Some people say that the best way to train for hiking the Appalachian Trail is to just get up and start hiking the Appalachian Trail. Others maintain that months of conditioning, preparing the body for a modified diet, and taking gear out for test runs, is the only way to go. When it comes to Senegal, I definitely reside in the first camp of thought. Peace Corps will be my life for the next two years, so I figure I’ll learn it all as I go : ) I have cultivated a good attitude and a readiness to work hard, but I feel like I *should* be practicing French, packing logical things (ie. not Apples to Apples and 10 lbs. of sunscreen) reading books on Senegal, and researching...something relevant. Instead I have been relaxing and enjoying life here in blizzardy Michigan. Today I ate a Cinnabon for breakfast, three pieces of pizza for lunch, an ice cream sundae for dinner, and a glass of wine in the bathtub for dessert. This is all part of my attempt to fully absorb and store up the American lifestyle so I can ration the memories out over the next two years in Africa. I have also been eating as much sushi as my body can possibly sustain, but it will never be enough!
Anyways, throughout my travels I have met many people with “mascots,” and I have finally decided to join them. I usually bring along little sentimental things when I go places, like a pouch filled with pebbles from everywhere I’ve been, meaningful letters, pictures for my wall, etc. However, I have decided to move on to more charismatic things. Specifically: a snail named Oscar and a dinosaur named Max.
Here is Max poised majestically in the snow. He is a dinosaur that did not make it into Reid's chess set, but now gets to travel the world instead!
I would have preferred just one mascot, and maybe something smaller in Oscar’s case and less breakable in Max’s case. But you work with what you’ve got and by some twist of fate I happen to be attached to these two odd looking characters. So, I’ll take pictures of one or both of them when I find myself in new exciting places, and pictures of them with people who I meet along the way : ) My photos will be up in Picasa web albums, the links for which you can find over there --- > and I doubt I will be using Facebook for photo sharing anymore (score one for Google!).
Oscar and Max (with my sister and her boyfriend)
On a different note, I thought I might quickly list out where I have been/what I have done to land myself at this point in life. Think half life history, half resume (but not as desperately exaggerated):
10/07/1986: Born in Asheville, NC
1987: Family moved out to Santa Cruz, CA
1997: Family moved to Novi, MI
Summer 2004: Graduated from high school. Spent one month on an organic farm, and two months at U of Michigan’s geology field school in Wyoming, Camp Davis!
Fall, 2004: Started as a freshman in the Residential College at the University of Michigan, and began an intensive French language program
Summer, 2005: Marine Biology field school on a wilderness preserve in Big Sur, CA
Summer 2006: Naturalist Intern in Vail, CO
Academic Year 2006-2007: Study Abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Fall 2007: Back at U of M, moved into the residential student co-op system
Winter 2008: spent 6 months in Baltimore, at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, as a Conservation Intern.
Summer 2008: Residential Nature Counselor at Keystone Camp in Brevard, NC.
Spring 2009: Graduate from the University of Michigan in May, with a degree in Environmental Science, minor in French.
Summer, 2009: SCA internship at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Fall, 2009: Meet nice Canadian boy in Hawaii, move to Victoria, BC and work at the Bug Zoo while researching Masters Degree programs which will not cost me money.
Winter, 2010: Get a phone call from the Peace Corps to go to Senegal as an Environmental Education Volunteer. Put my plans on pause for two years...and go : )
Two years is a long time, and who knows what things will be like when I get back. Maybe the economy will be booming once again, maybe people will have gotten married and had babies, maybe Hawaii will be just a little bit bigger, and Victoria a little more underwater. Right now my plan is to accomplish something meaningful as a Peace Corps Volunteer over the next two years, no matter how frustrating and meaningless it may feel at times, then come back, get a BIG friendly dog and go to Graduate School at the University of Victoria for aquatic sciences. After which, I will get a fish tank, a garden, and a wonderfully fulfilling/meaningful/well-paid job in a gorgeous place with great people. I’ll also keep bees and chickens. That sounds do-able…right? : ) But who knows, really. That is in quite a while. I will change…you will change…everything will change…and it will be great! I hope I’m a little bit smarter, a little more responsible, and a little bit more fluent in French + some other as yet unidentified language (it depends on which village I am placed in). I also hope I get to work on Mangrove restoration projects in Senegal. Mais…on verra, quoi.
Thanks for reading along! It’s great to think that I may be sharing this experience in some way with everyone “back home.” I’ll write again soon, from Africa : D Also, I am filling out my address book, so send me your info and I will write lots and lots of letters!
Oh, ps, I’m pretty sure my title photo is actually from Madagascar, but they have Baobab trees in Senegal, too, so its not cheating….really…