My Covid Do-Over

As many know, when Covid started rearing its ugly head, I was happily living in Hong Kong (even if there was weekly protests and the police were on the streets and I had to constantly watch the news to re-arrange things for work and… well you get the picture I think).

December 2019 I had flown home to surprise my family for Christmas. Right around that time, I started hearing about Covid, of course it wasn’t called that yet though. Hong Kongers were not going to wet markets as much, there was increased sanitization in common areas such as elevators in apartment buildings, and many locals started wearing masks.

My return to Hong Kong after the Christmas holiday was much briefer than I had ever anticipated. After a couple weeks of teaching, my friends and I celebrated the Chinese New Year in style – a staycation together at a hotel with a rooftop pool. Right as we should have returned to teach, we received the news that the education board postponed school for some time. With all that was going on and having no idea how long I would get paid for, I decided it seemed like a good time to go home and wait it out – while getting out of my favorite city was still an option- I packed up and planned to go home for a couple weeks or month and return. Luckily, I had taken most everything I wanted to bring home with me. Unluckily, there were a lot of people I would have liked to say goodbye to in person including my rugby team and some of my favorite students.

On returning home, I browsed other options just in case since there was still significant political unrest when I found the Peace Corps had options open in the Pacific Islands. I immediately applied, prioritizing Tonga and placing Samoa as a second choice. At the time, I was accepted and went through the medical and legal clearance process (these are some serious and expensive work people!) and almost immediately after receiving clearance, found out that my training class would be postponed as all volunteers world-wide were evacuated. Slowly, my class continued to be postponed a few months at a time until it was eventually canceled. As the Peace Corps began sending volunteers back around the world, I received emails – ‘Would you consider Uganda?’ ‘There are positions in Kenya leaving soon!’ I considered each opportunity, but nothing felt right and I turned each down. You all know the rest, here I am a few years later still working customer service (yay!).

As I have been mostly happy at my job while being mostly unhappy in Pennsylvania, I casually skimmed teaching abroad options but it was a very half-hearted search. Nothing stuck out, nothing felt right, nothing felt like a fit for me. I was informed that Peace Corps did not expect to return to the Pacific Islands for several years, and so had all but given up on that option. As a last-ditch attempt, I reviewed the openings one day and thought I was having a stroke when I saw Tonga, Samoa, AND Fiji were once again acceptation applications. Of course I applied immediately, went through the whole process again including interviewing with the same person I had 2 years prior (thanks for liking me twice! you’re pretty cool, too!) and began the slow, near crawling process of medical and legal clearance. This took significantly longer this time for several reasons, and I never allowed myself to accept that I might actually get to go to the only part of the world that has called to me for the last several years until I finally received that last clearance email – ‘Congratulations! You have completed your medical and dental requirements and are cleared for Peace Corps Volunteer Service!’

Currently, I am working on several pre-leave requirements while finishing out a month notice at work and packing my loads of clothes and shoes in my head and wondering what my host family might like as gifts AND wondering how close to a dive center I am going to be. I’m not 100% sure what my departure date is – just somewhere in mid-June. It is a two year commitment, so I will be done August 2025 (but sometimes there’s a possible year extension option – sorry mom and dad!).

So, for the next month, you can find me working my normal shifts at the bar. I am also starting to think about selling my plants and maybe some other odds and ends like my custom-made plant shelves by Keith so keep an eye out if something might be interesting for you. Before I leave, I’d like to float the river a few times, spend time with my younger cousins, and have some campfires. Please get in touch if you’d like to meet up before I move, I’m sure I’d love to see you! – but please understand if I prioritize my family since the clock is ticking.

Some pictures of the last few years to prove I know Pennsylvania isn’t all bad – it’s just not for me!- and to say thanks to a few of the many people who have given me some great PA memories.

I realize not everyone gets the exact situation the pandemic changed or postponed, and I am so grateful to somehow been given a do-over – even if I haven’t always enjoyed the road to get here. There’s a few moments in my life where I can look at think ‘that’s definitely a God thing’, but with acceptance rates around 15% and seeing statistics that they receive well over 4x the applications for open positions, I can’t help but think that’s what it is to be offered the same opportunity TWICE! So thank you, God, for helping me know to wait for place You want me to be – at least for the next 2 years. And thanks to everyone who has made Pennsylvania tolerable for me for the past few years. I will miss you all terribly, and I will send you lots of pictures of my 80 degree weather while you’re scraping ice off your windshield.

And I’m glad I never stopped paying for my blog since it will be alive and well again. I will be sure to post a lot, and give a lot more details about the Peace Corps, service, etc. However, I don’t have time right now, so please be patient and I’m sure I’ll get to your burnin questions in the next 2 months – but there’s a lot I don’t even know right now! And who knows, maybe I’ll even catch up on my missing posts about Kenya and Roatan eventually.

A few weeks ago before I received all my clearances, I was asked to do a few tasks including writing something for the local paper. I have no idea if this will ever make it to our little Daily News, so just in case, here’s some Q&A from Peace Corps prompts.

What motivated or attracted you to join the Peace Corps? – In my senior year of college, I realized I did not want to do anything traditionally tied to my degree, and that my only focus at the time was to travel. In the evenings, my mom and I would spend time looking at what my options were to work abroad. Over and over, teaching ESL came up. Eventually, I began exploring countries and positions the Peace Corps had to offer. I feel strongly about their mission and values and would like to be a part of an organization that I can relate to on such a personal level. 

What aspect of your upcoming service are you most excited about? – Fully experience another culture – staying with a host family and focusing on learning Tongan while experiencing their culture. 

What personal or professional goals do you hope to achieve during your Peace Corps service? -On a personal note, I am all about travel. I want to see as many places as I possibly can. However, I do not want to simply consume them, I want them to change and my perspective and to be able to apply what I’ve learned from each place to my life. I want to be fluent in several languages and to be aware of what’s going on in the world around me. I also want to be able to share my experiences with friends and family at home and hopefully be able to expand their horizons or at least offer a different perspective.Professionally, I’m not sure what I would like to do when I ‘grow up’. I know who I want to be – a good friend that is kind, Christ-like, reliable, etc. – but I’m not sure what career I would like to pursue. Right now, I am focused on being the best Peace Corps volunteer I can be. After my volunteer time is offer, I think I would like to pursue Master’s in Education. 

Is there any other information you would like to tell us? – For a while, I browsed teaching positions in other countries through various organizations/ directly with schools and could not find one that appealed to me enough to apply for. Eventually, I checked-out Peace Corps open countries and felt my jaw drop when several Pacific Island positions were open again. I immediately applied and don’t think I’ve taken a deep breath since, almost as if I relax too much, I’ll lose the opportunity. While waiting to be medically and legally cleared, I’ve tried not to get my hopes up too high, just in case. At this point, I feel like I can finally get excited that what I’ve been waiting three years for is finally happening. I can’t wait to see what this opportunity brings me, and I’m very grateful to be chosen for this position a second time. I don’t think everyone gets a do-over for the disruption the pandemic caused in their lives, but I’m grateful to feel like I have been granted one. 


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