Pre-departure: Why I am joining the PeaceCorps

Trip Start Sep 18, 2005
Trip End Oct 08, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Georgia
Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It's hard to know what to say when I am three days away from departure for staging in Philadelphia. Though anxious, I am numbed by the fact that I know so little about what to expect. At the same time, I am excited remembering what it was like when I first went to Ghana - all the new friends, places, food, and language. My previous experience gives me some perspective; I know Africa as more than "Bongo Bongo" land where people live in mud huts and children are malnourished. Traveling with the intention of helping underprivileged people assumes this sympathetic yet condescending perspective. What I want more than anything out of this trip is to come away an appreciation of other cultures as someone included, rather than as an outsider fetishizing the novelty of it all.

All sophisticated talk about goals aside, I have to thank my parents and all my family and friends who have encouraged me during the application process. If there is one thing I have learned this summer it's that there are few people who are willing to understand why a person would want to do anything like this and I am lucky to surround myself with friends who understand my unconventionality. Thanks everyone. I know 27 months is a long time, but I hope you check in on my progress every now and then and maybe even write a letter or two. So many of my friends' lives are changing as much as mine so I hope we will encourage each other.

Here is my mailing address:

PCT, Kimberly Seibel
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 1323
N'Djamena, Chad
Central Africa

(Don't forget to write 'Air Mail' or 'Par Avion' on it!)

I will be in Philadelphia until the 20th, and then we will leave for our long journey to N'Djamena, Chad. We fly through Paris and I think it takes us almost 2 days to get there. Then we will make our way to the training site at Darda, one hour away from the capital. And from there . . . who knows? My site could be anywhere in the country. It all depends on how training goes.

Finally, I thought it would be interesting just to leave my aspiration statement. We'll just have to see if my stubborn optimism and idealism continues.

Aspiration Statement
Kimberly Seibel
September 24, 2005

I hope to come away from this project with knowledge of another culture, foreign language skills, teaching skills, and insight into the process of development in a third-world country. I have always enjoyed learning, and I hope that by bringing creativity to the classroom my students and I will create a fun learning environment. Often in underdeveloped countries, overcrowding in classes demands a great deal of discipline. I admire this need, but at the same time I would like to give the students a chance to think for themselves and develop their analytical skills. I also want to motivate them by showing them successful role models who have come from challenged backgrounds. Of course, I do not know exactly what my classroom experience will be like, but I hope that by building a strong and reciprocal relationship with my students and community, we will both learn a great deal.

I know some of the problems associated with adapting to a new culture from my experience in Ghana. I expect that Chad will present new difficulties, but I know that I must start by immersing myself in my environment. I am excited to talk to people and exercise my language skills, which I know will be strengthened the more I use them. All aspects of culture from music and dance to religion interest me, so I hope that from the friends I make I will learn more about everything Chad has to offer. I understand that I will not always have the movement and freedom that American society allows, and I will be sensitive to those things that will be found inappropriate by people living in Chad. I hope to keep a journal of my experiences and reactions, which are very important to me as an anthropologist. Most of all, making friends and interacting with students and other teachers will help me find my place in the society and will ease the difficulty of being in a new environment. Coming to this experience through the PeaceCorps also gives me more incentive to become familiar with my surroundings in order to help the community. I hope that I will be able to serve my community's needs with secondary projects, and I plan to apply for grants to fund them. Collaborating with members of the PeaceCorps, the local government, and NGOs will improve my efforts to help my community. With this motivation, I know I will be able to find a comfortable place in Chadian society.

My goals for this endeavor are as flexible and contingent as my career plans; both will depend on my experience in the PeaceCorps. I anticipate pursuing an advanced degree, but it could be in any of a number of topics: Anthropology, International Affairs, Social Work, or Public Health. For any of these endeavors, I think it will be important to become familiar working in a challenging environment. In addition, I want to gain valuable language and teaching skills. Through my secondary projects I hope to learn more about grant writing and community development. Working in Chad, bordering the Darfur region of Sudan, will also give me an opportunity to understand what the international community can do to assist or prevent such crises, and I hope that I will get a chance to talk with some of the U.N. and other officials who are currently working on this problem. All of these experiences will form valuable tools for my future career. Whatever I decide to do when I return to America, I hope to use the expertise I gain to educate people there, whether it is working in a classroom or collaborating with development organizations.
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