I am finally, officially, a Peace Corps volunteer. It happened a little while back ago but unfortunately, I have been quite lazy (read busy). Our ceremony marked the last time that the entirety of our group would regularly see one another. Long gone are the days where seeing another American every day is familiar. My service has truly begun. The hardships that I faced during PST were real; some still stand before me. However, new hardships take the forefront, namely seclusion, and decision.
Although I am quite close to the next volunteer, a mere five minutes, there is some kind of magic that occurs once you get to site. In a way, the autobus is C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe. When you step off the bus and step on to site you feel disconnected; a rarity that many American’s are never afforded. From a Peace Corps Volunteers perspective, this is either frightening or welcoming. If frightened, it isn’t uncommon for the volunteer to withdraw from their site. To scurry off to the nearest town or city in an effort to reconnect with society. If they welcome the seclusion the volunteer likely receives the name of a “site rat” or someone who never leaves.
While both reactions are drastically different, I look at neither as better than the other. Both reactions are choices the volunteer must make in order to keep a healthy well-being.
With this said, I am happy with the balance I have found between being in one place too much and the other not enough. There is this ever so thin sliver of time that I rest in. I have found an ability to see my friends enough and still spend much time with my host-family.
How should I spend my time? What to do? When to do it? How to do it? Where to do it? These are questions that register most often.
How should I spend my time? Currently, and for the rest of my service, I am co-teaching at a school for twenty hours a week. But when I am finished I have a good deal of time. Time to pursue other roles. These roles are otherwise known as secondary projects. There are a wide variety of possibilities and perhaps that’s where the first question comes in to play and the others follow closely behind.
What to do? Well, there are many things that I would like to do, but, it does not matter what I would like. The decision is ultimately up to the people. My role is to help facilitate community development through empowerment. It is not my role to appear at a site and solve problems with magical government bucks. I should meet with my neighbors, hear their concerns and help create solutions.
So, as of now, I am faced with the decision of when to start. But before I do, I want to get comfortable co-teaching and understanding the rhythm of the school. At the moment this is my highest responsibility.
I hope all of you back in Florida are doing well. Irma took a shot at you, but most people underestimate Floridians. You all would be happy to know that I have a great support system here and many of my friends have reached out to me asking on your behalf. I was happy to tell them that many of you were without serious damage. I wish you all a swift recovery as your homes and the community heal from the storm.