Where helping is an adventure

Candice Lanette
Candice Lanette

Candice Lanette, 25, of Langhorne has graciously taken my last-minute call and is cradling the phone and answering my questions about her upcoming adventure, when the family dog, Janey, a mixed breed, manages to get out of the house and then tear across the snow after birds.

“Jane! Jane! Excuse me one minute. Jaaaaaney! Daaad!”

Add to it that Candice’s parents already are pressing her to wrap up the call. They were all to leave for a send-off breakfast at Grandmom’s at 10 a.m. Time’s wasting.

But as Candice juggles us all — me, the dog, her family — there isn’t a hint of irritation or impatience in her voice.

It’ll be a long time before she’s up against any of this stuff, so she seems to let it whirl around her without fussing. There’ll be far more difficult challenges in the days to come.

On Tuesday, Candice headed to the airport bound for Zambia, Africa. She will live and work there as a part of the Peace Corps for two years.

Her task will be aquaculture — caring for and expanding the yields of tilapia fisheries that feed locals and generate income. All of it new to her.

Candice, a graduate of Neshaminy High School and the State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, applied to the Peace Corps because she likes the idea of “of giving back, learning to live with less, traveling abroad and learning another language.”

She will live without electricity, without running water and without a soul she knows from home. In all, just 264 U.S. volunteers are in Zambia.

A part of me understands why Candice is going. The part that craves new challenge and adventure. The part that thinks it’d be fun to ride a bike half an hour to lug home fresh water.

The rest of me — the big part that craves creature comforts like clean tap water at my fingertips, electric appliances, familiar faces and light when the sun goes down — is grateful it’s Candice and not me packing travel bags.

The Peace Corps has been on Candice’s radar since she heard a presentation in her second year of college. It was in the college library and, in all honesty, Candice went for the free pizza.

Three alumni who’d completed Peace Corps tours of duty told of their experiences. “This is me,” Candice thought to herself.

She’s spent recent years in organic farming. Started with an internship the summer of her freshman year and it grew to full time. First, a diversified organic farm in New Hampshire, then 7 Stars, an organic dairy farm in Phoenixville, Chester County.

Long hours — 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. most days — hard work, and about as satisfying as work can be.

“Very satisfying. Because it’s a slow lifestyle, and rewards are tangible,” Candice explained. She loved when a passerby on the road would stop her in the morning as she led cows to a field. “Hey! I just had some of your yogurt!”

In Zambia, she expects the same kind of connection to others through her work.

Is she nervous? Well, yes. About personal safety. “Some things are simply out of your control,” she said.

She’s been trained to be aware of her surroundings and to dress and behave in keeping with the culture in Zambia so as not to draw extra attention. Over the course of her stay, she expects to win the confidence of the families she will be working with so that they, too, will look out for her.

During the first three months, she will live with a host family to learn the local language and integrate into the culture.

Her mother, Marie Lanette, worries about her. Her father, John Lyons, keeps his worry at bay by putting together plans to visit her.

All, including her sister Rachel, were relieved to learn that cellphone service there is reliable and inexpensive. It means she can touch base with home regularly.

The Peace Corps has stressed to her that service will be difficult emotionally, mentally, physically.

But first, there would be a quiet, safe, normal, perfectly comfortable Sunday breakfast with her folks.

I wished her safe travels.