"Greetings, I come in peace." Actually, it is more like "I come on behalf of the Peace Corps" but I could not help saying it the first way. This blog is to capture my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer. In exactly 105 days, I will be traveling to Tanzania, Africa, where I will serve as an Environment Extension Worker for PC's program titled Environmental Education and Sustainable Agriculture in Rural Communities....yep, I am still having to read it off my assignment booklet in order to get all the words right!
To start I will briefly answer the most asked question "Why?". This is also the question that plagues me the most. I feel like it sets the stage on how people will judge my decision to join the Peace Corps, and I honestly do not have one exact reason as to why I am doing this. It is more of a whole bunch of things that culminated to this one point in time.
Peace Corps was something I guess I always knew about but had never placed much thought. Then about seven years ago while I was living in Texas I read a magazine article about a guy who had served. I immediately checked out the website and as luck would have it there was an informational meeting that night. I went to meeting and was amazed I had never seriously considered it. The program seemed like an unbelievable way to experience the world while really doing something beneficial to help.
I immediately started the application process and made plans to travel home to break the news to my family. They were definitely surprised....and not in a good way. Since I had found every opportunity to come home while living in Texas, the first question they asked was how I thought I would ever be able to live in a different country for two whole years. My dad reminded me that at my then age of a ripe old 23 he already had several years seniority at his job, plus a family and home. When was I going to settle down? A part of me did want to move home and find a good long-term job. So that is what I did.
Fast forward six years.....something scary happened. I turned 29-years-old and consequently in just 12 months I would be 30. Now I am not tenacious enough to think that 30 is really old, but it is a point that a person starts to re-evaluate one's life. I had done what I was suppose to do: established myself in a respectable job that lasted for more than a year, joined several worthwhile civic organizations and a great church, and made some fabulous friends. I still had not married....but that is another blog of its own. I could not help but stop and ask "Is this it? Is this what I have been working towards? Isn't there suppose to be something more fulfilling?"
Peace Corps had always stuck in the back of my mind as something I would do once I retired. Now that I was an adult who owned a washer and dryer and had a cat that depended on me, I could not possibly take off and travel across the globe for two years....could I? Finally, one Saturday morning I woke up and just knew. The time was right. The next day I completed the on-line application. In early June, I had a phone interview with the regional office out of Chicago. During which, I was informed that due to the high volume of applications the next available spot was not until the next June so my hopes were dashed for a quick getaway! But I still believed that the Lord had sparked it in me at this particular moment for a reason.
So I agreed and started the whole medical review. After seven trips to my general doctor, two trips to a local hospital for blood tests, a full set of 18 x-rays from my dentist and a review from my eye doctor, I finally received medical clearance just before my 30th birthday. What achievement! During this time, I also moved back home to live with my dad and his wife in order to pay off the average credit card debts and to build savings. I got to experience being a 30-year-old loser living at home....which could also be a blog of its own.
Much to my regret, I had to be very careful about who I told during this process because it would not be official until the PC Placement Office cleared me and sent me an invitation to serve. Luckily for me, an opening for a program leaving in March became available in January, so I was able to be processed a little early. Though I did not get the March opening, they were able to issue the invitation for June! Which I am so excited for because now I can attend my sister's wedding in May!
Well, this may not seem like the "brief answer" I promised but it actually is! I could go on and on about the long nine months of waiting, but I will save you all from that. I will also not elaborate on the power of prayer and how I truly feel spiritually moved to do this, in addition being so motivated by Obama's inspiring acceptance speech in November 2008. And I will not bore you about how I am motivated by my frustration with politicians who instead of doing something positive cannot get past their bipartisan bickering.
Instead, I will end here with an explanation of this post's title. The use of the different punctuation marks describe how my emotions have evolved through this process and in turn how people's reactions usually progress. There is the initial excitement, soon followed by questions and doubt. Then, for me at least, it settled on a peaceful feeling of "Yes, I understand it will not be perfect and ideal at all times. But it is going to an exciting adventure, and I will hopefully do a little good through it all."