Optimistic Outlooks

I am aware that I have a problem ‘romanticizing’ my experiences here… I don’t know… maybe it’s a coping mechanism. Besides, my mom always told me if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say it all.

I realized I’ve done a disservice to my readership. I haven’t always painted a picture that is accurate.

I’m two months short of my one year anniversary in Swaziland and I have more stories than the average person. I have laughed, prayed, cried, and rolled my eyes here more than I can count since entering this world 28 years ago. 😂

My life has fundamentally changed through my experiences with the Peace Corps. It has tested my strength over and over and over again but I will never ever trade it for anything. This has no doubt been one of the HARDEST jobs I’ve had.

After integration I had expectations that projects would start to unfold and community members would be motivated to work. But instead I’ve had to deal with:

  • Miscommunication with community members.
  • Not finding solid counterparts for projects. (PC requires us to work with a people in the community so that any development that occurs comes directly from community motivation and is therefore sustainable well after I leave).
  • Making friends in the community -but friends slowly transitioning to jobs or schools elsewhere -perpetuating my loneliness.
  • Being stood up for meetings and/or people not returning messages.

For months these little annoyances manifested itself into a black cloud that left me feeling shattered, complacent, stressed, and depressed. It affected my service in so many ways – I had trouble sleeping, eating, my relationships were tested, and the most problematic I was lying to myself.

During PST (Pre Service Training) the PCMO’s (PC Medical Officers) gave us a peek inside the emotional journey (highs and lows) we’d be taking over the next 27 months of service (Cycle of Vulnerability and Adjustment: shown below).

As you can see ⬆️ Month 10, I’m dipping off into the “vulnerability” stage.

Another chart (not pictured), “Stages of a Life of a PCV” months 7-10 marks PCVS having issues with slow work progress, cross cultural frustration, and language plateaus.

And some reactions/behaviors: comparison with others, homesickness, overzealousness, uncertainty about adaptation and abilities, and intolerance with host culture.

I am living proof that this cycle is accurate. **Disclaimer** This chart is not to imply that every Volunteer will experience difficult and unhappy emotions.

Nevertheless, I was feeling a bit “off” and needed to be stitched back together. As a solution I felt I needed some time away from Swaziland, so my friends and I planned a get-a-way trip to Durban, SA to catch a break. It was an enjoyable vacation – I ate some of my favorite foods, did some retail therapy, saw the movie ‘Get Out’, went to Marine World and Water Park, and so much more! One of my favorite things was spending some time at the beach overlooking the Indian Ocean. I used the sounds and sights to relax, to lay things to rest, to re-evaluate my purpose, and to get free. It was such a gift, the vacation was exactly what I needed.
When I came home I decided that I would open up the letter I wrote to myself months before departing. In the letter I wrote some knowledge that a RPCV shared with me, she said, Peace Corps Volunteers are here to plant seeds that will eventually grow into a large tree that will provide shade for many coming behind us even though we won’t see the tree grow. This quote put everything in perspective for me. I was doing it all wrong! I was so focused on ‘project this project that’ that I forgot the most important thing: building and fostering relationships. Why has it taken me so long to realize this? My attitude in the past couple of months has deterred me from seeing this truth.

I’m slowly learning to let go of the fact that I probably won’t get one single project done. That’s okay. I’m the first volunteer in my community and some people are still trying to understand my role and what I do. I’m gonna focus on my relationships with people and setting my community up for the next volunteer that will take my place.

“People don’t always remember what you do, but they will remember how you make them feel.”

❤ Thanks for reading. 😊