Thursday, January 14, 2010

First Post. Pre-departure. January 2010.

Ah! Where to begin...

I am currently living in Victoria, BC, where I work at the Bug Zoo. Every day I pick up cockroaches, tarantulas, millipedes, and various phasmids (look 'em up). By the time I get home at night, I am not coated in your typical work day grime. Instead, I may have a layer of cockroach poo (insect poo is called frass, in case you were interested) on my face, urticating hairs from a tarantula in my arm, a cricket head stuck under my nail, or any number of gross gross things happening on my body. Luckily, I have never been bitten or stung or attacked or pinched by anything especially dangerous, so I would say that all in all it is a very fun and satisfying kind of job. I get to hang out with kids all day and tell people about the truly incredible lives of this planet's most successful and fascinating creatures: bugs.

This is how I ended up in Victoria in a nutshell: I graduated from the University of Michigan in May, 2009 with a degree in Environmental Science. Not knowing what to do with myself, I applied to as many internships as possible. I found a position working at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which paid for my airfare, so off I went. I spent the summer working alongside an amazing group of people from all over the world. My job consisted of backpacking around the park (from secluded Hawaiian beaches to barren volcanic worlds upwards of 14,000 ft.) and making sure people did not break any park rules. I saw person per day. I spent most of my time hanging out with friends, eating Kraft macaroni and cheese, watching Friends with Cory, snorkelling, checking beaches for turtles with the sea turtle crew, and traveling all over the island. Perhaps most importantly, over the summer I met a nice Canadian physicist named Reid. Isn't he handsome? eh heh heh.

I fell very much in love with him, and was whisked off to Canada. Reid and I play chess, go rock climbing, salsa dance, hike, climb mountains, catch and fry fish, read to each other, look at stars, go on walks, make sushi, watch Chuck, eat pancakes, and spend many wonderful days together.

Plus, I found the best masters degree program in the world at the University of Victoria, where I would be working on sustainable aquaculture programs under an inspiring, funny, and incredibly friendly supervisor who offered me a place this fall. My celebration of this happy news was interrupted by a single voicemail. A Peace Corps placement officer in DC. "We have some questions for you, can you give us a call back?" Having not heard from the Peace Corps for the past 6 months since being medically cleared...I had more or less forgotten about it. But that one phone call was enough. My grad. school advisor said, "Come back in two years. I'll save you a spot." Even knowing that I can come back, it is still hard to actually get up, say goodbye to this wonderful life I am currently living, and leave for the complete unknown.

Many things in life seem permanent and steady. Family, for one thing, will always be there for me no matter how much everyone may change on a day-to-day or year-to-year basis. I am very lucky to be able to rely 100% on the people I love. Because of this, it has been easy to leave home and experience new things. I am not worried that things will be missing or different when I get back (besides the surprise that Connor is not still 3 years old every time I go home : ). It is the transient things, the aspects of my life which are so immediately relevant and important, that are impossible to let go of. So, for now, I am scared to leave Victoria. Scared to leave a westernized world where everyone speaks English. Scared to live in a hut in a rural village. Scared to leave behind the perception that I am a pretty redhead, as opposed to being just plain old white and foreign. Scared to leave Reid because no matter how wonderful I may think I am, I have learned the lesson that boys do not like being put on hold for any length of time, and will not wait around for you for two years. Though my relentless optimism says he will. I think it is this unconditional optimism about most things, especially the improbable ones, along with a sense of humor which will guide me through these next two years.

So, why am I doing Peace Corps? Because I can't imagine not doing it. I know it will be impossibly hard...but I'm okay with that. I know deep down it will be an absolutely incredible experience, and that I'm the kind of person who can do it. The pros are endless and so are the cons, but my greatest fear at this point (the fear that is making me cross my fingers while posting this) is that they will decide not to let me go. That my medical history will have an issue. That my passport wont come through in time. That Senegal has spontaneously combusted and there are no more Peace Corps programs available.

These next two years will be made from the most potent stuff that this life has to offer. Adventure, the joy of experiencing something new for the first time, the absolute misery of undertaking something huge, the accomplishment of minuscule tasks, the thrill that comes from stripping away the acts and the comforts of day-to-day life to learn over and over again who we truly are underneath it all. Here is the only way I can think of to describe my thoughts right now:

If I were a pilot, I feel like every time I pulled out of the gate I would not believe that the plane would take off. No matter how much I KNEW about flying a plane, or how much I had trained to make it happen, there would be an instant on the runway where I would stare up into the sky, wheels on the ground, and think, "please? oh please let this work". Then I would close my eyes and hope beyond hope that the plane's weight would magically disappear as it rose into the sky. More than anything, I just hope that the dead weight of this first post will thunder down the runway, gain momentum, and lift off into the air! Carrying me to Senegal where I will document the whirlwind of experiences that are soon to follow. I hope! *please* oh please oh please take off. There are two months left for things to go wrong. Two months for life to interfere. With an ache that reaches the very tips of my fingernails, I HOPE that in two months' time I will be a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa.