The Makings of an Adventure
The beginning of an adventure is never the most exciting part of the adventuring process. It is, however, the most necessary. That is where I find myself now in the lead up to my departure. On June 11th I will board a flight in the nation’s capital and fly to a place I never knew existed just 9 months prior. If that is not an adventure, surely they do not exists in this reality.
In September, I applied for a position in the Peace Corps for Costa Rica. During the interview process I was asked if I would be interested in a different assignment. As long as the interview process is, my greatest fear was the extension to my wait. I remember thinking that if an adventure is what you are looking for, an undisclosed destination wouldn’t diminish any aspect of the life changing adventure I was seeking. After not so much thought I told the recruiter that I’d be interested in a post that allowed me to learn Arabic.
It was not long until I heard back from the Peace Corps and was informed that I had been placed in consideration for a position in a place called Comoros. I read the email with what felt like tangible excitement. The idea that I had an opportunity to go to a place I hadn’t known was simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. I immediately began researching everything I could about the the small island nation in the Indian Ocean.
A quick search turns up a tumultuous history for the small nation. Since voting to leave the umbrella of the French Empire, the nation has struggled for stability, suffering almost two dozen coups in the last 30 years. This fact initially leads to apprehension when considering it a destination. But when one digs a bit deeper, one finds a beauty unique to Comoros. A beauty that can be described in it’s own language, by it’s own people, in it’s own culture.
The first form of beauty comes in the islands independence. In 1975, a vote was held in which 3 of the 4 islands voted for their own independence. For the first time in nearly 100 years, the islands would once again be free. While independence has cost the islands much, there is certain existential beauty to choosing freedom in the face of the comfort of servitude.
In recent history, the islands have found that ever evasive political stability. And have done so in a beautifully unique way. The constitution of Comoros is not unlike that of the United States, with one beautifully unique twist. Responsibility of providing presidential candidates rotates between the islands each cycle. One island holds a primary election to chose candidates that they and the other two islands vote on later in a general election. This system has earned Comoros annual recognition from several international groups interested in democracy and ranking its practitioners.
Culturally, Comoros is a confluence of many unique factors. The vast majority of the country is Muslim so the omnipresent nature of Islam is apparent. But it also subscribes to the traditional vibrancy found within many island cultures around the globe. And yet, it retains much of the feel of the sub-Saharan cultures present throughout the continent. These three ancient influences have lead to a very beautifully unique and vivid culture unique to its people.
Linguistically, Arabic and French are known but the main language is Comorian, also known as Shikomoro. Shikomoro has, like the islands culture, a confluence of origins. It is known as a mixture of Swahili and Arabic, serving only to add to the islands unique beauty.
With all that being said, the place does look like this….
Oh and this thing goes off fairly regularly too… (20 times in the last century)
All things considered, it didn’t take long for me to agree to the interview. As many of you know I accepted a position to teach English with the Peace Corps on October 9th and have been preparing for the adventure ever since. Having recently received medical clearance, I am set to depart in early June. I hope to document, fairly regularly, my adventure here in this space. We’ll see how that plays out because as most of you whom I talk with regularly know, there is little certainty (comically so) at this point other than dates and the gist of the journey. I am extremely excited about this adventure, the growth and learning that shall ensue and sharing it all with you.