Friday, December 28, 2007

Into the Wild

"I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love. I felt in myself a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life."
-Leo Tolstoy, as quoted in "Into the Wild"

I jut got finished reading the book "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer. I had some of these same thoughts a few months ago when I saw the movie that was made from the same book but it is relevant to the way I am feeling right now so I thought I would share.

If you haven't heard the story it is about a boy who graduates from college and is really unsatisfied with the life that he is living. He donates all his saving to charity ($25,000) and leaves everything behind to set off on this great adventure across the US and eventually pursues his dream of living off the land in the Alaskan wilderness. I won't be ruining the story if I tell you that in the end, he makes a mistake and ends up starving to death in the wilderness.

I can't help but see myself in that boy. Just out of college (me too!) he is young, adventurous (sounding familiar…), he is unsatisfied with his life and leaves everything behind to follow his dream (I am going to do that!). In his case, his dream is to live off the land in the Alaskan wilderness. So I see myself in his spirit.

I wonder if he knew how it would end—death and lonely starvation—would he have still gone? I think he would have. I am almost sure. Dreams like that are too powerful to walk away from. If I knew that following my dreams would cost me anything important, would I have the ambition to follow them? I think I would have to.

This concept is really hard for some people to understand, but if your dreams aren't that compelling, you are living the wrong life. Those are strong words but I believe in them completely. Let me repeat that in case you didn't get it because I mean it: if your dreams aren't that compelling, you are living the wrong life.

Some people think that the guy in the story was an idiot. A lot of people think he was too unprepared and it was a wrong decision for him to go into the wild. I won't get into the details but I would urge those people to read the book and understand who he was and what really happened. I personally think that thinking he was an idiot is completely absurd and most people who understand what it is to dream big would never say that. He had a dream and he had the courage to follow it no matter that the personal cost. What would you sacrifice for your dreams? If you can't answer that question you should take a hard look at your life and wonder if you are selling yourself short.

People tell me all the time that the Peace Corps will cost me things. It will cost me experiences with friends and family, it could cost me my dignity, even my life. Realistically I know that the experience will be really really difficult. It will be uncomfortable most of the time, frustrating all of the time, and I will be probably really lonely. To tell you the truth, none of that matters to me. I know what it could cost and what I will probably have to give up in the long run and the short run. I also know that I have to do it. Period. I can't explain it, I don't understand it, but my dreams have compelled me to do this and nothing else matters. I understand why that boy had to go to Alaska. I don't think that not going was an option for him. He made some mistakes and it cost him his life but I believe the story when it says he was happy in the end.

He had some crazy dreams and he believed in the possibility of realizing them. He had the courage to chase his dreams no matter what the cost…do you?

Note: Excerpts of this blog are from a similar blog I posted on myspace on October 22 after seeing the movie. Sorry for anyone who is getting repeat information. Thanks for being interested.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Two weeks!

Well, it seems there are only two weeks left until my departure. Time went really fast. It seems like just yesterday I was looking at two more months in the US. These next few weeks are going to be really crazy trying to see everyone before I go. I have a tendency to want to do everything and make everyone happy which is ending up being really difficult. I already feel like I have run out of time to do all the things I was thinking about doing.

I am starting to get less nervous and more excited to go. I am ready for an adventure and after all this time building up my expectations I am anxious for things to get started. I am also anxious to get my goodbyes over with. I am horrible at saying goodbye and I have to basically say goodbye to everyone I have ever known in the next two weeks. I am really going to miss everyone here. Sometimes I wish life could just stay the same as it is now forever. I also know that we never learn anything if we stay where we are comfortable. I need this experience and so does everyone else I love.

Good news, I have an address you can send me mail at! I will need lots of encouragement so start sending me nice letters!

Andrea Stanaway, PCT

8 Calle 6-55, Zone 9

Guatemala City, 01009

Guatemala, Central America

Office Tel. # 502.2384.3800

(needed for FedEx, DHL, etc.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007


I am often asked about why I joined the Peace Corps. Sometimes it is in the form of a friendly question and sometimes it is accompanied by the same look you give someone who tells you they are going to go skydiving. It's a bit of a difficult question for me to answer, not because I don't have a reason, but because the real reasons are often hard for others to understand. 

There are a lot of practical reasons to join the Peace Corps. I get to differ my student loans, get priority for government jobs, and it looks really great of a resume. I spent my academic career talking about other cultures and about global issues. It makes sense that after I have graduated, I should go out into the world and experience that which I have spent all that time talking about in school. All those things are true. I want to travel, to have an adventure, to help others. All those things are extremely important to me and a really huge part of who I am as a person.

Honestly? The real reason I wanted to join the Peace Corps is less tangible than that. It is very hard for my to explain to others, but joining the Peace Corps is just something I know I have to do. You could say it was the call of God, you could say it was destiny, you could say it was the universe nudging me in the right direction. The truth is, I just feel it. 

One year ago I never would have considered the Peace Corps as an option for myself. Going to South Africa really changed things for me. Spending time in those villages and townships really opened my eyes to new possibilities. I felt like I had finally found someplace where other people understood who I was. I wanted to stay there forever. If I could fit in South Africa, there has to be other places like that in the world. Suddenly, it didn't matter where I went, I just knew I had to get out of here. When I got home from South Africa, it was so clear that the Peace Corps was the only option that made sense for me.

So here I am, exactly one month before my departure. Sure, I'm nervous. Really nervous. There are a lot of unanswered questions about what my experience holds. In truth, it really doesn't matter to me. I know the Peace Corps is the right thing to do. It can be as bizarre and spiritual or as simple as you want it to be, but its the best answer I can give. 

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Great Jean Experiement

Day 1

Today is the day after thanksgiving. I have decided to test to see how long I can wear my jeans without feeling like too much of a dirtball. The objective of this experiment is to reduce my stress about packing for Guatemala by proving that I can wear the same pair of jeans for a long time without panicking. I generally only wear jeans for 2 days and wash my clothes quite a lot so I am not sure at all what the outcome will be. Let me tell you a little about these jeans.

They are GAP 1969 jeans, about 3 months old. I bought then with my little brother who tried to convince me to get straight leg jeans which look good on him but awful on me. So these jeans are bootcut and are my sturdiest jeans, though not my favorite. They are mildly dark blue and look pretty good on me I think. Basically, they are your average pair of medium-priced blue jeans.

Day 1: The jeans are freshly washed, which everyone knows means they are a little hard to get on, but I succeeded. Today I went to lunch with Hannah in Freemont and walked around for awhile. I bought 2 CDs that I didn’t need. “Happenstance” by Rachel Yamagata and “Hvart-Heim” by Sigur Ros. I got home at around 4, ate Thanksgiving leftovers with my parents and met some friends for bowling. I bowled poorly but had fun hanging out and playing a little DDR. Overall, I was pleased with the performance of my jeans. They feel nice, not too stretched out but not too tight.

Day 2

Today my family and I drove to Oregon to see family. We spent 3.5 hours with my entire family (5 of us) in my Dad’s 5 seat Passat wagon. We stopped at my Aunt Susie’s house to say hello to her and my Uncle Pat and their 8 kids before going to my grandparent’s house. There, we spent time watching football and knitting. In the evening, the whole family came over for dinner (My grandparents small house + 30 people = chaos). It was a lot of fun. Afterward, I went to stay at my Aunt Ginny’s house but hung out with my Cousins and my brothers across the street until pretty late. My jeans worked really well on the entire car ride. They were comfortable, which means a lot on a ride like that. They survived all the kids and the food. They still fit well and feel nice and not too dirty.

Day 3

More family time and the drive back to Washington. I am surprised, because my jeans still feel good and don’t really feel grungy at all. When we got home I went shopping at Target and then to hang out at Keri’s house. I told her about the experiment and she told me that she has a pair of jeans that she thinks she could wear every day forever without washing them and they would still be good. Interesting…

Day 4

I have decided not to wear my jeans today. Not because the experiment has failed but because I think it could go on forever. I think I would wear my jeans indefinitely if I had to (not that I would want to…). However, I feel content knowing that in the event that I can’t do laundry for a very long time, I will have something to wear that makes me look decent.

I deem this experiment a success. My jeans deserve a name…a good Spanish name for my new life…


Packing List

Here is my packing list (subject to revision) for Guatemala. Let me know if you have any advice, but keep in mind:

1. I will most likely not be in the middle of nowhere for the whole time and can get things I need when I am there.
2. I am trying to pack VERY minimally. I don't want to appear as if I have too many things or have a whole bunch of luggage to carry around between locations.

Packing List


1 pair nice pants

3 pairs regular pants

Gap Jeans


Light Jeans

5 T-shirts

3 nice shirts

Birthday shirt

Yellow shirt

Plaid shirt

1 pair shorts

Dark jean shorts

4 skirts

2 home made

Tan skirt

Wrap skirt

Grown-up dress

Long underwear?

2 pairs pajama pants

2 pairs pajama shorts

2 sweatshirts

1 vest






2 Bathing suits




Chuck Taylors

Running Shoes



Ballet flats






Face wash

Face lotion





Nail clippers


2-3 pairs earrings

Light makeup



Flat sheet

Elephant pillow case

2 towels


Day pack


Alarm clock




Sewing kit

Sleeping bag



Guatemala book

Into the Wild

Long book

History/culture book






Duct tape

Peanut butter

USB drive


Gifts for family