Friday, February 24, 2012

"Free to a Good Home" - transitioning to the Peace Corps

It appears that I'm not the most regular blogger...I'm a few months into the interesting transition between living and working in Boston to shipping off to Benin in June.  Although I'd been expecting to leave for Peace Corps in late November initially, I'm really glad that I've ended up having this extra half year.  I had a great Christmas with my family in our new home of Franklin, West Virginia - and then headed back to Boston with Mom for a week of packing, cutting back on stuff, and training my replacement at work.  The packing goal: to fit everything I own into our family's van and drive it up to the Adirondacks for storage.  Cutting my half of a fully furnished apartment down that much was an interesting adventure, to say the least.  In the end, I delivered a full car load of clothes and things to Goodwill, and recruited various friends to serve as "foster parents" for my couch, folding screen, glider rocker, painted wood rug, and guitar.  I may or may not reclaim these things later, when (if?) I'm back in the area.  

We were determined to fit my beloved dresser in to the van - I've had the same dresser since I was a little girl, and it was a dormatory dresser before my parents got it for me.  But despite our best efforts, it was not to be - there was no way it would fit.  So late at night, I deposited it on the curb on our street in Jamaica Plain, along with a sign providing a brief biography of the dresser's adventures thus far.  Someone must have found the story touching (or the idea of a great free dresser appealing), because when I came outside again 20 minutes later it - and my sign - were completely gone.  It was sort of exhilarating, really - to see how quickly something I no longer needed was able to meet someone else's need.  Getting rid of things can feel very freeing when you get around to it.  And it's nice to know that when I get back from Benin, the only things I'll have in storage here are ones that I really love and need.  
My dresser on the curb.  The sign reads: "Free - well-loved dresser.  I have lived in a dorm room in Paul Smiths, NY, been painted with unicorns for a little girl's room, and followed that same (now bigger) girl to her first job in Boston.  She's off to the Peace Corps and I'm looking for a new home/adventure! -the Dresser

After we delivered the stuff that made the final cut to the Adirondacks, squeezing in a quick cross-country ski while we were there, it was down to New York City for a night at the Opera and then back to West Virginia.  I've spent the past month here, getting to know a new place, enjoying spending time with my family and interning at Future Generations, a nonprofit where my Dad works.  My project has involved creating Ecology and Geology "discovery guides" - sort of self-paced Environmental Education related documents about this area, giving background information and suggesting activities for visitors.  It's really been the perfect way to get to know a new place.  And it feels sort of cool to go to work with Dad - kind of like a month-long "take your daughter to work day."
A scene from our daily commute to work in West Virginia

My internship at Future Generations is drawing to a close, and next week I'm off to California to intern at an organic farm for three months to get ready for the Peace Corps.  I'll be one of around 12 interns, living, cooking, and working together. The farm is really large - they have a big orchard as well as vegetables.  We work on the farm in the morning, and have classes on topics like soil science and compost in the afternoons.  It really seems like such a perfect way to get ready for Peace Corps.  And lots of fun, too!   

Lastly, I'm working on my French - in fun ways, like reading books.  I just finished my first free reading book in French - Une Saison au Congo, by Aime Cesaire.  It was a play about the Democratic Republic of Congo's transition to independence.  Lots of bombastic speeches with big words.  But also very educational - I've been interested in DRC's history for a while.  Now I'm on to Madame Ba by Erik Orsenna, a book written from the perspective of a woman from Mali applying for a visa to go to France.  I really love it so far - I'd recommend it to any French speakers, or to English speakers if there's a good translation out there :)  And I've started watching a French African soap opera online: Le Coeur D'Amour (the heart of love).  It's as cheesy as it sounds.  But it lets me hear the kinds of accents I'll encounter in Benin.  

All it all, I'm having fun.  Everything about this Peace Corps timing and the opportunities I've been having feels just right.