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.
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…
I feel extremely accomplished. I finished my most difficult Elance job yesterday–and the client is very happy with the work. Today, I helped clean my house, spent a good deal of time editing, and applied to a couple new jobs. I feel like Summer is fully underway–which is great considering it’s the solstice today. I just want to edit and read for the next couple days. that would leave me with a smile on my face.
Today’s memory is a strong challenger for one of the saddest memories of my life. The story is about the death of my friend’s seven-month old son. I wrote the memory while at my coffee shop. I teared up quite a bit and did everything I could to hide my tears from the people around me. It’s so strange writing emotional things while in public–like you are the keeper of a secret.