Exactly one month from today, I will board a plane with 19 other volunteers and fly to the other side of the world. I won’t be back for more than two years.
Joining the Peace Corps has been a dream of mine for so long it has hardly seemed real. It hardly seemed real last October when I got the email the day after my interview, inviting me to come teach English in Comoros. It hardly seemed real when I accepted the position, quit my job and moved across the country so I could spend time with my family before leaving. It hardly seemed real when they sent me stacks of paper work and medical evaluations to complete. It has hardly seemed real as I scanned the internet looking at picture of Comoros, reading any and all information to be found on this little island country.
But today, it is real. And fast approaching. After a conference call with my country director and the other 19 volunteers who have signed up for this wild adventure, I found out that on Saturday, June 11, we will fly from D.C. to Ethiopia, to Kenya, to Comoros, two full days of airports and travel.
Peace Corps Staff will put us on the plane in D.C. and we will be on our own until we get through immigration in Moroni, Comoros, where it will all begin.
We are each allowed to bring two 50-pound pieces of luggage. Fitting my entire life for two years into two suitcases has proved an insurmountable task. So I quit trying, took the advice of those who done this before me, and took on the mind set of only packing for a few months. It seems one just has to have a little blind faith about the rest of the time.
Even packing for three months is tough, especially when traveling to a country I’ve never been to before that has limited resources. Will I be able to find clothes there that fit me? How many pairs of shoes will I need? What about shampoo and deodorant? Things I have always taken for granted suddenly might not be so available. But that is Peace Corps.
The in-country staff has been incredibly supportive already, giving us all plenty of opportunities to ask questions, and working diligently to make sure we are supplied with answers. But heading into a situation with so many unknowns, it can be hard to even know what questions to ask. And some questions, there simply are no answers for. No one can tell me if my host family will like me. No one knows if the first day in the classroom will feel awkward. There is no answer to how long will it take to feel like Comoros is home. Will I adjust fast to not having a computer readily available? How hard will it be to give up driving? There is no way to know right now, yet these are the questions I find burning in my mind that I so badly want answers to.
And so for the next 31 days I will try to set those questions aside, enjoy the time I have with my family and friends, eat out a lot, go for long drives, watch too much Netflix, and try not spend the whole month counting down the days.