Thomas and I arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday evening and spent most of yesterday in our initial Peace Corps orientation session. It was a wonderful day of meeting other trainees, finding out the details of how we get to Morocco, and (most importantly) re-familiarizing ourselves with why Peace Corps exists and why we chose to join up. The whole day was framed by Peace Corps staff as a very important ‘first step’ of living and working internationally. All the facilitators are returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and hearing about their own experiences was fantastic–I am now really jazzed to get started on this grand adventure!
There are many more married/partnered volunteers than we had expected, which is a nice discovery. Other nifty things about our group: the age range of our 98 cohort members runs from early 20s through 85–amazing to have such diversity of age! And we are quite ethnically, socially and geographically diverse as well. I greatly enjoyed seeing such a mix of people in the room. Side note: for those who know me from our Maxwell days, yesterday was like a super-long Morning Assembly, sans prayers but with the same earnest encouragement that we are going to do good in the world.
Of all the information we heard yesterday, perhaps the most helpful advice shared by one of our facilitators, Vincent, was this (I’m paraphrasing here): “Before you get on the plane tomorrow, reach out to your family and friends and tell them what you want to hear when you call them feeling disheartened or uncertain about your service.” As he noted, there will be times when each of us second-guesses being part of Peace Corps service. As a returned volunteer himself, he shared that when one calls home to express doubts or vent frustrations, friends and family often try to fix the situation by reminding the volunteer they can come home, and will sometimes encourage the volunteer to leave.
I feel quite lucky to be serving with Thomas, who will certainly be a critical source of support to me when I feel scared or overwhelmed or sad. And I am also extremely grateful to have such a wide circle of support in North America. I am certain I will call some of you over the next 27 months to share both the joys and the challenges of being in Peace Corps. My request is this: on the calls where I express more challenge than joy, please remind me that I am loved from afar, and that I should stick with this experience.
So, in advance, thank you all for your support of us as we finally, ‘officially’ embark on our service.
PS: Have to share that although we thought we had over-packed for the trip, pretty much everyone here brought the same amount of stuff. One person even brought a cast-iron skillet! How cool is that??