There’s a pain that comes with Peace Corps service. At least it accompanies the first 100 days of service. I can’t pretend that it won’t also be a part of the next 700 days, but it will be less intense. It’s something that Peace Corps warned us about. When they told us about it, I didn’t understand. How could I? Now I’ve been through it. Now I understand. Now…how do I explain it?
Peace Corps’ description: You are always “on.” In the Peace Corps manual, you will find a list of Core Expectations. I have number five circled: “Recognize that you are responsible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your personal conduct and professional performance.” Add that on top of the reality that you are the only American in town, and you’ve got yourself quite the fish bowl.
This hit me hard today. I wanted to do some writing. I needed some inspiration, so I looked through some old pictures. The pictures stabbed me with memories. Beautiful memories of a time that feels so long ago. Whenever I get like this, I like to go for a walk. It clears my head. But I can’t go for a walk. My host family will ask where I am going. I’ll tell them I want to walk. They’ll tell me it’s not safe with all the dogs out at night.
How do you deal with this? My host family has a puppy. I thought I would love it. The thing is, that little dog reminds me of my two dogs—who died within two months of each other right before I left for the Peace Corps. But I can’t be sad. I can sneak into my room—because that comes across as antisocial. And I can’t cry. Having someone ask questions would only complicate the situation.
But…I move into my own apartment in 13 days or so. That’s the small light at the end of the tunnel. It’ll be nice to have a whole apartment rather than a small room. It’ll be great to control my diet. It’ll be nice to not be expected home at a certain hour. Most of all, I can go for walks whenever I want. It’s this beginning part—these first 100 days of service that have worn on me.
I know there’s a part of me that will always be “on.” That part of me will either learn to adjust or sigh a long awaited sigh of relief when I finally hit American soil in 2015. That’s such a strange thought. The idea of being here two years is realistic now. The thought of returning home is so…surreal. All the food. The flat sidewalks. Movie theaters. Strong Internet. Not having trouble understanding someone in a basic conversation.
I feel like I’m in a constant state of over-alertness.
I need a vacation.