Monday, February 7, 2011

The Incredible Lightness of Leaving

There is something both unbearably serious and laughably light-hearted about leaving, like I am doing tomorrow. I'm trying to think back on 5 years ago when I was busy packing up all of my stuff for college, and the unthinkable future of 4 years stretching ahead of me. Truth be told, college never once seemed like this continuous four year stage of my life, probably because it was constantly changing its face, and more importantly, I was constantly changing. The difference between my freshman year and my senior was immense, and by the time I graduated, I looked back at my freshman-year self as a child (and someone I might have thought twice about bringing to a party). Not to say that I'm a together adult now... but, by the time that I left Madison for good, I was considerably different than the girl who came to Madison for the first time.

Despite what I thought at the onset, "college" turned out to be a lot more than studying in Madison for four years. You make your life wherever you end up, and I don't think that I could comprehend that "college" wouldn't come to define my existence, that in fact there would be a lot of wonderfully strange details, phases, entanglements, adventures, and detours in Madison that would eventually lead me to stay there an extra year! I don't think that that scared 18 year old could have had any idea of what the next 5 years would bring, and certainly could not see those years as anything other than a cold, hard statistic. The good thing about time, as my friend Caroline recently reminded me, is that it never stops, which sounds a bit obvious, but can sometimes escape me. A lot of life happens in 2 years, and so maybe it's better to forget how long you will be gone, but rather live as you would as any other moment in your life. There is a lot of life hidden behind the very numbers and calender dates that you perseverate over and plan around.

Anyway, this is a long way to explain how I feel both weighed down by the prospect of the next two years, and completely unburdened. If I think of it in its entirety and in a numbery sense (2.25 years. I'll almost be 26 when I come back), it's a bit terrifying. But, short-term, I'll be in Africa in four days, with two bags. I get a chill when I read that.

I have had a wonderful last few days. I have found support from a lot of surprising and not-so-surprising places. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, regardless of the media that you used. It has helped this transition to go much more smoothly. My cup doth overfloweth...or whatever.

On that note, I'd like to mention that for the first 2-3 months of my time in Uganda, I'll be fairly unreachable. We will be completely immersed in training, language learning, and staying with host families, so my internet access will be intermittent and spotty. I probably will get online rarely. So, no word is good word. Once we are posted to our actual sites for service, I should be able to get more reliable internet, and will be much more accessible. I will also be purchasing a cell phone which you could call me using skype or a phone card for a reasonable price. You can, however, still reach me by mail. My address for training is:

Ilse Griffin, Peace Corps Trainee
P.O. Box 29348
Kampala, Uganda

Mail Tips: Write "Air Mail" or "Par Avion" on the envelope to prevent tampering. Mail takes several weeks/months. When sending packages padded envelops make it through the system the best. When declaring, do not write the factual amount or contents. Always claim the package as containing less than $25 worth of objects. Also, address to "Sister Ilse Griffin" and scrawl some religious (read: Christian) quotes/symbols on the envelope. This will honestly make it more likely that I receive the mail intact. Plus, it's hysterical. Best biblical quote wins my lifelong respect and approval. WWJD, yo.

I'm determined to be a good pen pal while in Peace Corps, and I will probably have a lot of free time once I'm at my site, to write long letters. So please throw me a line if you are interested. Awkward postcards also acceptable.

I need to enjoy my last night in my over-sized bed. I'm still warming up to the idea of not getting enough sleep for the next few weeks.

Love and Lions,
Ils

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