I couldn't compare these experiences to anything. However, after having nothing but time to think about this, I've come up with a decent metaphor that almost hits the nail on the proverbial head.

At [insert favorite amusement park here], no doubt you've waited in line for a roller coaster that, for a lack of better words, looked scary as shit. So you're standing there in line with nothing to do but catch glimpses of the cars flying down the rail and chat nervously with others waiting for the ride to start as well. Every once in a while, you'll hear a few people walk by who just finished the ride, saying how amazing it was or others who might mention how cool it would be to ride it but could never make the commitment at that point in their lives. So again you wait in line with people who are probably thinking the same thing you are: This place closes at 11... is this coaster worth riding?... I could be riding the tea cups or bumper cars or getting my law degree... And then you get the point where I'm at: you get into the coaster, give your belongings to an attendant (they promise you'll get it back), and strap yourself in. A week from now I'll be at the top of the first hill and plummeting straight into the forests of Africa. And everyone knows that the worst part of the first hill is the wait.

Alright. Now that I've gotten that down in writing, let's take a look at what I'll be surviving with for the next 27 months!

Peace Corps Packing List: Andrew Zacharias


  • Pants/Shorts:
    • 1 Jeans
    • 2 Work cargo pants
    • 1 Sleeping pants
    • 2 Shorts
    • 2 Gym shorts
    • 1 Nice khaki pants
    • 1 Quick-dry pants
  • Fleece jacket
  • 1 Hoodie, 1 zip-up hoodie
  • 1 Beanie
  • 1 Baseball cap (White Sox or Yankees, preferably White Sox to hide the fact that I’m a Yankees fan.)
  • 2 Clip-on sunglasses (attaches to glasses)
  • 1 Board shorts, 1 ass-tight Speedo
  • 1 Windbreaker or rain jacket
  • 3 Button down shirts
  • Many boxers
  • Many socks
  • 5 Short sleeve t-shirts
  • 1 Jacket/tie
  • 3 Bandanas


  • 1 Dress shoes
  • 1 Running shoes
  • 1 Chacos (huge discount for PCVs!)

Personal Hygiene and Toiletry

  • 1 Toothbrush/Toothbrush case
  • 1 Tube toothpaste
  • 1 Roll of floss
  • 1 Antibacterial lotion
  • 1 Downy anti-wrinkle*
  • 1 Deodorant
  • 1 Cologne
  • 1 Spare glasses, 2 cases
  • 1 Laundry bag
  • 1 Stain remover
  • Sleeping pills
  • Claratin or other allergy medicine
  • 1 Shampoo
  • 1 Soap
  • 1 Sunscreen
  • 1 Shaver & Charger
  • 1 Nail kit / Tweezers
  • Travel tissues


  • Ziploc Bags (medium or large)
  • Powder mixes (drinks, sauces, soups, dressings, etc.)


  • Shortwave radio
  • Camera / 2 memory cards
  • Guitar (room permitting)
  • iPod
  • 1 Flash drive (1GB)
  • Laptop
  • DVDs
  • 2 Journals (pretentious-looking, of course)
  • Drawing pad
  • 1 Deck playing cards
  • The Cube

Office Supplies

  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Notecards
  • Day planner
  • US Map (larger the better)
  • World Map (larger the better)
  • 2 College-ruled notebooks (nothing too big)
  • 2 Folders
  • Address book
  • 1 Superglue (heavy duty, super serious business glue!)

Outdoors Supplies

  • 1 Multi-tool
  • 1 Sleeping bag
  • 1 Sheet, pillowcase
  • 1 Camp towel (lightweight, fast drying)
  • 2 Nalgene bottles


  • Beef jerky
  • 2 Frank’s Hot Sauce

Luggage/Travel Items

  • 1 Internal frame backpack
  • 1 Wheeled bag
  • 1 Carry-on messenger bag (leave plenty of room!)
  • Document holder
  • 1 Umbrella


  • Current converter
  • Solio solar charger
  • Extra batteries
  • Small amount of seeds for home garden
  • 6-7 TSA approved luggage locks
  • Something compact to hold numerous photos
  • 1 Digital watch (cheap, with alarm setting) / Extra battery for it
  • 1 Roll duct tape
  • Flashlight & Tripod
  • Cash


  • Ohio items
  • Miami University items
  • Candy
  • Pencils, pens, etc.


  • World War Z – Max Brooks (Mel Brook’s son. A not-so-futuristic UN official history of the global zombie crisis. Awesome!)
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond
  • Farewell to the Working Class – Andre Gorz
  • Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  • Animal Farm – George Orwell
  • What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng – Dave Eggers
  • Beasts of No Nation: A Novel – Uzodinma Iweala
  • Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  • Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (Kind of have to read this one… it’s obligatory.)
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

Well there it is! Granted I haven't tried packing any of this up yet to check the weight requirements, but the majority of such items will keep me going while I'm busy fighting poverty, hunger, and the forces of Skeletor.