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Happy Anniversary (1 year) - Angie's Peace Corps (Namibia) Adventure

Nov. 12th, 2006

07:49 am - Happy Anniversary (1 year)

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An unfinished journal. I wrote the following sometime this last week, really late at night & I got tired before I got done w everything I needed & wanted to say. But it's alright, over time more thoughts on this will come about. There will be a continuation of this entry, I'm sure.

Happy Anniversary! (1 year)

Happy anniversary to me! That is, to Peace Corps Namibia & I. Hard to believe that Tuesday marks one year since I embarked on this crazy crazy ride. I left home (Miami) November 7, 2005 headed to Philadelphia for Staging, a 3 day pre-departure PC orientation. We landed in Namibia on November 11. I actually had forgotten if it was the 10th or 11th, so I just pulled out my staging itinerary which still sits inside my backpack. Ahh Staging. What an exciting time that was- first time Group 25 got to meet each other, first time we could really feel we were going to be part of Peace Corps, not knowing much about Namibia (they don’t really give you any info about the country during Staging), not knowing what the next 2 years would hold, not knowing what to expect, just knowing that we were standing on the cusp of something… something big.

I can't speak for everyone, but I believe in all of us there was as much fear inside of us as there was excitement & elation. Was I really going to be able to pull this off? 2 years? I’d never left home before for an extended period of time. Was I going to be able to handle being away from friends & family? Was I going to be able to adapt to the culture? What if PC doesn’t turn out to be what I thought it was going to be? What if love calls me back home? What if tragedy occurs at home while I’m millions of miles away? What if the spiders are too much for me to handle? (I just added this in because a huge ass m’f*ing spider just darted past me. Shaken? Yes. But I will sleep peacefully- I got the bastard.)

But these were all questions that were just sitting quietly in the back of my mind. I was too excited about FINALLY embarking on this journey to really mind those questions. The only time I can recall truly being scared, really feeling that fear to its full extent, was the moment I said goodbye to my parents at the airport and made the line to get on the plane to Philadelphia. That was the moment fear showed its face & for just a moment I asked myself “what the heck am I doing?”. I had never had to say goodbye to my mom & dad like that before. Sure I had taken trips alone before, but id never gone to live elsewhere- let alone Africa. I couldn’t just move to another town or another state- no, I chose to spread my wings in Africa. It was then that it hit me that the next 2 years would be me, all me. Just me. I started crying. I turned around a billion times to look at my parents & brothers, as they too cried. The people around me were probably wondering what was going on. I’m sure of all the things they could’ve imagined, I’m sure they wouldn’t have imagined that I was saying goodbye to my family as I was headed to live in Africa for the next couple of years.

I was scared out of my mind at that moment. It was the moment I knew that I was really going to do this. It was the moment I was leaving behind everything I had known thus far in my life. It was the moment I was leaving my safety net, my comfort zone. Leaving the known for the completely unknown. Taking that first step towards the unknown is always terrifying. As intensely scary as that felt, I can recall feeling just as intensely proud. It’s strange to feel so scared & proud at the same time, but that’s what it felt like. I had considered all these fears previously, at some point or another during the application process. And now the day had come when I had to face all these fears head on because all of this would now be a reality. It’s a powerful feeling the moment you face your fears and decide to tackle them and take them on, no matter how scared you are. It’s even more so when you step into a situation in which everything will be new, different, foreign, & you have absolutely no idea what to expect. It’s almost like being born again - at that moment I had no idea who, what, where, when, or how anything would be. It’s almost like starting a new life. Perhaps it’s not ‘almost like’, perhaps you could say that it is. Anyone who has ever ‘started a new life’ knows how scary that is.

Scared as I was, I knew that in order to gain something you have to give something up. In this case, I was giving up something big- basically everything I had known. I recall Jason Mraz once writing on his journal that in order to follow your dreams, you have to sacrifice. I read that on his journal sometime after I had been in Namibia for a few months, but I’ve never forgotten it because that’s basically what I knew within myself way back when I decided to do this. For better or for worse, my dream was a big dream and that meant big sacrifice. But I never thought of it in terms of what I’d have to give up- I always thought of it in terms of what I’d gain from it. I still think of it the same way.

I was so sure this was what I wanted. I wanted this with all my heart. I had worked hard to get to this point. I had been thinking about Peace Corps for a couple years by this point. And the application process itself took a year- and it was trying. I can’t recall the number of times I said to myself during the application process “For someone who is VOLUNTEERING themselves, I can’t believe all the crap they’re making me go through.” It was evident to me that PC does this on purpose- they make it difficult for you because they want to make sure that people they send abroad are truly committed and serious about doing this before they spend tons of government money on us. I had to jump through so many hoops though- everything from a highly personal & in-depth interview, fingerprints, background checks, credit checks, to motivation statements, to reference letters, to eye exams, to detailed medical exams, to dental Xrays, to mandatory 6 months of INH medication before I could be “cleared”, to having to have my wisdom teeth pulled before I could be “cleared”!

The worst part of it all is that you’re never “accepted” into Peace Corps. There is no point in the application process during which you can say “I made it in!”. You just start at step 1 and hope to make it to step 2, and on and on. But even when you’re at step 5 there’s no guarantee you’ll make it to 6. Really, the only time I finally felt like I was officially “in” with Peace Corps was when I arrived in-country. So I spent the year that my application process took saying to people that “I think I’m going to Africa to serve in Peace Corps, but I don’t know yet.” No wonder they say only 30% of applicants actually become Peace Corps Volunteers. I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s not that people aren’t qualified- look at me, I ain’t that special. I don’t hold a degree in rocket science. It’s just that not everyone is willing to put up with the highly trying & demanding application process. A lot of people start the process and then choose to not jump through all the hoops. That’s all it is. Me- I think if I were a seal or a killer whale, I’d be good for Sea World. It seems I don’t mind having to jump through hoop after hoop. So long as I get my fish in the end.

Well I got my fish. I got the Peace Corps experience I so wanted.

Jason Mraz says that for him, nothing has been as exciting in this business as they moment he decided to do this. The moment you begin to take the steps that will allow you to follow your dream.

They also say that the destination is not as exciting as the journey itself.

Has this been what I thought it was going to be? No. I’d say it’s less than 50% what I had imagined it to be. Still, what’s important is this: has it still made an impact on me & is it meaningful to me? The answers are yes. I am getting something out of this, it is fulfilling in one way or another. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. But I’ve come to the conclusion that just because something isn’t what you thought it was going to be doesn’t mean you should run the other way. You accept it for what it is, and you try to find happiness & meaning in it. One thing I’ve learned in this time is that if things don’t work for you, it’s up to you to do what it takes so that it does work for you. If something isn’t working, see if you can change a couple things here & there before you give up on it. Sometimes those few things that have to change are external, and sometimes they are internal.

Current Music: Donovan Frankenreiter