Friday, June 28, 2013

A Tribute

The Ethiopia Country Director made this video as a tribute to all Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa.  The song is original by him, as well.  A few pictures in the video are from Liberia.

After a long day of training and questioning if this is exactly what I should be doing at this point in my life, this video serves as a reminder for me.

I hope you enjoy it.

Much love,

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

So you want to send me a letter?

So I have had a few questions about how/where to send a letter or package, and I want to make sure it is clear to everyone!

To mail me a package, pack up a box and ship it to:

Caitlin Moore, Volunteer
Peace Corps
Post Office Box 707
Monrovia, Liberia
West Africa

Some volunteers have found that it works best if you put a few Bible verses or religious sayings on the sides of the boxes – I think the mail ladies may feel bad if they steal a box that has a religious meaning.  (Examples I’ve seen include cross pictures, John 3:16, “Praise Jesus!”, etc.)  Also, when filling out the customs form, please do not overestimate on the cost of the items inside.  Put prices on the low side, or not at all.  Also, if you are shipping something that may be seen as valuable or expensive, please do not list it.  (Volunteers have had issues with packages not arriving or being ripped open, with items missing.) 

It is easiest to do this in a flat-rate box, for a package, but you are welcome to ship any size package you want! Letters can also go to this address, and I would love to hear from you! J

What can you send me?  Here is a list of suggestions!
Note:  PLEASE double bag all food items in Ziploc bags or something similar.  It helps deter any rats that may be lurking in the package room at the post office.

  • Stickers (to put on deserving students’ papers)
  • Pens – blue, black, or red.  The pens here are cheap, and the students are always asking to borrow pens.
  • Children’s books
  • Puzzle books – crosswords, etc.
  • Nebraska items – I will represent our great state as best I can!
  • Food items (double bagged):
    • Old El Paso "Tortilla Stuffers"
    • Individual drink mixes
    • Canned/packaged tuna or chicken - Chicken of the Sea, etc.
    • Oatmeal cream pies
    • Cookies
    • Twizzlers
    • Tootsie Rolls
    • Granola Bars
    • Dried fruit
    • Fruit snacks
    • Goldfish crackers
    • Beef/turkey jerky

Feel free to add anything else you may think I could use – if I can’t use it, I will be sure to find someone who will!

If you are unable to write, please send me an email!  I miss all of you!

UPDATE:  Letters will take 2-3 weeks to get to Monrovia or so, and packages will take 4-6 weeks, at minimum.  It takes time, but I think it's worth it :) 


Lessons from Tienni

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate a flushing toilet, running water, and electricity after the weekend trip I just had.  While the girls in Tienni provided us with an awesome site visit experience, the past few days also made me realize just how much we take for granted in the United States.  I had always (naively) thought I had things figured out after studying abroad in Ghana and visiting India, but this experience in Liberia will change me in ways that I never thought possible. 

But first – the rest of training last week.  Saturday, we went over more information about Peace Corps and their approach, etc., before heading over to Kem’s Guesthouse (right next to our compound – Doe Palace) for a fun night of trivia.  Categories included music, entertainment, sports, the LR-4 group of Peace Corps volunteers, and Liberia.  I am proud to announce that my group won the trivia contest, and for a prize, received really cool lapa bags!  I’m using mine for holding small items when I travel, and I’m super excited about it.  (Lapa is what the African fabric here is called – brightly colored and multi-patterned, it sticks out in a beautiful way.)

We all went to bed (after staying out until our extended curfew – 10:00 pm) and woke up ready to go on Sunday morning.  My group – consisting of Melissa (from Boston), Maureen (from California), and I – got in a Peace Corps vehicle and traveled two hours to Duala, before meeting a current PCV and heading to Tienni.  I’m not sure if you can google search Tienni, but it sits about 10 minutes from the Sierra Leonian border, and we had a paved road the entire way to the town!  That was pretty exciting, and a luxury.  Another plus for the two volunteers at that site is that they are only about 2.5 hours from Monrovia, allowing for them to visit the Peace Corps office more often and to shop the Waterside market (big market in Monrovia) more often.

We were staying in Tienni with Nora and Kaitlyn, two volunteers from the LR-2 group who are completing their service in the next two months, or so.  These PCVs were the most helpful, non-judgmental, and supportive volunteers I could have ever hoped to have stayed with.  I learned a ton from them this weekend, and their information and willingness to answer even my dumbest questions took away a lot of the fears I may or may not have had. 

Tienni is a small town for Liberian standards, with a K-10 school that has a student population of 700-900 students.  It is a mostly Muslim community, and Nora and Kaitlyn actually live right next door to the mosque.  (Waking up every morning to the call to prayer was a beautiful thing.)  Nora teaches science and Kaitlyn teaches English; together, they have revamped the school library and painted a world map as their secondary project. 

If I had to rave about anything not related to the way they handled their classrooms, it would be the way they were able to create what seemed like five-star meals on a coal pot.  What is a coal pot?  It is a metal device that will serve as my cook stove for the next two years – you pile charcoal in the pot, light it, and cook over the slow-burning embers.  It is a skill that I will continue to hone, I have no doubt.  For dinner the night we arrived, we ate rice and bean burritos with homemade tortillas!  Other meals included pancakes (delicious!), spaghetti (with okra in the sauce – how Liberian!), “fancy oatmeal,” and “Sassy Masala” (chickpeas in a curried sauce, served with rice).  After watching them cook a meal, I have no doubt in my ability to feed myself well for the next two years.

Overall, my weekend trip was awesome.  I learned what it is like to live with no electricity, and I learned the beauty of early-to-bed, early-to-rise.  I appreciated cold rain-water bucket showers, and I found the nugget of information that is BBC on the radio.  I also was able to add to my book collection, with a stack of books from the pile Nora and Kaitlyn had borrowed from the Peace Corps office (they have a large collection of read/share books – hooray!). 

We begin more training tomorrow, and on Saturday (or Sunday, I’m not sure…) are officially adopted by our homestay families.  Look for another blog post before then, and have a great week, friends! 

Much love,


Friday, June 21, 2013

Goo afternoon! How de dey?

Liberia.  How many of you knew where this country was before you had to consult Google or ask Siri?  I had a general idea, but by no means could I point this country out on a map.  Since landing here on Wednesday, June 19, however, I have already learned so much about this country, its history, and the rich culture found within. 

So a little back story about how I got here!  I left bright and early on Monday morning to catch a 7:00 am flight to Philadelphia (via Chicago).  Once there, I loaded up my luggage and headed downtown to the hotel where we were having our staging event.  I checked into the hotel, dropped off my bags in my room, and headed downstairs to register and get ready for seven hours of training!  I had no clue what to expect, and what I found was an awesome surprise.  39 of us, all ready to head out and be Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), and all super excited about our upcoming time in service!

Let me take a moment to explain a little about my fellow volunteers.  We are all under the age of 30 (many of us just graduated college), we come from all over the United States – though most of us are from California and the east coast, most of us have traveled abroad before, and (Dad – this one is for you!), most of us have tattoos J.  Everyone seems to be in this for the right reasons, and all of us are passionate about being the best PCVs we can be.

At staging, we received our passports and visas, along with a debit card with our spending allowance for our time in Philadelphia.  We received a few luggage tags, finished up our training there, and headed out for a last night in the States.  A large group of us went to a restaurant for dinner and to watch the hockey game, and I enjoyed a philly cheese-steak in Philadelphia – I had to, right!?

We headed out Tuesday afternoon for New York City – driving! – and made it to the airport super early.  Six hours later, we boarded our plane, headed to Accra, Ghana.  After sitting on the plane for an additional two hours, we left NYC.  A two hour stop in Accra (we stayed on the plane the whole time), and then we were headed to Liberia!  Roberts International Airport is small airport – I was shocked!  I imagine only two-three planes take off from there daily, so I guess it doesn’t need to be too big. 

We got our baggage, and were greeted outside by currently serving PCVs, the PC Liberia staff, and the country director!  The airport sits about an hour outside of Monrovia and about an hour outside of a town called Kakata.  We headed to Kakata and Doe Palace, where Peace Corps holds training.  We are here for the next ten weeks doing pre-service training, and it is nice!  We live in dorm-style rooms, with air-conditioning and hot water, and all of our meals are cooked by a woman named Cecilia who owns a restaurant in Kakata.  We’re pretty spoiled here, and I am trying to enjoy every second of this – before I know it, I will be sweating like crazy in a house upcountry.  J

Our training here has been extensive and thorough, but I am so grateful for all of the information we have been provided.  Covering the importance of safety and security of volunteers, Liberian English, the Peace Corps’ approach to development, and the history of Liberia (among other things) have filled up our time here quite nicely. 

For those of you who do not know anything about Liberia or its history, I highly recommend you do some reading.  The atrocities that occurred during the “civil crisis,” which lasted 14 long years and killed an approximated 250,000 human beings, are awful and I cannot believe I had not heard of them before.  History often repeats itself, and this country has lots of pretty scary history.

That being said, the bounce back occurring today in Liberia is phenomenal.  Children are once again being educated, adults have gone back to school to finish what was interrupted during the war, and President Sirleaf is doing amazing things with this country.  Based on the training we will receive here at Doe Palace, I am confident we will accomplish good things during our time in country.

Speaking of Peace Corps and Liberia, the dynamic between the two groups is really neat.  Peace Corps has a long history of serving in Liberia, and almost every Liberian we meet today had a Peace Corps teacher at some point in their lives.  Walking down the streets of Kataka yesterday, we experienced many shouts of “Peace Corps!” – telling the people we had just arrived from America was a neat experience.  I can tell how excited they are, and that in turn, makes me excited and anxious for a site (and classroom) of my own!

We will know our site placements in five weeks or so.  I will be teaching science, for sure, and I will be placed with a math PCV.  We could be placed on the ocean, in the rainforest, or near Kataka here in the central portion of the country.  Once we are placed, Peace Corps will be serving in 90% of the public high schools in Liberia – how awesome is that!? 

Today, we set up a local bank account.  We will be paid via transfer to that account, and with the ATM card we receive, we will be able to withdraw money to live on.  Everything here can be bought with American money and Liberian money (Liberty).  It is much easier in the markets to carry Liberty, however, due to the low prices (76 LD to $1 currently), and money-changing stands can be found most places. 

I also got a cell phone last night!  That was pretty exciting.  Phones here run on Cellcom or Lonestar network, depending on where you’re stationed.  Peace Corps has a free calling plan with Cellcom – the SIM card I got from them will allow me to call any member on the Peace Corps network for free, which is great, especially if I run out of credit on my phone for some reason.  I can also text home, too, but it will charge a Verizon customer $.15 for an incoming and $.20 for an outgoing message (I think).  It’s possible, so let me know if you want to text! J  Also, I am five hours ahead of home right now - fyi. 

On Sunday, we will leave for a short site visit with two other trainees and a volunteer.  This will be a great opportunity to really discuss and experience life in Liberia as a volunteer, instead of just as a trainee living in a walled compound.  Then, on next Friday, we will be adopted by our host family, who we will live with for 5-6 weeks - I cannot wait!  I have heard so many good things about time spent with host families, and I know this will be an enriching part of my time here. 

As I write this, my soundtrack is locally produced bluegrass music.  By “locally produced,” I mean PCVs are currently strumming away.  Within our group, we have four guitars, two banjos, a mandolin, and a fiddle – it’s pretty awesome J  Granted, watching us all get off the plane was probably pretty hilarious, with backpacks, suitcases, and instrument after instrument. 

I just finished a late night dance party with the other PCVs and the staff here, and I must say, my Azonto skills need a little practice.  It’s been two years, though, so I think that’s fair.  After a quick shower – which felt awesome! – I think it is off to bed.  The morning comes early here, that’s for sure.  Trying to absorb so much information is tiring, too.

I love the dynamic of this group, and I am so excited to see how the next 27 months go!  Keep in touch, friends!


Thursday, June 6, 2013


Well here we are.  I am just days away from leaving for my service with the Peace Corps.  This process has been long, but I can already tell how fulfilling this experience will be.  I am excited to return to West Africa and finally meet the volunteers traveling to Liberia with me!

I hope this blog can serve as a way for you to keep in touch with me during my 27 months abroad.  As you can see on the side bar, there are many ways to get in touch with me!  Feel free to comment on here, send me an email, or follow me on Twitter!  I also am able to receive mail, however, please keep in mind that this service does take quite a while and is not always 100% reliable.

Currently, I am in the process of packing and preparing for my travels.  I have the big backpack, all of my vitamins, new sandals, and some teaching supplies; now the question is how much can I pack before I hit the 50 pound mark on each bag?  This weekend will be the test of that!  :)

Many of you are probably wondering what it is I will be doing during my time abroad.  My service is for 27 months, and it starts on Monday, June 17.  That day, I fly to Philadelphia and complete a day of pre-service training.  On Tuesday, we fly out of NYC to Ghana and from there, we fly into Liberia (arriving on Wednesday afternoon).

During the first three months of my service, I will live with a host family in Liberia to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the language and cultural skills necessary to assist my community, I will be sworn into service and be assigned to a community in Liberia, where I will live and work for two years with the local people.

Additionally, here is some additional information about the Peace Corps and their history with Liberia, in case you're curious!  (This was taken from a press release about another volunteer who will be serving in Liberia.)

"Nearly 3,980 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Liberia since the program was established in 1962. Currently, 63 volunteers serve in Liberia. Volunteers work in the area of education. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: Liberian English, Kpelle, Mano/Gio, Gola, Via and Mano.

Liberia was founded by freed American slaves, first settled in 1817. Its capital is Monrovia, named for the United States president James Monroe who helped establish the first colony there.

Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 210,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 8,073 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth in development. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries."

Again, thank you so much for checking out my blog!  I hope this serves as a way for you to learn a little more about a beautiful country and to keep in touch with me!

I'm thinking of all of you,