After a dreadful week of anticipation—one in which Monday felt like March, Tuesday felt like April and so on—July was here and I had the feeling that my country invitation would finally be in my mailbox.
At 10 o’clock on today’s abnormally warm Reno morning, I walked into my post office, checked my mailbox and—a key! I snatched the key, closed my mailbox, and walked to the large mailboxes where customers’ large letters and packages are kept. My heart was beating. I clumsily put the key in the hole, turned it, and a large white envelope with “Peace Corps” on the top was inside.
You know that clear plastic window on envelopes where a recipient’s address is listed? I was so impatient to look at my invitation that instead of opening the envelope and taking out the letter, I pulled the envelope from its contents, peeked through the plastic and haphazardly read portions of my letter: “Dear Jordan,” “Congratulations!” “great pleasure,” “thousands,” “stronger communities,” “Corps service,” “Madagascar.”
Madagascar. Was it true? Madagascar! That gargantuan tropical island off the coast of mainland Africa, known as the “Big Red Island” or the “Eighth Continent” for its size, was my new home! I really did win the lottery!
So I did what all Mega Millions winners do: I called my friends and family and told them of my luck. They were as impressed as I was for my good fortune. Former girlfriends were jealous and proud of me. Friends promised they would come to visit. My father said, “I can’t think of a better place, maybe except the Galapagos Islands, that you could’ve gotten.”
Even my initially-dissenting mother said, “Yes! I’m happy and relieved!” Because The Crocodile Hunter once went to Madagascar, my mother preferred Madagascar over most other African countries. Heck, if The Crocodile Hunter didn’t die by stampeding elephants or murderous Tarzans, neither would I. (I will, however, be particularly on the lookout for renegade stingrays.)
In my hands I’m holding my invitation packet that has information on my departure dates, job sector, passport and visa applications, and other forms. There’s also a signed letter from President George W. Bush who wrote me on July 18, 2001 to congratulate me for representing the United States, developing long-lasting friendships, and helping others pursue a better life for themselves. I also found it ironic that he told me to “Take this opportunity to build goodwill and to help lay the foundation for a more peaceful world.”
I’m off to read my packet and learn of my future life. From what I’ve read so far, I’ll most likely be living in a city or large village and regularly speaking French and Malagasy, the native language of the country’s 20 million residents. I will be teaching junior high and high school students English as well as improving the English of my peer Malagasy teachers. My home, which will either be with a Malagasy family or my own, will probably not have running water or electricity—but don’t fret, my friends, because chances are high that I will have an outdoor pit latrine. Cozy!