Temperature reading: 1.5 months to departure

The past few weeks since my last post have been remarkably busy and filled with some exciting Peace Corps updates. To help me stay on topic, I’ll share these happenings with you in short bursts. In no particular order:

Received final medical clearance

Officially speaking, I’m healthy! Receiving my final medical clearance is basically the last major checkpoint that I need to pass to keep moving on toward departure. After receiving thorough¬†medical, dental, and vision exams, I have been deemed “fit for service.” Part of the medical evaluations also included getting some vaccinations and booster immunizations, but apparently there is much more of that to look forward to during the Staging process and early parts of Pre-Service Training. As you might imagine, it can be pretty nerve-wracking to go through all these intense exams, make sure the paperwork is filled out just right, submit the paperwork, and just wait. But the wait is finally over, and I can finally let out a huge sigh of relief.

Peace Corps send-off and story slam

This past weekend, I was able to attend a local Peace Corps event in San Diego that really did an amazing job of bringing together Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, those who are preparing to depart for service (that’s me!) , and those considering if they want to start the application process. For me, it was a great opportunity to meet other San Diegans who are getting ready to depart for service within the next few months and also connect with local RPCVs who have served in either my sector (Education) or my region (Madagascar, more broadly Africa). Lots of stories back and forth, nothing that put me off or scared me, but really just learning things that made me more excited to be a part of this experience. A few of the RPCVs got on stage and told some stories from their days of service and shed some light on some of the more day-to-day interactions of a PCV. So it was great to hear stories about what it’s like to get settled into your site after going through training, how to invest yourself in your local community, and funny stories about language barriers.

But I think the biggest takeaway I got from the experience was the overwhelming sense of community among this group of people. I knew two people at the event when I showed up, and I felt like I left with a handful of new friends and supporters. It got me thinking about some of the ways Peace Corps service just inherently changes people. In my experiences so far, RPCVs seem to be outgoing, friendly, grounded, relatable, and curious individuals. And in some ways I see those qualities as being coping mechanisms that they might have developed or strengthened during service in order to work well within their communities. It was more than just being a nice person and a pleasant stranger to meet, I felt like these people really understood each other and could relate to me because they were once in my shoes as a new Volunteer. It doesn’t matter where they served, what sector, or how long ago they served, it was really such a pleasure to get to know a few of them even for an afternoon.

Group photo from send-off event

Group photo from send-off event

Progress with TEFL training

As an Education Volunteer, a major part of my in-country training will include getting TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. Not only will this help me be a more prepared teacher during my service, but having this particular certification can be very beneficial for me even after completing my service.¬†So as part of my pre-departure training program, my supervisors in Madagascar have assigned some online projects for us to complete so we are better prepared to begin TEFL training. This includes brief introductory lessons on teaching theory, lesson planning, and student assessment. Most recently I’ve completed a sample lesson plan and learned about building trust with students. It’s been interesting so far because I don’t have any formal classroom experience, but I’m confident I’ll get more comfortable with teaching as I start to get in the Malagasy classroom.

In the coming weeks, I will be focusing more on physically preparing myself for departing. Really getting into the details of packing, moving out of San Diego, getting my other affairs in order, and spending time with friends and family. Hopefully I can keep my head from spinning during this time, sure to be filled with an intense mix of emotions. Here’s to trying!