For people who regularly read this blog, you’ll likely find this entry slightly out of place or lacking in the humor I try to convey in my writing. I’d like to think of myself as an upbeat person, happy to wake up each day and satisfied with the cards I got handed in life. I try to have a mood that is on the up-and-up. But what comes up must come down. This week, in some ways, is a down week.
The side of Peace Corps I usually write about is the good one, the one full of chuckles and friendship and camaraderie. My musings attempt to be full of stories telling tales of late-night bonding, weary travel with friends, and finding souls that compliment your own. It’s insane anecdotes and breath-taking views. It’s vast dirt highways connecting regions with more differences between them than many countries. A joke here, a pithy sentence there, slap on a picture and –voila! – You’ve got a blog.
It’s hard to explain the way your emotions go haywire here. I promise, I’m not generally emotionally unstable in the States, but here, sometimes the perfect storm happens and the house of card you’ve so delicately built your service on comes crumbling down into a heap faster than you can blink. And then, you come crumbling down with it. I’ve had crying jags come and go, sometimes over nothing more than a broken bottle, a burned plate of food, or the heavy, heavy realization that I am still looking at another year in this country. Back home this would be cause for medication. Here it’s just how some of us deal with the pressures of living the life of a development worker. You breathe in, you breathe out, and do your best to pick yourself back up and keep moving on.
Last year around this time I was gearing up for my twenty-second birthday with all the enthusiasm that goes with a typical birthday of mine. As birthdays are wont to do, it’s only a week away again and this time next Thursday I’ll be another year older and only a small bit wiser. Last year’s holidays (which is something I consider a birthday to be along with the standard Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) were the first of their kind for me. The African Birthday, the African Halloween, the African Christmas. Surrounded by volunteers just as far away from their family as I was helped to soothe the prick of realizing that for the first time in your life there is no familiar face to wake you up to a booming version of ‘Happy Birthday’, list what they’re thankful for over turkey, or act as backboard on Christmas morning when wrapping paper is slam-dunked into a black Hefty bag.
This year the feeling of the holidays coming on doesn’t make me want to decorate a tree or dress in costume, it makes me want to hide under a blanket and only come out when the coast is clear of any festivities. It’s just not the same here, that time of year. What now used to be my favorite season is now dreaded. Can it just be January already? But then January is my Dad’s birthday, February is Valentine’s day, and the months just march on from there, each having a nagging reminder that this is not home, I am not home, and I will not be home for a unfortunately long time.
I write this entry not to be depressing, but to be truthful about all manners of my service. Some days are much harder than others, so hard that you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. For the next two weeks I’ll be in Bafia, the town my training took place in, helping to teach the new volunteers who arrived just last month. I’m hoping their joie de vivre will show me a new path in my service, one of renewed vigor and decreased apathy, restlessness, or jadedness. After all, being handed an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this happens, well, only once in a lifetime.
A very big “thank-you” is due for both family and friends who saw this mood coming on and pressed pause on their own lives to help out a person four thousand miles from them. The above issues are ones that every volunteer struggles with, or at the very least tolerates as a constant companion, lingering in the background waiting to speak up when you’re most vulnerable. The outpouring of support I’ve received from the people I love most has been astounding. The confidence they have in me helps to replenish the confidence I have in myself. Their enthusiasm for my service feeds my own. Their understand of my situation begs the tall-order of being nicer to myself, to give myself a break, and to take each day of this service one day at a time.