Well, folks, here I am! Spending a couple last days in Washington, DC before heading up to Philadelphia tomorrow morning and starting my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It is surreal, terrifying, exciting, energizing, saddening and all other kinds of adjectives that I can’t even form into proper words. It has been a while since my last post, so let me do a brief catch-up of the last couple months before diving into some more details about PC things. To make the reading a bit more manageable, I’ll break up a lot of the info into smaller posts.
First things first: Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! And well-wishes for all of the winter celebrations! Christmas was absolutely incredible out in Chicago, and I am so wonderfully happy that I was able to spend so much time with my loving and supportive family. Like true Irish-Catholic Midwesterners (with a dash of German and French Creole ancestry for a bit of flavor), my family is a large, loud, beautiful mess of people who exude a love and honesty that is one of the most incredible blessings I have experienced. There is no way that I would be where I am today, about to take this crazy step into a totally unknown world, without all of them. All the celebrations and dinners and coffees and teas and any other times we spent together, I feel like I could not have asked for a better winter before spending the next couple years in South Africa.
After a fantastic going away party (thanks so everyone for the fabulous food and lovely company), a crazy-intense week of packing, last-minute shopping and Harry Potter movies (Things 1&2!) I somehow found myself packed and checking into my flight to DC on Sunday afternoon. (Packing and the ordeal that it was will be detailed in another post!) And here I am! Hanging out in DC, seeing a few friends and enjoying the last moments of the US before my next adventure.
During the days leading up to my departure for Staging, I have been asked several times: Are you all prepared? While this is an obvious question, I’d have to say that it doesn’t accurately probe the process before leaving to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Am I prepared? The simple answer is hell no! How can anyone ever truly prepare for something like this? I am picking up my life, packing it away in boxes to be stored neatly away in my parents’ attic or in two bags to make the journey with me across the world. I have packed what I think I might need, taken it all out of bags, and packed it again. I have purchased a few odds and ends needed for this kind of journey. I’ve cut off most of my hair to make it easier to wash in a bucket bath. I have alerted my banks, cancelled some credit cards, put a suspension on my cell phone account, given power of attorney to my father, and written a will. I’ve downloaded books and movies to keep me occupied in those down times, printed pictures of loved ones to make me smile in the hard times and packed plenty of journals to fill with life all the times. Am I prepared? I’d still say no way!
What things will I need that I forgot? What kinds of food will I eat during breakfast, lunch and dinner? How will I navigate public transportation? How often will I wash my clothes? How often will I wash myself? How many times will I get sick? Will I learn enough of the language during training to get around on my own? What organization will I be paired with for my two years of service? How will I purify my water? What kind of bathroom will I use? How often will I see other PCVs? Will training be hard? How will I brush my teeth and wash my face? Will I ever wear makeup? Will I shave my head? How do banks work? Will all my mail make it between the US and South Africa? Who will I meet during my time? Who will I become in the next two years?
The unknown is inherent in the life of a PCV; more so than I can even realize right now. Am I prepared for that? Me, who has had a plan for almost everything for the last 10 years of my life? (At least!) Again, the answer is no, I am not prepared. And that is the beauty of this whole messy process. Going into the complete unknown is good for us, as humans, and definitely good for me. I love to have a plan and know what to expect and do everything in my power to solve problems presented to me. And here I am, about to be pushed so far outside my comfort zone that I won’t know what hit me. I will hate it. I will fight it. I will beat my head against a wall hoping to break it down and finding the only reward to be a splitting headache. But I will also learn answers to questions I have not even asked yet. I will find a confidence in knowing I can move forward, through the fears and anxieties of life, and find the good and positive and beautiful in this world.
I am not prepared, but I am ready to face this unknown world as this mess of a person I am, with these limited talents I have acquired and with immense love for the world around me.