why peace corps (instead of something else)

I got my staging information in an email this week – I leave for Peace Corps stuff a month from today. What. The. Heck. This can’t be real… can it?

A question I’ve heard from a variety of people has been “Why the Peace Corps? And as a Christian, why that instead of missions?” So I wanted to write a post explaining why for those that are curious and to also put to words things that have been jumbling around in my head like miscellaneous loose change for months now.

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“have you ever thought of doing the peace corps?”

NAMIBIA

NAMIBIA (Photo credit: Rui Ornelas)

How, you may ask, do you tell someone that you’re moving to Africa for the Peace Corps?

Well, let me tell you – there’s no nonchalant way to do it. Whether it’s your family, your coworkers or even your eye doctor, there’s no casual way to slip it in. So sometimes you just have to come right out and say it, no matter the anticipated reactions.

One of the best conversations I’ve had thus far was with one of my coworkers. We have an open floor plan, so we have desks in little pods but no cubicles (praise Jesus), and my teammate is looking up something on his computer in a brief moment while we’re both not answering phones, and goes, “Hey, Ali, have you ever thought of doing the Peace Corps?” Now, I haven’t told pretty much anyone at work because I’m seasonal anyway and I know I’ll just be done at the end of my contract this summer and then jet off to Namibia, so this question was out of the blue. I kind of thought he was kidding, but this seemed like a simple enough opening to share my news, so I answered: “Yeah, actually, I leave in July for the Peace Corps.” Silence. I was still working on some customer’s account on my computer, so I tore my eyes away and looked at him to see him staring at me. Unblinking. Eyebrows furrowed. He was so confused. After a long, uncomfortable pause, he just goes, “Wait, really?” And then I told him more details and it turned into a jolly little sharefest, but that conversation literally captures the majority of conversations I’ve had when I’ve told people I might be going or now that I am. Because moving to Namibia isn’t a normal thing. And taking a moment to realize that I’m serious causes awkward conversations because moving across the world isn’t typical. It’s not an everyday sort of occurrence.

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saying no and nablablabla

A week ago, I received an invitation from the Peace Corps to teach English in Namibia.

Say whaaaaa?

The first sentence of this post are possibly some of the last words I ever anticipated writing. Back when I started applying in February in the midst of a lot of refinement, I did it on a whim thinking it was an exercise in trusting God more. And then I kept making it through to the next stage, and the next stage. Yes, the possibility tended to hover in the back of my mind, but I never actually expected to get to this point… So now I have to decide to go or to stay: yes or no. Two simple, single syllables that change the trajectory of my life. Not a big deal or anything. Continue reading

the process of un-mullet-ing

It’s true – I had a mullet. By choice.

photo cred: Brittany Zeinstra

It looks a bit more like a hipster mullet than anything else in this photo, but it was as mullet as mullet is going to get on my head. And it went from hipster, 80’s-esque mullet to pixie cut, and then perpetual growing out mullet until now, over a year later, my hair has yet to reach my shoulders again.

The process of my un-mullet-ing is legen….wait for it…. DARY! It’s a story of humility, one of courage, and of figuring out what makes me, well, me.

Let’s start with why the heck I cut my hair into a mullet. I worked for this high school ministry my first year out of college, and our big winter retreat theme was “Mullets, Mohawks, and Mustaches.” Aka EPIC. Check out our promo video (awesome, if I do say so myself). Well, I had a conversation with some adorable sixteen year old ladies that were complaining about the theme being too masculine and kind of sexist. I flatly denied any such thing and to my horror, the words “I’m cutting my hair into a mullet” escaped my lips. Wide-eyed, in absolute horror, wishing I could stuff those fatal 7 words back into my mouth, those precious girls started laughing. And so just a few short months later, I did it. I went over to my friend’s house and asked her to give me a mullet. When she was finished  and swept up the loose  strands of my dignity off her floor, as I pulled on my coat she softly said, “Hey, Ali… can you not tell people I cut your hair? I’d really appreciate it.” Continue reading

confessions of a recovering only child

I’m an only child. Well, technically only half of one, considering having divorced parents and 50-50 custody and two stepsisters. My only-child identity, and all that comes with, becomes more and more apparent to me around the holiday season.

There are a lot of different stereotypes and studies on the particular nature of only children. A New York Times article quotes, ‘In fact, according to G. Stanley Hall, who oversaw the studies and was the acknowledged child expert of his day, being an only child was a ‘disease in itself.'” As mentioned in a Time Magazine article by Lauren Sandler, some other dated perceptions describe only children “as permanent misfits” and “overprivileged, asocial, royally autonomous … self-centered, aloof and overly intellectual.”

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peace corps nomination

I am coming to realize that my life is turning out a lot differently than I was expecting. There have been so many twists and turns in the road along the way, and I have figured out in hindsight that those turns are exactly what needed to happen. But life lately doesn’t follow any kind of map that I’m familiar with. I feel like I am in entirely uncharted territory with so many unanswered questions and a Heavenly Father that feels really silent right now. I know, with confidence, that He hasn’t left me, but I have just been sifting and sorting and questioning tons of things lately and every other voice seems to be shouting at me, while under the cacophony He is still quietly whispering.

Enter crazy life decisions.

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