The most cordial of invitations

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step” -Laozi

I feel as though I am at the verge of my long-awaited journey, and I have now been allowed to take that very first step. The step that I will not look back from. The step that I will repeat time and time again as I set out to fulfill a dream of mine. The step that I take toward Peace Corps service.

The past couple of weeks have been filled with many emotions, including excitement, relief, anxiety, confusion, and hope. This is because earlier this month I received my invitation to join the Peace Corps as a Volunteer in Madagascar. I will be teaching English to middle and high school students in rural areas of the country. My assignment begins with in-country training in early June 2014 and I will likely not return to the United States until August 2016 (27 months).

Allow me to catch you up on a brief timeline of my journey thus-far:

  • February 10, 2013: Submitted an online application as a prospective Peace Corps Volunteer
  • April 4, 2013: Face-to-face interview with PC Recruitment Officer
  • May 8, 2013: Received my nomination letter. At that point, I only knew I was nominated for an Education/Community Development assignment possibly leaving in June 2014
  • June 24, 2013: Received medical pre-clearance
  • June 26, 2013: Began taking French language courses at UCSD Extension, as requested in nomination letter
  • July-December 2013: Waiting “patiently” for updates…
  • January 22, 2014: Started to gain education experience by becoming a weekly tutor with Reality Changers
  • January 28, 2014: Phone interview with Placement Office. Essentially the wrapping up of all the loose ends before finding a suitable assignment for me
  • February 3, 2014: Received my invitation letter
  • March 13, 2014: Submitted required paperwork for medical clearance
  • April 24, 2014: Received final medical clearance

And that pretty much brings us to my current situation. I’ve formally accepted my offer, and that also initiates a cascading amount of paperwork and documents to be completed as soon as possible. For example, applying for a new passport and visa, getting a final medical physical exam and immunizations, and continuing to gain volunteer experience (I’ll explain in a later post). So far, this has been more hectic than leisurely but I guess I wasn’t expecting a walk in the park. In some ways I don’t mind the anxiety of applying for a visa, for example, because I can understand it’s a necessary action to prepare me for an amazing adventure. I have a feeling I’ll be dealing with the administrative tasks for a few more weeks. But it’s also a great time for me to learn more about Madagascar, the Malagasy culture, and what it’s like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. Luckily I have some friends and family members that are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (meaning they’ve completed their service) that I can connect with to get a more personal perspective on service.

With about 4 months left until I depart for this life-changing experience, I’m starting to put things into perspective and develop some priorities for myself while I’m still here. I don’t feel as though when I leave California this summer it will be forever, but I’m also not blind to the fact that 27 months is a very substantial amount of time. That’s why I am hoping to find a balance between getting my affairs in order, savoring the experiences that I enjoy the most, and making great memories with the people I cherish so I can still feel close to them when I’m lying in my new bed in Madagascar. There’s plenty of things I need to do between now and June, and these next 4 months will fly by so quickly, but I’m going to try to make the most of my time here.

I think the two most prevalent emotions that I’ve been feeling lately are relief and wonder. I’m very relieved that the hard work and waiting I’ve done in the last year have finally paid off and I’ve received such a special invitation. To know the specific country that I’ll be serving in and to know more specific date of departure, it just helps paint a more clear picture for my immediate future. And I would say I’m in a state of awe, wonder, amazement when I think of this experience. It’s hard to fully understand how I’ve come to this point, knowing that I have so much more ahead of me, but I genuinely feel very humbled and excited to be a part of this. I have daydreams of what my host community will look like, how my future students will learn from me, and how this experience will change me in ways I cannot comprehend at this point. This is certainly an experience that I’ve wanted for many years, I’ve finally been offered the opportunity, and the pieces seem to be fitting together quite nicely.

As things develop over the next few months, and as I begin my service in Madagascar, I will be sure to update this blog as often as possible. I’m glad that despite any geographic distance or access to communication tools that may separate us, this blog can hopefully be an easy and comforting way for us to keep in touch.