Can’t go Back Now

I can’t really say
Why everybody wishes they were somewhere else
But in the end, the only steps that matter
Are the ones you take all by yourselfYou and me walk on, walk on, walk on…
Cause you can’t go back now -The Weepies

This beautiful song is on my mind as I prepare to board a bus to JFK at 2 AM. Compared to last year’s CHOP group, SA 31 is getting lucky with weather. We should be in Johannesburg without delays by Thursday morning.

There are 33 of us, our 34th member was blocked due to legal concerns. I have not had the chance to talk in depth with the majority of SA 31, but I have immense respect for each individual. I am definitely on the more pragmatic side as opposed to idealistic on the spectrum of Peace Corps Trainee Cognitive Styles, but I am not alone. I am thrilled to be part of a divers and compassionate group. We have 2 married couples, 3 returned volunteers who are back for a second tour of duty for their retirement years (I only hope that is an option for me in the future), and 2 Masters International students . At least 3 other trainees have blogs, and I hope to share them in the future so y’all can get a better picture of the diversity in Peace Corps South Africa experiences! Others have dealt with medical office placement snafus and there is one other Katie. I am okay sharing my unique characteristics but am officially signing these posts as Katey-Red!

There is a lot on my mind as I wait to board the bus and take my last warm shower (because I am not used to nice hotel room plumbing and accidentally gave myself a high pressure cold shower). I took my last walk alone for a while to the Liberty Bell, and realized that I am so lucky to come from a country with a rich history. I am even more fortunate to experience another country with a dynamic path towards freedom. As I ate a Philly Cheese-steak for my last meal, I took pride in the cultural diversity we have in the States and how we use food to connect (yes there are public health concerns with our emotional connection to food, but I am Italian. Food is how we build relationships). I am excited to see how the Rainbow Nation incorporates their diverse cuisines and learn about the role food has in South African Culture.

Finally, I will not lie and deny that I am slightly worried about how my relationships will change. Two years without internet access is hard. In reality two years is not a lot of time. I can celebrate a maximum of two birthdays in Peace Corps. However two years is enough time for people to fall in love, get married, start graduate school, or reproduce. Several of my friends are embarking on these life changes, and I would love to see their personal growth. However if there is one thing that I have learned from the Peace Corps application process is that I can only live for myself. I am grateful that my life has worked out that I can do Peace Corps. I am in a Philadelphia hotel room and this experiment called Peace Corps service is happening. The best I can do is try service out and see if I am a good fit. It is a big deal for me, but not for anyone else necessarily. The world spins madly on (yes I am in the Weepies mood). Life should not stop because I am in the Peace Corps, and who am I to ask people to hold off on the excitement so I can be present? That would make me a not so nice human. I’ll arrive fashionably late to the party (well two years late), but I have an invaluable excuse!

On that note I want to thank everyone. Without making this a sappy Oscar-esque speech, I am so blown away by the support and belief in my potential I have State side. From my Italian family’s generosity, texts from Tucson, and the many people who took the time to write in the Wishing Well Project, I am humbled that there is such admiration on my behalf. I only wish I could reciprocate the kindness and give the remarks to my 10 year old self who did not feel admired. Pre-Service Training (PST) is an intense time, but I feel better knowing that I have kindness from home to pull me through agitating. Time is running short on my end and individual e-mails are not feasible, but please accept this generic thank you. Also, if anyone still wants to participate (my sister indicated that there were interested people who could not make the deadline), I never turn away doses of perspective or positive thoughts on my behalf.

If you worry about me over the next three months, just assume I am on my way (and feel free to hum Phil Collins if it makes you feel better)!
All the best,
Katey-Red

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