Tuesday, July 17, 2012
I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M MOVING TO ZAMBIA!
One day from today. 17+ hours in a plane from now. I will touch foot on Zambian soil! I will begin a new chapter in my life- in a completely different life- in a strange new land. I cannot wait!
I've been taking some time the last few days to just sit down and really reflect on everything over the last 8 weeks since I found out I'd be leaving for Zambia. I'm remembering an idea of a roller coaster of emotions... but when I really think about the last 7 weeks, that roller coaster is a really small one, that is kinda flat. I think it was conditioned in my head that I was going to go through all of these different states of mind, and overwhelming emotional changes. When people continually ask me how I feel about leaving for Africa, I feel as if they sometimes infer that I should be feeling all sorts of crazy things, terror included. In reality, though, the only thing that I've really felt continually is: excited!
There was a time a few weeks back when I had about a day or two of freak out. I questioned if this is the right move, if I could really do this, and what I had gotten myself into. But then, very quickly, I was reassured. This is something I've been wanting to do for a very long time. Since I was 15 and went to Austria with a host family and some classmates, I've been saying I wanted to live abroad, and eventually run my own business in another country. Although that business has since changed (I wanted my own Physical Therapy Clinic), my dreams of living abroad and having my own sort of organization haven't. When I got a taste of 3rd World life during a ~1 month volunteer project to Romania, I knew that that was the life setting I wanted to experience and live in and help in. After I traveled to the innercities and favelas of Bahia, Brasil, and saw all of the wonderful things that my aunt does to help the poor (in a country that became her home after she was posted there in the Peace Corps 40+ years ago!), I felt assured this is my calling. Many different things have shaped what I want to do with the rest of my life, but mostly everything I've experienced has reconfirmed it even more for me. I've been saying, since 2009, "I want to live in a 3rd World country, with an indigenous tribe, in a rural area with no amenities, where I only make enough to get by, and in food or shelter. I want to be the main wellness provider in the area, being able to help not only with first aid, and general illness, but also with physical ailments and rehabilitation (see! still with my original 15 year old dream), with mental health, with behaviour change, and all other areas of wellness. I'd also like to be able to work with children, and especially people with disabilities." Well, there's a lot more that has been added to that as well now, such as being able to utilize my pilots license and help deliver aid/travel to remote areas. I'm sure that there are many things that I'll be learning over the next few years that I will become passionate about as well, and will want to mesh that all in to my future plans.
I know that I am extremely lucky to have this opportunity. Everyone says how brave I am, but I really don't feel that way. I portray confidence in all things that I do, but deep down, I'm an emotional wreck right now. As excited as I am to gain new friends, family, and experiences over the next two years, there is so much about home that I am going to miss.
Sure, strip me of my comforts. Make me live with the basics. That's what I want. But I'd love to have all my friends and family, as well as my cat, right there along side of me. And while I know that we all still wake up under the same sun, fall asleep under the same moon, and are in each others hearts and minds, it doesn't make it any easier to leave anyone behind. I wish more of my friends could experience life like I do, learn what it's like to put others before yourself and your own comforts, but not many of my friends would be willing to give up their luxuries and routines. I realize that it takes a really strong person to do this, and while I strongly believe that I will succeed, I know that these next two years are going to show me some of the most difficult times I've ever seen. I know I will be pushed to my limits. I know there will be times that I'm bored out of my mind and just wish I had someone I could talk to, someone that speaks the same language as me and understands. I know that there will be times when I want to give up and come home. I know there will be times that I become depressed, lonely, sick, everything. And I know that leaving Zambia and returning home will be even more difficult to do, in more ways than one.
But I also know that I'm going to experience so much. I'm going to learn things about myself that I never knew before. I'm going to see the world in a whole new light (even more so than I already do). I'm going to learn so much about humanity, the human spirit, and human sacrifice. What it really means to be happy, and how that happiness does not stem from material items. I'm going to get to see things that very few people will ever get to say that they saw. I'm going to be so energized and full of life from the tremendous things that I'll be doing. And I'm going to be making a difference in the worlds of many. I have so much love to give, and I cannot wait to spread that throughout my new home.
The mission of the Peace Corps is simple, but also a very important one. 51 years ago, President Kennedy challenged a group of college students to go abroad and serve the poor by living with them. To promote world peace and friendship, to help the people of developing countries meet their basic needs. To create on-the-ground, people-to-people relationships. The Peace Corps reflects the most enduring values and ideals: generosity, civic pride, a strong work ethic, and commitment to service. Being selected to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer is a huge honor to me, and I couldn't be more proud. This is a 27 month commitment, but it's a lifetime of change.
As a group of ~70, we will all board a bus in about one hour from now. From there we will board a plane, and touch down in a strange, magical, foreign land. And from there, our lives as we know it will completely change.