The opinions expressed in this blog are mine, and mine alone. They do not represent the views of the Peace Corps or the United States Government.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Volunteer Cycle

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
-language plateaus
-cross cultural frustration/shock

-comparison to others
-over zealousness
-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
-consolidate friendships

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.


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  2. You're not alone in all of this. I feel the same way and am going through it right now too. At least we can take some comfort in that. Hopefully this too shall pass... Chin up friend! We'll get through this! (P.s. Super jealous you have a gym in Shoshong! That'll be great!)

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  4. Hi Honey,
    I have an idea of what you are going through. I was in VISTA in northern Georgia and there were some tough times. I had moved from northern California to the hills of Georgia. I questioned what I was doing and relate to a lot of what you've commented about. I am glad to read others and know that you are not alone. It's important to be able to share what you are feeling. That's a huge gift. I love you so very much, Mama