Tuesday, February 28, 2012

So Long America

Current Location: Washington DC

The stress of the past week has made it very difficult for me to write. I tried to write about packing and goodbyes, about the Peace Corps event on UF campus and more packing, but it was really just too hard to document at the moment. Just know that I managed to get close to the 80 pound limit, will need things brought to me once my family visits later this year, and managed to say my goobyes.

In a few short hours (1.5 hours really, but who's counting?), I will be checking out of our hotel and heading to the airport to begin the journey. Staging today was wonderful - there are about 40 amazing volunteers that I can't wait to get to know better. We had some ice breakers, some skits (in which I expertly portrayed a pig that was slaughtered - good to know those acting classes paid off, right mom and dad?), and a visit from Director Williams. One of the best parts of that was that he actually remembered me from the talk at UF, where I went and introduced myself. I felt so honored when he came to speak to me directly. It really was a great way to start my Peace Corps journey.

I want to thank everyone that has been behind me these past 18 months as I applied, interviewed, gained medical clearance, waited for an invite, received an invite, had that invite rescinded, and received a new invite! I couldn't have done this without all the support from family and friends! I can't wait to share all my adventures with you all as they come!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Half Marathon and Going Away Party

Well, it was a weekend of craziness, that's for sure. Things were jam packed with my sister being home, but no day more so than Sunday.

Sunday, I woke up at 5:30 AM. Most sane people try to remain asleep at 5:30 AM on a Sunday, but not I. That is because most sane people don't think it would be fun to wake up and run 13.1 miles on a Sunday morning. Yes, that's right, I had my half marathon. I got to the starting line at 6:30 AM and the race started at 7. About 3 miles into it I was really questioning both my sanity and my ability to finish the race. The best part of the race was my family. They drove around so I saw them 3 separate times - once at mile 3.5, once at mile 8, and at the finish line! The conditions for the race were less than favorable. It was ridiculously humid and windy, both conditions that I had not trained much in. Because of that, my time was a bit lower than I had hoped, but I finished with a time of 2:23:17! Woohoo!
Still going strong at mile 8!

Finish line celebration!

Albert is proud of me too! And check out my snazzy finishers medal (yeah, running at my speed, there's no chance for a winners medal!)

After a long race, most people go home, lay around on a couch or in bed and relax. You just ran 13.1 miles - you deserve a break, right? Not I though. I am not a normal sane person. For some unknown reason, I agreed with my parents suggestion to have my going away party Sunday afternoon from 4-7. Tons of family friends came and I had a lot of fun... except it involved me standing for 3 standing hours on already exhausted poor little legs. Needless to say, they weren't too happy about it. I had a great time talking with people I hadn't seen in ages, and I feel so lucky that I have such wonderful people in my life caring about what I am doing and supporting me every step of the way.

Well at 7 PM, after everyone had gone, most normal people would collapse into bed to sleep for hours. Not I. I am an even more insane person and I agree to go out for drinks with a few friends after the party. Since there were so many people, I didn't get to spend a lot of time with any one group, so I agreed to go out for a glass of wine. Luckily, we didn't stay out too late, but by the time I stand up to leave the bar my legs are no longer functioning. seriously, I'm walking around like the tin man because my legs will not bend! So we get outside and it's gotten a bit chilly, and my evil sister and our friend Courtney, who is driving us home, decide to RUN to the car. So imagine me, the runner of the group, hobbling behind these two girls running faster than I could even dream of moving at the moment. Pure evil. Apparently they were going to drive around to pick me up, but no one told ME that, so I hobbled behind them to the car.

Needless to say. Monday, my legs were in rebellion. Monday was the day that I said goodbye to my sister and took her to the airport. I'm trying to go with the attitude that it's not goodbye, it's only so long for now! After that I spent most of the day being lazy, and I think I deserved it!

I'm down to 6 days until I leave for Washington D.C. and 8 until we head to the Dominican Republic. It's crazy how real everything is getting. I am down to odds and ends to purchase and really don't have anything major left. I'm now trying to figure out weight because (surprise, surprise) I am a few pounds over the limit right now for sure. I'm not sure exactly how many pounds over I am, but I'm thinking after loading up my two carry ons, I'll be alright. I'm getting lots of kindle books and saying my goodbyes. It's so surreal that after 1.5 years of applying and 2 invitations that I am actually leaving!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Charleston and Final Preparations

So as part of my last few weeks, my parents planned a trip for us to Charleston. The weekend was combined with a performance by one of my favorite comedians - Jeff Dunham! So Friday night, we headed to Jacksonville to watch him perform. It was one of the funniest shows I had every been to. I used to go to comedy clubs in NYC often, but this was so much better. He performed for 3 hours, minus a 15 minute intermission. Since he is a ventriloquist, he talks the WHOLE time! It was so impressive, and hilarious - I hadn't laughed that much in ages!

The next morning we woke up bright and early and drove up to Charleston. When we got there, our room wasn't yet ready, so we headed to get some lunch and visit Boone Hall - a plantation where they filmed a family favorite miniseries, "North and South." We went on a tour of the house and saw the slave quarters and heard about the history. It was very interesting and it was a nice day to be outside. That night we went to a delicious restaurant, McCrady's, and had an amazing 4 course dinner!

The next day we woke up and got brunch at Husk, which was named the best new restaurant of 2011 by Bon Appetit. We went with a friend of my mom's from when she was growing up. Afterwards we went on a driving tour of the city. Unfortunately it was a cold day so we couldn't do much walking outside, but we visited a beautiful old house and the market before another delicious dinner. The next morning bright and early we headed back to Gainesville. Even though it was a short trip it was a lot of fun.

Since then, I've been running errands and getting ready for this crazy weekend. My sister flew in on Thursday, and it's been a crazy few days so far. Yesterday we had a family photoshoot with an amazing photographer which was a lot of fun. Then last night we went to a dive bar to watch a band that a friend is in. Today there were lots of errands to run, and had a great dinner for me to carb load. Tomorrow is the craziest of days - I have to wake up early to run my half marathon at 7 AM, and then in the afternoon we are having my going away party with family friends. Let's hope I am actually awake to be able to enjoy everyone being here!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Busch Gardens and Super Bowl

Hello world. We are officially down to 3 weeks until departure - I have now booked my travel to staging with SATO travel and will be departing on February 27th instead of the 28th due to flight schedules. For some reason, having one less day seems like I have so much less time.

Unfortunately, it is looking like a lot of my "Pre-DR Bucket List" will not be completed. For example, it's not looking like either the scuba certification or skydiving will fall into place. While disappointing, these are things I have my whole life to do and there isn't really any rush. By finishing "most" of Rosetta Stone, I hoped to complete the first 4 levels. I think if I work really hard, I may finish the first 3, but I'm not going to get past that. While a bit of a bummer (could have saved money and only gotten the first 3 levels), I'm glad I've done as much as I have and I am better prepared because of it.

Yesterday, I got to check one more item off my bucket list - trip to Busch Gardens! It might seem strange that I had 2 theme parks on my "Things to Do" list, but honestly I wish I could have had even more! I hadn't been to Busch Gardens in probably about 5 years, and I had heard they had a new roller coaster. I am a huge thrills person and love coasters, so I really wanted to go back again to check out the new one and ride my old favorites. I went with my friend Courtney, and we couldn't have picked a better day to go. It was beautiful and sunny, but not too hot. It also was Super Bowl Sunday, so there was no one in the park! We literally walked right onto 3 of the 5 roller coasters we rode, and the longest wait we had the whole day was maybe 20 minutes. I definitely got my fix of coasters in before leaving! And we got home in time for me to still watch the game!

I just stayed home this year for the Super Bowl. I sometimes prefer it, since I can better watch the game, commercials, and half time show. I was very pleased with this years game, as I am a Giants fan! It was a really great game though - Tom Brady is a hell of a Quarterback, and any game that has a last second potentially game changing throw is exciting to watch! I was a little disappointed in this years commercials. I loved the M&Ms commercial - I thought it was hilarious. There were also a few funny Doritos commercials, and I liked the VW dog/Star Wars commercial. I actually loved the half time show with Madonna as well. There were some fun people to make it more modern, and I loved the songs she chose. While a little strange seeing Madonna, she is an icon. Plus it was WAY better than the awfulness that was the Black Eyed Peas last year!

So that's that. The next few weeks are a whirlwind - I've got a 11-12 mile run this week plus several errands around Gainesville to run for preparations. Friday is a Jeff Dunham performance with the family and then heading up to Charleston for the weekend with my parents. The next week my sister comes home to see me one last time before I leave. That long weekend is packed with a family photo shoot, my half marathon, and my going away party. Then I'm down to a week to finish packing, say my goodbyes and head out. I can't believe it's actually this close!