…to pack up many things! Things for the next 27 months — not ships or sealing-wax or kings, and I will get plenty of cabbage at my destination, but definitely shoes. (Full text of Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and The Carpenter.”)
When I started trying to put things in suitcases: DISASTER. I thought weight would be the issue, but it’s actually space — I want to bring too many things! So I acquired two vacuum-pack bags from my dad and took out some clothes for my parents to send once I get to my site at the end of December.
I leave on Friday. Unbelievable. I just ran my first half marathon, and now that that’s done, the next thing on the list is the Peace Corps! The scariest thing about leaving on Friday is how much I don’t know about what happens in the next three months: what language will I be learning? Who will be in my cluster? Where will I be located during training? Will I have internet access? What will my host family be like? Will I be able to exercise? Where will I end up being placed in December? And so many more.
I can think of two ways to reconcile these unknowns to my schedule- and routine-oriented brain. First, the following quotation, which I can hear Meryl Streep-as-Karen Blixen reciting in her Danish accent in the 1985 film, Out of Africa, adapted from Isak Dinesin’s memoir of the same title: “Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road.” A simple explanation, yes, but it resonates with me as I start my journey with the Peace Corps.
Second, I had coffee this morning with a former English teacher who remains a mentor, friend, and kindred spirit in the discussion of books, literature, and life. I recommended he read Dave Eggers’ novel, What is the What, and was describing the basic premise of the book. Astutely, Mr. D asked, “so, what is the what?” I explained that, in the book, the boy’s father tells a story where God offers men a choice between cattle — i.e., security and prosperity — and “the What” — variously interpretable as the unknown, the mysterious, or just plain chance. “Oh,” said Mr. D, “so you’re about to enter the What.” “Yeah, I kind of am, I guess,” I replied.
So, off I go to Ukraine and the What, not seeing too far down the road but prepared for anything. Stay in touch!