Christmas at home

 My friends and I had an ugly sweater holiday party
   This Christmas was my last New England Christmas for a while. Realizing this, I started to put a lot of pressure on myself to make it perfect. I then realized how ridiculous that is, and how I was actually ruining it by thinking this way. Nothing in life is ever perfect, and I would only end up feeling disappointed. I ended up accepting things as they were and having a really great time once I was able to let go. I watched lots of holiday movies and laughed a lot with my family. I played board games and stayed in my pajamas all day. I listened to great music and ate a lot of fattening, delicious foods. It was very nice and ended up being exactly what I needed. Things have a funny way of working out.



   I found out that Botswana is the specific country I will be going to. Botswana is located in southern Africa and borders South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, and Zambia. I will be working in the area of  HIV/AIDS outreach. This could mean working at a school, a hospital. or a social work agency or community center of some sort. Botswana has one of the highest rates of HIV infections in the world so the focus will be on education, prevention, and working to end stigmatization of people who are HIV positive. It sounds like I will be working with youth mainly, but the information I was sent says that "youth" may include people who are in their late 20sin Botswana, and HIV also impacts many older family members who end up taking care of orphaned grandchildren, nieces, nephews and so forth. I've read  that a major concern right now is that if HIV infections keep increasing in Botswana at the rate that they have been, there will be more adults over the age of 60 than in their 30 or 40s. A great book to read about Botswana  and the history of the AIDS epidemic there is one that I, ironically enough, read far before I knew about my placement, Saturday is for Funerals.
   Here is some other  interesting information about Botswana for anyone who is interested in learning. It makes me very excited to learn more. I have A LOT of reading and learning to do.  http://www.peacecorps.gov/welcomebooks/bwwb637.pdf



   I just received my placement invitation via email!!!!!!! I'm so excited!!!!!!!  I'm going to Sub-Saharan Africa and leaving early to mid-April!!!!! I will be receiving a copy of the invite via regular mail in the next week, along with more detail about the trip I'll be going on. I've been waiting for a few weeks now since I received notification of my medical clearance so it is a huge relief to know that I'm officially invited and going to a region that I've been hoping to go to. I'm also glad that I have some more time to prepare since I was potentially going to be leaving in January. This means getting to celebrate my birthday and some friends' and family members' birthdays before I go. It also means more time to save money, determine what I'm bringing, and  review my AIDS education info some more before I go and maybe even learn some French. I'm also sure I will be very ready to get out of Maine by April when the snow is still melting here.



   Waiting is such a huge part of the PC process. The medical component  has been the most stressful and time consuming. I've now been  notfied that the PC has all of my medical informtion, and as of right now, they do not need anything else from me. Later on I will need to get more vaccinations, and I may need more tests depending on where I am going. For now it is a huge relief to know that all of my paper work is finished!.
   I'm waiting to hear back about my location and when I'll be going, which is very exciting. I feel very distracted right now. I'm hoping to go kind of soon, but not too soon because I want to have time to save up more money and say goodbyes. 
   When I was a kid my parents would get calls from school saying that I seemed distracted or spacey during the holidays because I was so excited for Christmas that I wouldn't pay attention in class. I feel like that 7 year old kid again. I do not do well with waiting for news so it is actually kind of amazing that I've been able to function at all the past several months.
Hopefully, I'll be posting about my assignment soon.


a dream

   Ever since I was 14 and read the book The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsover, I have wanted to travel somewhere else in the world as a volunteer. Anyone who has ever read that book may think that is strange since the story involves a lot of grief and danger. Something about experiencing a new place and that kind of self-sacrafice appealed to me though. I read Peace Corps stories for years after, but I never felt confident enough to actually begin the application process.
   I decide to go for this dream in May. I had worked at a residential treatment center for over 2 years, and  I needed a change. I loved the experience of working there and wouldn't change anything about it, but felt like I was in a rut. At the end of a very difficult week at work, I spent a lot of time reflecting back on some of the experiences I had over the past couple of years and that I had endured. I realized that I was capable of going for my Peace Corps dream, and I just needed to make the decision to try. No more worrying that I wouldn't make it. No more feeling guilty about wanting this for myself.
   It is strange to think that one decision can be so life changing. I'm now very grateful for that difficult week because it was the final catalyst that lead me to go for my dream.