I’m not sure how many Little River Band fans are following me, but today’s blog title is just for you.
A year ago, I relocated, from Peace Corps Armenia, to Peace Corps Ethiopia. I was 62 years old and hoping to live overseas, until I turned 65. I was sort of easing my way into retirement, having already formally retired, from an academic librarian position, at Duke University.
Sometimes, when you’re looking for a change, you need a big one. I remember backpacking, through Europe, in my twenties, and meeting older females who had just quit their jobs and hit the road. They seemed so crazy to me. Who would quit a perfectly good job to travel around the world? Well, shut my mouth and call me crazy. Thirty years later, I was that old woman.
My travel escape of choice is the United States Peace Corps. I was a volunteer, in Kenya, when I was 30 years old. I’m told that back then I said I would serve again, after I retired. There’s just something about the pace of Peace Corps service that I really enjoy. I love the waiting, the shopping, the packing, and the unknown.
The first time you meet your cohort, everyone is so happy. You all feel so good about about leaving the USA, to serve overseas. Landing in your country of service and being greeted by Peace Corps staff is amazing. Everyone thanks you and all you did was walk off a plane. They’re so happy that you’re there and willing to serve in their country.
With your cohort, your new friends see you at your worst. I’m taking being sick, throwing up, stool samples, not eating, not sleeping, wanting to leave, and questioning being in the Peace Corps, . . . all during the first few weeks of orientation.
Once you’re over your toilet situation, it’s smooth sailing from there. As a Peace Corps volunteer, you get to decide when and where to freak out. Spiders, rodents, dirty water, no privacy, hot or cold temperatures, long bus rides, crowed bus rides, people staring, people ignoring you, limited language skills, and Whereabouts reporting, are all things that come and go.
The point of Peace Corps service is all about the people and the moments you are fortunate enough to have with them. I remember being awaken by the scream of some animal, just outside the door, in my compound. I ignored it and went back to sleep. Later, I could hear voices and the sound of hacking and cutting. I opened my door and stepped out into a butcher shop.
By the end of of my service, cut short by the worldwide evacuation of Peace Corps volunteers, I had really found my rhythm at site and little could upset me. My teaching was on track, my library project had three major donations and another on the way (although the organization couldn’t ship the books, once I was removed from the school). I knew how to get to my Hub Town, an hour away, to shop, rest, or sleep. And, I was looking forward to my first anniversary, in Ethiopia.
Last week, evacuated Peace Corps volunteers received instructions for reapplying. We have three choices: 1) return to our former country, 2) select a different country, or 3) opt out of returning to service. By last March, I had already reapplied to both Peace Corps, (the full 27 months), and Peace Corps Response (3, 6, 9, or 12 months of service). I was ready to return. I had no idea about the pacing of COVID 19. Now, Peace Corps is grounded, until 2021.
So, here I am, in Honolulu, but not for long.
Next week, I’ll be heading to the airport and making my way to the mainland. I’m not quite sure about what I’m doing.
I’m just sure that you’re not going to want to miss it. –GGT