Next week, I will become a Peace Corps trainee. After over a year of application, and many more years of casual consideration, I will finally embark on a journey so grand that it will take over two years to complete. I have put considerable energy into preparation, and research, and purchasing things I will need, and visiting those I will miss, and imagining my new life, and anticipating what I can never imagine, and yet, it is still hard to believe that by the end of next Wednesday, I will once again be on another continent.
For too long I have been living my life in the temporary, and now, I will again be rooted at a beginning. The freshness, the freedom to pursue, the lack of mistakes and false hopes and missed opportunities allow me to come to my situation anew, though not naive. Au contraire. Previous experiences, mistakes, triumphs, realizations will guide me as I find myself once again in the dusty African Sahel, navigating change within a community so similar, so different from my own. My idealism grounds me.
Mali will be a land of learning, a land of teaching, a land of doing, a land of understanding. I will work with agriculture and environment development, creating projects intended to increase the sustainability with which people can feed themselves and their families [read: food security].
I will start with two months of intensive training where I will learn a new language, new technical skills, and new cultural understandings to put me on the right track. I will then become a full fledged Peace Corps Volunteer and will move to a village all my own.
Likely, there will be another volunteer within an hour from my village. The Peace Corps likes to clump volunteers when possible. My village will likely be around 1,000 people, and I will be assigned a counterpart who will assist me in my integration as well as my implementation of various projects as a volunteer. While I will likely be the sole American in my village, it is important not to think of me as alone in my village, as it is likely far from the case. Malian culture is quite communal and my time alone will likely be precious, not overwhelming.
I will likely live in a mud house, with a couple rooms, a propane-powered stove, a pit latrine [read: outhouse, sort of], and a pump well located within walking distance from which to collect water. I will be provided a stipend to allow me to live comfortably, albeit simply, within the constraints of my village.
I start this blog with much enthusiasm, and I hope I will be able to maintain a story of my experiences for those who wish to follow while I am away. We shall see how reality shapes this goal, but I start off with high hopes. While my updates may be sporadic, know that I intend to keep you well informed of my reflections, events, and stories despite the technological challenges Mali provides.
I hope this provides a rough sketch of what awaits, as I do not want to paint anything too vividly until I am actually there. However, know that it is with ease and excitement that I make my final preparations before I embark on the adventure of a lifetime…next week!The Background →