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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I fly out of Minneapolis in less than a week!

As I do last-minute shopping, packing, skiing, beer drinking, and burrito eating, this whole Senegal thing is starting to feel more real.  I have known that I was going to do Peace Corps for about a year and a half, and I have been somewhat ready to leave since the day I got my placement six months ago.  Since the Peace Corps application process is so long, I have already long since mulled over Peace Corps in the abstract sense.  I know I'm going to do it, and I know I'm going to make the most out of it, though there will definitely be some bad times as well.  I know it will change me.  However, after an intense two or three years, it will be over, and in 10 years, Peace Corps will just be another thing I can use in future "never never have I ever" games, like how I once lived in Fargo, or that once I saw a duck eat a garter snake.  It will be a part of my life, but it won't be the definitive event.

Although I'm excited about it now, when I first got my placement, I felt nervous, underqualified, and unprepared to be a health volunteer in Africa.  I didn't know anything about West African culture and I had no experience in community health work.  To make myself get on board with Senegal, I started playing this game where I think of things that could be stressors or discomforts, and I try to see them positively instead.  If a situation sucks, complaining about it doesn't make it any better, but reframing it can sometimes help. It will be really hot. Yes, but the climate can't be uninhabitable because people inhabit it, and I'll get used to it eventually.  I will be constantly confused.  Yes, but being confronted with my own ignorance helps me be a better, more humble person. I don't know anything about community health. Yes, but I have 3 months of intensive training, and the Peace Corps community is incredibly supportive, so it's not like I'll be thrown into the wolves. The food has a reputation of being monotonous.  Yes, but I can get creative by playing around with spices and making it delicious, which I love doing.  I will have very little to do some days.  Yes, but I can read, think, talk to my neighbors, and slow down enough to enjoy the African life pace I've heard so much about.

So, I'm philosophically ready now, but I don't know if I still will be a week from now when I'm getting ready to board that plane and there's absolutely no turning back. I also think I have all the little preparation things ready as well.  My car is sold, I bought 25 packets of taco seasoning, and I have $300 worth of vaccinations. I've been studying French for about two hours a day, and though I'm not anywhere near fluency, I'm a lot better than where I started. I've had happy goodbye hugs with my good friends and lots of quality time in with my family.  I bought a new computer that boasts an 11 hour battery life, which might be useful if I'm at a site without electricity and can't charge it too often.  I still have that nagging feeling that I'm forgetting many important things, but I know that if I do forget something important, my wonderfully supportive responsible parents can deal with it in my absence.

I'm going to try to write regularly (at least once a week) from this point on!