That’s basically how September 25th felt, to me anyhow.
Swear-in was a rush of emotions that are hard to put into words. People that I’ve been training with for the past nine weeks were all leaving for different provinces spread throughout the country. In addition, I was moving to another site that has never had a volunteer before! Not to mention, now I’ll be three or more so hours away from my original homestay family. I felt like I was getting ready to appear on an episode of Lost & Afraid.
Speech after speech just reminded me of how close we all were to separating. It was like leaving for college all over again. Questions danced around my brain as I tried my hardest to stop sweating in my fancy swear-in outfit: “Am I ready for this? What happens when I get lost? How long will it take for Peace Corps to find me if I go missing?”; You know, non-crazy questions like that.
We had the pleasure of having our fellow K9 cohort, Peace Corps Country Director, the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport in Cambodia, a representative from the Ministry of Health AND the United States Embassy Ambassador- Designate, William Heidt, leave us with words of encouragement and some great Khmer.
“I, Denise Aiyedatiwa, DO SOLEMNLY AFFIRM THAT I WILL SUPPORT AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN, THAT I WILL BEAR TRUE FAITH AND ALLEGIANCE TO THE SAME, THAT I TAKE THIS OBLIGATION FREELY, WITHOUT ANY MENTAL RESERVATION OR PURPOSE OF EVASION, AND THAT I WILL WELL AND FAITHFULLY DISCHARGE MY DUTIES IN THE PEACE CORPS. SO HELP ME GOD (optional, I said it lol).
As these words left my lips with my right palm in the air, I could only think of the perfect scene from The Office to emulate how I was feeling:
I am now one of the privileged of Americans who can say “I am a Peace Corps Volunteer “; the hardest job I’ll ever love! A position that I hope I never take for granted. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer requires resilience, patience, a positive attitude, an open heart/mind. These are all characteristics that I hope to embody and share with all of those I come in contact with.
Shortly after our oath and pledge were said, it was time for a brief reception where we could say “see you later” to our amazing Language and Culture Facilitators (AKA the most patient teachers who put up with our constant whining and horrible pronunciation) and the friends or enemies we’ve made during Pre-service Training. While I thought I’d be more unhappy about leaving everyone, I was actually really excited to eat the sub waiting for me in our departing vans. So excited that I missed the group photo-op. However, I said my see you laters and gave out hugs (which if you know me, hugging is not my thing) and began to mentally prepare myself for the new direction my Peace Corps Cambodia journey was taking me.
Say hello to the ninth cohort of Peace Corps Cambodia Volunteers!
P. S. The sandwich was absolutely divine! So worth missing the photo-op.