Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"This is not a NYL sponsored event"

"The people you work with are people you were just thrown together with. I mean, you don't know them, it wasn't your choice. And yet you spend more time with them than you do your friends or your family. But probably all you have in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day. And so, obviously, when someone comes in who you have a connection with . . . it can mean a lot."  - Tim from the British version of "The Office"
I planned to leave my job on an ordinary day. March 16th was filled with meetings, phone calls, emails, late-breaking information, and an 8:30pm departure - a typical day in the life. Oddly, I departed through that revolving door for what could be the final time feeling...OK.

I did have my moments. I was unreasonably verklempt sending my last attendance email, which, as usual, I had to be reminded to do. I momentarily lost it in a succession meeting as I handed over the last file folder on my amazing team. It was also touching that after years of responding to her with only a computer-dazed stare and an occasional nod, the late-night cleaning lady seemed sincerely sad when I told her it was my last day. Overall, I was able to keep it together pretty well. Somehow, I am comforted by the fact that it starts all over again tomorrow...and each day from here on out, whether I am a part of it or not. The work gets done, and everything just keeps moving. It is quite liberating actually.

People walk these halls for 20, 30, sometimes 40+ years, so it helps keep in perspective what exactly 27 months means. I partly envision being back in a few years and running into Bob, the mail guy, as he greets me with a casual, "Hey, Erin," completely unaware I had ever been gone. Alas, the future, as well as the cause of the great 1B hallway winds, remains a mystery. There is something refreshingly exciting about that. As my man, Tim, from the original "The Office" closed:
"Life isn't about endings, is it? It's a series of moments...My life is not over. Come back here in ten years. See how I'm doing then. 'Cause I could be married with children, you don't know. Life just goes on."

Extra special thanks to the training team for the camera. We can only hope my camera/editing skills improve.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Prep

The past few weeks have been spent accosting returned Peace Corps volunteers and the current Peace Corps volunteers in Indonesia with pressing questions.

  • Contacts - yes or no?
  • How many unmentionables should one pack?
  • What fun illnesses can I expect to contract?
  • Diva cup? Don't even ask.
  • And good news! I have confirmed Peace Corps does provide an unlimited supply of sunblock and bug repellent. Thank you, tax payers! And my alabaster skin thanks you.
In addition to this week's scientific investigation into the most effective deoderant, I decided to get a taste of American high school English classes. It's been awhile, and I thought this would provide a good point of reference for spending the next two years teaching Indonesian teens. Our family friend, Frannie, is also a widely renowned English teacher (in Dutchess County, at least), so I thought I could pick up a few pointers. Conclusion: Except for the wardrobe and the constant visits to the teacher's jumbo bottle of hand sanitizer, the 11th grade has not changed much at all.

Also, turns out the Catholic guilt I successfully suppressed for the past six years or so seems to have purchased PX90 and muscled its way back into my life. Some of Frannie's classes had been reading Krakauer's Into the Wild. This was a particularly curious lesson for me to observe as I prepare to leave my family and friends to venture into the unknown. The triumphant return of guilt was evidenced by my gut reaction to a quote on the 11th grade review sheet: "How is it that a kid with so much compassion could cause his parents so much pain?" Ugh. Way to pour lemon juice on an open wound. Spolier Alert: Granted, I don't plan on rejecting my family, burning up all of my money, subsisting on poisonous berries, and kicking it on a bus in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness for absolutely no reason at all. Still, the question and loose parallel is a bit unsettling.

So I would like to declare here on national blogcast, that I think loving and appreciating your family and friends at every moment is a good way to go, even if old McCandless got that message a little too late. I hope any emotional turmoil caused is calmed by the awesomeness this relatively short experience will bring to those I am lucky enough to be related to, live near, eat lunch with, receive texts or emails from, and dress up as Christmas characters for. Think of the joy that will be received from my struggle to be accepted despite my marathon-weathered toenails and uncontrollable laughter. Think of all of the new, odd places in which I can now lose my personal belongings. Think of the children! This thing is bigger than all of us, really, and I am so thankful for all of the support - past, present, and future!

Readiness Scale from 1 to 10:
Language skills: 1.14
Cultural knowledge: 2.46
Physical Preparedness: 7
Mental Readiness: 8