One summer day in 2015, a dear family friend, Perth, was visiting my daughter, Ariel. Perth had completed six years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. During their conversation my daughter turned to me and said, “Mom, why don’t you apply for the Peace Corps?” I wondered aloud, “I thought the Peace Corps was just for young people?” Perth corrected me, “I used to train new Peace Corps Volunteers and one of my trainees was 83 years old!” I was flabbergasted and my eyes probably rolled in their sockets. Suddenly I knew I was going into the Peace Corps. I immediately set my inner sails in that direction.

It took me a couple of months to turn in my application. I worried about leaving my family and whether my energy level was up to the task, so for those reasons I hemmed and hawed over my application. But I found great support from my friends, Rebecca Romani and Teresa Higuera. They read my application materials and offered feedback. After I submitted the application I was given an online interview. A week later I received the following email (excerpted):

Dear Eloise,

Congratulations! On behalf of the entire Peace Corps family, I’m delighted to invite you to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala….
Wow! I knew it would happen and yet I could barely believe it. So here I am at home in NYC, doing all the preparatory tasks required by the Peace Corps before training begins in Guatemala. They include medical tests and vaccines, studying Spanish, having an FBI background check, and reading Peace Corps materials. I will be living in the western highlands of Guatemala working as a District School Health Coordinator. Upon arriving there I will go through an intensive three-month training. As a PC Trainee I will take intensive Spanish language classes and train in the skills necessary for the Healthy Schools Project. In December, 2016, if everything goes as planned, I will be officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Wish me luck!

At present I am most nervous about learning Spanish. As a child I heard my parents and grandmother speak Spanish daily, but I was never encouraged to learn or speak in the language. So, after years of speaking limited Spanish I will soon enjoy full immersion with the goal of becoming fluent.  I’ve been using the free, online program, Duolingo to practice Spanish and it actually works well! I highly recommend the program.

I leave for Guatemala in late September, 2016, nine months after receiving my invitation. It’s a big leap from home in NYC to Guatemala. I am certain to miss my grandchildren! My daughter and son have both lived in other cities away from me for many years at a time so I am used to feeling close to them in spite of the distance in miles. It’s my little grandchildren that tear at my heart, to leave. My mother in San Diego who does not use Facebook or email or text messages…it will be important to stay close to her by calls on Skype. I can do it; I will do it and this will all work out well. Estoy listo.


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