One of the most common questions I am asked is why I wanted to join the Peace Corps. There are some usual answers I give: I want to travel before having a full-time job, and this gives me that opportunity; I'm not paying for most of the expenses, which is not a common theme among other volunteer programs; I love math and I want to get other people to love math as well.

But mostly I joined because once I found out about the Peace Corps, and what we do, it was hard to imagine not doing it. Mostly I am a woman of logic and pros and cons and to-do lists and weighing options. But this is a lot about a feeling, sort of like a calling.

I keep an offline journal, and at the beginning of my application process, I wrote something akin to, "If your heart is screaming at you, maybe you should listen." My heart has been telling me through this year of waiting and preparation, you are supposed to be doing this. My heart has said, people will question you and they will be confused and they will expect you to do something else after school. My heart has said, you should ignore them. You know what you are. You know where you need to go. You need to be with the Peace Corps.

There is so much more to this world than the places we grow up in, but many of us never see beyond the imaginary borders of our minds. Working and living in a foreign place, being forced to be uncomfortable and embarrassed and challenged, that is a way of breaking down these borders, these walls we create for ourselves. It is a way to see others as we wish to be seen, as complex people with complex lives, motivations, dreams, aspirations. That is something which is needed in our increasingly connected world.

I have had doubts. We all have doubts with big choices in our lives. When I have had doubts, I sit, and I ask, and I wait for an answer. Some of you may call it prayer, or just listening to see if the universe has anything to say. Every time, when I have listened, the universe has said, you are on the right path. Keep going.

So I say to all of you, think of a time when you were so sure that you needed to be doing something. Or think of a time when you had made a commitment, but others were unsure. Did you look inside yourself for reassurance? Did you keep going? How did you feel afterwards? Are you still in the middle of that decision?

This is a different path than many would take. But it is my path.



I have news!

Got an email regarding booking my flights to staging and out of the country. Staging is going to be held (for my group) in Philadelphia. It's basically our last day in country and first day of training. They get us all together to have a couple of long training sessions at a hotel, and the next day we fly out.

I'm flying out of Lansing on November 11 (bright and early Monday morning) to Detroit, then Philly, then in the morning we bus to JFK. After than it's a layover in Brussels (Belgium), Burundi, and finally to Entebbe, Uganda's national airport. By our itinerary we're getting in at 11pm November 13. After that we still have a long bus ride to our training center.

These flights are going to be long. I have only ever flown once. My university band took a trip to Houston for a bowl game, and that was fantastic, but that flight was maybe a few hours. From JFK to Brussels is ten hours, then from Brussels to Burundi is another seven. I'd like to say I'd be writing or reading that whole time but half of it I'll probably be sleeping. My mom says after we land I'll never want to see another airplane again. I think it'll be terrific.

It still doesn't seem real, as I count down the days, less than a month to go. I've got to buy some things still. PC recommends a simple sleeping bag, for training sessions I may have to attend, but that is just one of the many. I've also got to get 12 passport photos to submit for my Ugandan work permit paperwork. There are still so many tasks to be completed. And I'm just getting over a cold. Woohoo! But hey, at least the government is open again right?

As the days get closer I wonder what it's going to be like, and know that I have no idea. It's exhilarating. The farthest I've been from home was driving to Colorado for a week, but with steady Wi-Fi along the way. I think the most stark difference will be lack of internet access. It informs my daily life and habits. It has infused its way into my very being. During the application process, PC asks many times in many different ways about the ways you will cope with your new life, if you don't have your usual outlets. Reading, writing, listening to music, these are all typical answers (and habits I intend to engage in), but I think the hardest part for all of us will be learning to lean on each other and our communities. We're going to be sent to live with host families after about 4-5 weeks, and there's not really a lot of chances to escape from that. I think it will be revealing, to say the least, about who we become when the safety net is no longer there.

24 days.