During our Pre Service Training (PST) in St. Lucia, Peace Corps gave us this handy dandy “Cycle of Vulnerability and Adjustment”. At the time, we were going through a pretty intense bout of culture shock and homesickness, so it was not really appreciated. We didn’t want to hear that we would be getting more miserable in the months to come. Oh how true this stupid chart is though. Now that we’ve passed 4 months of being here, it is becoming more apparent that the honeymoon is over. The stress of being in a new country and having absolutely every detail of my life changed has hit me like a truck. Don’t get me wrong; the external factors are mostly manageable… My basic needs are taken care of, I have food, shelter, and safety (sort of), but we all know it takes more than that to be happy.
To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to answer the question, “Are you happy?” The answer would change on a minute-by-minute basis, and depending on the scope. I am happy that I am gaining life skills. I am not happy that I feel like a more pessimistic person. I am happy that the students are so loving and funny. I am not happy that they don’t respect me because I don’t beat them. I am happy to have my new kitten. I am not happy that I share my house with probably about 1000 bats. I am happy to have such great co-teachers. I am not happy that our resources are limited, to put it mildly. I am happy to be here. I am not happy to be away from home. It feels selfish and small to be unhappy at all. I worked so hard to be here and I know it’s a wonderful opportunity to help others, become a better person, and experience the world. The day to day though is so foreign to me, mostly because I used to be VERY laid back. It took a lot to rile me. Now all it takes is missing the bus. I know it will get better, just look at the Cycle! In 2 months I’ll enter the adjustment phase, then every thing will be great right? RIGHT?? In the meantime, “big picture, big picture, big picture” has become my mantra. The small things have also become so much sweeter. If you ask, “Are you happy?” after I see my friends, find a favorite food in town, go to the beach, discover that I can make a new food, get a big hug from a second grader, or get a care package, the answer would be a resounding “YES!” Time will make it better. I’m full of clichés.
I’ll share a story from last weekend to wrap up this weird little post.
We went into the capital for a Peace Corps training session on Friday, a couple weeks ago. It was an all day training, so Peace Corps provided us with a catered lunch. Peace Corps volunteers love catered lunch. After weeks of surviving on our own varying levels of cooking skill, it’s nice to have someone else cook. We had some lovely chicken, rice, fish, veggies, etc. Everything was beautiful and delicious. That night, I spent the night at a board member’s house of a non-profit I’m going to be working for. It was a retreat where we planned the non-profit’s events for the next few months. Not relevant to the story, but it was a really good time. We played a really funny cross-cultural game of charades and watched Frozen. Anyway, after that was over on Saturday, I decided I would go to the grocery store before heading home. I finished with my groceries and attempted to catch a bus back up North to the village. I waited over an hour, but all the busses coming from the South were full. So, I decided to catch a bus going South into town and go to the bus terminal there in the hopes of getting on a bus before they were full. I got to the terminal, and waited there a good long time with no bus. At this point, it was starting to get dark. It gets real sketchy after dark, so I started to get nervous. As it got darker and still no bus, I got more and more nervous. Just when I was about to call in the US government to helicopter me out of there (kidding) a bus finally came. I got on, but wasn’t out of the woods yet because, if the bus dropped me off at my gap, I would have to walk through the dark down a VERY sketchy street to my village. I had called my host mother, and she said she would send someone to walk me home, but that still would involve me waiting on the side of the dark highway until she got there. As I got on, my backpack was pulled out of my hands because it didn’t fit on my lap with the groceries. My backpack had my laptop in it, which is worth more than my life, so as I watched it disappear into the front of the bus, out of sight, I continued to lose my marbles a few at a time. However, by this point, I had lost enough marbles that I was paralyzed and unable to do anything but watch helplessly as the backpack was taken. At this point, the conductor of the bus noticed my distress and asked if I was ok. I told him what village I was stopping at and the lady next to me said she was going there as well, so he agreed to bring us into the village. This made my walk much safer after the bus dropped us off. It was a huge relief. I walked the rest of the way home and one of my kind neighbors helped me carry my bags. When I got back, I collapsed onto my floor and soon began experiencing what we will tactfully refer to as “intestinal distress”. I immediately convinced myself that it was fear that had liquefied my insides. WebMD confirmed my theory, as it always does. So I spent a rather sleepless night believing that the fear I had experienced was cleaning out my insides. Then low and behold, I got word from a few of the other volunteers that they were going through the same thing. After some confirmation from the PC doctor, we learned we had food poisoning from our catered lunch on Friday. There is some disagreement, but we believe it was the chicken. Shysted by WebMD again! Moral of the story and confirmation of my life’s motto: trust no one (especially not the chicken).
So that’s my little scary story. It was a rough week. Here’s to hoping the “Cycle of Fear and Loathing”… oops I mean, “Cycle of Vulnerability and Adjustment” is correct and things will start looking rosier soon.
On the bright side, I turned 24 on the 15th. I had some of the other volunteers over on the Friday and we hung out, made a good dinner, had a case of Hairoun, and played cards. It was fun and made for a nice laid back birthday celebration. Another nice thing about the unpredictable mail here is that I have presents trickling in slowly, which extends the birthday fun. This weekend, almost all of the SVG volunteers are going to Union Island to celebrate all our October birthdays and Vincentian Independence day. We’re going on a old schooner to go snorkeling in the Tobago Cays, where they filmed the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean when Jack and Elizabeth get marooned on the rum runner’s island. It’s a beautiful marine park and I’m looking forward to seeing some sea turtles.
Lastly: Here is a link to an interview I did on one of the national radio stations last week.