August 30, 2012

How did I get here?

So I've been getting some requests for a blog that I can keep up while I'm in Mozambique, and I had every intention of starting it earlier, but it just never ended up happening.  But here I am, less than a month before leaving, starting this blog.  All the travel information is set.  The date is quickly approaching that I will be on a plane for 15 hours and it's still so surreal how this whole thing happened.  Most of you probably know the story of how I ended up applying for the Peace Corps, but for those of you that don't, here goes.

It all started at the beginning of my Ohio State career.  I went into college with a major in computer science and a minor in math.  For my first two quarters in computer science I fared okay, but as I continued into spring quarter of freshman year all of a sudden I was so behind everyone else and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing with a major in computer science in the first place.  That's when (after a few conversations with my suitemates) I decided that I wanted to pursue becoming a firefighter.  That may seem like it came out of left field, but I had my reasons.  I decided that I wanted to stay in Columbus, so I enrolled in Columbus State Community College for the following autumn quarter.  When I called to schedule my classes, the fire class was already full, so I ended up in EMT class instead since firefighters have to be EMT's anyway.  I enjoyed the class at first, but about halfway through I realized that I could never be a firefighter and deal with all of the trauma I would come across. (I realized this because even looking at the pictures during class made me cry and shut my eyes).  Clearly that profession wasn't going to work out.  But since I already went through the class, I went ahead and got my certification anyway.  I am a nationally certified EMT-Basic in the state of Ohio. :)

So again, I was at a loss.  I decided to return to Ohio State and major in math.  I didn't know that I was going to do with it, but I figured I was decent enough at math and would figure something out.  Around spring quarter, with my mom's persuasion, I applied to be a teaching assistant for the Ohio State math department. After a long process of training and trying out, I eventually got hired to be a TA for autumn quarter of this past year.  Also after much examining of my transcript, I figured out if I took the two hardest series for math majors at the same time instead of one at a time, I would be able to graduate a year early.  So since I am my cheap self, obviously I had to do that option.

So this is a lot of back story, but I promise that it is important.  Okay, so now we are in the October of 2011, and my sister, Frances and I decide to go to a Christian concert in Cincinnati -- one of my favorite singers Brandon Heath was performing at a church.  In the middle of the concert, Brandon started talking about some work that he did building wells in Africa.  As he was talking, I kind of spaced out and started wondering what I was doing with my life.  I had plans to apply to grad school, but I really wasn't passionate about going.  It sounds crazy, but in that moment, I felt God pushing me to do something else, to go overseas and help people.  I pushed the idea to the back of my mind for the rest of the concert, but on my way back to Columbus that night I couldn't get it out of my head.  I called my best friend Lauren when I got back to Columbus and asked her if I was crazy, but she encouraged me that I was sane and should just look up a few options and see what organizations were out there.  That night I did some research, but I really wasn't finding anything that jumped out at me.  Then the whole idea went on the back burner as the school week was starting.

That Tuesday night as I was studying for a midterm that I had the following day in abstract algebra, my roommate Mary walked in and started talking about this Peace Corps meeting that she had been meaning to go to but had missed.  I had heard of the Peace Corps, and kind of knew what they were about, but I asked her if she had any information about the Peace Corps that I could look at.  She brought me a few pamphlets and other things she had about the Peace Corps.  As I started flipping through it and looking at everything the Peace Corps did and where they went, something about it just seemed so right.  I told Mary about wanting to do service, and she said, "oh well then you should just start your application.  Here's a preliminary application, let's fill it out."  She also found out about another Peace Corps meeting on campus that Thursday.  Needless to say, I very quickly forgot about my midterm the following day, and quickly got all wrapped up in the Peace Corps.  

That Thursday, I headed to the meeting, and got there a half hour early.  I met the regional recruiter that flew in from Chicago for the meeting and the Ohio State recruiter.  There were only about 5 other people that showed up for the meeting.  After watching a few videos about the Peace Corps and getting a brief overview of what the Peace Corps does, the recruiters looked down the sign-in list, and we each got to go over what we would need to do to make ourselves more competitive in the application process.  Since I had gotten there first, I was first on the sign-in list.  They asked who the math major was, and I raised my hand.  They said that as a math major, the Peace Corps assignment that would make most sense would be teaching math.  They asked if I had any teaching experience, and I said that I was a TA for Ohio State.  They asked if I had any one on one student experience and I said that I had been tutoring at the Math and Stats Learning Center (MSLC) as part of my job as a TA.  They continued to explain that sometimes Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) are trained in multiple fields.  They asked if I had any medical experience and I told them that I was a certified EMT in Ohio.  They said that was great and asked about any foreign language experience that I had.  I told them that I had credit for four quarters of Spanish at Ohio State.  They concluded that I would be the perfect Peace Corps applicant.  I left the meeting sure that God was calling me to the Peace Corps.  It had been his plan all along when I thought I was crazy for ever becoming an EMT.  Everything through that point had led me to where I was in that exact moment.  And it felt great to have my whole life click into place.  

I finished my application within a week, and had submitted it by the end of October.  I was nominated in December, medically cleared in April, and got my invitation in June. I am leaving on September 25th for Philidelphia for a day to meet the other volunteers and fill out paperwork.  There are 67 volunteers in Mozambique 19 -- we are the 19th group to be assigned to Mozambique.  We leave early on the 26th by bus from Philly to the JFK airport, and from there fly directly to Johannesburg, South Africa.  Then the group will be split into two flights from Johannesburg to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.  From there we will travel to Namaacha, where we will live for 10 weeks with host families.

That's basically the extent of what I know right now.  For now, I am just going through last minute preparations.  I am gathering everything I can think of that I'll need for the next two years.  I just got back from California visiting family, and am travelling to Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Cleveland before I leave to make sure I see everyone I can.  I know the next three and a half weeks will fly by, but I'm starting to leave the nerves behind as I'm praying to have an open heart and getting excited for what is awaiting me!  I would appreciate everyone's prayers throughout my journey, and especially as I prepare to leave.  Lord, give me strength!

I love you all! Thanks for all of your support.