Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Birthday Thanks and Reflection

It has been a year.

I thought about writing a big long post on facebook and getting some thoughts out, but then figured this might be an easier platform.

My birthday has always been a bit like a personal New Years; a time of reflection and goal setting for what the next chapter in my life is going to be like. This year has brought many changes, big and little, both happy and sad. I hope to write more on this platform about a few of them, and generally hope to start a more regular writing practice, but this isn't the first time I have said that, so we will see how my follow through is. There are a few groups of folks I wanted to take the opportunity to address at this time. Some of these groups are vague, some more specific, but all have impacted me in one way or another this year.

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday. Those near and far who through text, letters, emails, phone calls, linkedin messages, squatty potties or face-to-face sent me well wishes. If this year has taught me anything it is that my life is overflowing with support, love and compassion from people that I aspire to emulate.

To people that I love, and who love me back: I don't know how I lucked out this hard. I don't know what I did, or how I accrued the type of karmic brownie points required to have so many of you in my life. From my biological family, to my chosen family, to my friends, co-workers, peers, acquaintances, I find myself constantly surrounded by people that are bound and determined to make a positive impact on the world every day in every way. When all the news around us seems to be so full of such violence and hatred, I look around and become hopeful by each of you. We are stronger when we are together, and there have been numerous times this year when I was down on myself, or consumed by so much that it was hard to get myself out of bed in the mornings. Between physical ailments (my back issues), psychological challenges (job search), and emotional duress, there were a lot of life events this year that were difficult, and yet you stuck by. Through checkins, words of encouragement, a pat on the back, or an offer to grab coffee, you all showered me in unconditional support and love. There never has been and never will be enough words for my gratitude. You all make this life worth living.

To people that I have hurt, disappointed or wronged through both my actions and my failure to act: I'm sorry. These words seem to fall so incredibly short, but they are what I have to offer. I've learned more this year about my capacity to make bad decisions than any other time in my life, and unfortunately those decisions have harmed people I care for and genuinely respect. It is not enough to hold good intentions about inducing as little damage to those around us as possible, if those intentions are not upheld through the decisions we make. These decisions are not always easy, but are necessary, and this year has taught me that I have a long way to go in making the hard and right choices in my relationships. Being a "good person" is not a default setting. Emotional honesty, boundary creation, and respect are not things that magically materialize out of thin air, they must be conscious and intentional. I'm not sure where the line is between my cowardice around confrontation and attempting to respect your boundaries, lays. I'm not sure how to start mending, I'm not sure if all of you want things to be mended. I can only promise to try and be better, to do better, to make sure that the shame and guilt I have (which does nothing for you) comes to something productive, and to atone where I can.

To my family: I know you all are somewhat covered in the "people I love" section, but I wanted to be a bit more specific. Our clan has gone through a lot of changes in the last year; marriages, divorces, deaths, births, and reconfigurations of all kinds. Through it all we have kept or strength and our love at center stage of our weird little dramatic comedy. I'm blessed to have a family that is not only made up of people that I'm related to through blood, but those that are related through life. If you are reading this and you think you fall into this category, I want you to know something: you are so freaking stuck with me. No matter how you were brought into the fold, once you are there, you are there. It doesn't matter if the formal labels you came in with are no longer applicable, my love for you will always be (I'm looking at you especially in this moment A.D. and S.)

I'm hoping that this last year of my 20s is a time of growth, reflection and possibly a bit more financial stability. I want to write more, I want to spend more time with myself, I want to find ways to travel, I want to get into better habits, I want to eat better food and drink better whiskey, and I want to learn how to live a more honest life in my interactions with others, and how I set my priorities. I want to work on certain things within myself so that I can be a better person for all those listed above. Someone asked me the other day whether or not the impeding arrival of my 30s is something that scares me, and I almost laughed. My 20s have been amazing, why would my 30s be any different? This life isn't always the easiest thing to live but its mine and I wouldn't exchange it given the chance. Life is an adventure, if you so choose, and I'm looking forward to whatever might be coming my way.

Love,
Claire

Monday, December 18, 2017

Cajas

Mas cajas (boxes)
Edit: I'm told that this original post, titled "Cagas" was in fact spelling the word for boxes incorrectly, and inadvertently saying "pooping" when I meant "boxes." Though I could certainly write a whole post on pooping in Puerto Rico, this is not that post. Thank you Diana S for the edit!!!

My apologies for not having been posting as much as I hoped I would be able to in the last few days. About a week ago I was made a Team Lead, which has translated into a bit of a breakdown on my regular routine. Still keeping up with PT, but not writing or taking pictures at drop sites nearly as much. It has been an amazing experience, and one I wish I would have had a bit more time with, but that is another post for another day.


Bad snack box
There have been a few questions about what exactly ARC distributes when we go on these drops. Most of it is exactly what you think it would be (food and water) but the more nuanced answer is: a bunch of stuff, a lot of it random, and I usually have no idea what we have until we crack the trucks open at our site.

During my time in PR I have delivered:
  • MREs
  • FEMA 18 piece meals
    Good snack box
  • FEMA 30 piece meals
  • FEMA Snacks
  • Water in 12, 24, 30, 32, and 40 bottle cases
  • 5 gallon Water Storage
  • Flashlights (no battery)
  • Maxi pads
  • Diapers
  • Ensure
  • Garbage bags
    Hygiene kits
  • Hygiene kits
  • Towels
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Milk
What is supposed to happen is the a Point of Contact (POC) fills out a form requesting certain items to be delivered to the community. The warehouse received the form, fills the order and loads the truck. Then we take the truck, contact the POC on our way out, and deliver the requested supplies. This is almost never how it happens though, and I don't think I have had a single delivery here where the truck manifest matched the requested items. 

Thanks, but no thanks to canned
water. 
Additionally, depending on the site and the amount of stuff in the truck, these items have to be "prepped." If you arrive in a barrio and there are 100 people in line, and you have 2 boxes that each contain 200 bags, then you have to undo the garbage bags in order to give each person 4 or 8 bags. That math on that is even a little off because if you start with a line of 100 people, there are going to be more by the time you unload the truck and start distributing. Throw in the randomness of what is supplied (I had a load a few days back where they gave us 8 boxes of pads...individual boxes) and that most of the time you have one or two compromised pallets (really and truly, it is awesome that Anheuser-Busch made special canned water for PR, but the pallets are always overloaded, and so the bottom layer breaks, and then people think we are distributing beer.) 

Our snack and meal boxes are also not consistent. We might have a snack box with protein like tuna, and beans, and spam in it one day, and then a snack box of kit-kats and twix the next day. I'm not a high enough pay grade to know how those decisions get made, but I do wish there was a little bit more consistency about it, and it appears to be a disaster management supply chain issue. 

Normally I would leave off there since it is a nice little topic post, but as I haven't updated in a while, this blog will now take a bit of a personal turn. 

Yesterday was my final work day. Today I will out process and tomorrow I get on a flight back to Minneapolis in the morning. This is such a bitter sweet thing; on the one hand I'm not sure I could keep up with the 10-12days on, 1 day off deal that seems to be the regular at the moment. On the other hand I LOVE THIS WORK and I LOVE PUERTO RICO. There is something about the intensity, and camaraderie that exists in spaces like this, that I haven't really experienced since I was in Peace Corps. If I come back from a horrible drop, I know there is going to be someone who will come out for a beer with me and listen to me complain for a couple of minutes before we all start talking about "better a bad day here, than a bad day in the states." The music, the dancing, the people, the joy, the dark humor have all pulled me in and reminded me that the 9-5 back home isn't the only way to exist.  

There have been times during this deployment where I have wondered if I'm a bit too soft for this type of work and this culture. I'm a bit of an empath, which means I am easily impacted by those around me on an emotional level. A goal of mine with this deployment was to focus on being honest with myself about feelings and reactions, and when appropriate sharing that with others. This is in particular a difficult task when the emotions are "negative" and when I'm confronting the person(s) creating them for me. I'm very much wired to please others, it is why I find service such an important aspect of my being, but it has created some incredibly unhealthy habits that I fear if I don't break now, I may never do so down the road. I will not be a doormat, if I'm being treated poorly, I will do something about it, even if it makes me or the other person uncomfortable. My "softness" is also at the root of why I love what I do however, and why I seek it out on the regular. I care for people so much, and so quickly, that it becomes a driving force to this odd little life I live. I wrote a bit about that in my personal journal and may or may not post some more on this topic once I have a little time at home to reflect.  

My body has held up well for this deployment, and I look forward to continuing with the PT and lifting regime that is now daily practice. My lower back has not had an issue once, and it is amazing all the ways a regular core workout can fix a variety of smaller issues (not just a bulging disk on L4-L5.) I got back into a healthy eating routine, pretty much by force, over the past couple of weeks. I had lost a decent amount of weight, really quickly, after a recent breakup but this workload has no time for a 500 calorie a day diet, and it only took me skipping breakfast once to realize that you can not do manual labor for 8-10hrs a day without food.   

All around this deployment, no matter how last minute, was a really good decision for me, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Honestly if Christmas wasn't coming up, I probably would have tried to make arrangements to extend a few more weeks, and as it stands I'm exploring the possibility of re-deploying in late January. In all likelihood this won't happen, since the ARC is reclassifying from relief to recovery in the coming weeks, but I'm going to have a chat with someone about it at headquarters today. 

Hope this post finds everyone well,
Claire/Tlotlo


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Abierto

Old San Juan
This post is going to be all over the place, you have been warned :)

Distribution point today
Today was long, but satisfying. We went up into Corozal, which is a community that has not received supplies since FEMA did an air drop a while back. It makes sense that FEMA did an air drop because the community is at the tippy top of a mountain. The challenge today was the weather; and though we got out in a timely manner (around 11am), and we were told it should only take us about 45mins to get there, when you factor in rain on mountain roads, and a broken down truck, I don't think we were actually unloading until around 2pm.
These are pallets of snacks and meals

Distribution point two days ago
A couple days ago we had a ton (10 truck loads) of water pallets come in, which is great because people really need water. When we opened up our two trucks we discovered 8 pallets of 1 liter packs of water, and all of us just sorta groaned. Neither of the trucks had a working lift, nor a pallet jack so everything today was by hand. I would show you a picture of my bruised forearms but I sorta have a rule about no injury pictures until I am safe at home, so I don't freak anyone out. 8 pallets of water (each 2,000 lbs or so), 2 pallets of trail mix, 2 pallets of FEMA meals, 2 pallets of rubbermaid coolers, and 8 large boxes of 100 small milk boxes later and we were done. We were distributing at a church, and though we initially thought we were going to have to do a second drop, people continued to trickle in until all of the supplies were gone. It is really wonderful when this happens, because these items are specifically designated for this community and going to a second place might mean that you are leaving one barrio to find a distribution spot in another.

Mind you, the entire time this was going on it was fluctuating between heavy rain, light rain and no rain, so that was fun. Didn't have issues getting back, other than the bridge being out (easy enough to go around) and I got to have a salad for dinner...which means I'm winning.

San Francisco St., Old San
Juan
I had the day off yesterday which was great. Interviewed with Family
Tree Clinic in St. Paul and thought it went pretty well (send good thoughts!), grabbed some lunch with Camilla and Marty (two new friends), and then wandered around Old San Juan with Camilla for the rest of the afternoon. It was also raining on and off yesterday which meant the plans to go to the beach didn't happen, but strolling around the city was a ton of fun and they re-opened the fort which meant I got to get my history geek on. We grabbed an Uber back to campus just before it really opened up, and then went out with a few folks for some drinks in a swankier area of town. After dinner we did get to walk along the beach, and I realized that, as much as I love what I'm doing down here, being on an island in the middle of the ocean sorta freaks me out. How the hell do you run away on an island?

My daily commute
A lot of folks have been asking me what the conditions are like on the island, and I suspect, give them a bit more of an on the ground perspective than they are getting from the media. It is a hard thing to explain, especially since I'm trying to be conscious of my bias. San Juan seems to be doing alright, but I know there are still large parts of the city without electricity. The communities I have been going to (I would say 2/3 at this point) are without water and electricity, and we are seeing FEMA tarps on a lot of roofs. There are a ton of downed power lines, and the ecosystem is just starting to recover. I'm not really going to post pictures of this at the moment. Disaster pictures can be educational, but much like injury pictures, tend to freak my loved ones at home out. Generally speaking, the mountain areas are in rough condition, the south too since that is where both hurricanes made landfall. The cities are getting more resources and the really remote areas in the interior are not.

Trees that have some new growth after
the hurricanes stripped them bare (I
call them poodle trees.)
Spirits seem to be generally high, and everyone is looking forward to Three Kings, and Christmas down here (though I have been told that Maria has been banned from the Nativity scene until 2018.) We passed a pile of debris today that was decorated with bows and tinsel, and I couldn't help but laugh. We pass a lot of "Abierto" signs on the road, because people want folks to know they are open and doing business, even if it is cash only. The first wave of cruise ships since Maria came to the island yesterday, and they are hoping for more. Old San Juan is having a city wide celebration of tourists and folks around the island by offering discounted food and drinks for the next couple of weeks. As I have been telling people it is hopeful and heartbreaking, exhausting and inspiring, and generally a bit of a roller coaster down here. Don't believe everything in the media, especially since there are so many unknowns still, and if you are able try and get a hold of articles that are written by Puerto Ricans.

Puerto Rico Se Levanta!
Old San Juan (view from Fort)

Claire
Those semi circles are tracks for artillery from WWII

Look out post at the fort!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Cruz Roja

I made it down to Puerto Rico and have survived my first three days of work, while establishing a daily routine that I believe will allow me to mentally and physically get through the next few weeks! Working down here is inspiring, and heartbreaking, and wonderful, and exhausting. I have met a bunch of really cool people, and have found the relief volunteer culture to my liking. I was assigned to the Distribution of Emergency Supplies (DES) team, and have had my room mate as my team leader for the past three days which is awesome. Since, much like Peace Corps, what the job description is and what one actually does from day to day, are incredibly different, I thought it might be helpful for me to give you a break down of what my days have looked like so far.


This is what comes into the
field with me
Morning:
What is supposed to happen: Wake up, and eat dinner between 6am-7am in the second floor break room. Prepare what you need for the day, and then head down to the lobby to catch a ride with other volunteers to wherever you might need to get to. For the DES team this is the Caribbean Produce Warehouse, for many it is headquarters. Arrive at Caribbean at 8am.

What actually happens: This is pretty much my morning, not a ton can go wrong in most of these steps, and as my roommate is my team lead, I always have a ride. Sometime there is extra traffic, but for the most part this has been smooth sailing.

Early Afternoon
These are our trucks!
What is supposed to happen: Check in at Caribbean, and wait for the morning meeting/briefing. Chug down a couple of bottles of water, and hang out for an hour until you team of 3-4 people is assigned, along with a truck full of supplies, a translator, and a location for you to distribute at.

What actually happens: Arrive at Caribbean, check in, do morning meeting/briefing and then sometimes wait for up to 5 hours to have your team and location assigned. In an ideal world your team is 3-4 people, but sometimes teams of 2 go out. In an ideal world you are only in charge of one truck of supplies, but 2/3 of my days it has been two trucks. Sometimes you get a translator, and sometime you have to work with the person with the most amount of Spanish who happens to be in your group.

Mid Afternoon
On the way to our drop site yesterday
What is supposed to happen: Use your directions and follow your trucks to the location in the barrio you have been assigned. Drive safely. Get in touch with your Person of Contact before arriving at your location to confirm the drop and possibly arrange to meet them, or determine if you will need a police escort. Arrive at the location and meet your Person of Contact to determine the best way to distribute supplies.

What actually happens: Firstly, the Person of Contact never seems to pick up the phone. Getting to the locations, especially the remote ones in the mountains means getting lost, and on my first day what was supposed to be a 45min ride, turned into a three hour one with one such misdirection. Driving is also incredibly treacherous at this point, there are downed power lines, washed out roads, mud slides, and debris still. Today our drives had to physically move downed power lines that made it so they didn't have enough clearance. As the majority of these places don't have power, this isn't an issue at this point, but it seems like an electrocution risk waiting to happen. The drop locations are not always able to accommodate the trucks, especially since we have been going out with two lately, which means another location has to be determined. The police escort has come through for my teams two out of my three days, which has been wonderful though.

Later afternoon
What is supposed to happen: enlist a few volunteers and unload your truck in an orderly fashion in a way that people can easily pick up supplies. Supplies for those community volunteers are put aside so we know they get some, and the team lead determines how much of each item goes to each family or individual. With the help of your volunteers and your translator have everyone calmly move through the line and collect their items. Make sure you distribute everything in your truck, and begin to pack up.

Could you carry this on your own? This was a
per person supply
What actually happens: Getting volunteers hasn't been much of an issue, which ahs been awesome, but the orderly part is always a bit of a trick it would seem. Sometimes the supplies in the truck don't match the manifest. Sometimes the supplies in the truck need to be additionally parceled out, like yesterday when we had bags in rolls of 16, but had enough people that we wanted to give each person 8, which meant unrolling the bags and rerolling in 8's. Putting aside supplies for community volunteers always happens, but sometimes folks that aren't volunteering also want supplies, in which case we have to tell them to wait in line, or if they are not community members, that these are not for them. Rarely do we have enough of everything for everybody, but we always have something for the vast majority. The biggest issue I have seen so far is that the average person can not carry two packs of 25 water bottles, a box of MREs, a box of snacks, a roll of bags, two pairs of work gloves and a flashlight, and many don't bring cars or baskets. This means setting things aside in piles until people can figure things out but that causes the line to stop, or large groups of people to congregate, which means its hard to keep things organized.

Another big issue is that now that we have been going out with two trucks, we aren't always able to empty at the first site, and so we have to talk to local leaders about doing a second drop at a second location. Mind you, these trucks are carrying over 10,000lbs of supplies at times, and sometimes we are only a team of three. Repacking the trucks and then starting the whole process over again in a different location is both mentally and physically taxing, but also necessary.

Early Evening

Meal box (but they are all different)
What is supposed to happen: Pack up your trucks, stop for a late lunch/early dinner with your truck drivers on the way home, and then return to campus! Shouldn't be getting back later than 4 or 5pm.

What actually happens: we had a group return at 9pm last night, and many of the times, since you
have to be on a highway before dark, you aren't eating for most of the day. The dorms serve a dinner at 5:30pm, but if you are still making your way back at 6:30pm, there won't be any left. Cliff and Luna bars are my new favorite friend. This especially happens with two drop days, or days when folks get lost, or when the roads are particularly precarious.

Still couldn't imagine being
anywhere else :)
Ultimately the work is exhausting but also incredibly rewarding. Folks have been so kind and grateful and helpful. The ARC volunteers here are all wanting to help no matter how many hours, or miles in a car, or driving along cliffs is takes. It is inspiring to be around such an impassioned, and dedicated group of humans. I have my own routines that help, include journaling in the morning and evening, reading a book in the car when I'm in the field (Artemis) and another at night before bed (Stone Butch Blues), and keeping on top of my lower back PT. I try and get protein whenever available, even if it
is meat, and I have been chugging more water and electrolytes than I know what to do with. Sunscreen and staying out of direct sun generally are a must, showering, even if all I want to do is also a must (for myself and everyone around me.) I'm getting into an incredibly satisfying and healthy rhythm, and I believe it will keep me in tip top shape for the next three weeks. Not to mention I assume I will be coming back looking like tan GI Jane with all the lifting I'm doing in the trucks, and all the crunches I'm doing so my back can do the lifting. :)

I honestly would not choose to be anywhere else at this moment, and that is an amazing feeling.

Will try and write more later, the dorms just switched over to 24/7 electricity so I should have a bit more access!

Hugs and smooches,
Claire/Tlotlo

 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

ARC + PCV


I leave tomorrow! You know it is official because I have a vest now :) I thought it would be kind of fun to read back over the post I put up before I left for Bots; I was so incredibly nervous, and didn't have a chance in hell of understanding what I was about to do. This obviously feels different because it is different. It's three weeks instead of 27 months, and it is relief work instead of development, but I'm still nervous. When I visited Botswana this year I brought back two cans of chakalaka which is one of my tswana favorites. I ate the first one almost immediately and decided to save the second one for a special occasion...guess who ate chakalaka tonight? I'm a total sucker for poetic justice and symbolism so I can't begin to describe how comforting it was to be eating a meal that I had so many nights in my house in Ramokgonami. It all just felt really right, at a time when things haven't really felt right in a while.

Exhibit A
The apartment is a bit of a mess at the moment, but I have been able to find pretty much everything I will need, and probably a bunch of shit I won't. The biggest win of the evening is that while running around looking for sun glasses, I found the solar charger I had given up on two days ago. In case you were wondering what it looks like to pack for three weeks of disaster relief, behold exhibit A. I know it looks like a hot mess, but I actually am pretty proud of it. It will all fit into my pack, and I can't really think of much that I can't tackle with this gear. I also didn't need to purchase much, which was delightful.

I'm really excited to meet the other Volunteers in this group. There are 13 of us, and by the looks of things we have served all over the place. I sorta assumed that it would be mostly South or Central American Volunteers, who spoke Spanish, but we have folks that served in Burkina Faso, Kyrgyzstan and Rwanda. When I went to go pick up my Mission Card and vest, the people in the Disaster Relief unit there were incredibly confused as to how I got "roped into this." That has been a pretty common question throughout the past week actually. The truth is, I can't imagine having this opportunity and not taking it. Service has always been such an important part of my life, and it costs me very little (we can talk about emotional toll in another post, but even with that I feel like I come out in the black.)

I need an adventure, and as nervous as I am, I couldn't be more excited for this, whatever this unknown, unplanned, unexpected thing that this is.

MSP ---> JFK ---> SJU

Peace Corps + American Red Cross = Adventure

~Claire/Tlotlo



Sunday, November 26, 2017

Information Trickle

Things I know: I'm going to Puerto Rico (there was a chance it was going to be the US Virgin Islands), I will not be leaving today, I'm in a group of 13 RPCVs, our group has been assigned to Mass Care/Distribution of Emergency Supplies, and that I'm the only person flying out of Minnesota.

Things I don't know: exactly when I will be leaving (they are shooting for the 27th, but having issues finding seats), exactly what I will be doing, and exactly where I will be doing it.

I appreciate everyone reaching out and checking in, but I think it is easier if I just answer these questions on this blog, and use this space for updates as I am able to get them. Check in here, and check in on Facebook if you want to know what is going on for now. I don't know what the communication situation is going to be once I'm in Puerto Rico but will update as able. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

In The Dark

So we are, presumably, within 24hours from take off...and I still don't have flight information.

More than anything this is driving me up a wall. I know there are a lot of people working very hard to make sure our team's logistics are ready, and that we will get our flight information when we get it, but to just have this important piece of information floating in the nebulous is hard to deal with. I'm also somewhat concerned that I'm going to get an email tomorrow saying I need to be on a flight within X many hours. This isn't the end of the world, as I'm pretty much packed and ready to go, but it just helps to plan.

People keep asking me when I'm leaving and to not be able to tell them which is also difficult. I'm also ready to leave, ready to be done with the prep anxiety, and ready to focus in on something else for a while.

On a happier note, I went out for a wonderful impromptu going away party last night with some absolutely wonderful people in my life. I don't know how I lucked out with these humans, I truly don't, but I'm thankful every damn day for them. The laughter, and the conversation, and the ribbing, and the safety and comfort that this community has provided me in my time of need is astounding. I was feeling anxious about the idea that all these wonderful folks had come out to say goodbye last night, and that I wasn't sure when I was leaving, which is making me worried that I might not be leaving (this was helped by talking to folks in my team, and realizing none of us had tickets yet.) When I voiced this to the group, everyone was supportive and fabulous and just said it would be fine, and that any excuse to get together and play bingo, pool and sing some karaoke was a good excuse.

I've had a few people pose the idea that I might not come back, or I would just stay down there, or get a job with ARC; but I think the love will bring me back.

Will keep yall updated once I know more.

Claire/Tlotlo

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Preparations

I don't know how people do rapid deployments.

On the one hand I feel like I don't have enough time to get everything done that I need to get done, on the other hand that feeling is stifling from me doing anything, which isn't any good either. I still don't have a plane ticket as far as I'm aware, but am getting daily situation reports from the ground. I know that everything is going to work itself out, I just want to make sure that I'm as prepared as I can be. Passport, toothbrush, underwear, passport, toothbrush, underwear, passport, toothbrush, underwear.

Despite all of this stress and whatnot, it has been a pretty great Thanksgiving. I spent it with a good friend and her co-workers, and then began the process of doing inventory on what I have vs. what I need using the packing list that we were given. Ultimately there isn't a ton needed, and I'm going to use the stipend to replace some gear that is probably at the end of its usefulness anyways. I was even able to make a run out to the few stores that were open this evening to grab a few things. I had mixed feelings about this, as I don't thinks stores should ever make folks work when they could be spending the holiday with friends or family. I know my presence in these stores helps propagate the profit made from these shifts, but the idea of going out tomorrow when I didn't have to, was too tempting. I will say, I appreciate that I couldn't get anything from REI, or Mall of America as these companies have decided to give their employees the day off.

Next steps will include laying out everything I want to pack, and washing anything that needs it. Collecting necessary documents and copies, and informing folks I work with of plans as I form them. There are also some personal matters to attend to and some letters to write. If all goes to plan, I will be fully packed by Saturday afternoon, and do a double check on Sunday before I leave. Tomorrow I hope to hear back from ARC about departure times, I will keep everyone updated as the information comes in.

I'm excited, and anxious, and stressed, and am so incredibly grateful for all the wonderful support I have been receiving from everyone around me; I would not be able to do this without you.

Claire/Tlotlo

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

On A Jet Plane

Remember that time I said "the next group being sent down is leaving in mid-December and I can't leave until mid-January...I'm hoping enough people want to hang around for the holidays that they will bump it back"? You remember that moment, right? If you don't, you can read it in the post below. Like any good RPCV, I should have known that the moment I said that, I was destined to be put in my place.

I will be leaving for Puerto Rico on Sunday...this Sunday.

I received an email from the American Red Cross yesterday around 4pm, giving me the following two deployment options:

Time frame one: November 26th - December 17th
Time frame two: December 10th - December 31st

My sister is coming home for Christmas, and so I refuse to miss Christmas, which left me with one option (assuming I didn't want to deploy as a one off.) I have spent the last 24hrs coordinating with both my bosses, and the community chorus I sing with (One Voice Mixed Chorus.) After a bit of back and forth, I received green lights from both, and responded that I was down to leave this weekend.

So I'm off to my next adventure, three weeks of relief work in Puerto Rico with the American Red Cross. There are worse ways to run away. ;)

Best,
Claire/Tlotlo

Saturday, November 18, 2017

PR Medical Clearance

So just got the call that I medically cleared for Puerto Rico!

The nurse on the phone called me (on a Saturday no less) and said that my paperwork looked good, and was kind enough to talk me through some next steps. At some point I will get an official email from the American Red Cross which will have my deployment date, information on finances and flight info. It will also include how to pick up my ARC Mission Card which is how they will give me money for preparatory purchases and incidentals.

It sounds like everything is pretty awesome, other than the fact that the next group being sent down is leaving in mid-December and I can't leave until mid-January. She said that wasn't set in stone by any stretch of the imagination, so I'm hoping enough people want to hang around for the holidays that they will bump it back. Worst comes to worst, if they send another group down, I could go with them; at that point I run the risk of getting a big girl job and needed to cancel my application, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

I still feel really good about this, and am excited about the prospect to serve. Send happy thoughts into the universe that the timing all works out. It is always all about the timing.

Claire/Tlotlo