A few weeks ago, when I received confirmation that my flight to Benin had been booked, I realized with both terror and excitement that I am about to become a Peace Corps Trainee, and eventually, a Peace Corps Volunteer! One might think I had known this all along, but honestly, I’m not sure I did. I submitted my application way back in February of 2011 and for a long time, Peace Corps just felt like a nebulous idea in the distance.
The Peace Corps application process has a rightly-earned formidable reputation. It’s not that it’s terribly hard to get in, it’s just that there’s this sort of limbo stage that lasts indefinitely – the period between nomination* and invitation** – during which many will go quietly insane waiting for a phone call from a 202 area code, a phone call that just might be their placement officer, officially and for real inviting them to join the Peace Corps FINALLY.
It’s like sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s office, wondering why on earth it’s taking so freakin’ long. When you walk up to the front desk to delicately suggest that perhaps you’ve been forgotten, the receptionist just smiles and tells you it won’t be much longer. So you sit back down and stare at the aquarium full of colorful fish, which are apparently supposed to keep people calm, but which I’ve always found particularly unsettling. It’s serene… too serene.
Anyways, if at long last you make it through the arduous application process, you end up where I am now… still waiting and still submitting paperwork (I swear Peace Corps knows more about me than I do at this point). But at least I have a departure date, a country, and a job description. Ingredients for a new journey!
I’m grateful and happy to be an American girl, and my choice to leave and live in West Africa for two years is not for lack of love or attachment toward whom and what’s here. Homesickness will surely be an ongoing challenge for me in Benin, but the good news is, I’ll still be on Planet Earth! That’s right folks, joining the Peace Corps does not mean going off to another universe or anything like that. It’s a two year job in another country. Benin, believe it or not, has trees and human beings and traffic and mangos and all sorts of other things that I’m certain only exist on Planet Earth. This means you can (and should) stay in touch with me. I’ll need your support, and I want to know what you’re up to, as well!
June 24th is my departure date, so I still have a few more splendid weeks to obsess over what I should and should not pack, to practice French (or just think about it), to gorge myself on American foods (the most common piece of advice from current volunteers), and most importantly, to spend time with family and friends. But time flies and before you know it I’ll be off. So stay tuned!
* The nomination is like the initial acceptance, which gives you a tentative departure date (mine ended up being 4 months off), region, and volunteer sector.
** The invitation is when you get accepted into a specific program, in a specific country, with a specific departure date. The time between when I was nominated and when I received my invitation was about 6 months.