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, June 19, 2012

One Year

During training, many volunteers came to lead sessions.  They helped us with everything--how to purchase internet, how to navigate the buses, cultural name it, we were able to ask them.  One thing we continued to hear was that it really takes one year to feel comfortable enough in your village in order to start doing some real work.  It takes that long for people to trust you, to know what you are there to do, and to want to work with you.

The "one year left" mark brings with it many reflections for me, in no particular order:

1.  At some point soon, I will have to start thinking about what I want to do after Peace Corps.  That got me thinking about how to represent this experience on a resume (a daunting task).  In thinking about this, I wondered what I would say if someone asked me the biggest thing I learned from Peace Corps.  So here is my current answer: everything you think you know about the world can be challenged if you truly understand it from someone else's perspective.

2.  There is no real way to accurately describe this experience to someone who has not gone through it. Obviously my fellow Botswana PCVs understand it better than most, but the majority of the time I am in my village alone.  This journey is uniquely mine and no one will be able to claim they have done exactly what I have.

3.  There are many things we hear about PC service before we leave the states.  One of the most widely used quotes about PC is, "It's the toughest job you'll ever love."  Generally, I dislike clichés.  That being said, it is remarkable how much we can simultaneously love an experience that makes us cry, scream, feel alone, insecure and insignificant.

4.  As humans, there are going to be times when we are unhappy.  To put it bluntly, we are going to get pissed off.  There is no way around it.  But we can lessen the frequency and severity of those instances by controlling our reaction to them.  Instead of being pissed off that no one came on time to a meeting, we can bring a book while we wait.  We will then be available whenever people decide to show up.  We can understand that people don't mean to offend us when asking us for money or calling us "lekgoa."  We can know, no matter how many people we ask not to do this, that it will continue to happen.  Accepting the way things are can save us a lot of headache and hassle.  I like to explain it this way:

Unhappiness does not come from the way things are,
But rather from our wish that they were otherwise.

5.  There is something to be said for contentment.  Contentment does not mean that one is not looking for better opportunities and improvements in one's life.  Contentment means that one does not need external validations to be happy.  Americans were raised knowing that we have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  Ironically, the pursuit of happiness seems to be the source of all unhappiness.  Too often, we feel the need to reach a certain point in our lives, by which we think we will be happy...a job, a marriage.  We want our life to look a certain way.  That means happiness.  I refuse to live like this.  The destination of the journey of life is death, so I am going to enjoy the journey.

I don't necessarily think it takes a full year to start doing things in our villages.  By this point, people in my group have started community gardens, taught Life Skills classes, planned Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) camps for girl empowerment, taught basketball, advocated for the rights of people with disabilities...just to name a few.  But for me, there is an ease of living that has developed over the past month.  I don't feel like I need to force anything.  I no longer have an idea of what I "should" do.  I know what people in my community want to work on and I am ready to support them in their endeavors.

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