Something big happened today and I've got an announcement to make -- an announcement that's more than two and a half years coming, I guess, so let me start off with a little bit of the backstory.
Back in 2002, just a couple weeks after I got laid off from my job in Atlanta, I was informed that my application to join the Peace Corps -- which had been pending for more than three months -- had been accepted and I was being sent to Russia for two and a half years. I moved back home to Columbus for the summer, living rent-free with the folks and working a temp job just so I could save up some money to take with me to Russia in September. My assignment was going to be teaching English in a town in the western part of the country.
My departure date was delayed a couple times over the course of that summer, always owing to some new bureaucratic hang-up originating in Russia, until finally I was informed around the first week in August that the Russian foreign ministry had severed all ties with the Peace Corps, they were sending all the existing in-country volunteers home and refusing to admit any new ones. The assignment was cancelled. After a week of feeling about as cut-adrift as I'd ever felt in my life, followed by a sort of life re-evaluation and spiritual re-awakening the details of which I'll bore you with some other time, I picked myself up and started looking for jobs, eventually finding the one that brought me here to Birmingham.
The Peace Corps folks did tell me that they could offer me a new assignment in a different country in Eastern Europe if one came available, and if that did happen my application would be moved back to the top of the stack, as it were. The thing was, there was no way to predict when that would happen or where the assignment would be, and that's why I went ahead and started looking for jobs here in the U.S. -- I needed something lined up for certain (since my parents weren't about to let me sit on my ass at their house indefinitely). But I did take the Peace Corps up on their offer to keep my application active and let me know if anything new came available.
Last night, it did. The Peace Corps offered me an assignment teaching English to students and teachers at a secondary school in the Ukraine, and after a very long night of soul-searching and praying, I've decided to take it.
If anything, I'm even more apprehensive about the trip this time around than I was the first time -- kind of the old "once bitten, twice shy" situation, but I'm also in a much different situation than I was three years ago. I have a job I like working with people who are great, I've settled down in a city where I've now lived longer than anyplace I've lived since college, I've made tons of connections -- and tons of friends -- through the political work I did last year, and they mean a lot to me. There's no question I'm leaving a lot more behind now than I would have been back in 2002, had I ended up going.
But it's something I've got to do. This is really one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and though I'll feel sort of sad and regretful about what I'm leaving behind here in Birmingham, I know I'd feel even more regretful were I to pass up this chance and never get another one.
So anyway, that's what I'm doing. I leave at the end of July for Kiev, and then it's on to Apryeliskiy Shutka, a town of about 50,000 people on the Black Sea near Odessa, just a little ways from the Romanian border. I'll be over there for a total of 27 months. Allegedly the weather there is a whole lot nicer than in Moscow or St. Petersburg or other points north, so it's looking like I really lucked out on that one; if the pictures I've seen of the chicks in the Ukraine are any indication, I apparently lucked out there, too. (I suppose now is a good time for all my family members to start back in with all the bring-home-a-Russian-bride jokes they were making about this time three years ago.)
As far as the blog goes . . . well, I don't know what's going to become of that. I'll keep doing it at least until I leave this summer, and then after that -- I'll continue to put up as many posts and pictures of my time in the Ukraine as I can, but be forewarned that Apryeliskiy Shutka (from the little I know of it) is not exactly bursting with Internet cafes or cable modems, so it's going to be tough. But we'll just have to see what happens.
At any rate, I hope y'all will say a prayer for me that I do OK over there and come back in one piece. Any other news pops up, you'll hear about it here . . .