Packing up – planning for the year ahead

Training had come to a close, I’d begun the training program to become a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader, and I was busy readying myself internally for the next adventure. Sitting on the lower corner of my bed, I straightened and focused on my breathing. In the small, cluttered room of my lodge, I was surrounded by the intimate smells of fresh coffee and soap from my shower, mixing with the quiet sounds of the city sneaking in from outside the lodge’s walls. The environment lent itself to my finding my center. I began sorting through all of my gear and packing my 20 year old Osprey Highlander pack. In less than a week a cruiser would pack up the trainees, and take them to their individual provinces, and then from there to their sites. The southern province cruiser would also pick up my gear – and I’d keep only the possessions that I’d bring with me back to the U.S.. It was while I was sitting there reflecting that the next step occurred to me. My preparations for the adventures ahead turned from internal to external. I got up, hopped a few times and shook out my arms and legs, and started in.

As the day went on I sorted and packed up 50lbs of gear in the Osprey, and 12lbs of gear in my little day pack, then I turned my attention to the rest of my household. Remember that I’d been living out of a couple of backpacks and a 60L tub for the last three months, so it was time to start organizing all of my worldly possessions. I sorted out the rest of my equipment and household. It was a little bit difficult to make everything travel ready, but as the day progressed I felt more and more comfortable with my decisions. It was a healthy transition and allowed me to bring myself into clearer focus regarding my home leave, the change over to being a PCVL, and the next month ahead. I found it a great exercise to commit myself to the next phase of my service and my extension, because I was able to plan on what would be waiting for me, and what small rewards would be packed away for me to rediscover when I came back to Zambia. As I considered this I made sure that my packing system took into account ease and access to the goods, meaning that right when I get back to Zambia I have a soothing bag of Gummi Bears and one of my favorite books sitting on top of my pack – the first two things to do when I start the process of resettling and getting comfortable in the Southern Provincial House. The definite commitment to returning, and the commitment of my personal goods, memories, and parts of my physical coping mechanisms (letters, pictures, workout gear), to the provincial house also gave me increased peace of mind. It was a physical manifestation that allowed me to create an internal focus.

It’s amazing how important it is to have a feeling of commitment and planning, to have resources and things that you’ve relied upon waiting for you upon your return ties you into the decision, and helped me to put to rest my anxiety and worry about going back to the U.S. and fearing to return to Zambia. I feel that it was an illegitimate fear – but at the time I was unaware of how my home leave would affect me, and more so whether I’d be able to process through the frustrations I’d encountered in the previous few months to a degree where I felt comfortable returning for another year. Taking time to meditate, and thoughtfully pack the gear that would be waiting for me upon return allowed me to handle those feelings.

The week carried on, and my neatly packed gear waited restlessly in my room for the 1st of September, when it would be loaded up on the cruisers with all of the now sworn in volunteers as they were transported out to their provinces. On Thursday (the volunteers would be posted on Sunday), all of the Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders moved from their lodges in Lusaka out to the large guest house where all of the trainee were being held until they were able to swear in. We attended the swearing in ceremony, returned to the lodge, celebrated with the now volunteers, and the next morning I made the final preparations that would allow me to send all but my Osprey bag and daypack down to Southern Province.

The day came, and in the cool early morning air, we drug our gear up to the central parking lot, and began the exciting process of loading up all the volunteers gear, it was the final moment of my week of preparation, and with a deep breath and peace of mind I loaded up my own gear and helped the Volunteers load up their own. As they pulled out of the parking lot and began their journeys, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. The physical act had completed my mental and emotional planning. There was no turning back, I was completely committed. We swept all of the lodge rooms for anything left behind, and I grabbed a cruiser back to the office, ready for the last few days before my home leave. I was committed and I was at peace with the decision.



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