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From Paper to Liberia

May 11, 2011

It’s been a long year.  I started my Peace Corps application last spring and, as of today, am 28 days away from beginning service in Liberia, West Africa.  I have laughed and cried, been poked and prodded, finger printed and examined.  I have also been supported and helped by dozens of people.  The nurses at the Health Department massaged the rules to save me hundreds of dollars on lab work and shots.  My dentist’s assistant bent over backward to fit in six visits in less than a month–and my parents generously paid for those uninsured visits!  People have driven me around town, written me letters, and believed in me since before  I even started my application.  I am so grateful!

…so Liberia?

I’ve known since November that Peace Corps was thinking sub-Saharan Africa for me.  A quick trip to Google, however, will tell you how little that narrows things down!  How could I prepare when the options seemed so endless?  So when the big blue packet came and said “Liberia” I was both elated and overwhelmed.  Finally I had concrete information and could prepare for a culture and a climate… but I had barely eight weeks to learn about my new home while simultaneously uprooting my current one!  Here are a few quick facts to orient you:

  • Liberia is a little bigger than Tennessee
  • It is on the Southern coast of West Africa, by Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast
  • In 2005 they elected the first female head of state in African history
  • Liberia is Africa’s oldest republic
  • They speak English! (in addition to several regional languages)
  • Peace Corps has a long history in Liberia and most people over age 30 remember having a Peace Corps Volunteer as a teacher.  I’ll be in the second group to go back since the civil war ended.

…secondary math teacher?

Yes, I majored in math at Bryn Mawr and, yes, I did it so I could be a teacher, but that was always Plan B.  I hoped Peace Corps would place me with a non-profit or NGO so I could use my professional background.  Afterall, I hadn’t thought about math in five years!  But I told my recruiter I was willing to go wherever I was most needed to do whatever was most needed.  Liberia has a great need for teachers and there is much room for growth in women’s education so I whole heartedly embrace this new challenge.  May the adventure begin!

I will continue to update this blog as regularly as I can from Liberia.  Please use the link to the right to receive an email alert when I do.  Part of the Peace Corps mission is to educate people in America about my new work and my new home so I hope to share it with as many people as possible.  For safety reasons portions of this blog may be password protected.  Do not hesitate to request access!

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