I’m walking around in the airport, trying to kill time before the flight, when I see a familiar face. I can’t remember her name – I’ve met so many people in the last 24 hours – but I know she’s in the Peace Corps group. I walk over to say hi, but then I notice she’s on her phone, and tears are starting to come down her face. For the 63 of us Peace Corps Benin Trainees, this is the last time we’ll be in the U.S. for quite a while, and many are taking the opportunity to call family to say good bye. It’s an emotional day.
Everyone was excited, but occasionally you’d see a cloud of worry or sadness pass over someone’s face as the reality of Peace Corps and the sacrifices it would entail sunk in. I was chatting with another member of our training group and he said, “Before my first flight to Philadelphia, as I was saying good bye to my parents, there was a part of me that thought you know, I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to get on that plane. I can just turn around and forget the whole thing.”
I had those thoughts too. In fact, I’m pretty sure everyone did. Peace Corps isn’t a little vacation or a semester study abroad. It’s a 27 month commitment to give up most of what you know, to live in a foreign country, to learn a new language (or a few), and to adjust to a completely new environment. But if what I’ve heard is true, Peace Corps can also be the sort of transformative experience that stays with you forever and gives you a set of skills that you won’t find elsewhere. If what I’ve heard is true, it’s worth it.
So in spite of our doubts, we all got on that plane, and now we’re here! After I don’t even know how many hours/days of travel, we finally arrived in Cotonou, Benin. We were greeted by a handful of the current volunteers who enthusiastically welcomed us into the Peace Corps Benin family. They are the Peace Corps Volunteer trainers and are staying with us throughout the course of our training to assist with everything from logistics to cultural immersion and language instruction.
Our days will be very structured and busy over the next couple months, so I probably won’t post much, but I’m enjoying myself and would love to hear from you. Beware that if you email it may take a very long time for me to get back to you, but I will eventually! Letters would also be much appreciated (hint, hint…)
P. S. Mom and Dad, I don’t have a phone yet, but I should be able to get one by Monday and will call as soon as I can!!