Friday, September 26, 2014

Being Here

It's really hard to describe what being a Peace Corps Volunteer is like. Especially because it's hard to describe even to myself. I've tried to tell friends about this and I know it's a talk I'll have to give many times when I'm finished with service, but I think it will be nice to try and briefly summarize now and reflect on how it changes over the next year.

For one thing it's a dynamic experience, which inevitably causes a changing state of mind. In the first few months it was hard to form an opinion about anything since everything was new and shocking. But after time, maybe months 6-10, this new world became very old for me. I started to get frustrated with the culture, the people, and the things that used to be funny to me but then just seemed unhuman. Like seeing people dangling from busses on the highway, eating rice every day, and recieving constant verbal derision. Integration became a task of forgetting how weird it was for me to be here, something made impossible by my bizarre environment. That's pretty hard to talk about too. Because this is supposed to be a magical experience in which there is so much personal growth and peace. But the truth is, part of this is really difficult. I sometimes feel much less patient than I was. I don't appreciate everyday interactions as I should. And I'm still homesick. I am continually trying to embrace that reality and find out how to make it work. And it should be talked about. I shouldn't avoid these conversations just because the Peace Corps has been my dream. I have learned though that this will likely always be a transitive time of my life. I don't think I'll ever be completely unaware of how foreign I am here; something I pictured for myself before I arrived. I still have opportunities to thrive, impact, and inspire, but I emphasize my limited time here to work partners. After I'm gone, they will continue to do this work and they will have to thrive, impact, and inspire. In sum, that's how it feels to be a PCV for me; living in a transitional life-changing experience while trying to pass on some inspiration to those around me. 

So yes, I've had some really dark times that are likely to continue. And yes, I was pretty scared of Ebola for a few days after the case in Dakar. But no, I'm not going home. I am one year into this and at times my coping strategies still don't work. But I'll persist out of half dim-wittedness and half stubbornness. As corny as it sounds too, I signed up to help people and to serve my country. That job's not yet done. And possibly never will be. But I've found out that's hardly the point. 

For those in the Northeast who I haven't been in touch with, I am sorry. Keep doing what you're doing and know that I care. Although one year really felt like a year, I'm sure the second will go by quicker than we think. Cheers to another  (plus some). 

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