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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life is Calling. How far will you go?

That’s what the pen says, which I received at an informational Peace Corps meeting two years ago.  As I write my first blog, I have a million things racing through my brain: What to pack, what not to pack, Will my carry-on bag be to big to board on the plane?  I also have on my mind that I should’ve started this a few weeks ago and I am asking myself, why am I waiting until now to get something down in writing.  Tomorrow is my last day at work and I want to show my co-workers & family a sneak peak of what they’ll get to read over the next few years.  For those that don’t know by know I will be headed to the Philippines in a week and teach English for the Peace Corps.  
I have had an idea about doing some service oversees for a while, but I just didn’t know where.  Pondering when the inception of my international travel thoughts began, I can’t help, but look back five years ago this winter in 2006 when I went to California.  My friend & I were staying with another friend in Los Angeles.  At the time I wasn’t the outdoors type, but that changed completely after we all did a short night hike up a hill in Griffith Park, Los Angeles.  Once we hiked to a certain point, we looked up at the beautiful Los Angeles night sky and saw tons of stars and the entire city of Los Angeles lit up.  It was gorgeous sight and one I’ll never forget.  I like to tell friends in my backpackers circle, that was the night that started my backpacking craze and that night without saying it, I made a New Year’s Resolution to get outdoors more and that I did.  In 2007, I think I went out 4 or 5 backpacking trips.  Two of them just to get warmed up for a week long trip to Colorado.  In late June, 2007 when I turned 30, I backpacked the Comanche Peak Wilderness in Roosevelt National Park for five days.  I saw some incredible views of the mountains & landscape.  For the next two years, I would go on to backpack with friends in eight different states and Colorado, a second time.  However, the second time was not as memorable with a sprained ankle, but great stories for sure.   Ironically the same city where I saw stars in the night sky is the same one I’ll be departing from next Friday for the Philippines, Los Angeles. 
After backpacking on & off in 2008, I began think about doing other things and also how I could make an impact doing the things I like.  In early 2009, I started volunteering for a group near my house called the Frankfort Jaycees, which serves the community in the public interest.  Shortly after that I was running a food drive for the Frankfort Food Pantry as part of my duty with the Frankfort Jaycees and at the end of that Saturday, it felt great to collect that much food for the pantry.  It’s funny looking back, I see many things happening this week that also happened during my journey to the Peace Corps.  For example, I will be gathering food this weekend, (not as much as in 09) but I will bring this bag of food to the church for them to deliver to the needy, just as I did.
Also in 2009, I read an article about the Peace Corps & then heard an informational meeting.  It was after this meeting that I really considered joining on my mind.
For those that don’t know the Peace Corps is an organization started by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to promote World Peace & friendship  Volunteers serve a minimum of 27 months in developing countries all over the world.
I was taking class being offered in Downers Grove by Dale Carnegie Training.  The course was about “Effective Communication & Human Relations Skills for Success” and in every class each student rose to speak in front of the class about a topic.  In one of my last speeches for the class I was taking, I remember saying to everyone that one of my goals was to join the Peace Corps by the end of 2012.  WOW! I thought to myself because now it was for real and I had said it out loud to everyone.  I still had to prove I was worthy enough to join the Peace Corps and I knew I needed more volunteer experience.  The fall of 2009 I joined the Forest Preserve District of  Will County doing preserve work twice a month.  In February, I started tutoring English as a second language & Math for the Moraine Valley Community College Literacy Program.  I took sign language just in case I would be called up to do that.  In July, 2010, I started reading for the blind in Orland Park 2-3 times a month.  August, 2010 is when I applied for the Peace Corps.  Finally, I took the extra time to receive my Teaching English as a Second Language (TEFL) certificate, which I believe was key to me being picked to teach English in the Philippines.  The rest as they say is history.  You can never have too much education.  My advice to anyone reading:  If you have time & you think a class can help you with your work, take it.
Some might ask, why not continue with what you were doing with the three organizations?  I wanted to challenge myself internationally, something I had not done before and I am looking forward to the challenge.  I had never been oversees before and this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
Life is short, you have to the things you want now.  You don’t want to say to yourself that   “I should’ve done this or done that.”  Just do it.  Some might argue, what about money.  Well, don’t spend the cash on little items like coffee or lunch.  Make your lunch at home and try to save when you can.   Also, stay focused on your goals & stop watching “American Idol.”  That show sucks anyway.
I look forward to giving you updates on my journey.  Hopefully, I’ll get to write one more time before I go.