All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.

Robert Kennedy

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oh Pennsylvania...

After a crazy last few days in California, it was finally time to pack it all up and leave. I don't know what I would've done without Ethan, David and Diane. They really got me moving (literally) when I just couldn't get going. Ethan and David practically packed up my entire apartment for me and Diane put on all the finishing touches. On my last night there, we all went out to Owen's Bistro, my favorite Chino restaurant. We grabbed all my bags and I headed up to Pasadena to stay at John and Megan's. John drove me to the airport on Thursday morning. He's always driven me to the airport so he wanted that to be his job. I received a flurry of text messages as I was leaving, all too emotional for me to respond to. I had a lot of luggage so moving it all through LAX the day before a holiday weekend was, well, challenging. I'll have to re-think that packing system before I leave again. Finally, sitting on the plane, I as able to take a deep breath. After being so constantly busy for the past few weeks, it was finally done. Diane was finishing up the apartment stuff with Christopher so I didn't have to worry about that. Car sale went through, a little too easily...but I was grateful nonetheless. (Props to Car Max. Those guys are true pros!) I slept most of the way and when I landed, Mom and Aunt Barbara were there to great me. The first time, incidentally, I have ever been met at the airport. Since I always fly into the bigger airports, I wind up taking ground transportation into the Poconos. But they were there, the weather was hot and sticky and I was exhausted and starving. Mom volunteered me to drive out of Philadelphia which was fine as I was the only one who was really used to the bumper to bumper traffic. It took us quite a while, nearly 2 hours just to get out of the city. Finally we got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and headed North. We stopped at a rest stop so I could get a Philly Cheesesteak (yum!) but Leroy (my stepdad) called to warn of us a storm front so we didn't stay too long. When we got back on the road, Mom drove; and the storm hit. Boy did it hit. Pouring rain, thunder and lightning, and wind so bad it was pushing our car into the other lane. Since we were on the Turnpike, we couldn't pull over. Turnpikes in PA aren't like in CA where there are exits every mile. There is one exit every 20 miles and barely a shoulder on the side of the road to pull over on to so we just had to drive; slowly and carefully. We did finally arrive home, 5.5 hours after I landed (it's usually a 2.5 hour drive). There was no power anywhere in town so I just went right to bed. 
The next day, my sister's kids came up since they still didn't have power (ours had returned in the middle of the night) so they came up to use the internet and have lunch. Jill came up later in the afternoon and we headed out to dinner and a movie. On Saturday, we had made plans to meet up with our Italian family at the family restaurant. Our cousins are crazy but so much fun. It was a fantastic evening of great food. On Sunday, Mom had the whole family up for a barbecue. It was really nice to hang out with everybody and it was a beautiful night. On Memorial Day, Mom and I went downtown and watched the parade since it was the last time my nephew, Matt, would be leading the band since he is graduating next week. From there we grabbed 2 nieces and headed over to do some last minute shopping. I got tons of things I needed and Mom advanced me on a couple years of Christmas and birthday gifts. Today I woke up and Mom and I went downtown for breakfast. When we came home, it was hot already so she said "why don't you sleep for a while" and I slept all freaking day. 2 months of non-stop going and I just crashed for the day. It felt so great just sleeping here in the air conditioning. I knew it would be one of my last chances to just veg out so I took it and was really grateful. Only one week left and I head out. Still a lot to get done but I feel way more on top of things now. 
So now, I'm off to bed...yeah...still tired...

Before you ask again...

The same questions over and over again, so here are the official answers...

"What brought this on?"
Well, it may be hard to believe, but this actually wasn't a spur of the moment decision. I have been thinking about it since college but have always put it on the back burner. Over the past few years, the level of materialism really started to get to me. I wanted to get out in the world and go somewhere where materialism wasn't a big thing. Where there were serious issues at hand and I could actually be helpful. I had a good job, and I loved the people I worked with but it wasn't something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. After losing 3 valuable people that I love within a 12 month period, it really lit a fire. I started researching the Peace Corps in the fall of 2009. I submitted an official application in April of 2010, my interview was in June of 2010, after months and months and months of medical testing, I was cleared in February of 2011 and I was officially invited in April 2011, a full year after first applying. All throughout this year, I read online, books, etc. of extensive research about what I was getting myself in to.

"What are you going to do when you come back?"
I don't know. I haven't left yet so I'm not really thinking about that yet. I have many options but right now, I'm concentrating on my task at hand.

"You know, women in the Peace Corps are sometimes the victims of sexual assault. Are you scared?"
I have lived in Los Angeles for 12 years. I went to college for 6. I'm quite aware of how to protect myself. I do not think I am invincible, but what it comes down to is, I'm not stupid. The same basic scenarios apply. Thank you for looking out, but believe me, you're not telling me anything I don't know. I promise to be careful.

"What are you going to be doing there?"
I won't really have the answer to that until I get there. From what I've been told, I will be doing Community and Organizational Development. There are a lot of programs that can be developed including the Arts, women's empowerment, other after school activities and we are going there to present options. Specific details will be provided once I am there.

"Are you going to come home at all?"
No. Not too many people have the chance to live in Europe. When I get vacation time, I am going to explore Europe. It is not a slight against my loved ones, I just want to take advantage of the opportunity while I have it.

"Are you excited?"
Yes. I am. It has been a very long prep time. I understand why the paperwork is so thorough. They REALLY want to make sure you want to go. And that's okay. I really do want to go. But now, I'm tired of preparing and just want to go.

Don't think this is all in a negative tone, just a more 'on the record' version of answers that I have given many, many times. Thank you for the concern and the inquiries, I hope this helps.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Worn out...

The past week has been a whirlwind. Actually, make that the last few weeks. I have been delivered (or taken to) lunch by a co-worker daily for 2 weeks which really spoils you in the long run. At night, I had various celebratory goodbyes to the point where I just decided that sleep was overrated. More drinks than I've had in a long time too. My co-workers sure did spoil me. From burgers to margaritas to cheesecakes to spices to all night ROCK Band sessions to lattes...I could go on, but just thinking about it, I'm exhausted. Crazy to be so lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful people for so many years. (And no, not just typing that because I'm sure some of them are reading this...) Thursday 5/19/11 was my last day of work. It still doesn't seem real. I feel like I'm just taking a few days off. Wonder when that will hit me. Terrible moment to say goodbye to all those people. Honestly the first time any emotion has come over me in this whole process. I guess when you spend day in and day out with the same people, you get a little attached. Even the heartless ones. (Yes, Andrea, that means you...)

Then the weekend came. Katie graduated from Cal Arts on Friday night. It was one of the most surreal graduations I have ever been to. No caps and gowns at an art school, just costumes and getups galore. It was too awesome. Everyone was so happy and it was just super fun. Standing for 4 hours wasn't 'fun' but it was worth it. It was a fantastic evening. After the ceremony the school throws this big party with a live band and a bar for all the students to have fun at and it was just a great finish to a great evening. Katie's entire family was there which was great because they have become my second family since I have been here. Spending the evening with all of them was a fitting end to my stint here in CA. 
No rest for the weary, I had to get up early Saturday morning to greet some movers (otherwise known as my friends) to move some of my furniture out of my apartment. With no time for rest afterwards, I headed over to Going Away Party #1 filled with theatre people. It was a great day filled with people who I've known for years at the theatre. Some who I haven't seen in a long time, some who I see daily. Even Julia, our friend from NY, surprised everyone with a cameo. The Morales' all showed up again just as tired as I, but were troopers nonetheless. It was a beautiful day and most of the kids spent their time in the pool so the adults could relax inside. Age ranging from 2 to 60, everyone had a good time and were grateful to get together. Headed to one last night at the Cock (the Cock-A-Doodle for non-locals...a bar that has been a staple hangout over the years) to meet up with Katie, Jimmy (her brother), Ethan and Steven. Steven is one of my favorite people but not what you would call a 'party guy' so he chose instead to meet up with us privately after said party. It was a strange five-some but boy it was fun. We closed down the bar and said our goodbyes. 
Again, with no rest, got up early and had breakfast with Katie and Diane one last time before heading out to Goodbye Party #2 out in Redlands with my dear friend, Deb McFatter. She decided to throw a small brunch for the people who lived more inland. There were only about 12 people there but it was sure relaxing and lovely. Jena, who has become one of my best friends over the past 2 years, was one of the guests as were Jeff and Ali, who are probably not only the funniest but one of the loveliest couples I know. It was an incredibly pleasant afternoon. I came home with full intentions to begin packing but I went right to sleep. 
Woke up Monday again full of good intentions. Instead, Ethan brought over breakfast and coffee and we were soon joined by Luis, Zach and Katie and her boyfriend, who enjoyed pilfering through my belongings that I couldn't take along with me. It's actually quite liberating to let go of so many material possessions. I enjoyed all of their company, however, used their presence as an excuse to not get a lot done. I know...terrible...
This morning, however, I got the main stress accomplished. I visited Car Max and sold the car! Woo Woo! They gave me more than I was expecting which is SUCH a relief. Just have to take it in tomorrow morning and sell it officially. And that's where I'm I guess I better get back to packing instead of writing about doing so. And by 'back to packing' I mean 'start packing' but you knew that already...didn't you?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Goodbye Meals

My co-workers gave me one of the greatest goodbye gifts ever. Knowing full well that I can’t really use ‘gifts’ they got together and created a lunch calendar in which everyone is taking turns taking me to lunch at my favorite food spots until I leave. What a great gift. They turned the “last Supper” painting  into a schedule. I just loved it. I will miss these people.
It’s becoming a scramble to try and get together with everyone before I leave. As suspected, time is flying by. There is still a lot to get done with only 2 weeks left (gasp) and I’m really dragging my feet on a lot of it. I have learned that customer service people can be very helpful and kind if you are kind to them. They also are extra helpful when you mention WHY you’re cancelling their service. I think John, the TiVo guy, and I are lifelong friends now. I’m so busy, almost too busy for emotion. I’m hoping that it all doesn’t hit me when I’m on the plane and I turn into a sobbing mess. I don’t think that will make a good impression.
But it has been nice to get together individually with all these people on a daily and a nightly basis. Makes you wonder why we all don’t do it more often. When does everyone become too ‘busy’ to make time for their friends? It’s sad, really. On the bad side, I am eating more unhealthy foods than ever. It’s really delicious but ugh, so bad.
My boss calls me from his office daily to tell me he misses me already. I truly will miss him. He’s been a good friend and a good guy for a long time. I truly am grateful for all he’s given me over the past decade. He has a big heart even though he would never admit it.
Now my stream of consciousness is being weird and there is no linear theme here…
Onto more food for the day.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A dinner with peers.

I was invited to a dinner in LA with the Peace Corps last evening at an Indian restaurant. I went back and forth for a while on whether or not I wanted to attend. I tend to get a little shy when it comes to walking in to a room full of strangers but since that is how I'll be spending the next few years, I figured it'd be best to get used to it. I decided to go. I arrived early, because that's how I am. (I have spent more time sitting in my car early for events than I care to admit...)
The second I walked in to the restaurant, I felt at ease. I was standing in a room full of people who were going through the same thing as me. I told the receptionist I was an Invitee and she got very excited and gave me a name tag. She told me to go in and look for my region table. I immediately saw the Eastern Europe table where there were 4 ladies and a gentleman talking. I introduced myself immediately but noticed that there were only 5 seats at the table. I saw another Eastern Europe table across the way and headed in that direction. There was an older gentleman who had been a volunteer in the 60's in Bolivia and Turkmenistan, 2 kids who were applicants (I have the right to say kids, right?) and 3 empty seats. I sat down and introduced myself and listened to "Richard's" stories. Two more girls joined us, one of which was also heading to Moldova in a few weeks. 
Not being a big fan of Indian food, I didn't eat much, but more soaked up the conversations. The head of the party introduced all of the returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RCPV's) and they announced the countries they had served in and when. The room immediately fell in love with a little old couple who had served and met in Iran in the early 70's and had been married ever since. They gave each other kissed followed by a room full of applause. Also a newer couple who had returned from Moldova 2 years ago, who had also met there and were soon to be married received applause. Then they introduced the Invitees. I was surrounded by about 30 people who were also leaving within the next few months to places ranging from my country of Moldova, to Mongolia, to China, to the Philippines, to Nicaragua to Togo to West Africa. It was crazy that we were all intertwined and yet about to go on such different adventures. After dinner, I made my way over to the couple who had lived in Moldova and picked their brains about the country and the experience. We talked for over an hour. 
I'm really glad I did wind up going as it did make me feel like I'm doing okay and stressing out about the right things. I still am stressed about getting rid of my car but I know I can handle it all. I know that the reward at the end of the next few weeks will be worth it.