So, this is the beginning of my story. I can’t promise that it will be a very good story, or even a remotely interesting story. It is simply my words to share with all of you about the wild and crazy adventure on which I am about to embark.
When you tell people you are moving to Azerbaijan, you get one of two responses. The first comes from people who have no idea where it is… a noncommittal “Wow, that’s great. Remind me again where that is?” Or, as my incredible friend Allison put it, “Where is that? It sounds like a clothing line.” The second response comes from people who know exactly where it is… they grimace and say, “Ewww, really? Why?” I respond to either with a laugh, then a brief answer.
The “where is that” question is easy – Azerbaijan is part of the Caucasus mountain region of Eastern Europe. It is part of the former Soviet Union; right in between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, south of Russia, north of Iran. Yes Iran. That is what leads people to the “ewww, really” response. The answer to that one is a little harder. Yeah, it is near some scary places. But, “near” is not “in”. My northern Virginia neighborhood can be just as scary if you go down the wrong street. So, whether you have no idea where I am going or you know exactly where I am going, do not worry about me. I will be fine. Seriously.
As anyone who is reading this already knows, I have accepted an invitation from the Peace Corps to serve in Azerbaijan for a little over 2 years. People ask me why I decided to do this. The flippant answer I usually give is that – as everyone knows – I was sick of selling shoes! There is, of course, a lot more to it. It is something I have thought about for a really long time. As hard as it is to leave home, the timing is right. I wanted to get off the career path I was stuck on. I want to be proud of what I am doing. I desperately want to travel. I want to learn about a culture that is entirely foreign to me. I want to do good in the world. The Peace Corps satisfies all of those desires – and a lot more. I know that it is going to be hard. More importantly, I know that I will come back a much better – and probably cooler – person.
So, here’s the nitty-gritty. On Sunday, I go to Philadelphia for staging – basically, a day and a half of meetings. On Tuesday, I will be getting on an airplane and flying almost halfway across the world. From there, I will move in with a host family and start two months of training. Six days a week of language, culture, and my job. After that, I move to my community and start working. I have gone from months of waiting and waiting, to here - my immediate future.
As my departure looms ever closer, I am excited and nervous and - perhaps most of all - overwhelmed at the thought of only two suitcases for two years! Yikes.
Cross your fingers for me, and stay tuned for the next installment of the Adventures of AzerbaiJane.