I don’t usually have success with beets. They need to be planted when it’s hot and then they grow when it’s cool and getting that timing right, in coordination with an empty spot in a full late-summer garden here in metro Atlanta, has been challenging for me. But this year my mother moved and gave me a raised bed from her patio and I planted a whole bunch of things in it right after I found out I was not selected to serve in the Peace Corps in Jamaica. Plant beets. Bake bread. That’s what I always do when I get bad news. But this time, in addition to radishes and arugula (which I’m eating every day), the beets grew.
I closed the door on the Peace Corps and moved on close to home, including volunteering weekly at the only school for refugee girls in the USA — you know, the whole “grow where you’re planted” thing — but the Peace Corps circled back to me, told me my application was highly competitive, and asked if I’d be interested in serving elsewhere.
My husband and I decided to just roll the dice, trust the journey, and see what would happen next. Just 4% of Peace Corps Volunteers are over the age of 50, and just 1% are married (with a mere fraction of that being those who serve without their spouse), so the odds (like everywhere lately) were stacked against me.
Long story short, I am now under consideration to serve in Uganda, leaving June 2020. Previous Peace Corps Volunteers there have helped farmers stop elephants from trampling their land by erecting bee hives on their property’s perimeter (the honey and wax from which then became cash crops); and helped a Pygmie village on the edge of a national wildlife reserve develop an ecotourism bike company. So, good projects. Wait, let me correct that — great projects.
I have not received the offer yet, but if I do, we’d have to say yes or no within three days. That would be followed by extensive medical and legal clearances that could take months before a final acceptance by the Peace Corps is made. Even then, if I were to actually get on that fifteen-hour flight to the Equator, there is a three-month intensive training period (during which time you must become proficient in a local language unusable elsewhere in the world) before a final induction as an official Peace Corps Volunteer occurs, so it would be a long, winding, filled-with-challenges road ahead.
And, of course, if I were to actually make it through all this, I’d then be living in a remote village with no running water, no electricity, and a pit latrine, far from my family, for two solid years. I may or may not make it to my younger daughter’s college graduation. Most Peace Corps volunteers (okay, maybe all) get sick (malaria, giardia, and more), and many need to be medically evacuated. Some have to leave their service as a result.
Why am I even pursuing this?
I’m actually not.
It’s pursuing me.
And like with the beets, I’m just gonna see what grows.