Disclaimer: The content of this blog post does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Timor-Leste Government.
Six months ago, in what I thought was the hottest time of year, my newlywed husband and I boarded a series of planes across the world. We had joined the Peace Corps, and had no idea what was in store for us as we made our way to the beautiful island nation of Timor-Leste.
Now when I say Peace Corps to people back home, the questions I usually get are: how hot is it over there? What is the bathroom like? Are you going to get any weird diseases? What are the people like in this country? Where in the world is little Timor-Leste? These were all the questions that burned in my mind on my way here, and questions I have mostly answered to myself until now. Yes, it is way hotter here on the coolest day than it was the day I left the United States. The bathroom is what you would imagine it to be, but it really isn’t so bad. I haven’t gotten anything weirder than massive diarrhea, but dengue is a real fear. The people are generous, funny, and amazing to be around. And little Timor? It is my whole world down here in Maritime Southeast Asia.
Shaun and I at the beach near my home in Rhode Island.
On the way from my home in Rhode Island to Timor-Leste, we made a stop in Los Angeles. We spent a few days with my girl, Gianna (shout out to that fabulous lady running this blog now!) and to have a three-day pre-departure training with Peace Corps. We stayed with Gianna in Burbank, exploring Santa Monica, her film school, and every Whole Foods we saw. Then we went off to Glendale for our Peace Corps training. I was not ready for that at all.
Gianna and I being besties for life in Santa Monica.
Before the ‘real’ Peace Corps starts, you begin to meet the people who are your safety net while abroad. Peace Corps is organized into volunteer groups, and here we were, 21 of us wide-eyed and unsure of what lay ahead. Looking back, this is when I begin to see that Peace Corps, more than anything, is about the amazing people you meet.
The three days in Glendale went by in a blur of awkward conversations, nervous laughs, and ultimately each of us in our very own sea of thoughts. These three days were, after all, our last ones in the United States. None of us really knew what was waiting for us, and most of us were trying to come to terms with the fact that everything we knew would be left far behind so soon. Suffice to say the whole debacle was surreal.
However, with these people I found that I fit right in. There was no more talk as to why you joined the Peace Corps, like there had been for months, maybe years, before we all met each other in LA. There was no more being that odd American leaving good jobs, families, and friends to become a volunteer abroad. We could look at each other, and just kind of shrug; whatever our reasons, they didn’t matter when they were the same as everyone else’s. It is like when no one questions your decisions to wear a puffy coat when the temperatures begin to drop. People just look at each other, and know why.
After about 30 hours of flying… our group debarks in Dili, Timor-Leste!
The people you meet shed light on curves of the earth you’ve never seen before. With these people in LA, I began to understand that in some places, I’m not the odd one out. In fact, I’m just average. It was humbling and exciting all at once to know that the very thing that made me special outside of Peace Corps was exactly what made me normal inside of Peace Corps. The desire to go overseas, endure whatever challenges came my way, with the attitude that anything can happen, and wanting to do what I could to make the world just a smidgen better? Bam.
Now I was one of the hundreds, thousands of others before me, all with different stories and backgrounds and personalities. But all with the same determination and desire to do something, learn more than we ever could, and let another world mold our own worldview.
Next time on the blog, I’ll talk about the people and relationships I’ve built in Timor-Leste—this beautiful and unique little corner of the Earth. Through them, I have begun to build my understanding of poverty, race, and gender, and how it all comes together on the world stage.
Peace out, stateside.