Moving on

About a year ago, a documentary came out called “Lemonade” which was based on the old adage “when life hands you a lemon, you make lemonade.” The film tells the story of people who lost their jobs and decided to follow their hearts and found their purpose.

Well, life has handed me a lemon. Actually, a couple.

In a few short days, I had to figure out my next move after I leave Morocco. My initial plan was to try for a direct transfer, knowing those were limited, then they told us about a new option. Expedite return to service (ERS) would allow us to come for a few weeks then immediately restart our service in another country. A third option was to re-enroll and the fourth to be done with Peace Corps and start another path.

After discussions with friends, I decided I wasn’t ready to be done with Peace Corps so I wanted to direct transfer or ERS, but when the less than 30 positions were posted on Wednesday afternoon, I wasn’t hopeful. I realized a direct transfer may not be a good fit for me because I need a bit a breather after all that has happened, so I put my name in for the one ERS I was qualified for but wasn’t hopeful.

Wednesday evening I looked at the other two options. Again, I already knew I wanted to continue with PC so that left re-enrolling. Re-enrollment works to our benefit because we can basically chose our programs and our locations and start training sometime between April and June. However, I have a personal obligation in October (that I had intended to fly from Niger home for) so if I want to attend the event I can’t go until after October because of Peace Corp’s mandatory rule about being at site for the first three months for integration. So, I started to work on my plan B and I decided to go to travel a bit, re-enroll and work on my writing.

The next day, I was told that I was one of the few people to be selected for a direct transfer or ERS position. I had been told I was going to continue on the with the process for an ERS position to Namibia as a health education volunteer working on HIV/AIDS awareness.

The news hit me in a weird way. Before I saw my name on the list, I had met with a counselor and decided that my plan A and B were pretty good and I would go with either. I began to look more at the Namibia spot and the country in general and because very excited about the work. I decided my stars were aligning, as they told they would have to in order to continue on at this point.

This morning, I went to a meeting and was told I’d be on a plane home tonight for a few weeks in South Dakota before reporting to staging on Feb. 18. After the meeting, I hugged the two other volunteers who were to go to Namibia with me and told them we were in this together.

Then, one of the directors pulled me aside.

“You need to take a deep breath,” she said. “You are not going to Namibia.”

Apparently, there is something in my medical history that prevents me from serving Namibia. Countries can’t take volunteers with certain conditions and something in my past, not obtained while I was in Niger, doesn’t comply with what services Namibia can offer. The PCMO (PC medical officer) in Morocco actually called the PCMO there to ask if they would be willing to take some with my status and she said they just couldn’t if something was to happen to me.

In seconds, I diverted to plan C. I was still able to cancel my flight for the night and take cash instead and got an extra night in the hotel to figure things. After a good hour of crying and working out my options, I found some friends and devised out another plan.

So, what I am going to do? I am going to make lemonade.

After college, I went straight into a career and my life has always seemed to have path from there, albeit not always paved. I’ve never been in limbo, but as I sat at my office desk of my paying job I craved the unknown. Now, I have it.

Saturday, I am no longer under Peace Corps’ eye, so I will travel from here. I plan to hang out in Morocco  for a few days with other volunteers and then a group of four of us will go to Cairo. When I hit stateside, I’ll go to New York City and slowly make my way to South Dakota by bus, stopping to see friends a long the way.

Once I am settled, I am going to look at some writing work and start another dream chase. My networks at home and with the Peace Corps have been so encouraging about my writing that I’ve decided to keep going with it. I am going to look at reporting jobs and freelance work as well reshaping some of my blog entries.

I also plan to re-enroll, but to take this time to find some clarity. We’ve been told not to make big decisions while upset so I am gonna let things be.

It’s true that I am a mess right now but all I can do is look forward and have faith in the path. It may seem hokey but that’s all I have for my sanity.

Before I go on, I want to thank all of you have been incredibly supportive as I try to move on after this traumatic event. Of course, leaving Niger was really hard and then deciding what to do next has been extremely stressful. It will continue to get hard over the next 24 hours as I have to say goodbye to the people who were my family the last six months. My friends and family at home have been so amazing and I thank you all for everything you’ve given me in the last week and six months.

What will happen to me next, I am not sure. All I know is that I am gonna go with it and have faith.


10 thoughts on “Moving on

  1. You have a network of friends around the world that know you’re destined for greatness and will do everything they can to support you. Take this opportunity to process everything, get it down on paper, and heal emotionally from this abrupt ending. You can return to PC or help people in the States, but you are destined to make a difference in the world Heather Mangan, and don’t forget that.

  2. Oh Heather, you have been through so much! I think not making decision while upset is really good advice. I know everyone back here in SD is so looking forward to seeing you again soon!

  3. Sounds like a good plan!
    Right now, take some time to play and recharge with those PCV friends – who better to be free and on walkabout with in Africa? It will be a precious time to look back on years from now.
    Thank you for your blog – have enjoyed the snapshots of Niger & PC that all of you bloggers have been providing for us families at home. Each of you gives a little different perspective on life as a PCV in Niger. It’s helped us have a better sense of the lives our PCV family members have been living with you all there.
    Keep writing – and blogging!!

  4. I can only imagine your disappointment. I had looked forward to reading your blog in Niger and getting yet another perspective on life as a Peace Corps Volunteer there. Then I was excited about your next post with Elizabeth. I guess we can have dreams, but the Plan isn’t really ours. Keep writing, keep dreaming, keep making a difference. I’ll be waiting to read more of your reflective writing.

  5. We’re going to be all right, Heather dear. You are destined for Peace Corps greatness. Perhaps we shall be posted together again, in sha Allah! Bonnes vacances!

  6. Heather,
    I feel so honored to have finally met you in Morocco yet so sad not to have had more time with you. I did not know what the final outcome of your assignment was so am sorry to hear of the changes but as most things go, it will probably work to your advantage to have this extra time. Dave and I will re-enroll for a future assignment and are keeping our fingers crossed that it will be sooner rather than later. As Dave says, “his ‘use by’ date is running out”. At the age of almost 70, he thinks we should continue service as soon as possible. Hope Peace Corps agrees and sends us somewhere SOON.
    It was wonderful being in Peace Corps with a person as talented as you and the people of Niger were indeed, fortunate to have shared a bit of time with you as well. All the best to you in future pursuits. Please keep us posted when you publish that book!!! Judy, RPCV, Niger, October 22, 2010-January 21, 2011

  7. Heather,
    What a great attitude to have! Amy is right. You’re destined to make a difference and will find a way no matter where you are. I’m glad you’re going to do some traveling. Have fun and get some rest.

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