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One week to go, old world lizards

Chameleons or chamaeleons are a distinctive and highly specialized clade of Old World lizards with 200 species described as of June 2015. The members of this family are best known for their distinct range of colours, being capable of shifting to different hues and degrees of brightness. Wikipedia

Today's mantra. Think like a chamelion. Rather than trying to save the world, volunteering overseas is about how well your particular personalities and skills can be adapted and improved upon to fit into the dynamic culture of your placement organization. Honestly, this is the normal way of thinking for the majority of volunteers I meet (new and returning), and for sure, is what separates the hopefuls from the helpfuls.

I say I leave in a week, but technically I depart in 6 days. I fly to Toronto on October 3, arrive 6:30 pm and hop on a morning flight to Kingston, Jamaica. I am flying down under (ergo south, not Australia) with another volunteer, Liam, whom I will meet face-to-face for the first time at the airport. Liam is a recent grad from Guelph, will be an environmental advisor in Jamaica, doesn't know exactly what that will mean in his job, but is ready to find out.

Today's advice: Ride the Wave. Use your old world skills to help out in your new world setting. Being accepting of that feeling of uncertainty (that will linger and reappear) is half of the fun of volunteering. Those who can stay calm and ride the wave have a good chance of succeeding in their placement.

This is my third trip overseas with Cuso International, and each time, when the plane lands, I brace my self for the rush of colour, of languages, of aromas and swarms of people. And always that feeling of uncertainty - what have I got myself into? I am prepared for all of that. And the other? Chances are arrival arrangements will go awry (this is just based on my previous 2 placements), but it really doesn't matter. With a little patience, it always works out. I will let you know what happens this time in my next post!

One more thing before I stop procrastinating, and get back to packing up my house and myself. Here are 10 travel essentials for the plane and for your placement accommodation.

(1) ear plugs, eye mask and noise cancelling headphones with plane adaptor.

(2) antihistamine for plane - even if you do not have allergies.

(3) warm socks, a puff jacket and pillowcase for flights over 10 hours; they are compact, and convert into a great pillow or blanket on the plane or in your placement.

(4) a cup, bowl or mug from home.

(5) something small and familiar to hang on the wall or sit on a shelf. I bring a few kid drawings and a canvas roll of a Bob Marley print - for some reason Bob helps me relax.

(6) a soft cotton or silk bedsheet.

(7) bathing suit and shoes - might be hard to find the right fit where you are going.

(8) a big thermos. It is great for storing hot or cold water, especially when there is limited electricity in your placement, and you can use it to make yoghurt.

(9) an extra large gel pack. This is absolutely wonderful in the tropics to put in your bed at night, when electricity is limited or expensive to access.

(10) Maple syrup. I mean, of course. We are Canadian after all. Alternatively, another special treat from home (weed of course will be considered too special when going through customs).

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