Some PCVs from Senegal wrote "Critical Periods in the Life of a Peace Corps Volunteer." In it they included a 27-month cycle of the challenges of service. I have had a difficult time at site the past couple of weeks. A volunteer friend of mine in Botswana said that, characteristically, November is a really tough month for us. I decided to look up the Senegalese cycle and see if my feelings are typical. This is what I found for the period of 7-10 months of service:
-slow work progress
-cross cultural frustration/shock
-comparison to others
-uncertainties about adaptation abilities
-intolerance with host culture
-cards/letters home to forgotten relationships
-talk with friends about slow starts and failures
-simple projects: cooking, personal crafts, meetings, garden for self
I am currently experiencing all three of the issues listed above. When I was first at site, I spent so much time out in the community meeting people because I didn't really have much else to do. But now that I am finding myself researching and actually writing some proposals, I feel less connected with the community. It is also difficult because so many people know me but I cannot tell if I have met people already and just don't know their names, or if I should be introducing myself. I also used to do a lot of work in the schools but because they are closed, that joy that came from working with students has faded. I was so energized about my work. I miss that feeling.
I used to be very confident in Setswana, but even that is beginning to wane as I am not keeping up with practicing as much as I should. I am becoming complacent. And I am unsure if not being as productive (or not feeling as productive) is natural and perhaps even NECESSARY at this point in my life, or if I am just being lazy.
Cross-cultural frustrations (issue) cause moments of intolerance (reaction), I think. I used to laugh when people asked me if I would get married in Botswana. I didn't mind when 5 men a day tried to convince me to marry them. And a couple months ago, I decided that people weren't being rude when asking me for money, but rather simply thought I had money to give. My perceptions of all of those things have now changed. As I become more comfortable in my community, I feel like people should realize that I am not a sex object nor an ATM. I am a person. But perhaps I am taking all of this more personally because of the other frustrations I am going through.
I am more homesick than ever before, save the first few days I arrived in Shoshong. I am uncertain about my abilities--not just adaptation, but also my ability to actually help people here and be of some use.
I have written more letters home this week and have been spending some quality time with good friends I have here. I am also cooking more for myself. I have joined a gym in Shoshong which I know is helping. Otherwise I don't really know what to do to get out of this slump. A couple months ago, a friend of mine wrote in his blog that PC service is hard because we are left alone with ourselves and must confront all of the issues/questions about ourselves that we were never confronted with before. He is right. I just hope I can get back into the swing of things soon.