So what do you do when you’ve raised a child, had a successful career and are ready for a new challenge? Join the Peace Corps!
I have had a long time desire to live and work internationally. In many ways everything I have done has led me to this point in my life. And while I may have joked recently that I’m doing things backwards, the most important thing is that I’m living my dream.
Much thanks must be given to my friend Lynda Mae, who is currently serving in Vanuatu, for being my inspiration. When she first started talking about the Peace Corps it sparked my interest and I eagerly looked for her posts to see what was happening on her island. Last December, I had the opportunity to spend several days with her in Vanuatu and experience first hand what the Peace Corps is all about.
The amazing work that she and other volunteers are doing there to change lives struck a cord with me. Helping others is also a passion of mine – it is what I do now professionally (providing resources, training & consulting for staff of chambers of commerce) and who I’ve always been personally (I’ve always been the one people come to for advice and to talk to).
After months of deep reflection and many nights reading through (over and over) pages & pages and job descriptions on the Peace Corps website I decided to go for it. It was the middle of July, I still had a couple of weeks of grad school left and the application deadline wasn’t until October. Knowing that the process could be weeks / months long I resigned myself to simply be patient and wait.
Within a couple of days I received an email listing the countries I was eligible for based on my medical history. I had the option of choosing a country I was interested in or selecting wherever needed. As much as I’d like to be picky about where I live, I figured my best chances would be to say wherever needed. To me, it is more important to go where my skills and expertise are needed. Again, I attempted to put it out of my thoughts. I did tell my family and a few very close friends but I wasn’t ready to talk about it openly because what if it took a year or what if I didn’t get accepted?
About 15 days later I was notified that I was under consideration for the Kyrgyz Republic. Wow! This was starting to get real. And where the heck is this country and how do you pronounce that? Research began immediately. I needed to find out as much as I could about this country that may be my home. Interestingly our local bookshop did not have a travel guide for the Kyrgyz. Go figure. But I did find a free version on Kindle. Score!
At this point the waiting became torture. Knowing that the application deadline wasn’t until October I didn’t expect to hear anything until at least then. But all I was doing was thinking about it. And planning — quietly of course. I had already gotten rid of cable (I barely watch tv anyway). I started going through closets, drawers and files and cleaning things out. I deactivated apps, deleted apps, cleaned up social media contact lists & my regular contact list. I started a list of things I will need to do before I leave – the list is two full pages. I have a (private) Pinterest page where I’ve been pinning things related to the country, volunteering and the Peace Corps in general. I even started a wish list (private of course) on Amazon for items I will need. And I started making a plan for what I want to keep/store and what’s just ‘stuff’ that I can sell / give away.
Then things happened very quickly – I had the interview, accepted the invite, and spent 3 days telling the world that I will serve as an NGO Advisor in the Kyrgyz Republic starting April 1.
My son said it best: it’s super exciting; I don’t like the idea of you being overseas bit I know this is your dream so … YOLO.
I have been amazed by the outpouring of support, love and positiveness from everyone. The overwhelming responses I’ve received have brought tears, smiles and laughter. I plan to print these out to have with me for those discouraging times I’m sure to encounter in the coming days.
Watch for future posts where I’ll discuss more about what I’ll be doing in the Kyrgyz Republic. Until then I’ll be wading through the mile high pile of paperwork due for service as well as my personal and professional To Do Lists.