Every day, I find something new to worry about.
If you know me, you might know that I’m a fan of being in control. Some call it “bossy” or “controlling,” but my resume says I’m “assertive” and “demonstrate leadership qualities,” so, to each their own.
I’m moving to Ukraine to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in September and every day someone asks me a new question about my upcoming adventure that I have absolutely no answer for. I’ve included illustrations of a few of the recent ones.
The thing about the Peace Corps is they’re great at giving me the illusion that I am somehow in control of my own fate, while eventually reminding me I’m in control of absolutely nothing.
It starts with the application process. They allow you to apply for up to three locations. You even get to apply for specific positions within those locations, making you feel fairly secure about your future. My mom was rooting for Fiji, but I was initially under consideration for a country I didn’t even apply to (there goes that illusion of control). Then I was under consideration for a youth development position in Ukraine (which I did apply for).
“But wait, Whitney, aren’t you going to be teaching English? I’m pretty sure I saw something about that on Instagram…”
To answer all 15 people who follow me on Instagram and happened to stumble on this blog, yes. I am going to be teaching English, the Ukraine Peace Corps largely eliminated their youth development program (as a result of closing their programs in Ukraine and evacuating volunteers in 2013) and switched me to the education sector. Which is cool because I feel super qualified for this and teaching is absolutely what I planned on doing with my life (hopefully you can sense my sarcasm here).
There goes that control again. The decision to make the switch took a lot of thought and prayer, because they gave me the option to go forward with education in Ukraine or essentially go back to the beginning of the process and try for a youth development position. I never planned on following in the teacher-footsteps of my aunts, grandma and mother, but hey, man plans and God laughs is how the saying goes.
This entire adventure has terrified me. For the foreseeable future, I have no control over where I will be living or working. I will be with people who don’t speak my language, understand my culture or look like me (which if we’re honest is probably the smallest concern considering I grew up in Mill Creek and went to Whitworth, which were not exactly hotbeds of diversity).
Every time someone asks me one of these questions, I usually respond with “you know, that’s a great question, I have no idea…” Then we google it if we’re in the vicinity of smartphone, which, like, I generally am. This has turned out to be helpful and also NOT AT ALL HELPFUL.
It’s great for stuff like “what do they eat?” (lots of potatoes, soups and breads) or “what does their flag look like?” (blue on top, yellow on bottom) and not so great for questions like, “isn’t there a war there right now?” That’s how Kelsey and I stumbled upon this website that catalogues all of the instances of violence and war in Ukraine and other violence-prone locations. (Mom, you probably should stay away from that one).
I suppose the process is really just great preparation for when I get there and have even less control than I do now, which is so scary, but also pretty awesome. Its’s going to be quite an adventure, because at the same time that I’ll be with people who don’t speak my language, understand my culture or look like me, I’ll have the opportunity to learn a new language, learn from a new people about a different culture and learn so much about something completely new to me.
A few years ago, if you had told me my plan for my future was crap and asked me if I had given any consideration to moving to a country I know little about, giving most of my control to an organization that has already shown me how little I affect it, I probably would have cried.
Today, ask me something about this experience I essentially know nothing about, I just smile and say “that’s a great question!”