Sunday, May 8, 2011

Staging and Flight News

I realized today that I have only three more Saturdays in the States. I try to stay busy and avoid thinking in numbers, but the countdown inevitably creeps in as I plan going away shindigs and one last road trip with friends. And in my preparation, I am eating all of my favorite foods, of course. Don’t get me wrong; I’m aware that in just two (short) years I’ll be back enjoying the variety I have now in my current diet. Still, this thought has not kept me from savoring every bite of the Mexican food that I’ve consumed upwards of six times in the past week (including the obligatory Cinco de Mayo lunch and dinner). Regardless, I’ll still be having my last dinner with my college friends at Garcia’s next week. So maybe I don’t have a lot of variety in my current diet. But sometimes variety takes a back seat to cramming in two years worth of TexMex.

Other preparations that I am undergoing include making sure all of my Peace Corps paperwork is in order. This past week I received my staging email which included information for booking my plane ticket to San Francisco. I will fly out from Houston on June 1st. That night, I hope to meet up with some great friends from Breakthrough Houston who are working hard to close the achievement gap at their respective teaching jobs around the Bay Area. I’m really excited about being able to see friends in San Francisco before Staging begins. Few people understand my motive to serve others as clearly as my Breakthrough family. I know that spending time with them before this new beginning will be comforting to me.

On June 2nd, all of the volunteers in my group will finally meet at Staging. I belong to the M22 class of volunteers—the 22nd group to serve in Mongolia. According to the schedule I have received, Staging is something like a whirlwind of get-to-know-you activities mixed with a hailstorm of what-to-expect information. The day will surely be long, but other volunteers and I have already discussed options for how to spend our night in San Francisco. For the past few months, I have kept close correspondence (via the magic of Facebook) with not only my fellow M22’s, but also with volunteers who are currently serving in Mongolia and who are anxiously awaiting our arrival. These volunteers have been an invaluable resource. They help us decide what to pack and what to leave at home. Their wonderful suggestions also include pulling an all-nighter at Staging, which doesn’t seem like a horrible idea since we will be checking out of our hotel at 5:30 a.m. on June 3rd to head to the airport.

So at 11 a.m., I will be boarding a Boeing 747 and departing for Mongolia. After a layover in Seoul, South Korea, we will arrive in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia at 11:20 p.m. on June 4th. Supposedly, (again, thanks Facebook) the M21’s are coming to the airport to greet us upon our arrival as the M20’s did for them.

I’m going to try to not get too anxious over these next three weeks, but I’m not making any promises.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Countdown

In less than one month, I will depart to Mongolia and begin my 27 months of service as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer. I cannot speak to my expectations of adventure, save to say that I know the experience will be my biggest yet, and the excitement that is snowballing as the days pass is the most electric I’ve ever known. I like to think of how the 17-year old version of myself would have viewed this blog as a hopelessly fictional daydream. I hope that wherever life takes me next will seem as surprising to the 21-year old sitting here today.
               The Waking

               I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
               I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
               I learn by going where I have to go.

               We think by feeling. What is there to know?
               I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
               I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

               Of those so close beside me, which are you?
               God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
               And learn by going where I have to go.

               Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
               The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
               I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

               Great Nature has another thing to do
               To you and me; so take the lively air,
               And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
               This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
               What falls away is always. And is near.
               I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
               I learn by going where I have to go.
               -Theodore Roethke