It’s official. I have three weeks left in country (Well, actually 19 days which is a little under 3 weeks, but I’m still slightly in denial that I’m actually leaving). Three empty bags sit in my bedroom floor as I type this post. I am struggling to find the words that describe the way I feel about this impending life change. I cannot adequately explain this now, and I struggle to convey this even more so to family, friends, and well wishers. Here is the best I can do to describe how I feel about this journey in response to my frequently received comments.
THE MOST FREQUENT QUESTION (DRUMROLL PLEASE): Why are you going?
This may be the most difficult question for me to answer because my reasons are so intricately tied together. When examining the age-old question: “what do I want to do with my life?”, I came up with a blank. During my senior year of college I struggled to decided what I wanted to do with my life while I saw my roommates and friends land their first adult jobs. I knew I loved healthcare and I knew I loved traveling, but I didn’t know how I could connect the two. I decided to do the most mature thing I knew how to do, and googled “jobs in healthcare that let you travel”. After scrolling through a million postings about travel nursing, I stumbled upon Peace Corps. I had always heard about Peace Corps, but never considered it for my own path. I almost find it funny that in my long winded Peace Corps journey, I have already met so many people where this was what they’ve wanted to do since they were a kid. For me, it was senior year anxiety and google. If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that I was actually accepted once before in 2016 to serve in Togo, but was unable to get medically cleared in time. After I received the news I would not be cleared in time, I spent the next year working my tail off to ensure I would go this time. I was so dedicated to the mission of the Peace Corps, that I knew this was not an opportunity I would let slip through my hands. I love knowing that I will spend the next 2 years working alongside some of the most brilliant and selfless Peace Corps volunteers to improve the lives of countless Cameroonians. I love that I can set aside my American life for two years to do something that is so much bigger than myself, because realistically, when will I ever be able to drop everything and move to another country during my lifetime? I also love the doors that Peace Corps can open. I want to commit my life to public service, more specifically within the World Health Organization, CDC, or National Institute of Health. Peace Corps will allow me to get the most practical field experience for these organizations.
“Oh my. Aren’t you afraid to go there?”
The short answer: Sometimes. The answer I tell my mother: No. Different faces and different spaces are always scary. I do not know the group of people I will spend the next two years with, nor do I know the location I will be placed in country. I am afraid I will not fit in (this sounds like an elementary school problem, I know). I am afraid that I will not pick up French and dialects as quickly as I would like. I am afraid that I will not be able to serve the people I set out improve the lives of. And at minimal level, I am scared that my appearance and foreign status may make me a target of theft. While I may have these fear, I know I must disregard them and focus on the reasons I joined the Peace Corps to begin with.
“Two years? Aren’t you going to miss home?”
More than you know, but this decision was not made because I do not love my life here. It is because I love improving health outcomes of the underserved and *attempting* to make a corner of the world a better place. I am extremely lucking to have such an amazing support system and a life in the states to miss, but I know that home will still be there once my Peace Corps journey is over, so I will try my best to not have FOMO.
“What exactly is Peace Corps?”/ “What will you be doing?”
Peace Corps as a whole focuses on improving economically disadvantaged countries. Peace Corps focuses on Education, Agriculture, Health, Microfinance/Business, and Environmental Improvement. One of the many reasons I love Peace Corps so much is because they truly aim to improve the cornerstones of civilization. In regards to my specific job, I am not absolutely certain what I will be doing. So while I am unclear on specifics, I will show you the exact same paragraph I was given of my job description.
The purpose of the Community Health Program is to empower health care workers, individuals, and communities to reduce maternal, neonatal, and child morbidity and mortality, and prevent and mitigate HIV/AIDS. Volunteers focus on four key areas of intervention:
- Educating individuals and groups on mother and child health and good nutrition
- Mobilizing community members to support mother and child health and nutrition
- Creating and strengthening care groups that address mother and child health, nutrition,malaria, and/or HIV prevention
- Linking people living with HIV to treatment and other HIV services
What/How do you pack for TWO YEARS?
This is the struggle I am currently facing. Clothing is the easy part. It is all of the miscellaneous Peace Corps things that baffle me. Some job posts have consistent electricity, while others do not. Some have running water, and some do not. My amazon cart is constantly full of outdoor gear and camping essentials. I think my mom may be getting a little tired of the constant amazon packages arriving at the house. I find my cart full of citronella laundry detergent and solar powered chargers, when it used to be full of school books and shoes. With only two weeks left I still need to buy quite a bit, but thank god for an upcoming pay day and two day prime shipping. If you’re curious about the actual list Peace Corps gave me, you can find it here. On the official Peace Corps site, they recommend 66 different things, so somehow this will all fit in 3 bags.
Do you get to come home?
The short answer, yes. The more complicated answer, it’s a hike. You do receive 30 days off a year with Peace Corps, but air fare is expensive and the US is a hike. I am hoping to visit once every six months, but more practically I may be able to only swing one trip a year. On a side note, I’d be more than happy to have any and all visitors. I’ll be an excellent translator and 9/10 people say I’m a great person to be around!
Did you have to get a bunch of shots to go there?
Fun Fact: I’m still fully vaccinated from when I worked in Ghana a few years ago. (Check the tbt below) A Second fun fact: Needles and doctors don’t bother me, so this portion of preparation did not scare or alarm me. Thankfully I will not get yellow fever or polio, but unfortunately I’m still at risk for cholera and dengue. We can’t win them all I suppose.
Thank you all for bearing with me on this long post filled with FAQs and more packing procrastination. In conclusion, you guys are awesome for following me on this adventure. Feel free to comment, share, and stalk my life while I work abroad.