Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Peace Corps service starts in four days… wow.

I graduated from college only ELEVEN days ago (even though it feels like many more) and in under a week I’ll be in Africa. Talk about a change.

So in these eleven days all I’ve been doing is shopping, shopping, shopping, and a little bit of packing. As usual I’ve totally over packed, as I realized today when I tried to weigh my duffel bag and actually couldn’t lift it off the ground…

I've had the street picture of Benin (shown above) on my desktop for about a month. I've seen it every day but hadn't taken time to consider what that land will mean to me in a few days. In the midst of my frantic shopping I didn’t take time to really think about what I was shopping for and it is only in the past few days when I really absorbed the fact that next week I’ll be in Benin. And I’ll live there. I’ll live there for over two years. Surprisingly this does not make me nervous, but it makes me sooo excited. I get butterflies when I think about it and I just can’t wait to start making a difference over there.

If you asked me today, I could probably rattle off plenty of facts about Benin but to be quite honest my secondary reaction to getting my invitation was googling Benin, second of course to jumping on my bed, grinning, trying not to wake up my fabulous housemates (what up Looneys).

That being said I understand that most people don’t know much about Benin, and thus, Benin at a glance:

Benin is a small country in West Africa. It is approximately the size of Pennsylvania, is on the coast and is bordered by Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria. Lately the weather in Cotonou (the biggest city in Benin, pictured below) has been in the 80s with thunderstorms as Benin has a tropical climate. It lies about nine degrees north of equator and two degrees east of the Greenwich meridian. It is hot and humid with two rainy seasons and the nation also experiences dust winds called harmattan. The landscape is primarily coastal plains, savannah and semi-arid highlands.

Benin is the 16th poorest nation in the world yet is relatively safe compared to other West African nations.

The small country is also the birthplace of voodoo which is pretty awesome and I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of things I can find at the markets.

I can’t wait to get over there and make
connections, explore the country, learn, teach, play with kids!!!!, be shocked, adapt, and help.

But in the meantime I’m making the most of my last days at home with my wonderful friends, family and all the amenities of the States.

If you catch this entry before July 3, I can be reached by cell phone. After that I am reachable at, the address to the left (I’ll write back; I’m a super pen pal, I swear) or by leaving a comment here.

À la prochaine!

(Porto Novo, the Beninise capital)

Monday, June 16, 2008

As I write this first entry I am sitting in my room at 1024 University in Schenectady where I have just spent the greatest year of my life so far. My four years at Union College were incredible and I feel like my heart hurts when I think about leaving. My room is half packed up and I keep taking breaks to say goodbye to more and more of my friends and classmates.

Graduation yesterday was totally surreal, and I would say bittersweet although I feel like it is much more bitter than sweet. It came after senior week… the best week out of the best year to date. I love this school so much (here come the tears…). I know that I won’t lose touch with my friends but it’s everything else that I’ll miss. I’ve loved being a part of the Union community. I love the campus and I even love Schenectady.

Classes, spending hours in Reamer, laying in the gardens, sitting on our porch, getting to know professors, Bombers trivia, seeing the sun set behind the Nott, Springfest, socializing at Chets, library seshes, sleepovers, University Place, getting ready, Peter Pause on Thursdays, senior camaraderie, parties, formals, getting Looney, going on adventures to Saratoga, Lake George, Plotter Kill, being super busy, doing absolutely nothing… I’ll miss it all.

Knowing that I’ll be in Benin serving in the Peace Corps in just two weeks is scary, but I’m so glad that I’m starting right away… I can’t dwell in the sadness of leaving Union for much longer. I’m looking forward to Africa with excitement, anticipation and also a bit of anxiety. I’m ready for the adventure of a lifetime, so here’s to last four years and the next two and a half!