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Dear LR-3

April 15, 2012
tags:
Me, David Bauer, Krista

In January Krista and I were visited by David Bauer of the original LR-1. He came to Sanniquellie in 1962 with the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to enter Liberia. Now that is brave. Thank you, David, and everyone who came before for the beautiful legacy you left for us. It is an honor to follow in your footsteps.

In June we will be joined by LR-3, the new group of two-year Volunteers.  Today I dedicate my post to them and their anxious preparations.

Dear LR-3,

Congratulations and welcome.  You are embarking on a strange and beautiful journey.  Liberia is a place full of challenges, about which you are surely already worried, but I want you to know it also overflows with love, hope, and adventure.  You will have the best days of your life here when your students suddenly “get you,” when the screaming baby finally agrees to sit on your lap, when you sweat through your clothes dancing in the street.  You will also have days when you lose treasured possessions and people.  The things you carefully pack now will spoil and fall to the side.  The bad will come with the good, but it won’t matter because TIA.

This is Africa.

That’s right; you are coming to live in Africa!  It’s something that still surprises and inspires me.  You will figure it out when you get here and it will be ok… more than ok.

Don’t worry so much about that damn 80lbs of stuff you’ll bring from America.  I really regret how stressed I was in my final days about things like shoes and batteries.  You will figure it out when you get here.  I promise you’ll have help.  Smiles and hugs waited for us on just the other side of immigration when we landed.  There will be even more waiting for you.

Spend your final weeks packing your mind and your heart.  Enjoy your friends and your family.  You’ll talk to them often and see them before you know it… but you’ll miss them.  You know that.  Read some good books.  Learn what you can about Liberia and Africa.  Learn what you can about yourself.  Make sure your feet are on the ground and you know where you are going and why.  There will be days you have to remind yourself why you came and days you wonder why you waited so long.

Make sure you’ll have a ready answer.  Mine is two quotes, the first from Peace Corps’ beloved JFK, “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.”  I remind myself daily that as long as I try, as long as I plant enough seeds, some of them will flower.  No, I’ll probably never see the garden, but that doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy the fruits of my labor.  My second inspiration is Gandhi’s call to, “be the change you want to see.”  I was born in America and inherited a lot of privileges as a result.  Gandhi reminds me to take that luck of fate and pay it forward.

Figure out what makes you happy and what makes you stressed.  There will be days you have to pull yourself, and others, up by the bootstraps.  (This is where it helps to know where you’re going and why!)  How do you measure success?  When I prepared to leave America I resolved that if I could touch just one life it would be worth it.  Your impact here will be immediate and dramatic.  Your two years in Liberia will be challenging and dirty, but never unfulfilling.

Pack an open heart and an open mind.  The rest is icing.  You are joining a group of extraordinary people.

Welcome.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Aunt patty permalink
    May 2, 2012 3:00 pm

    To think this is the woman who, as a little girl who came to visit northern Minnesota and cried when she realized how far she was from home. We are so very proud of you! Keep making a difference

  2. Candace permalink
    May 3, 2012 2:07 am

    You are an inspiration!

  3. Lindsay permalink
    May 12, 2012 9:55 pm

    Nicely written. I hope you are enjoying Sanniquellie as much as I did. Send all of the neighbors my hios!

    • May 13, 2012 11:48 pm

      Thanks, Lindsay! Nine months in Sanniquellie and I still get called Lindsey and Catherine occasionally. So, yes, they’re still thinking
      about you. All the neighbors are good except that the old old pape passed in January. Many of your students are at the community college
      now and stop me frequently on the road 🙂

  4. ameen permalink
    May 13, 2012 12:55 pm

    Thank you so much, I can’t wait to meet you and Liberia in June

    • May 13, 2012 11:47 pm

      Thank you too, Ameen. You’re coming to a really special place very few people ever have the chance to see!

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