On Sept. 19, attorney Connie Postelli will leave legal practice behind and depart for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps. Postelli will be teaching English in Ukraine. But she knows little else about her trip.
“People ask me if I’m scared, and I tell them I don’t have enough information to be scared yet,” she said.
Last year, Postelli met a woman who was in her 60s and had just served with the Peace Corps in Albania for two years. “She had suddenly realized that with her life, she was just collecting stuff.” And Postelli began to think about how she, too, could take her life in a different direction.
“She and I talked for a while, and I thought: wow, this sounds good,” Postelli said.
Postelli began the 15-month application process last year, which included a 27-page application and 14-page health questionnaire. The Peace Corps requires that any health problems or concerns be thoroughly checked out before approving an applicant. Postelli, who turned 56 in April, said a series of medical tests and evaluations – along with a mental health assessment – took about four months to complete. Postelli said a few of her friends “were glad I had my head examined – and were surprised that I passed.”
Initially, Postelli was supposed to be heading to Turkmenistan, so she had been preparing to live in an arid climate where the Muslim culture required modest – yet cool – clothing. But in August, Turkmenistan withdrew its request for Peace Corps volunteers, and Postelli was reassigned to Ukraine.
She will spend 27 months there, the first three of which will be devoted to training, including 4.5 hours of language training every day. After 10 weeks, she’ll have to pass a language test, or she may be sent home. And she will live with a host family who speaks no English and will not have electricity, running water, or Internet access.
At the beginning of this year, Postelli merged her solo practice with another firm, so her clients would be taken care of. Since then, she’s been preparing for her trip and teaching English as a second language at her local library.
Postelli said her friends and family have been supportive of her decision.
“Most of them aren’t even surprised, because I’ve always had this personality that needs to save things,” she said.
Postelli said that until training is complete, she will not be permitted to receive any packages. And she is allowed to bring with her two suitcases, weighing no more than 100 pounds combined.
“I’m going to spend my weekend packing my suitcases and weighing them repeatedly,” she said.