When I realized I'd been chosen for one of the most difficult posts in the Peace Corps (actually nicknamed the "hard corps" along with Mongolia because its cold and Mauritania because it is hot and has a lack of natural resources [currently closed to the Peace Corps due to unstable political climate]) I have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed. To get an idea of Niger take one of the poorest countries in the world, add dust, poor soil quality, extreme heat (over 120 in the hot season), and subtract water except for the monsoon season when Malaria kicks in and color me intimidated. If a change is what I'm seeking then surely Niger will suffice. Coming from the land which coined the term "urban sprawl" it can't get much more different. Niger is also known as a difficult post due to the amount of people who early terminate (ET) their service. While intimidated by this country I'll probably do what I always do when intimidated, stand up a bit straighter, put my game face on and make loud noises...hmm wait, no that's what to when intimidated by a mountain lion...I guess I'll figure something out.
Since going to Niger seems like a rather crazy notion to most Americans I guess I should explain myself. Well my first reason for joining the Peace Corps is because I've always wanted to blog but never had a good enough subject. By joining I now have a web address and reason to blog. Okay, not really.
I'd like to say that I've been dreaming of joining since I was a little girl and only now am able to fulfill my destiny, alas that is not the case. The Peace Corps became a blip on my radar earlier this year and I applied on a whim. That whim became more of a whirlwind and I find myself a month away from leaving, trying desperately to find some solid reasoning with which to write my aspiration statement.
While the state of the economy is rather unpleasant at the moment, escaping a job hunt or the idea of working for low wages for 27 months is not enough of a reason for me to join the Peace Corps (though it certainly isn't motivating me to stay). I do like that while serving I will not have to worry about being able to afford necessities and that I will have a little bit of money at the end of service.
I've also suffered from wanderlust for many years, yet the ability to travel to a foreign land isn't restricted to the Peace Corps so that can't be my sole reason for going either. I like the idea that instead of simply traveling to a different place that I will be able to integrate into the community and get a sense of the culture. Serving in the Peace Corps is allowing me to do this while also giving me a feeling that I am needed in the same way that America often makes people feel they are unnecessary. While going to Niger is sure to be a struggle and I'll occasionally feel like I'm not making enough of a difference, I will never have to feel like I am one of millions working a job I don't love while making no positive difference in the world, simply filling a position. or many volunteers I think that the Peace Corps provides a place in a community that often large cities lack.
Along with these things I get to experience a new culture, become proficient at another language, gain job experience and pad my resume, be able to improve environmental practices in other countries, become an educator and improve sanitation and health, learn to become a light packer, obtain a greater appreciation for what I have, and maybe own a camel or horse. If I'm lucky I might even have the opportunity to go duneboarding and that in itself is a pretty good reason.
I wonder if my reasons for coming back to the home at the end of all this will be the exact opposite as my reasons for leaving...we'll see I guess.
To my family, my reasons for leaving are partly because you raised me with enough independence that I feel strong enough to do this and I thank you for supporting me in this since I know it is hard on you.