It’s down to the wire. The final good-byes are over now: lunches, dinners and two-hour coffee dates; furtive handshakes, hearty hugs and a few tears, all mine. Everyone’s asking how I’m feeling. I wish I had a better answer, but I feel mostly numb. This sojourn into Peace Corps service has been a very long one for me. Almost three years in the making. I’ve done all the planning I can do and then some.
When the Peace Corps first nominated me to serve in Ukraine the wheels were set in motion for selling the house and all those tasks associated with moving out, downsizing and storing things. Things fell apart in Ukraine and my plans were canceled, Peace Corps Interrupted. The house still sold and I found a new, loving home for my dog. I was temporarily cast adrift, alone. I had the time to explore myself and travel around the country for a few months. I came back to share a house with a dear friend and I waited for Thailand. During the last month or so the list of things that needed to be done seemed endless. The To-Do list was rewritten daily with new things added and few things taken off. One step forward, two steps back it seemed.
Now I await the final few hours. Everything is done, or so I hope. Most everything of importance got done with only minor glitches or snags. There had to be an end. Getting rid of the car, wrapping up insurance, stopping newspaper delivery, arguing with my cell phone provider, backing up files and electronics, last trips to the storage unit: all check. When I called to cancel my car insurance I found out that the house I sold and vacated back in May was still being insured. Oops. So much for being a good planner.
While trying to wrap things up I’ve been busy packing and repacking, weighing my luggage and sorting through things again and again to reduce the weight, then packing again. In between bouts I visit the Peace Corps Thailand Facebook page and read the questions from others going through the same things I’m going through. I read the answers from the current volunteers in Thailand, those folks with the direct knowledge of what we’re feeling and experiencing, those folks a couple steps ahead of us, the ones that survived the angst and uncertainty. They tell us we will be able to buy most things in Thailand that we’ll need: shirts, toiletries, shoes and things. Of course there are limits and those of us plus-sized Americans should bring extras of our hard-to-find sizes of shoes and pants.
I’m finished packing and I’m finished worrying about the myriad “lists” that kept me going for the past fifteen months. In just a few hours I will board the first of several planes over the next three days and head into a new life. Of course I’m filled with fear and trepidation, anxiety and all those other emotions that keep us stuck. Sometime over the course of the next few days or weeks I hope the feeling of wonder will reemerge and elate me filling me with joy and curiosity. But not right now. I came down with a head cold and am projecting about the discomfort I’ll likely experience while traveling the more than 10,000 miles that Delta has routed me from Albany to Seattle, Seattle to Tokyo, and Tokyo to Bangkok. Ten thousand miles in a pressurized airplane with dry, recycled air. Pressurized cabin, recycled air and a head cold. But I am trying to remain positive. I leave Albany at 6 in the morning with a temperature near 13 degrees and the possibility of some snow. When I arrive in Thailand late Sunday night it should be just below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s their cool season after all.
The Peace Corps has written us and told us what to expect that first week and those first few months of training. After a week’s stay in a hotel, we fledge from our Peace Corps volunteer family and each of us moves in with a Thai family for the remainder of our three month long training. We pantomime and learn Thai through immersion and daily lessons. And we learn our Peace Corps roles and our jobs and how to survive for the next two years thousands of miles from home. All this sounds numbing, but I’m sure I will not feel as numb as I feel right now.