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An Unorthodox Peace Corps Experience: A Six Month Journey Around The World.

There are very few opportunities in the world that compare to the Peace Corps experience. It is a volunteer position that immerses the individual into a community in which they dedicate two and a half years to developing sustainable projects that serve the needs of the people. Flexibility is one of the main tenants of being a Peace Corps volunteer (PCV), and it is the most important lesson I learned on this non-traditional route of service as a PCV. But then again, no Peace Corps experience is the same - each one is unique.

Lima, Peace Corps, Peru, International Development
US Embassy, Lima, Peru. Oct 7, 2023

May 18, 2023

Swearing Into The Adventure: The Evacuation

Chaclacayo, Lima, Peru. December 8, 2023

On December 8th, 2022 I swore in as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru after three months of training. That was the same day that former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo was impeached and arrested in the streets of Lima. In the blink of an eye, what was supposed to be a day of solidifying my next two years of life turned into a long journey of uncertainty, adventure, and change.

As the political situation in Peru deteriorated throughout the holiday season, all Peace Corps volunteers were consolidated in Lima to ensure a swift evacuation if necessary. During this time, we were given the opportunity to travel outside of Peru instead of staying in the hotel. Given that it was summer in South America and a round-trip flight to Patagonia was only $500, the choice to go on an adventure seemed clear.

I know that traveling and hiking are two of the best ways for me to regain my sense of purpose when the world is turned upside down. So, I decided to go on an expedition to Patagonia, even though it may have seemed insensitive at the time. It was one of the best decisions of my life.

Lake Argentino, Patagonia, Argentina. Dec. 31, 2022

A few days after Christmas, I boarded my first flight to Santiago, Chile to catch my connecting flight to Punta Arenas where I would take a bus to Puerto Natales, Chile and start my trek through the Torres Del Pines National Park. Little did I know, this game time decision to travel to the most southern region of the South American continent to do a bucket list trek would be the start of a long journey consisting of an evacuation and pause on my Peace Corps service in Peru and six months travel across four continents.

In a later post I will share in depth about my time in Patagonia. For now, just know that this was the catalyst for a life-changing six months on the road.

On January 10, 2023, I returned to Peru determined to resume my work as a Peace Corps volunteer. After spending the holidays stuck in a hotel and on a long travel, I was eager to get back to my community and my host family. I was also excited to be reunited with my fellow volunteers, who were all enthusiastic to get back to work even if there was a sense of anticipation that things could get worst.

Chasquitambo, Ancash, Peru. Jan. 12, 2023

As Peace Corps volunteers, we give up a lot to serve our country and our host communities. We leave our families, careers, and friends behind often to live in difficult conditions in developing countries. But the rewards of serving in the Peace Corps are immense. We get to make a real difference in the lives of others, and we learn about different cultures and ways of life that yield us with some of life's greatest treasures. So for us volunteers, getting back to our sites and finishing our service was the priority.

The political situation in Peru seemed to be stabilizing in early 2023. The Peru Peace Corps staff decided after an ongoing analysis of the situation that the conditions were safe enough for us to return to our communities and continue our work.

The calm before the storm was short-lived. After three weeks back in our communities, the protests grew stronger and more violent. The situation became increasingly untenable for Peace Corps operations after a protest broke out in front of the United States Embassy in Lima and the death toll related to protests rose to 58. In the wake of the chaos, all volunteers received a mandatory meeting notice, which we knew would bring the inevitable announcement of our evacuation from Peru.

The following days were a blur of packing and goodbyes. We said goodbye to our families, co-workers, and friends in the communities. It was difficult to explain to them that we were being evacuated, and that it was not our choice to leave. We promised to return when the political violence had stopped, but we knew that it would be a long time before we could see them again. It was heartbreaking to leave the people we had come to love, and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

We were leaving Peru with a mix of emotions: sadness, frustration, and guilt. We had grown to love Peru and its people, and we felt like we were abandoning them at a time when they needed us most. For some of us, the added layer of discouragement was undeniable. We had waited two years to serve as Peace Corps volunteers in Peru, and now our time was coming to an abrupt end.

Before we were evacuated back to the United States, Peace Corps Peru hosted a five-day conference in Ecuador. During the conference, we discussed our options and next steps, depending on how we wanted to continue our service. We also said goodbye to each other and the Peru Peace Corps staff. The entire process was devastating, as we all left the conference uncertain about our individual futures, when we might see each other again, or if returning to Peru would be a viable option.

Quito, Ecuador. Travel to Ecuador. Ecuador and Peace Corps
Quito, Ecuador. February 1, 2023.

Home and Beyond

On February 6, 2023, I returned home to spend time with my family and figure out my next steps after the evacuation. I spent most of my time walking my dog, enjoying meals with my parents, and recovering from a stomach bug I got from street food in Quito, Ecuador.

Waynesville, NC. Feb. 27, 2023.

As I reflect on my life, I am so grateful for my wonderful family and the safe and loving home they have provided for me. I am privileged to have parents who have always been incredibly supportive of my dreams and goals, and who continue to pour into me and my future. They are invaluable parts to my story and the ever-evolving journey of who I am becoming.

As the situation in Peru continued to unfold, there was growing uncertainty about when volunteers would be able to return to service. I viewed the situation as too unresolved to agree to return in the foreseeable future. Therefore, I made the decision to request a transfer to Guatemala. My new start date would be in early June, with an introductory training program for two weeks.

Once the transfer and all of the paperwork was complete, I realized that I had three and a half months of free time before I had to report to my new post. With a bit of savings, I decided to take this opportunity to travel the world.

In late February, I spent time planning and budgeting for a trip to North Africa and the Middle East. These regions have long been a dream of mine to visit, as they are home to ancient history, world wonders, cultural vibrance, and delicious food. I also knew that this was a trip that would undoubtedly influence my values, ideas, and philosophies. Which at this point in time was exactly what I needed. So, I went for it!

I spent ten days in Boston, Massachusetts, catching up with friends and finishing up some personal appointments before heading to Morocco, the first stop on my North Africa tour. While in Morocco, I mapped out a general idea of the next two month journey which would take me to Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel before having to report to Guatemala to start my new assignment with the Peace Corps. I didn't follow that plan step by step, but I did reach each place and added a stop in Barcelona before returning back to the United States.

Marrakech, Morocco, Cafe, Coffee shop in Marrakech, Travel Morocco.
Marrakech, Morocco. Apr 1, 2023

I journaled daily since I started my service in the Peace Corps in September 2022. This blog is a translation of those thoughts, and additionally my dedication to sharing all about the things I have learned, the wonderful people I have met, and the rich experiences I have encountered in my time abroad. Through it all I feel like I have gained valuable cultural insights from communities across the globe that help me pick up on nuances which are important for facilitating meaningful connections with strangers. I hope that these words are an honest reflection of how I embrace the ever-changing landscape of a chaotic world. I am proud that I dare to put into words my daily observations of the world as I travel through it.

I am now back in North Carolina spending time with my parents before I leave for my service in Guatemala on June 2nd. In Guatemala, I will serve as a Rural Extension Volunteer to help build stronger networks among communities to prevent food insecurity. I am excited to get back to service and to explore yet another new country! Until then, I will to spend these beautiful days of May on long walks with my dog, writing, and of course planning my next adventure around the world.

I hope you will join me!



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