6 Degrees North of the Equator in the West African country of Liberia. 24 hours of flights for 27 months in the unknown. Luggage checked and expectations set: 50 lbs on the dot and 45 fellow volunteers to teach high-school science with.
Today I take flight from the US capital of Washington, D.C., and tomorrow I arrive in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. Between sunrises, I will shift from a fast-paced, technologically connected, and comfortable lifestyle to something markedly opposite – it excites me. Uber’s will be replaced by a sturdy pair of crocs and air-conditioned high-rises will reappear as two-story open-air buildings. This idea of simplification attracted me to the Peace Corps, but it will come as a shock nonetheless.
Liberia, as with most countries in the region, has faced developmental setbacks since its establishment of independence (in 1847). Most recently a set of civil-wars from 1989-2003 toppled infrastructure and resulted in over 250,000 deaths. Among these humans were children and teachers, leaving a void in the education system. Recognizing the importance of education in uplifting their socioeconomic status, the Liberian government reintroduced Peace Corps volunteers in 2008 with the mission of “helping the people of [Liberia] meet their need for trained men and women”.
My role at post is to teach science both to the students and fellow educators in my community. How should I, with no formal training in education, go about this? I am not sure yet, of that I am sure. I’ll spend the first three months of volunteering in the inland city of Kakata figuring it out. With the help of what seems to be an excited staff of Liberian and Peace Corps officials, we will go through lessons on cultural assimilation and effective teaching strategies. During this time I will live in a homestay and grow familiar with daily customs, one of which — I am delighted to learn — is the copious consumption of chili peppers.
I am joined by volunteers from across the US. Having only met them yesterday, I still have names to learn, awkwardly forget, and learn again. In this time it already feels that we are forming together, bonding through our uncertainty. We even got the Idahoan’s to admit their love for potatoes.
The weeks leading up to this have been ripe with celebration and good company (see below), and I look forward to seeing all of you again soon and reveling each other in tales of our respective journeys.
I will be out of internet service for a couple of weeks but hope to update this blog monthly – so check back! Until then, Let’s do this…. Leeeeroy Jenkins!!!