One Day At A Time

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.

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6 thoughts on “One Day At A Time

  1. I love you! I am sorry you’re in a valley right now instead of a peak! I miss you but I tell anyone who will listen (and some who won’t) how proud I am of my baby sister who is out changing the world and experiencing life. I know you can hang in there the entire time (which is why mom and dad had two kids–I’m good for sitting around and being mushy and you’re good for accomplishing things) and once you do, think how awesome the USA will seem! Unless R Money wins and I have also defected to Canada but still, they have Starbucks and fried things there. No puff puff but I’m sure we’ll make do. Anyway! YOU CAN DO IT. BE STRONG YOUNG BUCKAROO! WHO LOVES YOU? AL LOVES YOU! (sorry for stealing all your lines, Mom!)

  2. It was so wonderful talking to you this morning. I will be glad when Monday comes and you are back inb the saddle. What a nice letter Alison sent. I hope something wonderful comes your way this weekend. You are loved, Grandma

  3. Be of good cheer, my dear. You will be back soon enough and then you can do what you like, when ever you want. I thank you for being so selfless and for the caring and teaching that you are doing. You do make a difference, not everyone can say that and they live a life not anything like yours, not as fulfilled. What your missing is making you a more interesting person, besides it’s all been all about the stupid election and the economy anyway. The most boring period in US history and your in an exotic place (with exotic smells).

  4. You know what Georgia? I can relate to what you’re going through. I remember when I was traveling around the world in the Navy visiting far away places and seeing sights that I’ll never see again. There were times when I’d get so homesick. I thought my friends must be having more fun than me. I’m stuck here floating around the world and stopping in places like dreary old Hawaii, the Philippines, Singapore, Bangkok etc., etc., etc. (Thanks Yul Brynner). Holidays and birthdays were just another day. Now I look at how old your cousin Alex is and realize that he’s older than I was when I got out of the Navy and I thought I was OLD! at that point. He’s young! And you’re young too! I know you can’t just stop everyday and say Hey! I’m young and time’s gonna fly by and I’ll be home before you know it. But that’s actually the truth. You’ll be surprised when you look back and have the year that’s ahead of you behind you. It will seem like such a short time. Look forward to how much those holidays and birthdays are going to mean to you when you return. In the mean time, try to enjoy each day in some way and appreciate that you’re in frickin’ Africa! You’re the only person I know who’s ever been there! You’re an amazing person on an amazing adventure. I admire you greatly.
    Love,
    Uncle Bill

  5. Dearest Georgia,

    It was so good to see both you and Alison on video and be together as a family again. To steal one of her lines right back, “I love living in the future!” I hope it was clear to you how much we miss you and how eagerly everyone here awaits your return. You already have demonstrated more perseverance and fortitude than anyone I’ve ever known, so I know you have the tools to clear this emotional brush. Uncle Bill is right about how quickly time passes and how distant this slice of your life will be someday. Some of the most monumental challenges of my life are now just tiny little dots in the distance.

    I sure do understand what you mean when you say you want your remaining time to really count for something. Sometimes it helps to focus on your purpose. The hardest wait of my life was waiting for you to be born, not just because we were anxious to see you (of course we were!) but because I was so sick. There was no real cure but time. Your Grandma Howard saved our sanity when she made the calendar that still resides in your baby box. I was reminded that I was being productive. Reaching that point in the future when we would get to embrace our child and say, “we’ve been waiting so long to see you!” was the goal that kept us going through the worst times. (In fact, when we miss you badly today it still is). And near the end of my term, when the officials said we could see you a little earlier than scheduled, well, I didn’t have any problem with that, either!

    You have already made an enormous difference by being the first Peace Corps Youth Development volunteer ever to set foot in Nguti, Cameroon. I am sorry that your postmate’s situation caused a premature end to that gig. I hope you are able to be fruitful and happy in the time you have remaining. You are an incredibly talented person with a bright future ahead of you, no matter where the road leads next. Know that nothing can diminish the good you have already done there and remember there is a place here for you with us ANY time. Who loves you? Mom loves you!

  6. They’ve said it all…I have nothing to add but that I love you and I hope you have a reasonably Happy Birthday. To echo what everyone else feels….I’m so very proud (and a little envious) of you.
    I hang on to every word you write….Much love, Granny.

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