Saturday, May 1, 2010

What? Where? When? Huh?

I announced that I would be quitting a week ago and in that time my co-workers have been asking everyone but me, "What?" "Where?" "When?" and of course..."HUH?" Which to me equates to WHY? Maybe I would have asked the same thing? I can’t say that I have an inspiring story to tell. I didn’t have an epiphany concerning how I just KNEW I would join the Peace Corps by the time I was 9.

I don’t remember when the Peace Corps first came up in conversation or I became aware of it. I do know when the Peace Corps first became a topic of interest though, when it became real to me. But first, I should go farther back,to first grade, back to the library to the globes that sat around the reference section. I'm sure everyone played the "game" where your friends spin a globe and you put a finger on a continent as you declared “I’m going to live…here, when I grow up!” Well, I wanted to know what here was like. Add to this interest my family's love of history and my thoughts that I would be a history major, a long boring story. It brings me to the fact that long after most kids stopped spinning globes I still was but with more accuracy shooting for England, German and Turkey. I wanted to see the castles were royalty lived, or the mosques, and great architecture from hundred of years ago.

It was my sophomore year of college that I became truly aware of the Peace Corps and what they did. During this time I worked for a company where my direct boss was fresh from Turkmenistan, he was sent by the Peace Corps to teach. He started our training by yelling orders to us in Turkmen. The experience was off putting at first and disorienting to say the least. I hadn’t heard the man speak much English and to have him launch into orders in Turkman, a language I had never heard of, as he jestered, “up”. My boss did this while he waited for us to get up out of our chairs, all in an attempt to demonstrate the concept of the language barrier.

He was so fresh from the Peace Corps that when he spoke to us, in English, to give orders, he spoke slow, deliberate, with purpose. He stopped at one point and laughed, explaining he was still in “Peace Corps mode,” short purposeful sentences, simple language. His office was decorated with pictures of “his family” but it was his Turkmen family, his Peace Corps family. I thought about the idea of being of the world not just describing yourself as from your own small town. Being concerned with more then just your little corner of town. It seemed interesting. My boss talked glowingly of his experience, of how strange it was to go back, to eating fast food when he had home cooking for two years. He seemed to itch to be on the move again as the year went on and by the end of the year he was.

During this same time a teacher, who I would credit for being the one who helped me decide which major I should declare, told our class about a friend of her’s that worked for the Peace Corps, in Africa. After these two individuals I remember spending time I should have allocated to studying or homework, looking through the Peace Corps website. I looked over the Peace Corps maps, at where the Peace Corps had been and where they were still. For some reason the colored areas on the map were so interesting to me. They had replaced the maps in the library for me from when I was younger, I started to look into what areas the Peace Corps volunteered in. I had to have filled out the initial questionnaire a dozen times, each time the results came back the same, basically, I should try filling out the real application.

I began thinking about the places I could see, the things that I could do. Then on the night of the election as I went from house to house making sure that voters had tured out. As I made my way home from a large victory party for all the volunteers who were involved in the campaigning I stood next to this woman I had worked with all night. We were catching a bus together back to across town. Some how she began talking about how she had spent a year abroad, teaching English in Korea. I told her I had thought of doing something like that, I wanted to help, to do something more.

At the end of my life I wanted to make sure I knew I had done something with it. She asked what parts of the world I wanted to see. I looked up at the bus as the 71 A came up the street and told her, oddly enough now, Turkey. I would like to see Turkey more then anything. I had a teacher who told me all about Turkey and I would love to see it. Go to Turkey then, there are all kinds of companies that would send people to teach English in Turkey. It will be great and you really find out who you are when you are away from everything that is familar to you.

So I began to think again about the Peace Corps. I could travel; I could do something, meet people that I would never meet otherwise. I started my application a few weeks later and decided Eastern Europe was where I wanted to go. I knew they weren't excepting to Turkey but that was okay. As graduation neared I kept thinking back to the idea of seeing new places, of being able to go and witness new things.

In the end, I would be able to have stories unlike anyone else’s, that I would be able to bring home. In my life I have received such support from my family that I feel like to some extent I should pass it on. Externally, I believe that a person should try to make some difference even if it’s a small one. At this time in my life if I have the ability to go and do all this, travel, experience a new country, a new culture and help people. To others help themselves while I’m able, why not?

So that is why in short, I applied to join the Peace Corps. As I think back at first I thought it would be a quick simple answer but it's not,really. So many things really aligned and brought me to this decision. I probably could have written pages more on this topic. Since applying I’ve hit some delays but I’m finally here. It seems like the time between applying has flown by.

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