All things are packed, and all is good. In a couple of days, my daughter will depart for Africa, on a 27-month mission for the Peace Corps. Her role will be to teach English to children in the West African country of Burkina Faso.
Freshly graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in International Affairs (and a minor in Maritime Archaeology), this will be her first real life job, her introduction to another culture, and the experience of a lifetime, all rolled in one great assignment, while achieving her dream of Africa.
My daughter is already well-traveled, as we visited several countries as a family, including Europe, Australia, many US states, Mexico and Canada. She was always an adventurer, keen on trying new foods and gladly discovering new cultures. We were good travelers, adapting to different customs and languages, trying unusual rites and humbly absorbing new ways of living.
She was always interested by the various landscapes of Africa, always wanted to go on safari (who wouldn't?), watched every movie shot in various lands, savannahs, deserts, plains. African animals always fascinated her, the more bizarre the better. Now her day has come, her chance is here, her wish is about to become reality, she is off to Africa!
It took about nine months to get through the processing application of the Peace Corps employment steps. Her degree helped her get into the door. The Peace Corps is a program run by the United States government, created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy as the Peace Corps Act.
The act states the program's purpose as follows:
To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.
Sometimes roughing it up in primitive habitats and simple way of life, American young adults have to prepare physically and mentally to serve overseas. The months ahead of departure for my daughter have been filled with many medical necessities, including hard-to-find vaccines, such as yellow fever, which has made us travel halfway through our state to be found, due to a shortage of the supply nationwide.
The mental preparation was easy, as for her, this is the realization of something she's wanted to do for years. A step closer to a true insertion into the career and commitment she wants to make in the world of diplomacy. She wants to become a world servant, a link between cultures and societies, a true helper of human connections. Always a friendly child, a peace breaker, a dedicated problem-solver, she has embraced life challenges with a steely calm and a smile on her face.
The packing has been quite a ride; she only takes one large suitcase, a carry-on bag and a backpack. Imagine packing for three years? Some of the items are very specific and necessary, some requires adjustment. We had to go shopping (what a misery) for clothing she never owned, like maxi skirts and regular tee shirts, as opposed to mini dresses and tank tops she daily wears. She lived in Florida all her life and has a beach wardrobe that is definitely not going to Africa.
She will be assigned to teach English to pre-teens. We don't know yet if she will stay in a rural environment or in a large city. We (when I say we, I mean she) are prepared for living in a mud hut, or an urban dwelling. Probably without air conditioning, hopefully with running water. She will take it all in stride. The mosquitoes' bed nettings are packed. So is the bike helmet, as they are not allowed to drive in their host countries, a good thing in my opinion.
She has one major asset: she speaks fluent French, as it is the official language of her host country. She will still have to learn one of the dialects used in Burkina, during the three months of training to come, with her fellow Peace Corps members, before being assigned to her post, where she will be on her own for the next two years.
The excitement is reaching a fever pick. Tuesday is the day I say goodbye, knowing my youngest will be gone for years makes me feel like she is getting deployed -- only I am lucky she goes to a country at peace. I am also terribly proud of her determination and strength in the face of this unknown life she gladly welcomes.
She has the chops for it, having been a social butterfly all her life, the chrysalis will now turn into a butterfly spreading its wings over the vast continent of Africa, landing in a few days in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Right now, she is going to cut off her hair.
May the force be with you my child!