An Emily Abroad

Tales of my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon.

0 notes &

To be honest, I didn’t think that leaving my job would be an emotional experience.  Turns out I was kind of naive, thinking that I could spend eleven months with a group of people, all-day, every-day, and not grow attached.  I’m really going to miss everybody.  And even just the physical space where I worked!  It was a nice space.

The thing is, I’m not just tying up loose ends and saying (possibly final) goodbyes here—I’m doing it everywhere.  One set of goodbyes makes me feel sad, but saying goodbye to everyone I know and everything I’ve been familiar with for years leaves me feeling kind of detached.

It’s a good feeling in a way.  There’s a lot of possibility to it.  And I’m excited to go to Philadelphia, meet the people I’ll be working with, and start figuring out who I’m going to know and where I’m going to be for the next two years.  But there’s a lot of nervousness too.  It’s all creeping in…

Filed under University of Michigan melancholy relief Peace Corps Sorry for the boring posts. This is supposed to be a cool blog about the Peace Corps and instead it's just about me being sad about things.

0 notes &

I’ve been surprised lately by the extent to which knowing that I’m joining the Peace Corps changes my interactions with people, even people who’ve never met me before and never will again.  People being shown around the office never used to be very interested in me, but now I’m a full-fledged stop on the tour—I stand up, shake hands, answer the same three questions everyone seems to ask when they hear you’re joining the Peace Corps, and awkwardly suffer their scrutiny.  A few people I’ve run into who are involved in global human rights activism or development work have sat me down and just talked at me for up to an hour, and I kind of feel like I can’t respond, because really, I’m just the conduit through which they’re talking to my future self.  When I tell someone I’m going to serve in the Peace Corps, they’re very impressed by the person I’ll (hopefully) be in 27 months, and to be honest, she’s starting to intimidate me.

Less than a month from staging, I expected to be either very nervous or very excited, but I’m really not.  I have feelings about my impending departure, of course, but they’re not really on the scale appropriate to 27-month, thousands-of-miles-away, life-changing experiences.  I feel roughly the same as I felt before I moved down to Texas for ten weeks last summer.  And to be honest, I’m kind of fine with that:  on a conscious level, I know that I’m not emotionally or mentally prepared for the challenge of serving in the Peace Corps, but I also know that I can’t be.  I think that the best I can do is to keep in mind how hard it’s going to be, keep in mind that that I have no idea how things will turn out, and try to roll with the punches.  This close to departure, it seems sort of insane—and I wouldn’t use that word if I didn’t mean it literally—to be packing up and heading to Cameroon for 27 months.  I’m starting to wonder if I can even do it.

Which brings me to the point of this post:  I’m really glad that people have been reacting so strangely to me.  In my head, I’m still not fully grasping that I’m going to be gone for two years, and I don’t think that the magnitude of that can fit in my brain.  So people reacting to that, telling me how incredible it is, asking again and again if I’m nervous and warning me about this and that and suggesting development projects and giving advice on how to handle human rights dilemmas, should they arise—this has really helped me come closer to wrapping my head around what I’m about to do.  It’s at least another way for me to think about my upcoming service and to brace myself for the culture shock and the homesickness and the things I’m sure I can’t predict.

Filed under peace corps peace corps cameroon peace corps invitee service homesickness culture shock unknown unknowns future self

0 notes &

2014-03-26 At the event where I was invited to serve, former PCVs were asked to recommend important items to pack.  These are the notes I took on the back of my program (transcribed below since the image is not high quality).
What to Pack:
comfortable shoes || (tennis shoes)
camera & external hard drive
"everything I brought I didn’t need," need didn’t bring |
see how little you can bring | (you have to carry it)
something for the kitchen
laptop ||
newer underwear w/good elastic
head lamp
musical instruments
pair of jeans |
pictures of your family
duct tape
determination to write (for yourself) | (names in pictures) ||
take care of your electronics
leatherman/swiss army knife
radio that can be recharged by crank
small gifts (decks of cards/other games)
deck of cards
small American change
pillow
only clothes that you really love
sense of humor |
good pair of nail clippers
respect and curiosity
fitted sheets
low expectations

2014-03-26 At the event where I was invited to serve, former PCVs were asked to recommend important items to pack.  These are the notes I took on the back of my program (transcribed below since the image is not high quality).

What to Pack:

  • comfortable shoes || (tennis shoes)
  • camera & external hard drive
  • "everything I brought I didn’t need," need didn’t bring |
  • see how little you can bring | (you have to carry it)
  • something for the kitchen
  • laptop ||
  • newer underwear w/good elastic
  • head lamp
  • musical instruments
  • pair of jeans |
  • pictures of your family
  • duct tape
  • determination to write (for yourself) | (names in pictures) ||
  • take care of your electronics
  • leatherman/swiss army knife
  • radio that can be recharged by crank
  • small gifts (decks of cards/other games)
  • deck of cards
  • small American change
  • pillow
  • only clothes that you really love
  • sense of humor |
  • good pair of nail clippers
  • respect and curiosity
  • fitted sheets
  • low expectations

Filed under peace corps peace corps cameroon packing packing list peace corps packing list