Panama

plan C

I should and do verbally refer to it as “Plan G,” but “Plan C” is more accurate.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have another plan.

And I am not going to Panama.

Perhaps you recall that I never was exactly thrilled at the whole Panama idea. ‘Tis true. Once I returned home from Peru, my distaste for the idea only strengthened. I did not like the prospect of being gone for five months. Not one bit. Three months in Peru was sufficient. Five months is too long, at least after having been gone three already.
The determining factor appeared in a expectations and packing list sent by YWAM in Panama (oh yea, I was accepted; I forgot to mention that). It informed me that I should refrain from brining anything over which I would be distraught if the humidity ruined said item. It specified computers. It was too much. No computer would mean no blogging with ease, no skype, no picture uploading, NO CONTACT WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD! Momentary panic ensued. I ran around the house seven times, screaming. I exaggerate, at least about the running and screaming.
After I expressed my rather strong opinions to the parents and consented to come up with a viable alternative, they agreed to release me from the Panama half of my gap year. Hallelujah! Following a few glorious moments of mental relief and freedom, I was locked in my room without my supper and chained infront of my computer, to be left until I came up with a Plan C. I kid. (What’s wrong with me? My natural sobriety has disappeared with the sunlight this depressingly dark winter evening!) In reality, we tossed ideas back and forth in the kitchen over the course of days and perhaps two weeks. Eventually, when the deadline came around for me to write Chapel Hill again to reconfirm my deferral, I wrote up what was then a tentative, somewhat idealistic plan and what soon became The Plan. Plan C. The second half 2.0.

In theory, I will participate in a job shadow/mentorship in some sort of journalism environment whilest living with the Grandparents L. in California for 3-4 weeks while volunteering at some nonprofit in my spare time, hopefully exercising my Spanish-speaking faculties. Then, I shall return home and intern at a restaurant for threeish months and, yet again, volunteer speaking Spanish at an organization that provides services to the Latino community around here.

There you have it! I have already applied for the mentorship; the Californian nonprofit has been located; the restaurant has been preliminarily contacted; and I left a message with the Latino organization here. I must extend my sincerest thanks to Grandma and Grandpa L. for coming up with the entirety of the plan for the California part of Plan C and also to Father for more or less inventing the other half! What would I do without them? Let me tell you: I would be in Panama. No thank you. Praise God for parents and grandparents!

I am now officially looking forward to the second half of my gap year. It should be fun! Just as soon as I finish making phone calls and am actually installed in my various mentorships, internships, and organizations, that is.

Advertisements

shots

That’s what I got today. Three shots. Two in my right arm and one in my left. Will someone please explain to me why I didn’t request to have two in my left and one in my right? I can’t lift my right arm. Help!

Mother and I spent three hours at the travel clinic today trying to (1) get a this-person-is-alive-and-can-walk form for my DTS application signed, (2) acquire some medicine to prevent/reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness, and (3) make sure I have all my immunizations in order for traveling to both Peru and Panama. Three hours. And all the people had to do was confirm I was a living person, order a prescription, and impale my arms multiple times. It shouldn’t have been that difficult. But, of course, the physician’s assistant we were assigned was quite chatty; unfortunately for me, her son had recently visited Peru, so she apparently felt compelled to share with me some of his adventures. And, naturally, the travel clinic could not access the Almighty Immunization Database to find out some detail about my shot record, and our “normal” doctor’s office (not that we ever go to the doctor except in cases such as these) would not answer their phone to supply us with the information. Mom ended up driving down to the other place herself to retrieve the necessary data.
Finally, when we were about to escape the endless cycle of waiting, listening, waiting, responding, and waiting, I passed out. Yup. I fainted. I had just gotten all three shots, and as the lady who wounded my arms was leaving she said I should sit there for a few minutes to make sure I didn’t get dizzy or something. Psh. Dizzy? I’ve gotten this many shots at least twice before and never had problems. And then, I got dizzy. And “came to” about 15 seconds later with mother, and the two doctorish people who had been detaining us for so long, looking down at me. It was weird. And annoying. I felt like some delicate, Elizabethan female. ugh. Oh, and I dreamt something during those 15 seconds, but I don’t remember what. In any case, from what the doctorish people said, apparently it wasn’t too shocking that I’d passed out, especially considering the amount of sleep I got last night (not much) and the fact that I was probably a bit dehydrated; they called it some sort of something-or-other reaction and said it usually happens to girls about my age. Go figure. Of course, I had to drink some water and not move for a while, but finally they released mother, me, and my poor, aching arms. And that was that. We left, after those exceedingly lengthy three hours, with the form signed, medicine prescribed, and shots gotten.

We came home; I cooked supper. We did some tying down of this and that to prepare for Hurricane Irene. And now I’m going to bed to catch up on sleep.

drinking water, amongst other things

Around here summer flows quickly past on waves of palpable humidity and heat mirages; it’s August already! Amidst all the heat and humidity and various activities, I have had time to at least briefly dwell upon those impending three months in Peru. I came up with three questions. So, I emailed my Andeo (the Peru program) correspondent two of my questions. (I lost the third question somewhere in the recesses of my unfocused, summer vacationing brain. I’ll let you know when I find it.) My email, in short, consisted of these two questions: Can I drink the tap water in Peru, and do I need a visa? When I wrote my email, I was pretty confident that I knew the answers to these two questions. Still am.
When I asked whether or not I will be able to drink the water in Peru, what I really wanted to know was whether or not my host family will be providing filtered water for me to drink. The Andeo lady surprised me with her answer. She basically stated that I might very well be able to drink the tap water, though I should stick to bottle water for the first week while my body is adjusting to the altitude, and that I should ask my host family about it when I get there. Well, her advice directly contradicted my assumption: I should not drink the tap water. And, since I have traveled and lived in several less developed countries, I was quite hesitant to embrace her advice with an innocently trusting, “OKAY!” So, I whipped out my handy dandy Lonely Planet Peru travel book (thank you Uncle Tom!) and found a blurb on drinking water. There it was in black and white on page 550, “Tap water in Peru is not safe to drink.” Ha! I knew it! And I felt better immediately. I’m on familiar territory if I can’t drink the water in a foreign country. It just feels right. With that conflict of information resolved, I immediately started searching for water filters, since I refuse to assume that my host family will have filtered water readily available, and I will most certainly not be living off little bottles of water in Peru. Mother suggested I look at reviews for water filters on a reliable backpacking website. There were numerous options, of course. But, I narrowed my options significantly by deciding that I definitely wanted a filter that removes both viruses and bacteria, not just the latter. The most cost-effective and simple thing I found is not really even a filter. It’s called SteriPEN. You stick the end of this little, vaguely pen-shaped thing into the appropriate amount of water and it kills everything dangerous in the water by zapping it with ultraviolet light. As Mother and I were discussing this clever contraption, we recalled that we already own a small pump filter that we had purchased for some excursion in Africa. She dug it out of the attic. And in the end, that is probably what I will use.
You may recall that I had emailed the Peruvian embassy and consulate and called the consulate about the visa thing. Well, I never got a reply. I was annoyed. And when my beloved father found out that I still didn’t know about my visa, he was annoyed that the Andeo people had not just told me whether or not I need one, since they are being paid to organize the details of my trip. In any case, the Andeo lady responded promptly, as always, and confirmed my suspicion: namely, I don’t need to apply for a visa. Since I will not be a proper university student, I don’t need a student visa. Therefore, when I arrive in Peru, my passport will probably be stamped with some sort of 90-day touristy visa-ish thing. And I will go on with my life.

Now we have come to the other things. tickets. applications. deferral letters. lists. Let us begin with tickets.

Before Beach Week (a biennial, week-long beach gathering of my paternal extended family), Mother had been searching for tickets to Peru and had found nothing fantastic. Then we went to Beach Week, where Uncle Tom revealed the wonders of Spirit Airlines. To put it bluntly: Spirit is cheap. Their flights cost only a third or maybe less of what other airlines charge to fly down south. ‘Tis wonderful! Of course, they don’t fly a huge number of places, but thankfully, Lima, Peru is one of the places they do fly.
The other thing about flights that is being considered is whether or not one of the parents will accompany me to Lima and send me off to Cusco. The reason for such an odd move is that there is no possible way to fly to Cusco from home without spending a night in Lima. And the parents are not quite thrilled at the thought of me spending a night in a foreign country by myself, to say the least. I am not quite sure what I think about that prospect. Regardless, one or another of my parents will probably fly down to Lima, maybe a few days early so we can tour the city, and see me off on my flight to Cusco.

I gave up on the second set of Panama DTS people (the ones on some Panamanian island called Bocas del Toro). I emailed them weeks ago and have recieved no response whatsoever. Therefore, I printed off the application for original Panama DTS and have begun the gradual process of filling it out. One must never rush these things. Or at least I do not intend to this time.

Yesterday I finally received a letter from UNC-CH. While waiting for a few brief minutes after finishing cooking supper for dad to come home so we could eat it, I moseyed down to the mailbox. I instantly recognized the UNC-CH logo on the envelope with my name visible through the flimsy plastic window of the envelope. Still juggling the rest of the mail, I ripped it open with my teeth and scanned the letter. SUCESS! Gracious and sensible Mr. Farmer granted me a deferral until the fall of 2012. God be praised! Along with some kind but scripted sentences about successes and other such worthy goals, the letter detailed the terms of my deferral: I must not deviate from what I outlined in my deferral request; I must not take any college courses; I must pay whatever fees I owe to UNC-CH; and I must write again by December 31st to confirm my deferral. Sounds feasible. My gap year is officially permissible.

I started a packing list. I discovered about a week ago that I was coming up with random but vital and not entirely obvious things to bring to Peru. And I was not writing them down. Afraid I would forget my sudden packing inspirations, I titled a loose piece of notebook paper “Peru” and jotted down my thoughts. I have been adding to it as items come to me. I have not yet started my comprehensive packing list. The current one is for things I might forget about, like cold medicine, chapstick, peanut butter (oh yes), and extra led for my mechanical pencils (just thought of that one and wrote it down). With any luck, I will have exactly everything I need, no more, no less, with me in Peru.

still waiting, mostly

I’m still waiting. Still waiting for a subset of the Panama DTS people to email me back. Still waiting for the Peruvian embassy to email me back about whether or not I need a visa. Still waiting for UNC-CH admissions to inform me if I have been granted a deferral or not. Still waiting.

Really, though, I’m not waiting on everything that I was previously. My new passport, which I was waiting for, did come. And the Panama DTS people to whom I originally sent my inquiry did email me back. Nevertheless, I feel like I’m waiting. And nothing else. I guess it’s because until I hear from the Panama DTS people, I can’t decide which DTS I will attend. And until I hear from the Peruvian embassy, I don’t know how much more paperwork I need. And until I know if I have my deferral or not, I don’t know if I will have the bother of filling out college applications again to worry about whilest I am in Peru.

Still waiting. Still somewhat clueless. Still slightly plan-less. Ah well, that’s life, isn’t it?

bits and pieces

Wow. It’s been a while since I last posted, but not much has happened. I just have a few bits and pieces of information about various gap-year related items to relate to you, my dear reader(s).

I finished that second (“primary”) application to the Peru Spanish school program. I sent it in. I reviewed it over the phone with the nice lady with whom I have been communicating. That conversation, by the way, was really just to remind me that I’ll be a minor that and I should obey my host family’s rules and that I shouldn’t try to order a beer or something, et cetera. Besides informing me of things I already knew, the lady also answered questions I had like what the name of my school is (Academia Latinoamericana), what telecommunication option is best in Peru (a calling card), and what to do about altitude sickness (sleep a lot, don’t physically exert myself much, and consume anything containing ginger). A day or two after the phone call, I received an email notifying me that I had been accepted into the Peru gap year program. Attached to the email were six PDF files with everything from a brief Peruvian history lesson to a packing list to advice about culture shock. Printed that. Read it. Twas rather amusing, slightly helpful, and somewhat interesting. Now I am waiting to hear who my host family is, which information I am not guaranteed to have until a week before I leave. Supposedly people are typically informed much sooner. We shall see.

As for the DTS options (for your reading convenience: Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Argentina, and Spain), I proceeded to look at the websites of each location, searching for information about the bases and conformation of the DTSs’ dates (the DTS I attend must start in January 2012). I determined that two of the bases, Columbia and Costa Rica, did not have 2012 DTSs at the correct time or for the appropriate amount of time, so I eliminated those two. Although I had been convinced for at least a week and a half that I really wanted to go to Spain, I concluded after some more thought that I did not. And here’s why: I currently fully intend to spend as many semesters of college abroad as possible (why go to college in the US when I could pay the same tuition and live in another country?). There are not many study abroad programs available in South and Central America as there are in Europe. Therefore, I want to “save” going to Spain for when I am in college and can study abroad there. Oh, and I think the last few sentences make more sense if you know that I don’t want to go to the same country more than once if I can help it; I’d rather experience other countries and return later if I can or so desire. Anyways, I eliminated Spain. About a week ago, I emailed the YWAM bases in Panama, Nicaragua, and Argentina to further enquire about the DTS dates that were unclear on their websites. I also emailed a YWAM-affiliated elementary school in Panama to find out of I could perhaps teach or teacher-assist there. Argentina emailed back to tell me that their single DTS lasted an entire year. That’s out. The Panama school emailed back to say that their school year is from March to December. Can’t do that. Nicaragua replied that their DTS starts mid January. Hey, that works! Panama has not yet answered my inquiry, which is unfortunate since I liked the looks of that base best.
As you may recall, I have to send in my pretty-please-with-a-mango-on-top-grant-me-a-deferral-til-2012 letter by July 1st. That day happens to be this Friday. Fortunately, I have already written a paragraph or three of introductory periphery and blither blather about the Peru program. Now, unless I receive an email from the Panama YWAM, make my decision between it and Nicaragua, and apply within the next two days, I intend to finish that letter with a few paragraphs on my DTS plans, put forth in the futuristic, I-intend-to-I-plan-to-I-will tense, naturally. Then, once I (hopefully) am granted my deferral, and once I have applied to a DTS program, all that will be left will be to send money here and there and wait.

Travel-wise, airline ticket plans for Peru are currently in progress. Mother did discover that it takes no less than two days to travel to Cusco, Peru, unless one desires to arrive in the middle of the night.
From what I have googled, I should not need a student visa to enter Peru (something I still need to call the US Peruvian embassy to confirm) but should simply be issued the sufficient 90-day tourist visa upon entry.
Speaking of travel documents, tomorrow we are going to try to renew my passport for the third time. Yup. Third try. The first time the post office guy informed us that he needed a photo copy of my driver’s license (something that had not been mentioned in all the fine print I had scrutinized on the US Passport website). Of course, I had left it at home since I should not have needed it. The second time, at an office in our local university, the lady thought my taken-at-home-and-edited-with-a-special-passport-tool picture was too dark and complained that I was submitting my old passport instead of a copy of my birth certificate as proof of my identity (neither of which the other guy had mentioned). She suggested they take my picture, but I declined, having already observed the ghastly photographs taken by that office for the university IDs. So, tomorrow we go again, with two versions of a bright, new picture and copies of my driver’s license, Mother’s license, and my birth certificate. Only the US government could deny us. Bah.