Out of Time

My departure date is just around the corner. I get on the plane in two days to leave the United States for 27 months and finally begin my Peace Corps service in Guatemala. The application and preparation processes seemed to take forever and involved many unknowns including changing dates and switching regions, but everything has worked itself out with the perfect timing. It was difficult trying to plan my life around my departure date when it kept getting moved up and then pushed back, and I believe some people around me were getting frustrated with all the unknowns surrounding my service, but constant change comes with the Peace Corps territory, and it is imperative to have patience and flexibility. They must have been testing me for the real deal…

So I will depart from San Jose on Monday around noon and will fly to Philadelphia for a day where “staging” – a brief, intense orientation to the Peace Corps – will occur. There are 55 total Americans in my training group from all over the country; we are split between education and health programs. We will meet each other for the first time, hand in all of our paperwork, sign our lives away, sit through several hours of important information, have dinner, then pack our bags and leave Philadelphia just after midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning to fly to Guatemala. Once in Guatemala, we immediately begin 11 weeks of pre-service training (PST) just outside of Antigua during which we will be staying with Guatemalan host families. PST covers language, culture, and safety, as well as technical training for the projects we will begin in July.

The preparation that is required before I join the Peace Corps has been non-stop: completing medical and dental clearances, finishing up my lingering schoolwork from St. Mary’s so I could have my Bachelor’s degree, paying off some debt including my car, credit cards, and some school loans, dealing with the rest of my student loans, settling my finances, taking different language courses, and completing loads and loads of reading and paperwork. Every time I completed something, there always seemed to be something else on the list to get done. And I am still not finished! The piles of busywork doesn’t even touch on all the other things I have been trying to do in the last couple months. There was so much in my head that I had to organize it using color-coded sticky notes all over my bedroom wall with people to see, personal/fun projects to complete, Peace Corps tasks to conquer, and everyday errands to run. The few of you who have seen my infamous post-it wall could probably tell that I was (or am) on the verge of crazy. But we all have a little crazy in us, right?

These last few weeks have been an absolute up and down roller coaster of stress and enjoyment. I have been trying to spend as much time with family and friends as I could fit in. I have been skipping town almost every weekend for 3-5 days at a time during the past two months to go on random adventures and friend marathons, and I have really enjoyed all the quality time spent with everyone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fit in all the people I would have liked to see, but I am out of time. I hate the feeling of being out of time. I just want to go and do and visit and be everywhere all at once! The fact that my hourglass cannot be overturned and only has a teensy bit of USA sand left in it has forced me to accept the fact that I cannot do everything. This brings me to the stress part of the roller coaster. The worst has been in the last couple weeks when the travel anxiety really started setting in. First, it was the nightmares about leaving for my flight and not having packed all the things I needed; that really lit a fire under my butt in the shopping and packing department. It quickly proceeded to the scatter-brained, distracted phase that turned me into a total klutz – running into things, knocking drinks over, forgetting my leftovers when I go out to eat (I never do that!), getting lost in the middle of a conversation, and driving terribly. There were a couple days when I thought I shouldn’t even be on the road because there was so much in my head that I couldn’t focus on driving! Now, I am in the “no sleeping” and “forgetting to eat” phase. I normally sleep like a baby for eight hours straight every night, but not this week! I have been averaging four and a half to six hours, if I am lucky. I can’t seem to stay asleep. Everyone tells me I can sleep on the plane, but that won’t help me function for these next couple of days. The combination of little sleep on top of forgetting to eat has turned me into a ticking time bomb ready to explode. And I have gone off a handful of times. I apologize to the people who have been affected by Little Miss Basketcase over here in the past few weeks. I like to think this is normal and temporary. I sure hope it is…

People keep asking me if I am nervous. My response is that I am more excited than anything. Yes, I have the anxiety that comes with trying to complete everything I feel like I need to do before I leave – and what makes it worse is the deadline for it all – but I am ready. I couldn’t be more ready than I am now. For over a year and a half, I have geared my life toward preparations for this Peace Corps service, and unfortunately, many people who have come into my life have had to deal with my “I’m leaving” mindset and subsequent situation. It has not been easy for everyone. But I am tired of living like that – all for the future. I did my best to stay on track for this, and it is paying off. My now is finally here, and I am ready for it. I often take my time thinking out decisions, planning my next moves, and preparing myself for whatever it is that I am about to tackle; it helps me focus and do quality work. I have had plenty of time with this one, and I can’t wait to be able to pour my energy into one thing only. I have been spreading myself way too thin, and I am ready to slow down and be able to focus on what is right in front of me. To be honest, I am looking forward to Monday because once I leave, I will be done with all this running around like a chicken with my head cut off. There will be no more rushing or stressing out over the little things. I will finally be able to relax. PST is intense, non-stop training, however, it will be the only thing I will have to focus on. Also, during PST the Peace Corps staff will be running our lives. It will be a little strange to have someone running my life because I enjoy my freedom and independence, but I will try to be optimistic and say that the break will be good for me.

I am out of time here, but the timing for my departure is perfect for me and feels just right. I have never had second thoughts about my decision to join PC although it has been difficult accepting the fact that I am leaving loved ones and will miss out on a lot of things at home. I believe that everyone should have some time alone and away from home, though. I think it gives people a chance to figure out who they are, what they want, and what things/people are important to them. I think we all have a tendency to get caught up in the daily grind, lose ourselves on occasion, and miss out on opportunities to explore our full potential and see what we can really do. I feel so lucky that I have this opportunity to get out of the box. I can’t wait to get to Guatemala and experience for myself all the fantastic things that I have heard about the country and its people. My goal is to relate and have the chance to create. I am so curious to see what is going to happen and who I am going to meet while I am there!

I chopped off a little more than a foot of my hair last week, and I feel so refreshed! It was a good change and (I know, this sounds cheesy) very symbolic of my preparedness for my move. (I really love it short, though – I don’t even have to blow dry it!) I also have pretty much moved out of the place I am living now. I have everything I need for Guatemala, I just have to actually pack my bags. We are allowed two checked bags totaling not more than 80 pounds and a carry on. At the moment, all my stuff to pack has moved from a big pile in the corner of my room to the living room, all spread out across the furniture and floor. I need to deal with that soon… Today, I did a little self-pampering and went for a pedicure. I even got the flower design (only $5 more!) since I figure it is going to be awhile before I get another pedicure. This week included a little rock climbing, a little moving, a couple meals with friends and family, a little karaoke, too much driving, not enough sleep, and, unfortunately, some cancelled plans in order to protect my sanity. All for the greater good, I hope!!!

In this past year, I have met some of the coolest people! I have had some ups and downs and have found myself in a couple of tight spots during my prep time for Peace Corps, and I can hardly believe how much support I have received. It is inspiring to witness how kind and generous people can be. So I just want to thank all of you who have been behind me and had a hand in supporting me while I was trying to reach my goal. Whether it was spending time with me, speaking encouraging words, contributing financially regarding some necessary items I need to pack, providing me with a place to live, or just simply loving me, it did not go unnoticed. I would be a fool to believe that I could have gotten to where I am now without all the love, support, generosity, and encouragement from many very special people in my life. Thank you.

My Guatemala adventure is about to begin. Bring it on!!!

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Crit Crit
    Apr 23, 2011 @ 01:49:36

    Oh, it’s already been broughten!!
    Lol 🙂 Love you, San, and am so excited for you as you embark on this next adventure. You will definitely be missed!! Have tons of fun and bring back many amazing stories to tell us for years to come 🙂 Love you!!!!!

    Reply

  2. Deacon Jim McFadden
    Apr 24, 2011 @ 19:22:36

    Dear Alexandra,

    Blessings on your Peace Corp. adventure; you must be so relieved that you’re finally beginning your trek.

    I was worn out reading your preparation missive; it seemed that you were in a vortex of chaotic energy that was somehow contained. I hope that you give yourself some Quiet time each day (say 20 minutes or so) where you can center yourself in God and draw power from that Source.

    Take care and blessings!

    Peace and good will,
    Deacon Jim

    Reply

    • Alexandra
      Apr 29, 2011 @ 12:12:19

      Yes, preparation was exhausting, but I feel very relaxed now that I am here. I am trusting the process that Peace Corps has set up, and I feel great! I will have a different tone in my next post.

      All of us have arrived safely in Guatemala!

      Reply

  3. evelyn
    Apr 24, 2011 @ 22:14:56

    I’m so proud of you. Now time to spread your wings and fly!

    Reply

  4. Karina Gillette
    Apr 24, 2011 @ 22:25:51

    Love you so much Ally! I am so happy for you. You are pursuing meaning, listening to God, and blessing other people. These are things most people only dream about, but you are living it: living just like Jesus.

    I am so proud of you.

    Reply

  5. Russell
    Apr 25, 2011 @ 09:11:31

    Yay Have Fun!!!

    Reply

  6. Momma
    Apr 28, 2011 @ 20:17:58

    Hello Sweetheart !

    I can’t but wonder if you arrived in Guatemala safely. I do know how busy you are just now, yet knowing you’re safe is something that would be quite reassuring to all of us. Hee-hee ! I am so sorry I missed your call from Philadelphia, yet thank you so much ! How lovely to hear your voice. 🙂 Crit called today and I missed her also, work you know. Season is about over, though. My trip back to San Jose went fine after I visited Crit for a few hours while she worked. It is always fun to see how nice she is (and happy) to everybody. I shall let you go for now, San, yet I shall write another time. Now for some quality time on some letters to you ! I know how much fun for you and how important to you that you get snail-mail ! Oh, by the way, some of my funny and fun friends shall join your blog. I think @ least two or more already have. Everyone is so excited for you !

    Ttyl, Sweetheart.

    Love, Momma

    Reply

  7. Krista (boyfriend)
    May 08, 2011 @ 11:04:50

    I am so excited for your new adventure! Your free spirit and willingness to give completely of yourself is inspiring and I feel blessed to have you as friend! You are always in my prayers and if you need anything let me know! I love you and here’s to a new start with no stress!
    Love,
    Krista
    P.s. I have been reading the blog update to the family and they say they love you an are praying for you too!

    Reply

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Common Peace Corps Acronyms

PC = Peace Corps (sounds like "peese kor")
PCT = Peace Corps Trainee
PCV = Peace Corps Volunteer
PST = Pre-Service Training
ET = Early Termination
COS = Close of Service
NGO = Non-Governmental Organization
HH = Healthy Homes, the PC program I am in.
YD = Youth Development, the other program in my training group.

Disclaimer

Anything that is written or views expressed on this blog are mine personally and do not represent the Peace Corps or the United States government.
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