Ask Me Anything

This is a permanent invite that I should have posted a long time ago.  If you are looking into joining the Peace Corps and have random questions, feel free to ask me anything.  If you are in the Peace Corps and just want to know my experience, ask away.  If you have no affiliation with Peace Corps, I’ll still answer whatever you want.  Send me an email or find me on Facebook.  I’ve been through it all.  I bordered on Early Termination.  I have loved my service.  I have dealt with how romance effects service.  If you want advice or have a specific question, I’m sure I can help or point you in the right direction.

FFman@comcast.net

The Fishbowl Effect

Sad T-Rex

Sad T-Rex (Photo credit: iJammin)

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.

A Feeling I Cannot Shake

Something is off.  I’m doing well in my Final Site.  This is something else.  Not the strangeness of the place, the people, or the food.  This has to do with home.  I know most people would simply call it homesickness.  But that sounds to simple to me.  This is more.  To be honest…even if I Early Terminated right now and went back “home” to Colorado, I would have this feeling.  It’s an intense detachment.  I’m seeing all my connections fade.  I should have know this was inevitable…but was there even a way to accept it before?  I don’t believe so.

I don’t talk with friends back home very often.  When i do, I either feel a pang in my stomach or can’t find much to talk about.  The same, strange enough, is happening with my family.  Our conversations feel shorter.  Through no fault of anyone, all of the relationship’s I’ve built up for 23 years are fading.  I guess that is what happens when you are an ocean and and continent away.  It’s a pailful experience   I didn’t notice it until my kinda-relationship back home was put on hold.  This was also expected…but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I find myself relying on the support structure that I’ve built over the last ten weeks with other Peace Corps Volunteers.  Given, it is a strong support system.  I have no fear of going without advice and help.  It’s the transition of going from my usual support system to something entirely different that is getting at me.  I have these people who I regarded as immovable pillars in my life back home.  To know that I can not rely on the pillars in strange…and awkward.  I miss my friends.  I miss my family.  I miss my special someone.  I will always love them.  24 months and counting…

A poem I wrote today:

Inescapable 

Hiding or Fitting In?

Swearing In Ceremony

It’s been a while since I’ve updated.  The end of Peace Corps training is rather intense.  The studying mixes with the goodbye.  The goodbyes mix with finding out where you are going to spend the next two years of your life.  Anticipation mixes with anxiety.  Anxiety mixes with insanity.  Because every time I find myself realizing that I’m in Africa…I think to myself, “This is insane.”  Whether I’m frustrated or genuinely enjoying myself, being a part of Peace Corps is crazy.

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I’ve been in my final site for 36 hours.  It’s already been more than I could ever have anticipated.  As I walked toward my Host Family’s house, a random man started walking with me.  His English was pretty good so we started talking.  It took less than a minute before he asked me if I was Muslim.   I stumbled.  I knew this question was coming.  So few people in my training site knew English that I never had to deal with the question.  Suddenly I was dealing with it.  I said no, which brought up the inevitable follow-up question: “Are you Christian.”  Unsure of how to respond, I said, “Yes.  In America.”

 

It was my first act of hiding myself.  Many of my encounters involves simply not talking about certain aspects of myself that wouldn’t be culturally appropriate—like a dating life.  But this is different.  I will get this question a lot.  I have been advised by Peace Corps Volunteers to simple state that I am Christian.  Although I’ve been Agnostic all my life, now I have to hide it in a way that I’ve never had to in America.  Sure, it wasn’t always something openly accepted in America….but I never felt like I had to hide it.  Now I’m not entirely sure.

 

After by encounter with the stranger, I stopped at a park and tried to figure out the map I’d been given.  A few minutes later, my nine year old host brother found me and brought me back to my house.  It’s quite a nice house.  The older brother speaks English.  The mother is an amazing cook.  The father is a Headmaster at a private primary school.  All this in a beautiful mountainside town.

 

I spent yesterday exploring Bhalil.  I found the place that I’ll be teaching English.  I explored random road and forced myself to get lost.  In a town of 15,000 or so, I feel the need to explore every side road—it shouldn’t be too hard.  The town is amazing and I’ve already had plenty of random coversations with strangers—in broken English and broken Moroccan Arabic.

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Conversation Recap:
Stranger: What is your name.
Me: My name is Rachid.  What is your name?
Stranger: My name is yours.
Me: Your name is Rachid?
Stranger: No.  My name is Isyers.
Me: Oooooo

 

I’ve been in country for 75 days.  I’m already starting to feel comfortable in my own skin here.  A lot has changed on the homefront.  I’m having a hard time staying in contact with my friends.  Relationships are changing with those I felt closest too.  It’s all a very complicated process.  I don’t that will change.  With time, however, I’ll feel like 800 days is doable.   Right now, 2015 feels like a long way off.  Which could be a good thing or a bad thing.  I’m doing my best to turn it into a good thing.