Pre-Service

The Postcard Project

As I prepare to leave my old New Jersey home for my soon-to-be island home, I got to thinking about postcards. 

When is the last time you sent a postcard?  We still share our adventures incessantly, of course, through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all of that.  But it's not the same. We no longer 'wish you were here.' 

When I was younger, I used to be a huge postcard fan. It was fun to write them to my cousins and friends from home as my family traveled cross-country in our motor home. My love for postcards (and snail mail in general) still exists and so I wonder why the act of sending them has died.

Last year, the U.S. Postal Service processed 770 million stamped postcards in 2014. That's down from 1.2 billion in 2010. I think it's a shame because a postcard offers a whole lot more than a 'like' on Facebook or a favorite on Instagram. It provides a less narcissistic connection from one place in the world to another and a conversation between two people. And of course a snapshot of the location, whether beautiful, cheesy, informative or generic.

So here's my idea: During your travels this summer (and in the next two years) write a postcard and send it my way. I don't care where you are (whether you never leave your hometown or find yourself in Antarctica), I want to hear from you! I will feature them on this blog and start a collection to show the world through postcards. 

Here's my address during the first three months of my service. (I'll update it once I get assigned my site in Madagascar). 

Olivia Prentzel, PCV
Bureau du Corps de la Paix
B.P. 12091
Poste Zoom Ankorondrano
Antananarivo 101

Madagascar

Oh, and make sure to include your address so I can return the favor. :)

Why I Decided to Quit My Job To Join the Peace Corps

You should know, I'm a real sucker for the romance of journalism. Its very successes as a public service and ability to empower and educate readers by uncovering truths is what got me hooked as a college student working for my school newspaper. You could blame my naivete for still seeing journalism in its glory (a newspaper reporter has actually been ranked as the worst job ever), but for some reason I don't foresee my enthusiasm fading. I can resist the cynicism.

My favorite stories I wrote while working for The Record, New Jersey's second largest daily newspaper, were the ones that I was able to illuminate a slice of life that was unknown to others.

It was when after a same-sex couple saw Steven and Jose Lassalle and their newly adopted daughter, Jolie's faces on the front page, they realized their dream of adopting a child through the state's welfare system as gay men could become a reality. It was when a reader emailed me to inquire about adopting Boris, an orphan from Russia visiting the States for surgery, who's smile brightened a whole town. And when Arlene Romoff, who lost her hearing in her twenties, told me that my story captured what most people don't know about cochlear implants. Storytelling has the ability to seamlessly connect people.  

While in the Peace Corps I will experience life through a new lens as I work to build trust with the Malagasy people and integrate into the community and culture. I will try new foods, learn a new language, explore new lands and meet new people. As I travel 8,678 miles from home, I will be throwing myself into a environment that couldn't be more unlike New Jersey. That's the whole point. 

It’s one of the more extreme, distant places that you hear about but that you know you’ll never go to unless something really weird summons you.
— Darren Aronofksky, CNN's Parts Unknown

While I leave my comfort zone and find new opportunities to tell stories, I hope my tales of this crazy adventure can illuminate life on the world's fourth largest island, making Malagasy culture more familiar and less distant for those so far away. Something tells me that Madagascar has a lot of stories to be told and I'm ready to tell them. 

Welcome aboard.