If you've talked to me at all in the past year or so, you know that I've been working on becoming a Peace Corps volunteer. After "knowing" that I wanted to be a doctor the majority of my life (inspired by my particularly brilliant cardiologist grandfather), I realized that I had no idea what it meant to be a doctor around the end of my sophomore year of college. I knew I wouldn't be ready for medical school immediately after my undergraduate education, but I knew I wanted to do something challenging that would help me refine my vision of my future career. I knew I wanted it to incorporate aspects of advancing social justice and I wanted the organization I was with to recognize the value in building community connections (the two most important things I learned in college... yes, even as a biochemistry major). I knew I loved to travel, that I'm not too bad at roughing it, and that I want to learn how to live simply. All the signs seemed to point to some sort of time abroad, but I was not interested in aimlessly wandering or making an unsustainable impact just to make myself feel benevolent.
So, I thought back to some high school teachers, old friends and friends of friends who had gone abroad with the Peace Corps. I looked into it a little, and decided that they offered everything that I was hoping for - sustainable changes in communities that request the presence of volunteers, government support and training, not to mention a pretty solid track record and reputation. So I started applying last summer. After writing essays, interviewing, lots of medical check-ups and tests, and a LOT of waiting, I finally received my invitation to serve as a Deaf Education volunteer in Kenya. Now, if you've talked to me ever, you probably also know that I'm not deaf, I don't know sign language (except for the alphabet and the Alaska Flag Song in ASL - real helpful). I wasn't trained as an educator, and I don't know Swahili. Also, I received my invitation about a month before I'm scheduled to leave. My staging will be held in Philadelphia on October 12th, and I leave for Kenya on the 13th. Needless to say, these days I oscillate between euphoric excitement and overwhelming fear. Hopefully that will even out before I get on the plane.
In the meantime I'm making a packing list, filling out paperwork, tying up loose ends, and saying see you laters (NOT goodbyes). I plan on updating this blog as I'm able, but I have no idea how that will work while I'm abroad. I'll post my address as soon as I know it, and I know at that point I'd LOVE to get mail. And I promise I'll write back.
Here's to the next 28 days in the country! What happens after that? Your guess is as good as mine.
Oh, and the name of this blog, upendo, is the Swahili word for "love". I hope it serves as a personal reminder that the opposite of fear is love, and that if I view my new home through lenses of love instead of fear and uncertainty, I'll gain more than I could otherwise. That's just one of many challenges I'm sure I'll face. But I'm as ready as I'll ever be.