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Why Join the Peace Corps?

The first time I considered joining the Peace Corps was the spring of my junior year at university. I had a professor who was a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) and was doing amazing things in healthcare communications. After hearing my mom talk about the Peace Corps for years, something finally clicked when I heard my professor’s stories about her time in Africa.

(Sidenote: I actually wrote a post in my personal blog at the time that basically said I had my dream internship in sports, but that maybe my heart was somewhere else… like doing volunteer work in Africa.)

I toyed with the idea of applying on and off for five years. At one point a recruiter gave me a call, but nothing came of it. Finally, last June I went to my first info session. My dog ate the recruiter’s card. True story.

In September, I finally pushed the send button and started a whirlwind yet extremely slow going, patience testing process as an applicant.

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So why did I do it?

Have you ever gotten the feeling that there’s more to life? Have you ever thought that not only could you be doing something bigger than yourself, but you should be?

The young idealist in me wants to do ggood for some people born into far less fortunate circumstances than I was. Another part of me wants to learn, and I mean really learn, about what is important in life and what isn’t. I can’t help but feel frustrated with the state of my life, with the materialism and the lack of appreciation for things like clean water, education, energy, etc that I’ve always taken for granted in my life. Not just taken for granted, but that I always felt entitled to.

So, this is my chance to hopefully do something bigger than myself… To make a difference in a life.

My sister has always loved “The Starfish Story,” adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley.

An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean.

“Young lady,” he asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

“The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die.”

“But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.”

The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves, saying, “It made a difference for that one.”

I just want to throw the starfish back.

(image via Fearless Expressioner)

Fun Facts about Ethiopia

How pretty is this? (via Wikipedia)

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be heading to Ethiopia in October! So what did I know about Ethiopia prior to last week? Not a whole lot. So today I bring you some fun facts about it.

  • Oldest site of human existence
  • Source of the Blue Nile (with White Nile makes up Nile river… also this is the river considered to be flowing out of the biblical Garden of Eden).
  • One of the first areas of the world to officially adopt Christianity
  • Only one of two African countries that has always remained independent
  • The Amharic kingdom is mentioned in the Illiad and was the largest kingdown in between Greece and Persia
  • Birthplace of coffee (!!)
  • They do have rhinoceros, ibex, elephants, lions, giraffes and cheetahs
  • The capital of Addis Ababa is a city state of over 7.8 million people
  • Official language is Amharic, with 17.5 million native speakers it falls in the same range as Dutch, Nepali, Romanian, Greek, Catalan, etc
  • Addis Ababa and is at an elevation of 7,874 ft! (For comparison, Denver is at 5,130–5,680 ft)
  • Climate type is tropical monsoon… but there are mountains, desert and grassland. Addis Ababa has a yearly average temperature between 45-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • I hear it’s GREAT for running.

Oh, and it’s located in eastern Africa.

via World Atlas

I’M GOING TO AFRICA!!!

Y’all… I’m so beyond happy/excited/thrilled/in major disbelief that this is FOR REAL.

I’M MOVING TO AFRICA IN TWO MONTHS!!!

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of the way, I accepted an invitation to serve as a Community Health Economic Development volunteer in Ethiopia. I leave October 1.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with the Peace Corps, here’s the short version of what it’s about (from the Executive Order Kennedy signed on March 1, 1961):

To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.

I’ve been hesitant to be completely open about the application process while going through it, so for anyone who has been following the journey, is in the process of applying, or might be interested in applying, here are a few details:

  1. The Toolkit goes offline on July 26… It looks like there will be 3 weeks of downtime. This may or may not be important.
  2. OMS receives my medical packet on July 9. The last date possible to ensure a medical file is opened prior to the system change (and so I don’t have to go through the process again).
  3. An OMS nurse emailed me mid-afternoon on Tuesday (July 17) to ask a couple questions and then let me know she was medically clearing me with the provision I sent in my missing lab work results prior to departure.
  4. I receive an email from a Placement Officer on Wednesday (July 18) in mid-afternoon that says I unfortunately was not invited to the program for which I was nominated, but that an invitation is in the mail for a Health-based Community Economic Development program in Anglophone Sub Saharan Africa departing early October.
  5. I didn’t have a placement interview.

Since everything just seemed to be taking so long (needing patience through this process is a MUST), I have spent the last several weeks convincing myself I wouldn’t be leaving in October. As soon as I made peace with that reality, I was medically cleared and had an invitation in the mail within 24 hours. Unreal.

I basked in the happiness last Thursday. Then ran to check the mail on Friday. And Saturday. And Monday. And Tuesday… by Wednesday I had pretty much given up hope the packet was ever coming (okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic but I thought it was lost in the mail). I checked my mail and the box was empty. Trudging up the stairs at my apartment complex, I saw a large envelope sitting outside my doorway. I walked calmly over and flipped it over. FROM THE PEACE CORPS! My invitation had arrived!

To anyone who is waiting on their invitation (as in, a placement officer told you the invitation is in the mail), it took mine five business days to arrive… It’s true when they say you need patience in this process!

I’m sure I will be bombarding you guys with Ethiopia related material. After the past week of anticipation, I suddenly feel as though nine weeks isn’t near enough time. I know I should have it more together, but hindsight is 20/20.

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P.S. I plan to keep the blog updated, but the truth is, you never know. I also am putting together an email list for all my non-blog reading friends and family, so you can click here to sign up for it too.