This evening I got a call I didn’t expect to get for at least another month.
The placement rep at VSO called to discuss my options. He explained that there were two placements I was suitable for, one in May and one in June. He thought it would be better to go for the one in June in order to give me more time to prepare. I asked how long did I have to make a decision. ‘By tomorrow’ he said. ‘By the end of the day?’ I asked. ‘No, by tomorrow morning, 11am the latest’. Okay then. I asked for the details of the placements to be able to make an informed decision.
The placement in June is in Kenya. A country that I have visited and loved. I have friends there. I have briefly volunteered there. I know a bit of the culture and have a smattering of Swahili (wapi cho means ‘where is the toilet’). Kenya is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited.
The placement in May is in Cambodia, a country I have never visited and if I am honest, I did not expect to be given as a placement as there is a higher ratio of placements in Africa. If I had been told that I was going to Cambodia, I suspect I would have been surprised but excited. Being given a choice of placement; and a very short time frame to make the decision made me nervous but I said ‘send me to Cambodia, I have visited Kenya before’. He said he would send me some information for me to make my informed decision. Then I started fretting.
I looked online at the VSO Banan community in Cambodia but couldn’t get Kenya out of my head. I am going through a stressful time at the moment, trying to move house and self publish my book both within the next 7 days. Let that sink in.
Now is not necessarily a good time to be making big decisions, but it had to be done.
I went home and sat down with pen and paper. I used a coaching exercise called ‘PIN’. You ask yourself what is positive, interesting and negative about your choice. I did this for Kenya and Cambodia. I had a lot more positives for going to Kenya. But, I really pushed myself, teasing out all of the positive, interesting and negative elements of each choice. A big negative for me was that I don’t know anything about Cambodia. I had to go back to basics and write out all of the reasons why I wanted to do VSO in the first place. There were 9 reasons, including adding to my CV; gaining International development experience etc etc. But a third of the reasons for me wanting to do VSO was to challenge myself; to not play small and to push my comfort zone. I have also finished a personal development course which encouraged me to do things where I felt wonder about myself and my achievements- hence the self publishing a book.
As I went through all my reasons, I realised that I would achieve several of them in either country. However, in terms of challenging myself; feeling wonder at my achievement and not playing small, Cambodia was the answer. I had to wrangle with myself some more. Why do this, you may ask? Why not take the option that is more familiar? If I am honest, part of me doesn’t know, except part of me wants to do what’s best for me. I know that because I am hugely scared of the unknown, in this case Cambodia, that the pay off will be greater. This is not an easy decision to make, and I am gritting my teeth even as I write this. But in terms of proving to myself that I am brave; building on my volunteering in a new continent ( I have volunteered several time in Africa before) and it being a good financial time to go, Cambodia is it.
So May 2018 will see me embarking on a new adventure. I am scared but I am always a bit scared. I comfort myself by saying it will only be 4 months and who knows, I may grow to love Cambodia as much as I love Kenya. If I don’t, well at least I know.
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