1. Take a full body photo of yourself. You might lose or gain weight. You might get tan. You might get dreads. You might look at yourself in 2 years and think… who is that? I did this and it’s already interesting how different I look. I left thinking of myself as a grown-up kid (college kid) and now I’m starting to look like an adult adult it’s weird. I also look soooo much like my Aunt Sherrie I can’t get over—it’s just crazy.
2. Take pictures of your home—especially if you live in a snowy place. (One day we made fake snow from a packet and did a mini snowball fight with my grade 3 class it was AWESOME so that’s fun). If you’re an education volunteer your class will want to know about you and where you come from. I was surprised how few pictures I have of my home and my room and the places I spend so much of my time. Kids will ask about the most mundane details of your life back home and having some pictures is nice!
3. Have a going away party. I am not a party planner. I don’t love big dramatic speeches and perfectly timed parties and planning the details, and so I wasn’t sure I wanted an official going away party. My mother convinced me to have one and did the lion’s share of the work. I like good beer, good food and excellent company. I rented a room at a brewery made sure all my friends and family got the invite. It was low maintenance and awesome because I have all these pictures of people I love right before I left. Since I left my sister, my 3 best friends and my cousin have all moved. They seem far away but I get to look back and remember that every last one of them showed up for me.
4. Read “When Helping Hurts,” or a similar text and find your own views on sustainable development. Honestly, Peace Corps has a very vague definition and a distinct lack of direction when it comes to your projects. You are expected to be the expert on your community. They give you a list of tools to identify needs but again it’s like this: “You could list them (project priority) by urgency, you could list them by available resources, you could list them impact, you could list them by expertise, it really just depends on your experience and your community.” In short it’s on you to design projects on your own with your own mentality, your own community and your own resources. I see myself as somewhat of a network for my community. I’m basically just connecting dots when possible and working as a teacher. The network building aids in capacity building which is sustainable, and teaching workshops when done correctly can be helpful, but mostly I just teach because there is a HUGE gap in my school (1 teacher for 3 grades is less than ideal). So you have to balance sustainable projects with urgent needs and you have to decide what your priorities are because Peace Corps will not tell you.
5. Download music, TV shows and movies that you like or bring the dvds or whatever, and also consider bringing some documentaries, Bill Nye the Science Guy, The Magic School Bus etc. If you have health clubs , library programs, teach in the schools or anything like that it’s nice to have some help. Sometimes Peace Corps is like reinventing the wheel and it’s super wonderful to incorporate some ready to go material when you are at a breaking point.