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.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Life Progressing

I have been an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) for two months, even though I technically haven't returned anywhere.  I am still in Botswana, living in the capital, Gaborone.  The last two months have been busy, to say the least.  Mom and dad visited.  Right after them, a friend of mine from Germany came.  I have been living with friends with bags scattered in a few different houses.  I haven't wanted to sign a lease on a place until I knew for sure that I would be staying here for a while.

Good news is that I got a job that I really enjoy!  I am program assistant for CIEE Gaborone, which stands for the Center for International Educational Exchange.  We organize programs for students and faculty who wish to visit Botswana.  The students come for a semester or summer study abroad session; the faculty for week-long seminars.  It feels good to be personally responsible for something again.  One challenge of Peace Corps is that we are not in control of the success or failure of a project.  We aren't supposed to just call someone up and make it happen.  We are supposed to be building capacity so others can organize events and projects in our absence.  If we do it ourselves, how would things be sustainable?

[Yet, over the course of Peace Corps service many volunteers questioned the notion of building capacity.  A volunteer I really admire said that she taught best by being a good role model.  She worked with partners at her organization, but was responsible for organizing events.  She didn't wait for others to do it.  And sure, perhaps it didn't all continue after she left, but she made an impact in the meantime.  I always liked that and sometimes wished I had done a bit more of that myself.  And as an aside, most of our projects don't continue after we leave, regardless of how many locals we involve.  It's just the reality.]

Lately people have been asking me what was most challenging about PC or what I liked the most.  Luckily I don't have to answer often.  Since I am still in Botswana, I only face these questions with the occasional ex-pat encounter.  It is more difficult to come up with those answers than the questioners realize.  Distilling two years of frustration, small victories, anxiety, pain, tears, learning, growing, and self-realizations into one sentence is almost hurtful.  But it seems like people almost expect that--like we should be rehearsing our answers in the mirror before we go and face the world.  God forbid we're not quite sure what to tell people who have no conception of this experience.  But I digress.

I am 24, almost 25, with a real sense of new opportunities and responsibilities.  I don't yet have the feeling of getting older or time ticking.  Yet, somehow, people have a lot of advice about what I should be doing to "plan for the future" and "build something" as if life is a race that I can win or lose.  I have learned that people have their own idea of what denotes success in life.  That's fine.  And we women are still asserting our right to satisfying careers, attempting to bring home the bacon and mother the kids at the same time.  In the states, the first question we ask someone is "what do you do?" as if someone's job is the sole marker of their worth as a human being.  And once we reach that comfortable point in our career, then what?  We just sit there for 20 years trying to create new goals, new ways to enhance the mind and keep the juices flowing?

I really like that I don't have a goal in mind.  At this point, I can envision no perfect job for myself.  All I know is what brings me joy.  And I have realized that is how I want to live my life.  My universal goal will be to do what makes me happy and fulfilled.  I mean that with humility rather than selfishness.  I want to make enough money to live, that is true.  But I will get there at my own pace.  Life is all about the journey.  It's a waste if it's not enjoyed.