When we first applied to the Peace Corps it was anticlimactic. We spent weeks talking it over. We would lay on our backs staring at the ceiling, our fingers entwined, and we would talk about where we would go next pending where we landed first.
The application wasn’t very long and at the end it was a simple ‘submit’ button that announced our presence to the Peace Corps community. There were no bells. No fireworks launched out the window of our studio apartment. It was simply done.
We waited half a year before anyone made contact with us. I was working a nonprofit gig at the time and loved the community connection despite the pennies I was paid for compensation.
We tutored English as a Second Language (ESL) and filled out more forms. We were told we’d be heading toward Africa. I started taking a French class to prepare. The class that I enrolled in was a level above where I should have been and I struggled. I went to every lesson regardless but the class always seemed to flinch when it was my turn to speak.
When we first read ‘Ukraine’ on the assignment sheet we looked at each other. Neither one of us had ever heard of it.
Now it’s a place we’ll never forget.
We arrived in a summer heat. The trees were just like the trees at home and I knew instantly that Hemingway had it right when he said that if you want to travel just watch films, the countries all look the same as the moving pictures.
What you don’t get is the culture and the self reflection. Now I have it in spades. I’ve changed a lot since my time in Ukraine, since my time in China, and I’ve worked hard since then to be the better person I want to be. For me change is possible.
I grew up with a temper and a parochial focus. I saw this trait in my parents and I decided to work against that inclination. It took years but I overcame it. My ex-wife has never seen me go off the rails with anger and that’s a blessing. It’s too bad her patience was so low, she would have seen how this experience changed me for the better.
I’m pushing forward with a new focus. She walked away the same person she was when she first arrived.