This is the challenge that I signed up for. When I first applied to the Peace Corps, I knew that I was willing to meet the all of the Core Expectations of the organization. Since then, those expectations have not changed, nor have mine. I am still ready for a full term of 27 months. I am still committed to improving the quality of life of the people with whom I live and work. Most importantly, I am willing to go where the Peace Corps asks me to go.
When I boarded the plane in July, 2011, and when I officially swore in as a Volunteer in September, I hardly expected to be leaving Cape Verde less than one year later. But then again, I tried my best not to expect anything. The one thing I knew for sure was that an Early Termination was not in the cards. Last time I checked, “Interrupted Service” can be found under the heading of “Early Termination” in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. Call it what you want, but that is simply not what I signed up for.
What did I sign up for? Why do I want to continue my service? Of course I have always valued and engaged in volunteerism, but there are plenty of people in need back home in Oakland, California. Of course I love to travel, and to live abroad, but there are plenty of other ways to see the world. So, why is it still Peace Corps for me? The honest answer is: the challenge. Before leaving home, I often thought about what I wanted to get out of the Peace Corps experience. There are the obvious concrete answers, like new language skills, and that is one of the most attractive aspects of transferring to Mali to complete my service. But beyond the tangibles, it always comes back to that abstract idea of being challenged. In other words, if I were to look back on my service with the feeling that it was really easy, I would be more than a little disappointed.
As I’ve grappled with the decision to transfer or not transfer over the last weeks, I’ve weighed so many pros and cons. I’ve made laundry lists of potential benefits and deal-breakers, looking for a bottom line to show me the right choice. But ultimately, it is not an equation or a simple SWOT analysis… it is my life. There are plenty of “what if’s” that could stop me from transferring to Mali. But honestly, I have never lived my life, or chosen my path based on “what if?” As one family member recently put it, “whatever you do, do not focus your decision making on: ‘what if in the future they stop the program [in Mali]. You have no control over that, and it’s best to make this decision in a vibe of hope and optimism.’” Understanding that truth, it becomes clear that there are endless good reasons to transfer to Mali to continue and complete my service. The need is there. The opportunity is there. The challenge is there. So I am there.