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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Karalee's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, July 19th, 2008
11:48 am
don't forget....
This website is neither affililiated with nor endorsed by the United States Peace Corps, the United States government, or any other organization. Everything contained herein is the opinion and personal expression of the owner.
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008
1:33 pm
To those interested in keeping up with my adventures in Cameroon: I'm sorry to say that for several reasons I've decided to make this journal "Friends Only." If you have been reading the entries here (when I have time to update them. I'm trying, I'm trying.) and would like to continue, all you have to do is set up your own LiveJournal account. It's free and easy and you don't actually have to post anything in you own account. You can just use it to access this one. If you do open your own account, send me an e-mail and I'll add you to my friends list and then you can continue to read the ups and down in the life of a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer). Thanks.
Oh, and be forewarned: I don't have much time on the Internet when I do get to a cyber cafe so please forgive all of my grammar and spelling errors. I'm trying to type as fast as I can and it's usually on a French keyboard. Later, KJ
Friday, June 16th, 2006
12:26 pm
Oh, I forgot to write the most important thing: I really miss all my friends and family and really just anyone who already knows me and where I'm from and why I wanted to do this without me have to explain it all. In the quiet times it's still hard for me to realize I'm leaving. I'm not afraid to admit it: I am what some would call an emotional basket case. Oh well, so anyway I really miss you if you're reading this. (And even some who might not be) Ok, I'm really going now.
12:15 pm
Oh my gosh, it's been busy, busy, busy. I have so much to write but no time. Argh! I'm in Philadelphia for a couple more hours with 44 other trainees. Lots of information to process. I got my first three shots/vaccines this morning. Only about 8 more to go! We're getting ready to go to the airport soon and should be getting to Cameroon about noonish US time on Saturday. Is that tomorrow? That doesn't seem right. I'm so confused. Anyway, I'll try to get my thoughts all sorted out and written out on the plane that way as soon as I have access to the internet I'll be able to update this and make more sense :) Oh, but I learned yesterday that we need to have our Country Director's approval before setting up and posting stuff to an online site so I need to get that taken care of too before I can post more. Gotta go.
Wednesday, May 31st, 2006
8:41 pm
This weekend was just wonderful. Adam had a four day weekend so we spent most of our time in DM hanging out and relaxing. Saturday we ended up going shopping for some of the stuff I need. I really haven't done that much shopping on my own. It's some of that old Magical Thinking I guess: if I don't buy anything to get ready to leave then the time to leave won't actually come. Makes no sense, I know, but the brain does funny things. I've been reading all sorts of packing lists and stuff on websites about what to take and what to do before I leave. It's overwhelming. I have weight and size and financial limits to keep in mind and sometimes I have a hard time separating out what items are necessities and what would come in handy, but I could probably get it over there. It's just been hard for me to plan. When we got to Scheels I didn't have any of my packing lists with me so we were just looking around trying to remember some of the items. We were getting nowhere fast so I mentioned that something I knew I wanted to get was a headlamp to use at night. We found the display but there were about 10 different models to choose from and I didn't know a single thing about the different features and what I would need. Adam found a salesperson to help us. The guy came over and asked how he could help and I just lost it. It was too much all of a sudden. The straw that broke the camel's back so to speak. So many decisions and indecision on my part and feeling like a fool and unprepared and unqualified to do any of this. He was giving me a funny look and I was trying to back away and I could feel Adam's hand on my back keeping me forward and he was trying to explain to the clerk what I needed but I just couldn't do it. I was getting all hot and scared and just plain freaking out. We walked away and I started crying (jeez I'm a crybaby these days, my emotions are just so close to the surface lately and they spill over all the time--happy and sad ones). I tried to explain what I was feeling to Adam and we just kept walking around the store not looking at anything in particular. Then he said he needed to go look at some discs for disc golf. After a bit he said let's just go look at backpacks. You don't need to make any decisions or buy anything today. You can just see what they have. Ok, I could handle that. Baby steps. I love him so much. He was so completely supportive and helpful. I got myself back together and was able to actually get a lot of stuff that day from both Scheels and Target. I question every little purchase and it's exhausting not knowing what kind of sleeping bag will be the best? What kind of flashlight will last the longest? How many locks should I get? Do I look ridiculous in this hat? What color water bottle should I get? I make lots of mountains out of molehills. And then here comes that little voice again saying 'How in the hell are you going to do this and make it two years when you can't even go shopping on your own without having a mini-breakdown?' Someone the other day said they were going to start taking bets as to how long I'd last. Not exactly confidence building to hear someone say that, but I can't really blame them. Deep, deep down I know that I can do this. That I'll be ok, and that going through all of this is exactly the reason I wanted to join PC to begin with. I know that, but I guess I don't do a very good job of showing it to others.

The rest of the weekend was relaxing and comfortable and just good. Made me realize just how very hard it is going to be to say goodbye. I got home in good time today but didn't get much accomplished. I took a long nap and put some stuff away and played outside with the kids but for the most part I just kept thinking about what a great weekend it was and how, now that I'm back in CR again, it just feels like something's missing.
Friday, May 26th, 2006
12:33 pm
oh good
Article in the paper this moring:
"Solving the mystery of HIV's ancestry was dirty work. But researchers now have confirmed that the human AIDS virus really did originate in wild chimpanzees--in a corner of Cameroon"

But don't worry...I promise to wash my hands before eating. :)
Wednesday, May 24th, 2006
8:57 pm
So this was definitely a down day. I've been reading the PC Handbook and other official stuff to try and make sure I've got all my bases covered. There's just so much stuff to do and I have zero motivation to do it today. I still have no idea what to pack. And I feel guilty for spending weekends with Adam instead of with my family. It's just...my head hurts. I can't do this tonight.
Wednesday, May 17th, 2006
7:56 pm
So today was much more productive. I uncovered Jeanna's card table from the attic, brought my roses upstairs, and set myself up a nice little desk in my room. Lately I've been going a little nuts because I just feel so disorganized. I like knowing that my life is in some sort of order and the last week or so has been so busy that I haven't had time to keep up with stuff. It's particularly been bothering me that I no longer have any money coming in but I still have lots of stuff to buy and bills to pay before I leave. So the first order of business was getting all of my financial stuff in order. This didn't take as long as I thought it would and the good news is that I should be able to make it all work. I was rather surprised to figure out that even without living here and buying stuff and having the usual expenses it's still going to cost me about $7000 over the next two years. The majority of this is student loan payments that I'm going to try to keep making so I don't have to go thru the hassle of deferring them. I hate having debt. I also have some insurance payments and IRA contributions that it would be very easy to just stop for a couple years but I think down the line at some point I'll be glad I kept those up. So now I just need to cash in some savings and sell my car and I should be all set. Big weight off my shoulders. Then I just putzed around the rest of the day making lists of things I still need to do and buy and find out. Watched the season finale of Grey's Anatomy. Put all my addresses and phone numbers in this teeny tiny little address book to take with me. See? Productive. So now I'm going to go meet Anita for a drink or two to reward myself.
Tuesday, May 16th, 2006
9:15 pm
So yesterday was my last day at work and it was long and sad with some sweet surprises thrown in. I was tired from a long weekend of driving between Waterloo, Marshalltown, CR, and Dubuque so it was hard to get up for the Monday meeting. When we were done with all of the work related stuff we had going away cake and they gave me some gifts. Mostly practical stuff like sun block, pens, notecards, Easy Mac, toilet paper. All good things I'll need but the very best thing was this big journal that people wrote little notes and goodbye wishes in. It's fantastic. I love it. They must've been working on it for a while. I didn't have time to look at it closely then because I had to get to Jewett but as soon as I was done at the school I sat right outside in my car reading it. They probably thought I was some crazy person because I was laughing and crying just reading this book. They cut out pictures and stuff from magazines and put all sorts of random memories in here. And they photocopied something like 720 pennies and cut them out and pasted them all over the book--a penny a day for good luck every day that I'll be gone. Really very touched by this journal. It reminds me of a big yearbook from high school.
So the day started out great but when I got to work at 11 things went downhill. We were busy with customers and changing displays and trying to get ready for inventory and things just weren't going smoothly. Frustrating. Then round about 2pm Ernie comes in and brings me a yellow rose. So sweet. The day's getting a little better. Then an hour or so later I come back to the info desk and see a big bunch of red roses. They were from Adam and just so beautiful. Just what I needed to turn my day around. And then later on Symone sent some balloons with some Easy Mac as the weight. :) The rest of the day went very quickly, especially once the leads and managers and inventory people started showing up. I ended up not leaving until 10:30 or so. Just saying goodbyes and finishing up stuff and not wanting to leave. I knew once I started crying I'd be done for and I did ok saying most of my goodbyes until I came back to the breakroom one more time and started talking to Kate. And then I had to turn in my keys. And then I had to get one more hug from Tom. So then I just drove home with the radio off and me trying to balance two vases of flowers and keep the balloons out of the way. I'm so sad to be done working there but very happy and grateful for all of the memories.

Today I just took the day off and started a new book and took a long bubble bath and just did absolutely nothing all day. I did make it to yoga so I guess I did something, but nothing productive towards getting all my shit together and ready to go. Ah, well. There's always tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 10th, 2006
8:29 pm
awww...that's so sweet
Alex, one of the 'money guys', sent me a dozen roses at work today. They're all different colors and just beautiful. The card said, "Have a nice trip." Like I'm just going on vacation or something :) Those guys are always laughing and they keep us up to date on the latest weather patterns. You'd think carrying around a bunch of money that's not yours every day might make you bitter or jealous, but they just keep right on smiling. Karla thought it was weird but I still think it's just plain sweet.
Monday, May 8th, 2006
9:22 pm
So back in my school days anytime I had something unpleasant coming up like a final, paper, speech, etc. I would tell myself over and over 'by this time next month I'll be done...by this time next week I'll be done...by this time tomorrow I'll be done' and on and on until whatever it was that I was dreading had passed. It didn't really make time pass faster but just helped to remind me that this too will pass. So on my drive home tonight I couldn't help but think...'by this time next week I'll be done.' Only this time I'm wishing that time would actually slow down a bit. No actually, slow down a lot. Days are just flying by lately. I'm ready to be done with work but I just don't know how to say goodbye. A preview of things to come I guess. Trying to say goodbye's. Tonight in the car just thinking about next Monday made me sad.
Thursday, May 4th, 2006
5:56 pm
in the small victories department
The other morning I had to get up at 4 am to make it from Des Moines to Waterloo by 7 o'clock. As I was stumbling to the bathroom I grabbed my shoes from the floor just outside the bathroom. It made me smile because they were sitting right by the heating vent and that made me remember his unfortunate encounter with a snake last fall. I think it's funny that he's so afraid of snakes. Yes, not fair of me to make fun, I know. Anyway, so I go into the bathroom and there on the rug is a large beetle. My first instinct was to smash it and then just tiptoe around the yucky guts. But then I got thinking that I need to start thinking about bug karma because pretty soon I'm going to be in an environment where they're going to be able to get me back big time. Long story short I spent 15 minutes trying to coax this beetle out of the corner so that I could get ready for work without having to kill him. This was a big deal for me. We co-existed.
Wednesday, April 19th, 2006
11:52 am
the best laid plans of mice and men.....
Last Thursday at work I got a message from Adam that maybe I should check out some world news websites because something was going on in Chad. And then Symone said something. And then Tom brought in an article about rebels attacking in N'Djamena. I admit I've been living with a not so healthy sense of denial about the whole political situation over there. My attitude has been, if it's not safe they won't send me so there's no sense getting all worked up over every little bit of news about conflict over there. Besides, most of it is going on near the Sudan border and I've been assured by multiple people that it may as well be in another country for as far away as that is. I read what PC sent me, did some research on my own, talked to some knowledgeable people about the situation and was ok with it all. So this news on Thursday was unsettling for several reasons: first of all because the trouble was taking place in the capital city and people were killed and it just felt much more dangerous. The other reason that I was bothered was that people who have been very supportive were all of a sudden saying maybe you better rethink this and not go. It was hard enough dealing with my own doubts and concerns. Having other people voice the same concerns was messing with my head.
I spent all morning Friday looking at news sights trying to figure out what was going on. There was a lot of information about where these attacks were coming from and why. Reading the articles I got the impression that things would probably get worse before they got better--lots of conflict with the elections coming up in May. But then I found some more journal sites of current PCV's in Chad and they reiterated that they were safe and hopeful that things would calm down. Right before I got off the computer, however, I read a posting that said all of the current PCV's had been pulled out of Chad and were being moved to Cameroon. I was nervous about this news, but was really still hopeful that it was just a temporary thing and we would still be able to go. To answer one of my own questions I called Tim to see if I did end up not going in June, would I still have a job, or is it Mark's job come mid-July? He basically said that it's Mark's job as soon as he gets there, but they would find another spot for me while I waited for a new PC assignment. Maybe a temp. position in Des Moines?
I had the weekend off and was getting ready to go to Roseann's for the egg hunt with the kids when I decided to check my email Saturday morning. There was news that Peace Corps had decided to suspend the Chad program and the would be meeting on Monday the 17th to determine what to do next. I had heard that once they pull out it's usually years before they'll go back. So even though I had yet to hear anything official from anyone from PC headquarters I was pretty sure I would not be going to Chad. And this news made me very sad. As silly as it has sounded to certain people, I had really gotten attached to the idea of moving to and learning more about this country. I knew it was going to be hard, but that was part of the appeal. I was sad about the other people I've talked to who were also supposed to be going to Chad in June that now I'll probably never get the chance to meet. Not to mention all the people that I would have met actually in the country. It seems strange to be sad about not getting to meet people who you don't even know yet, but there it is. And I felt for the current volunteers in Chad who had to leave so quickly and maybe didn't even get a chance to say goodbye or wrap things up. I can't even imagine what they are going through right now. So all weekend I just had sort of an unsettled feeling not knowing what was going to happen. Would I just be reassigned somewhere else? Would it be soon? Would it still be in Africa? Would I have to start this whole big waiting game all over again? The thought of being back to square one is awful and if that would turn out to be the case I'd seriously rethink the whole idea of even joining Peace Corps. Not knowing any answers I decided to try not to think about it too much and hope for a phone call from PC on Monday.
The weekend was great. We flew kites with all the kids on Saturday then met Dad, Jeff, and Amy in Platteville for dinner. Got to talk to Kim for a little bit, but not nearly long enough. Saturday night Adam and I hung out downtown with Jeff & Amy and Dani & Scott at some of his old favorite bars. Long night. Sunday we had lunch with Adam's parents at their cabin. Very good weekend and I couldn't help but think that it might be all right if I didn't end up going somewhere. I could move to Des Moines and move on with my life and see if what has been so much fun long distance could actually be something more once we live in the same city. And this was really the first time that I let myself seriously think that I might not leave. There was just a glimmer that maybe this was happening for a reason.
So Monday afternoon at work I finally got the call at work from my placement officer saying that they were officially suspending the Chad program and here were my other options:
1) They have a teaching assignment in Cameroon that I qualify for. It's still a French speaking country and is more stable than Chad. The assignment will incorporate more AIDS awareness/prevention in my teaching duties. This program leaves on June 14th so that leaves one less week to spend with family.
2) There are some other business development assignments leaving in later June that I also qualify for. He didn't say, but I got the impression that these were also still in French-speaking Africa.
3) Go back to waiting for a new education assignment somewhere else. It could be this year, or it could be next year. I've been in that situation and don't want to go back to the waiting so I ruled out this option pretty quickly.
I also ruled out number 2 because since the very beginning I've wanted to go with education rather than business development. So that leaves number one.
I told Adam Monday night over the phone about this latest development and as I predicted, he didn't have much to say. It's his was of being supportive without trying to influence my decision or change my mind. And I can appreciate that but it's frustrating as hell. On the drive to work yesterday I tried to think about what exactly it is that I want him to say or I want to hear, but I didn't have any easy answers either.
So today I'm waiting for FedEx to deliver my official invitation kit so I can learn more about Cameroon. I told the placement officer that I'd let him know my decision on Thursday. It seems like a no brainer. I was ready to leave for Chad. Adam was ok with me leaving for Chad. So what's the big deal? I think what's getting me now is feeling like I have to choose again. Choose between a possible future with him or Peace Corps. Because for a couple days there was the possibility that I might not be leaving. So I think he thinks that that was my opportunity to stay. It wouldn't be me quitting, it would just be what the situation was. An easy way out. But, again, is it selfish of me to say that I'm not ready to give up on Peace Corps? That this is still something that I really want/need to do? I feel like I have to defend/justify/explain yet again my decision to go. And will he be able to understand it again? I don't know. But I'm gonna go to DM tonight to sort out face to face just what he's thinking instead of making assumptions of my own and trying to sort it out on the phone. We'll see.
Friday, April 14th, 2006
1:17 pm
oh no...
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 14, 2006 – Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez has announced the temporary suspension of the Peace Corps program in Chad.

Over the past two months, there have been frequent attempts to destabilize the government of Chad by rebel forces in the country. In light of current conditions and concerns for volunteer safety, the Peace Corps has determined that a temporary suspension of the program is necessary.

"It is with tremendous regret that the Peace Corps is temporarily suspending its program in Chad at this time," said Director Vasquez. "The security of Peace Corps volunteers is the highest priority. All Peace Corps volunteers have safely left the country."

The Peace Corps first arrived in Chad in 1966 after the country gained independence from France. Volunteers provided support in education, health, water supplies and forestry until the program was closed in 1979. The Peace Corps re-entered Chad in 1987 and remained there until the program was closed again in 1998. The Peace Corps reopened the Chad program in 2003 with a focus on teaching English as a foreign language. In addition to teaching English, all volunteers incorporated HIV/AIDS education into their lesson plans and projects.

To date, a total of 726 volunteers have served in Chad. At the time of suspension, the Peace Corps had 29 volunteers in Chad.
Wednesday, April 12th, 2006
9:42 pm
peace corps...what else these days
So I've gotten used to getting the 'are you crazy, don't you know what's happening over there?!' look everytime I tell someone that I'm going to Chad (at least after I get done explaining to 75% of them where it is). I've gotten used to Tom trying to scare me with stories he heard on the news about fighting at the Sudanese border and pictures of giant spiders. I've gotten used to telling people that they won't send me somewhere if it's not safe and they'll pull us out if it becomes unsafe...and backing that up with stories from other volunteers who lived through it. What I'm not used to is getting anxious phone messages from the people who have promised to be supportive no matter what, who are now kinda sorta hinting that maybe I should rethink it. There's been some stuff going on in Chad. Threats of fighing and rebels in the capital. I know it's because they care that people just want me to be safe...but jeez o'pete's it's really starting to freak me out!
Monday, April 10th, 2006
1:33 am
it's happy and sad
Went to AJ's for karoke and beer after the meeting tonight...I'm really going to miss those girls.
Friday, March 31st, 2006
2:37 pm
random bits of life
I'm hanging out at the Des Moines B&N today waiting for Adam to get off work. It's a sickness really...even on my days off I want to go to the bookstore. I love sitting in the cafe just people watching and eavesdropping on conversations.

Reminder to self: Subscribe to Mental Floss and Booklinks and pay for someone to send the issues to me in Africa. But then again, do I really want to be reminded of all the new books coming out that I can't read? Maybe just go with MF.

PC has decided (once again) that my teeth are healthy. My medical clearance better not expire before I leave because I really don't want to go thru all that fun again.

Speaking of Peace Corps, I'm beginning to come out again of this little dip/rut that takes over my emotions every so often. I know it's normal to feel the ups and downs. This last down was triggered by my car insurance bill. It came in the mail last week and reminded me that my next payment is due May 28th. I've always thought that I won't have to pay that because I'll be so close to leaving that I'll just sell my car by then and won't have to worry about insurance anymore. I started thinking about the fact that I'm reaching the point of no return. Ok, that's exaggerating a bit. But I've told them when I'm quitting at work and they've found my replacement. The pessimist in me says what if, in that month between when I quit and when I leave, something happens and I can't go to Chad. Either something happens in the country itself, which I don't expect, or I get there and decide that I can't do it, which I don't anticipate either, but come on, no matter how much I think about it with other current and/or returned volunteers, I don't think I can ever truly know what to expect or how I'll react until I'm in that moment. So then I'd be without a car, insurance, job or home. And that thought worries me a little bit when I wake up in the middle of the night, panicked from a dream about giant cockroaches. Agh!! You'd think by now I'd have learned that all of my fears are magnified in that dark hour and I'm much more rational during daylight hours.

I think I'm at the point where I could hold a (very slow) conversation in basic French. I'm probably deluding myself.
Monday, February 20th, 2006
9:12 pm
So I put some miles on the car today. Drove to W'loo for the meeting, then to Dubuque for lunch and a movie with Mom, then down to IC to meet with Kristina. My ass hurts and my legs need to walk. Twas good though. Talking with Kristina was especially helpful. She really didn't tell me anything that I didn't already know but it's stuff that's good to hear over and over. Her overall words of wisdom were to just be flexible. Things will work out, sometimes not in the way you expect, or on the timeline you expect, but just learn to go with the flow. Oh, and to tell my family not to send anything in boxes. Apparently bubble-wrap lined envelopes are much less likely to get stolen or opened.

So at the moment I'm feeling good and excited and confident and all of these good things. Only one concern: around about the middle of our conversation my left eye started twitching. The last time I remember this happening was my last semester of grad school when I was trying to finish all sorts of projects and survive holiday retail on very little sleep and lots of No-Doz. I don't think other people can tell that it's happening but it is rather annoying for me. It doesn't happen that often--only when I'm really stressed. But the thing is that talking about PC stuff with someone who's done it doesn't stress me out. Talking about it with Adam, yep that can be stressful. Talking with someone who's been there gets me all motivated again. I don't know what my subconscious eye is trying to tell me.
Tuesday, January 24th, 2006
5:08 pm
So life has been bumbling along. Work has slowed back down to a normal pace. I'm working on my French and not stressing as much about leaving. Dani and Scott set their date for the 2nd weekend in January in Jamaica and I found out that it won't be a problem for me to get some time off. Well, it won't be a problem in the sense that I will have vacation days built up and I can be away from my site. The very expensive plane ticket will be a problem. The emotional turmoil that leaving after six months--even if it only is for a week or so and not actually to my home--will most likely be a problem. But of course there is no way I'd miss the wedding. Last night I spent several hours over at Steve and Alicia's and she did a fantastic job quelling some of my fears. I can do this.
Sunday, January 1st, 2006
11:40 pm
I shouldn't do this at night...so much time to think and not sleep
Jeanna found this online journal of a girl in PC Chad right now and I just made it through a couple entries tonight. And I'm scared. I mean really scared. Oh my god what am I doing thinking that I can do this?! The language, the teaching, the BUGS! And lately I'm feeling that everyone thinks I should be all excited all the time about "this great experience." And I am excited. But I'm finding some HUGE doubts too and they're getting to me and it feels like no one wants to hear that. What if they picked the wrong person?
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