Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tomorrow, I Think I'll Move to Africa

I'm on an Amtrak train right now, headed to Philly for Peace Corps staging.  In an hour, I'll meet with about 60 other volunteers headed to Benin for an afternoon of orientation.  Then tomorrow morning, we board a bus for New York City and a plane for Benin!  Very soon, these blog posts will stop being about me thinking about the Peace Corps and start being about me experiencing it. 

It has been quite a process to get to this point.  I want to give the deepest, sincerest thank you possible to all of you who have supported me and continue to do so. It really makes a huge difference.  I've wanted to do this for as long as I can remember, but it's felt a little overwhelming the past few days.  And often just when I needed it, I've gotten a heartfelt card from a relative or a call or message from a friend that's boosted my confidence.  In the past when my friends have gone off to new adventures, some joining Peace Corps themselves, I used to wonder whether my little "good luck!" or "I know you can do it" was really helpful.  Now I know that the answer is yes, yes, yes.  I feel such a strong network supporting me. 

So now off I go!  In one sense know a lot about what Benin will be like, from other people's blogs and official Peace Corps information.  In another sense, I know absolutely nothing.  Because every experience is different.  Over the past year, I've done a lot of thinking about this coming adventure and what it could lead to in my future.  I was just reading through my journal, and found some thoughts and musings on international development work that I think sum up my perspective pretty well.

From January 3, 2012

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, about Benin, my career, and international development in general.  There have been a lot of questions and debate about the value of the Peace Corps in the news this past year, since its 50th anniversary was in 2011.  I think all the debate is good - it's always good to look deeply at something instead of having an idealized view.  Nothing is idyllic really, it's all nuanced.

There's always an equal or greater amount of questioning and debate about International Development and aid work in general.  This makes me think, since it's a field that really interests me and that I want to be involved with.  This is how I thought about it today: no matter what, international development is going to keep happening.  The US and other countries are not going to stop giving aid.  So it's important to learn as much as we can - about cultures and other factors - to help this activity be as good as possible.  Int'l Development is no silver bullet, and it is not a more illustrious or noble career than any other.  The same could be said about politics, or business, or many other careers; these are all imperfect fields, but they are all here and will continue to be, so anyone who feels an attraction to them should go for it and do their best.  It's not what I do, it's how I do it that matters.


  1. my son is in your wishes to you all! I wish I could join you...heat and bugs and all! My son is Graham Tonkin...let me know if you meet him :)

  2. Hi- yes, I've met Graham! Training is going well for all of us. Lots of focus on language so far. The heat and bugs haven't been that bad, either...yet.