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.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The United States of America

Over the past month, I have had a couple of wonderful mini vacations.  There is nothing better than going somewhere for a weekend and feeling rejuvenated.  I want to write about these, but I can't do them justice without photos and my internet is too slow today to upload them.  So look out for posts in the future about the Salt Pans and Machaneng.

On my way back to Shoshong today, a man asked me how I was liking Botswana.  I told him I liked it, liked my work and liked Shoshong.  He asked me if I was going to stay in Botswana.  Before now, my answer to that question was always, "I don't know."  But I now know the answer is "no."  I will not spend the rest of my life here.  And I told him so.

He looked at me and said, "But you should stay and get married in Botswana."  This is not new sentiment.  I hear this multiple times per week--usually everyday at least once.  All volunteers hear this, regardless of their level of Setswana ability.  However, I think some Batswana see my interest in and acquisition of the language as indicative of a love of their culture and way of life.  They aren't necessarily wrong.  I do enjoy aspects of the culture here.  But I have learned the language to have a better experience while here (and to be better able to do my job), not so that I can marry a Motswana.

I responded, "No.  I miss my culture and my people.  I will return to the United States."  He said, "Ahh, you just need to adapt.  You'll learn."  The fact that this man wants me to stay in his country is flattering, I suppose.  And I know he means well, but there is no better to way to put this: I am sick of having this conversation with locals.  ABSOLUTELY sick of it.

Some Peace Corps volunteers never leave.  Of course that happens in every country.  But I am sick of locals telling me that I am Motswana.  In Shoshong, they tell me that every day, simply because I speak the language.  Again, I understand that they mean no harm but I dislike it.  I am an American woman.  And I have never felt prouder in saying that.  Being away from somewhere makes you notice things you never did before.  For all of its problems, the United States of America is an unbelievable country.  I love it.  And it is my home, for better or worse.  It's where my family is.  It's where my childhood, high school and college friends are from.  It's where people understand how to treat me the way that I need.  They don't always do it right, but at least we have a common denominator.  We understand each other.  I am fortunate to have amazing friends in Botswana.  But there is nothing like spending time with the people who watched you grow up.

A friend of mine from the states came on the Salt Pan trip.  His name is Adam.  There were so many moments when I would look at him and know exactly what he was thinking.  I felt so at home just to be around someone who really knows me.  That's what I miss...calling my friends and having them know what's wrong simply by the tone of my voice.  I miss my mom insisting on tucking me in or sending me Easter baskets, regardless of my age.  I miss my dad waking me in the morning to go to school and listening to the Beatles on the radio with him at 6 am.  I miss being able to just call someone, not to worry about airtime or network problems.

I don't often write about these things.  I write about cross-cultural hardships or moments of joy when I completed a project.  But there are these moments--the moments where we miss home more than anything.  And it doesn't mean we will come home early.  It just means we miss it, plain and simple.

All of this reminds me of the ending of "The Alchemist," which I just finished reading.  (SPOILER ALERT)  When the main character reaches the pyramids of Egypt where he thinks he will find his treasure, he discovers that the treasure is actually back home.  In the book it isn't a metaphor.  He goes to his hometown and actually finds a hidden box of gold.  But it clearly is a metaphor for life.

Because I studied International Relations, most people around me in college traveled.  I never questioned the fact that my future would be full of learning about new places.  But we forget that most people in the world have either no ability or no desire to travel to other countries.  And out of the small percentage that travel, very few actually live somewhere new like PCVs do.  We are fortunate--that's for sure.  Seeing the world is a beautiful gift.  Yet, it is perfectly okay to just want to stay home.  And it is perfectly okay to say, "I will complete my two years, but then I am coming home."

These feelings come and go, obviously.  Next week I may want to stay here forever.  But it's also okay not to.

No comments:

Post a Comment