After graduating from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in anthropology in 2006, I became really frustrated with the search for a job in the field of archaeology, my area of interest at the time. So, what fell into my lap was a job in construction, and although I enjoyed some days, I knew it wasn't my calling. I stuck with it for 3 years or so, and it took me down to Floyd, Virginia in the fall of 2008 for a building project for my uncle Jon and his wife Shelley. This turned out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me, for several reasons. The community in Floyd is filled with people who cherish the land that they walk upon as much as the folks that they are surrounded by. They are self-reliant, colorful, and vibrantly healthy in the face of corporatism and the consumer culture of mainstream America. I was introduced to a lifestyle that I knew would be a part of me for the rest of my life.
Having made these observations, and not having a clear path in front of me, I took quite a bit of time to myself in order to figure out how to best proceed. My main objective was, and is, to find a deeply fulfilling way of life that promotes the health of the planet, and all the creatures that live upon it (including humans!). Somewhere along the way, I'm sure a living wage will be earned.
My uncle Jon was instrumental in helping find a way to learn more about how to accomplish these goals. He shared with me his learnings in the field of Permaculture. In a nutshell, permaculture is the thoughtful, holistic design of buildings and landscapes, based on the workings of natural systems, that is used to meet human needs while increasing the health of ecosystems. What could be better than vibrant people and healthy, productive land? If you're interested, more can be learned at: http://www.permacultureactivist.net/
The following summer, 2009, I took an apprenticeship in permaculture with the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute (FLPCI), in Ithaca, N.Y. This path was taken in part for personal reasons, but also as a way to make myself more prepared for reaching another lifelong goal, that of serving in the United States Peace Corps. The summer of '09 was filled with amazing new friends, experiences, and learning opportunities. FLPCI is always hosting great workshops, and they run an amazing 2 week intensive Permaculture Design Course in late July at the beautiful Cayuta Sun. They are a huge reason I am now able to serve in the Peace Corps. Check 'em out at Fingerlakespermaculture.org
So, after this apprenticeship, I twiddled my thumbs for a bit to make sure that it was the right time to apply to the Peace Corps. Was I ready? Was I qualified? Did I really want to take more than two years from the comfort of life at home to venture into the great unknown? I'd been talking about this for over 5 years now, was it really time to send in the application? Whoa, skedunga!
I decided to go for it. I applied, was nominated, went through the EXTENSIVE medical, dental, and legal screening process, and FINALLY received my formal invitation to serve. From the time I sent in the the online application to the time I received my invitation, it took about seven months, which comparatively speaking is not that long.
Since I've know where I'm going and when, it has been all about preparing. Of course, this means getting bills squared away, making all kinds of lists, downsizing my material items, the usual stuff. But it also means taking care of things on the home front so that leaving can be a smooth transition for my family. It also means seeing the ocean as much as I can before I leave. It means showing everyone how much I appreciate having them in my life, getting together with friends and family whenever possible. It means living a healthy lifestyle, staying in good shape (for all those bike rides to work in Uganda), learning as much as I can that will be of use while I'm overseas, and trying to wrap my own head around the tasks to come. It means stepping out of the box and embracing the unknown challenges and opportunities that I'm about to find.
And so now here I stand, two weeks away from departing to Uganda. One of the highlights of my existence so far on this Earth. I have this serene feeling lately, an eerie calmness despite all the goings on surrounding my departure. Maybe it's the calm before the storm, or more likely it's just my own way of focusing on the reality at hand. As I watch and listen to the rain fall from the sky today, I think of days to come as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Under African Skies.