The thoughts behind my decision

Recently, it seems that everyone wants to know my reasoning and decision to join the Peace Corps and what I’m going to be doing in Madagascar, so here’s my answer. As many of you may know, I have been in the application process for nearly 2 years, originally applying in January 2010. Contemplating joining the Corps was probably one of the hardest decisions of my life. I always knew I wanted to do some sort of outreach after I spent a week abroad my senior year of high school in Mexico, but a commitment of 2.5 years, that was something I couldn’t waver on if I changed my mind. Many of you asked why Peace Corps? Why not another organization? That in itself, is a very interesting story. To be completely honest, until I stumbled across the website, I always thought PC was this fictional organization that was only in movies. I knew I wanted to do outreach in another country because even though there are areas of poverty in the United States, other countries in the world are in far worse shape than us. Where children do not know a life with running water, electricity, or even shoes. Maybe that’s why the TOMS company is so near and dear to my heart.

So when I stumbled across the PC website during a Google search for outreach trips and read the information page for prospective volunteers, I knew this was the organization for me. Really no other explanation needed. It sounds so cliché, but it just felt right, that I was supposed to do it. That’s probably why during the ups and downs of the application process, when I was given a departure date, then waitlisted due to funding, had a departure date again, waitlisted again, and so on, I stuck with it. I truly can’t think of many that would essentially place their life on hold for two years, while waiting for a response to see if they were accepted or not. It has been a journey but something I am looking forward to experiencing and learning from.

Below are some of the questions people have been asking regarding my assignment, some maybe you are thinking as well:

What am I going to be doing?

My official job title is Small Business Advising. Although my responsibilities are not very specific until I get to my location, I will pretty much be working with microenterprises in a community and assisting them with developing their concept and offer training in items like accounting, financing, etc.


How long is my commitment?

My specific dates of assignment are February 2011-May 2013. But if I love it as much as I think I will, there is an option that I could apply and extend for one more year.


How are we going to communicate with you?

AT&T connection is spotty at best and very expensive ($3.46 a minute). Chances are I will purchase a phone in Madagascar to use for rare calls home. Skype will most likely be the best way of communication…when I have internet access. Other than that, my blog site and writing letters is most likely the way to go. Care packages will always be welcome, so don’t be shy J. My only request is please try to not send anything the Malagasy would consider valuable or delicious looking (this means try and disguise things). And….when sending me things, please write a list of what you have included so I know if the package has been tampered on.


What will be my address?

I will post that on my blog site (aka here) as it gets nearer to my departure date. Make sure you write “air mail” somewhere on anything you send me, if not, it could take weeks to get to my location. I’ll let you all know when I get a PO Box nearer to my village but for until then, just sent it to PC headquarters.


What are you going to eat?

The Malagasy diet consists of mainly rice, lots and lots of rice. And before you ask, yes, I am planning on gaining weight before I go, or at least trying to. Work friends, you probably already know my lovely encounter with the nurses during my Wellness check. But yes, that’s why I’m depending on you all to send me food like candy and mac and cheese packets for extra substance. :)


Are you going to be living in a hut?

Yes that is a frequent question, and no I do not know. Housing ranges from anywhere from a hut to a two bedroom apartment. Again, this will be determined when I get there based on the community. But wouldn’t that be a story worth sharing if I did.


What do they speak in Madagascar?

French is the national language, Malagasy, the indigenous. I am attempting on learning French right now with Rosetta Stone, and Malagasy will just have to wait until I get there.


Are you getting paid for this?

Yes, my two year assignment will be a job. However, it is mostly volunteer. I will be getting roughly $128 a month to live off of. I’m sure many of you are thinking that is a crazy small amount of money, but realistically, the Malagasy family survives off of $2 a day, so $128 is living lavishly.


2 thoughts on “The thoughts behind my decision

  1. monica says:

    Hi Christina! I came across your blog through the Peace Corps Wiki site. I also received an invitation for Madagascar, departing Feb 2012=). See you at staging.

    • cmnielsen says:

      Hey Monica! Definitely see you at Staging :)….ps in case you have facebook, two other volunteers and I created a group if you wanted to join it. Absolutely no pressure though. I’m excited to meet you and will see you soon.

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