It has been a flurry of preparation activity since I accepted my position with the Peace Corps.
First, I had to send out my Passport for my Peace Corps Passport and apply for my Visa to Mozambique. When I went for my Passport photo, the first one was terrible. The lady taking it was very short, and I swear she stood under me and shot the picture up my nostrils! When organizing the paperwork, later though, I realized I actually needed two sets of two pictures, so I went and had a much less offensive picture taken. All forms were promptly sent off to their respective destinations.
Next, I had to find my vaccination records – no small feat for a woman in her 40s who hasn’t had a shot in years! After multiple calls all over Charleston (thank God I am in my hometown at least) I was able to find my childhood records. I needed to get a tetanus shot and I have scheduled my Yellow Fever vaccination for next week.
I then had to find a doctor to have a complete physical exam and blood work. It has been years since I have had a “normal” job, so I have neither health insurance nor a regular practitioner. The Peace Corps does reimburse some of the costs associated with this, but I still had to find someone willing to see me and accept cash. Blessedly, I did, and I knocked other several tasks from my list including copious blood work, an eye exam, pap smear, physical, HIV and TB test.
Then, there was the dental visit. For the same reasons listed before, I haven’t had a dental exam in years. I was able to find a local dentist who offers an exam and free x-rays for first-time visitors. I was delighted to be told my mouth was very boring. Thanks to parents who were very diligent with my oral hygiene as a kid, my no sugar diet, and my adult habits of regular brushing and flossing, my teeth and gums are perfect! Another task was eliminated from my to-do list!
Still pending are my Yellow Fever vaccination which is scheduled for next week and my mammogram, which is scheduled in December. What began as a daunting task has been relatively easy to power through with a few phone calls and running around.
Lastly, I need to have an intensive background check. I am waiting for my materials in the mail now. I do not anticipate any problems. I have no criminal history and have active massage licenses in FL and SC. I’m a good girl (I never understand why friends giggle when I say this).
I have about 5 months before I leave, and yet, it seems like so little time! I need to find a home for my two sweet pups. I need to sell my RV and car. I need to work through the end of the year to pay off my debts, then go to see my grandson being born in January. Somewhere in all of this, I also need to get down to FL to see my friends and family down there.
It feels strange and wonderful to know that I am going to be in Africa for over two years. It has been a dream since I was a child, and it is surreal that my dream is finally coming true for me. I haven’t even had a moment of doubt since this opportunity presented itself. My darling German and my European friends have been so encouraging, that I have felt unconditional support the whole way. Even my family understands that this is something I have wanted for years, and they support my decision to serve.
I would be foolish to dismiss the very real dangers that are associated with an assignment like this. The Peace Corps suspends service in active areas of conflict, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. I will be undergoing training and living with a host family, while also learning Portuguese to help my assimilation process.
The fact remains, though, I will stand out as an American. I am a redhead with blue eyes and white skin. I will have to learn to exercise caution, perhaps alter my appearance, and dress quite conservatively while over there. I also cannot drink, since it is frowned upon for women. It helps that I am no longer a big drinker.
There is no way to be fully prepared for an experience like this, but I am eager to listen and learn. I am so ready for this!