I have just spent four days at my ‘pre-departure briefing’ – information, advice, networking, and an absolute brain overload! And too much food.
As the departure date looms, I just have to maintain the pace – fill in all those little bits, tick off the ‘to do’ list (that really only exists in my overloaded head) and go through all the doubts, worries, trepidations and fears that are to be expected before setting off on a big journey.
During the four days of the briefing I learnt all of the rules for what I (we volunteers and ‘representatives of the government of Australia’) should and shouldn’t do, say or think. What to say and what not to say, how to behave and how not to behave. We learnt that there are people employed to support us on our ‘missions’ (my word, not theirs) and there is in-country, international and support from home if we find ourselves in need. I learnt that our roles involve ‘capacity building‘ (the new catch cry for international aid).
Overall, I learnt that a hell of a lot has changed since I volunteered 22 years ago. That changes in line with neo-conservative government have far flung consequences that have a significant role in how we might attempt to live a meaningful life. That our ‘freedom’ only extends so far in what we are able to do, to say, to choose. Or to share.
I have organised two ‘see you later’ parties to share with friends and family. I have spent time with my gorgeous children and organised for their trip to come and see me for Christmas. I have said farewell to my dog, my house, and my life in its current state. One of my colleagues at the briefing said ‘oh, but it’s only a year’! I think of a year in my child’s life and it is huge. I want my year to be huge too. We only have so much time in this life – I want to make the most of all of it.