Monday, May 3, 2010
The Back Story
Two weeks from tomorrow I'll begin an experience I feel I've been waiting for all my life--even when for long periods of time I didn't think about it or imagine that it was possible. As a child during the Kennedy era, I was intrigued with the idea of the newly formed Peace Corps and thought there could be no better way to help others while representing my own country and getting to know the culture of another. In fact, my "senior speech" as I left high school was on the importance of the Peace Corps. Then education, children, career, failing parents all made two years away seem impossible. Last winter (around February of '09) I came to the sudden realization that I had reached a point in my life where I was free of those responsibilities that had made my absence impossible. I had retired from teaching, my two sons were grown and on their own, I had no grandchildren, and both my parents who had needed my help through a difficult final chapter had died in '08. And, importantly, my husband agreed that I should pursue this challenging service, planning to visit often and benefit from the travel and opportunities to photograph places in Europe he may never have encountered otherwise. So the decision came quickly and was the easy part. The application process was amazingly thorough, lengthy, and at times frustrating. Essays, letters of recommendation, interviews, fingerprinting, dental and medical screening like-you-wouldn't-believe, and forms, forms, forms. A year ago I became an official "invitee" and later in the fall, I was told my medical and dental screening had been approved. My destination was to be Central Asia. For months I waded through Rosetta Stone Russian lessons, thinking that would be the language I would need. Then in February of this year, I learned that my post had been changed to Eastern Europe and not to a country that speaks Russian. I chalked up the language experience to a good mental work out for my aging brain. I did learn the Cyrillic alphabet and can at least sound out words in my daughter-in-law's native Macedonian. Beyond that, though, I felt a strange sense of loss because I had imagined myself in Central Asia for so long, reading all I could about the four possible countries, preparing myself for the long winters, eager even to see the steppes and become acquainted with yaks. ;-) When I got the word finally that my destination country was Romania, however, I saw immediately how this would be a good change--especially for the greater ease of having my husband and friends visit and for the proximity of grand European cities. And, too, as a Unitarian Universalist, Romania has special significance as the birth place of our denomination. Our congregation, in fact, has a sister church in Transylvania. AS luck would have it, I and the other 46 in our "class" will arrive in Romania on May 20th, my birthday! I see that as auspicious! So I'm ready to embrace this country and its culture and people. I'm making the leap and hoping my parachute opens. Positive thoughts, prayers, and your communication will be much appreciated.