A few years ago in Honduras my best friend Jeb and I were sleeping on two tiny, metal beds in a room where the walls fell short of meeting the roof. I woke that night in a state of panic as my bed was being slammed back and forth off the wall. I pleaded with Jeb to stop, afraid that he’d had a psychotic break and I would open my eyes to see him standing over me calmly as he stared into my eyes and robotically threw me and my bed into the wall. Even worse, he would be dead and I would be on the verge of a night of torture by bloodthirsty intruders.
When I finally had the courage to open my eyes no one was there. I looked across the room and Jeb was still in his bed. After years of being scared by every rustle of the leaves it was finally happening, I was about to be murdered by a ghost. I wanted to scream Jeb’s name or for someone to help but the only thing that escaped was a high-pitched whimper. All of those nights lying awake afraid to sleep, the hours spent coming up with plans on what to do during a ghost attack, the hairs lost fleeing my hairline over the stress of an otherworldy murder were all in vain. I chickened out and succumbed to defeat without even a word.
Around this very low point in my life Jeb woke up and we looked at each other in horror. He gained composure first and yelled, “hit the ground, it’s a tornado!” Sudden relief filled my body. “Oh, just a tornado.” I rolled off my bed into the middle of the room and took shelter under nothing. The large beam barely holding up the roof, right above my body, shook and rattled as my bed continued to thrash.
In this whole ordeal, this is when I was most calm. My friend hadn’t lost his mind, there were no murderers or ghosts, just a tornado, the only thing from this list that should actually be a concern. It turns out that it wasn’t a tornado, it was a 5.6 magnitude earthquake that cracked the walls of the bunkhouse we were staying in. I did probably the worst thing to do in a tornado, or an earthquake, but God had spared me once again. I spent the next day being more upset that I had failed my first ghost test than the reality that my bones should have been crushed by a metal beam.
Joining the Peace Corps, moving to Thailand for 27 months, and starting my training to become a Thai speaking, English teacher reminds me of laying unprotected under a shaking beam in a high magnitude earthquake, being calm and grateful that it was “just a tornado” and not a murderer or ghost. It reminds me that I packed a Swiss army knife that is currently poking holes through my socks because I can’t get the knife piece to go back in but didn’t think to bring a wallet to carry my money. It reminds me that I know the taglines for every Real Housewife of Atlanta but not how to order food in my new native tongue.
Luckily, this time I get to be overconfident because I’m not actually really all that underprepared. Everyday it becomes more clear that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. After two days of training all of the worries that I should have had would be gone. Peace Corps knows what they’re doing and I have no doubt that I’ll be prepared to speak, teach, and stay safe for the next two years.