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When I started this blog, I had visions of it being a factual, humorous window into the world of a post-BA Peace Corps volunteer, a way for my friends and family to stay availed of my whereabouts/activities, and to some small degree a place where I can jab at media portrayals of SSA by counterbalancing myths and stereotypes with realities and resources. I had – have? – no intention of making it into A Diary About My Feelings, indistinguishable from the thousands of emo kids on their DeadJournals talking about how despite all their rage they are still just a rat in a cage.

Well … that didn’t last long, did it? BECAUSE THIS IS AN ENTRY EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT FEELINGS. RUN! HIDE! SAVE YOURSELVES!!

I’ve started getting that typical question “Wow! You leave so soon! How are you feeling??” and I can’t quite answer honestly. This isn’t for lack of desire to do so, but because there is no answer that’s true now and will also be true in 10 seconds. Pick an emotion – ANY emotion – and you can be fairly certain I’ve felt that way in the last 72 hours at some point. And its polar opposite. And a half-dozen related feelings that don’t make any sense. Hell, I’m not even making sense *now*.

Today is the first real WEUjlqmwr439U3NW funk sort of day. I’m excited, I’m looking forward to adventures, I CANNOT WAIT to get the stress of prep behind me and meet all the FAAAAAAAABULOUS new people who have been poking their heads into my blog and facebook (and I in theirs.) Until this point, that soul-vibrating excitement, combined with the fact that I’ve been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest and ergo unable to sit down and think about what this all really means, has shielded me from the interpersonal melodrama of departure. However, as I cram four years of cards and letters and textbooks and memories into neat little cardboard boxes, I’m finally beginning to process the whole This Is The End For At Least Two Years Or Maybe Forever In Some Cases aspect of everything. I’m not particularly good with goodbyes. Bah.

The weather yesterday was breathtaking, so two very dear friends and I went for a picnic in a local nature reserve. Although it was never called “The Goodbye Picnic,” as we gnoshed our sandwiches and stared out at the Hudson River, there was a palpable feeling that this was the epilogue to something big. I mentioned my emerging apprehension, to which one friend responded with a quick story: when she was little, her mom used to take her and her siblings to the zoo. Rather than stay the whoooole day until they were all tired and cranky and sunburned and crying and being insufferable brats, they’d always leave when they were still having fun. The best time to go isn’t when you have 100% had your fill and are sick to death of a place, but rather when you’re still fresh enough that you’re sad to leave.

The mental characterization of my wild, whacky college as a zoo is actually pretty close to the mark, but even in abstraction, I like the metaphor. It’s somewhat comforting to think that the reason I’m kind of blaaah today is because I’ve experienced so much that’s so meaningful, it’s worth being sad to leave it behind.

Anyway, this entry is far too long, and I think the muffins I’m baking for my BFFs who are helping me pack might be burning. Better sign off.

I have a nasty cold, and while at the doctor’s office yesterday (just want to make sure it isn’t Strep or something) the nice nurselady said “Oh yeah, you should get that kicked ASAP, since you leave for Kenya in … uh … how many days again?”

How many days indeed.

You see, when I REALLY leave for Kenya, as in when I board that flight that will set me on the inevitable no-turning-back collision course with the continent, is 14 days from now: May 25. The day before, however, I will be flying from Albany to KingofPrussia for a day-long check-in and safety briefing. So my journey actually starts then. Or would, if my flight didn’t leave at dawn, encouraging me to stay the night before at a hotel airport (Albany’s actually kind of a schlep for me, so if I want to get any sleep at all, I should probably take “long drive at night with the clock ticking” out of the equation.) I have a friend who’s flying out of Albany the day before, so depending on her flight plan, we may share a car up there on Sunday (t-minus 12 days).

In conclusion, I leave WAY TOO SOON. Considering that I have not started packing yet. Not at all. Not even a little. ACK.

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By the way, here’s another World Cup video to add to your ever-increasing collection! This one’s great, I promise. And only one minute.

Note: If you receive this blog via e-mail digest, the above might not show up. To view it, go to the original post at http://wp.me/pRW9n-3I

When I was in high school, we had school-wide assemblies every week, twice a week. Lame. I KNOW. The first one of the year was inevitably and without fail “the bookbag talk.” It was a cliché. It was reviled. It was naptime. But, as I’m beginning to ponder my new adventure, it’s … newly meaningful?

Our principal, Dr. Elizabeth Griffith, would place a series of variously-sized schoolbags by the podium. She’d say that now was our chance to unpack our fears, our prejudices, our stereotyping, our preconceived notions, and leave them at the gates. This would open up room in our baggage for new friends and new experiences and new beliefs and all the knowledge we could cram in. I don’t remember all the details, but it was a bit like the speech George Clooney gives in “Up In The Air,” if in reverse.

I am on the cusp of an enormous number of BIG GIANT changes in my life; I finished my thesis, I’m moving out of the country, I’m gaining new friends, I may lose some of the old (you always tell everyone you’ll stay in touch, but how often do you really?), I’m beginning to think about the rough and rocky path to my careeeer? And yes, I say it like that in conversation: extending the second syllable and pitching up the tone at the end as though I’m asking a question. Because I am, aren’t I? In some way.

I’m also packing up my life. Literally, and figuratively. My two best friends have already promised to help me pack my belongings (we’re ordering pizza, drinking wine, maybe making a slumber party of it – IT WILL BE EPIC) so that doesn’t worry me too terribly much. It’s only been today that I’ve begun to think about the “things” I’ll take with me and the “things” I’ll leave. “More than anything else,” a professor told me recently, “graduation is an opportunity to take with you all the good things you’ve gained and leave the bad.” I have no doubt the same can be said for moving to a new continent 8 timezones away. And so, in this spirit, I begin to take stock of my mental rucksack.

Leave: Vexation at the apathy of my generation.
Take: Knowledge that, hell, I’m certainly not the only person out there trying to change things. I know some awesome, competent, activist types. It only takes a few sparks to start a fire.

Leave: The epic frustration that comes with facing a problem so enormous as HIV/AIDS in a place so vast as Africa, compounded with the intimate knowledge of the failings of humanitarian intervention in general.
Take: Learning from others’ mistakes – if I can identify where humanitarianism fails, both as an individual and as part of a larger system, perhaps I can steer away from those courses. Or at least, do no harm.

Leave: Overthinking.
Take: Listening for understanding.

Leave: Worry that I won’t be able to maintain the friendships I’ve formed when I’m so far from twitter, facebook, e-mail, cell phones, text messages, and of course, immediate proximity.
Take: The love and memories I KNOW I’ve gained, which are mine to keep forever, regardless of what happens next.

Leave: Reliance on the familiar
Take: Openness to the unknown in the form of embracing the good experiences and accepting/processing the bad.

Leave: Naïve idealism
Take: Cautious optimism?

Leave: A-effing-dW, anthropological theorist, enormously respected scholar, primary resource for the giant term paper I’m currently finishing, and insufferable Africana know-it-all.
Take: My friend Nora; telling me that the circle of life does, in fact, involve me turning into AdW. Bless her.

Leave: Cynicism, doubt, ill-ease with systems and people and situations relating to East Africa, or to the media, or to the application process, or to the broader political world.
Take: The following little story – an anthropologist once told me about a time he had been driving on a stretch of highway running north out of Nairobi that’s INFAMOUS for police officers shaking down tourists, asking for kitu kidogo (“a little thing” – i.e. bribes to make imaginary traffic violations go away). It had been a bad day, or a hard trip, and he was sick of dealing with it; when he was pulled over and immediately thought, “God, this just takes the cake …”

When he presented his paperwork, though, the officer simply looked at him mildly and said “Congratulations, you’re the first car to have everything in order. You can go.” And like that, the straw that would have broken the camel’s back vanished entirely. And he was fine again.

“This is the thing about East Africa,” he told us solemnly, “is that you must be open to grace. East Africa is FULL of these moments … you spend a lot of time wanting to roll your eyes and going ‘Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse,’ or ‘OH GOD, HERE WE GO AGAIN,’ and then everything turns out in a way that’s unexpected and inspiring. If I can give you a message, let it be this: allow yourself to be open to and experience grace.”

And so I will.

I’ll even save room for it in my luggage.

Hard to believe that a mere 8 days ago I was still gnawing my nails to nubbins waiting to hear where I was going to be sent. Let’s a take a ride in the Wayback Machine to that fateful moment when all was revealed, shall we?

(In case you’re wondering, yes, my posts will get WAY more exciting as we near staging. Right now I’m just treading water. I’m as ready to leave as you are to have me gone, lol.)

AAAAAAHHHHH

WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Apparently, there was some sort of minor change at headquarters such that now, PC volunteers will be arriving in Kenya at a time better coinciding with the beginning of the Kenyan school year (PC ships in people to teach science, higher math, or whatever else is experiencing pedagogical shortcomings in a particular region.)

In other words, I leave one week earlier than I was originally slated – May 24.

Which, incidentally, is less than two days after I graduate college.

Well. Ok then. That makes things a little more interesting. It was always going to be a tight squeeze to be ready, but now … huh.

My initial reaction was one of some shocked dismay (HOW WILL I HAVE TIME TO PACK UP MY APARTMENT?!) but honestly? I’ll figure something out. It’s just part of the adventure, right? Hell. I’m happy enough with my post that they could ask me to change out of my cap and gown in the security line at the airport and I’d do it.

If the dozen or so texts, facebook messages, and passing conversations are anything to judge by, some of you may be more aware than others of just what all this “MEGAN IS GOING TO KENYA ON MAY 31 OMG WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT” stuff is about. So here go the basics:

After a year of applying, interviewing, waiting, writing essays, waiting, getting poked with lots of needles, waiting, and then waiting, I have been issued an invitation to serve in the United States Peace Corps. I accepted this invitation on March 28th.

On May 31, I will be departing for my as-yet-unknown “staging” city, where I will probably get poked with more needles before finally being bundled off into an airplane for a smallish town in southern Kenya. I’ll be there for a couple of months brushing up my swahili (which, at the moment, is best described as … let’s call it “atrophied from three years of disuse”) and picking up skills to be better at whatever job they’re going to specifically assign me.

I don’t yet have my specific job assignment, but I know I will be an “HIV/AIDS and Public Health Educator.” This harkens to my skill set as having done prior HIV work in the African Great Lakes region, my “people skills,” my background in science and empirical research, my experiences teaching/tutoring, etc etc etc. Before I leave, I will definitely need to brush up on some stuff (developing world water sanitation omgwtf) but I feel reasonably confident that I’ll manage. I’m going to mess up a lot and probably humiliate myself every day for the first year, but hey, it’s part of the package.

My official term of service is 27 months. At the end, I’ll have the option to evaluate my placement with my country director and the possibility of extended service will be discussed. That happens occasionally. But right now, I’m just concentrating on those 27 months.

I don’t know how much access I will have to internet, phones, electricity, running water, Starbucks, post service, or anything else at this point. I’ll know more when I get closer to departure.

I created this blog half for my own purposes in documenting my experiences (I’m a chatty loudmouth who likes to write too much anyway) and half to keep in touch with anyone and everyone who’s interested in me or the Peace Corps experience. I do not know how often it will be updated – I’m a little busy currently, rushing to finish up my bachelor’s degree in the next 7 weeks – but I’ll definitely try to keep it pertinent and entertaining as my departure date nears.

Also, and most importantly, I am so excited I can barely maintain the composure necessary to type this little blog post.

Got more questions? I tried to anticipate some in the Frequently Asked Questions page – check the sidebar link to your left or at the top. If not, you can leave a comment on this post, or you can e-mail me at either of the addresses on the contact page.

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DISCLAIMER

The opinions expressed on this blog do not represent those of the Peace Corps, the United States government, or any other organization. The author is solely responsible for all content on this blog.
Yours truly