Before I joined the Peace Corps I wouldn’t have thought twice about eating a bowl of cereal, waving goodbye to my wife and walking to work. On Friday morning, all three things made me happy.
I had corn flakes for breakfast with a cup of coffee and a banana, as I sometimes ate back home. Here in Moldova, though, for the past two months my wonderful host families served me breakfasts of kasha, sausages, eggs, chicken cutlets, spaghetti or hot cereal. I enjoyed the food but yearned for cold cereal and a cup of coffee. On Friday, that’s what I had.
A day earlier, Champa and I moved to Ialoveni, the town near Moldova’s capital where we expect to serve as volunteers for the next two years. We’re staying with a local family but are cooking for ourselves. The corn flakes were included in the first three bags of groceries we bought for $16 at a nearby market.
After breakfast, I waved goodbye to Champa, who stayed home to finish our unpacking. Once again, that was unremarkable, except that she and I are now together again after being separated through most of our training. We knew in advance we would live in different villages during training, since we work in different programs. We made the best of the situation but, after 36 years of marriage, we really missed each other.
Similarly, it doesn’t sound like a big deal for someone who has worked for four decades to get up and go to work. Yet it’s been more than a year since I left my job in North Carolina to pursue a new life of adventure and service with Champa. Friday morning was my first “go to work” day since then. Peace Corps has assigned me to assist Ialoveni’s county government with development projects and to help the local community in other ways. This time around, I’m not wearing a suit. I don’t have a staff. But it’s important work and I’m excited to get started.
In these and so many other ways, being “not exactly retired” has helped me to see my previous life with new eyes. On Friday morning alone, I savored things as unremarkable as a bowl of cereal, the shower I took before breakfast and the cool morning that followed a long hot spell without air conditioning.
Such simple pleasures were there in front of me when I lived in America. It’s only after I came halfway around the world that I noticed them again. I’d feel foolish if I weren’t so grateful for the nudge.