I’ve noticed something about myself that is changing. It’s weird, and definitely not something that I expected. I am letting go of my need to communicate/ be understood. Now, you should know that in most situations, I was already pretty laid back. I do, however, like to maintain a certain amount of control (aka I’m pretty bossy). Despite this, I would definitely be what you would describe as a type B personality. Being here is making me even “B”er, if you will. So much of my life is out of my control. Whereas back pre-Peace Corps, I would have been pretty annoyed about being late somewhere, here I have to accept that my timing is often completely out of my hands. I can leave with plenty of time to wait and catch a bus, but still get screwed. Usually, it takes about 15-20 minutes to catch a bus/van, I generally give myself a 45-minute window, but wouldn’t you know it, occasionally I’ll have to wait an hour and a half (or more). So what should I do? Give myself 2 hours to catch a van and risk being waaaaaay early most of the time. Nah. I just have to accept that sometimes I’ll be late. If you knew me back home, you know I used to eviscerate my friends for being late. It still irks me when I’m late, but I’m accepting that it’s just out of my control.
What about my previous need to over explain myself? Gone. I used to feel like when I was asked a question, it was my righteous duty to the human race to answer it in full and to the best of my ability. I mean, most of the world’s problems could be solved if we were just better able to communicate with each other right? Someone might ask, “Where are you going?” I would give them the full, “I’m going to go get gas, then I’m going to Panera for lunch, then I’m going to Target, then I’m going to Michael’s house, then I may or may not go to the movies, I’ll let you know when I figure that out.” Now when someone from the village asks me where I’m going, I give one of two responses, “down the road” or “me nah know.” “Me nah know” is my favorite piece of Vincentian slang. It says so little, but immediately ends the conversation. Vincentians are generally not going to pry into your life, and don’t expect you to pry into theirs. Those responses are perfectly acceptable in polite conversation. I love it. I know I will probably drive my friends in the States crazy, because it’s making me even more vague than they already accused me of being (though I didn’t consider myself vague).
I’ve also had to give up control over my work. I can lesson plan and create games and be totally prepared to teach the kids, but if they are having a bad day, it’s not going to go well. This is also my first time teaching kids, so my classroom management skills leave something to be desired. I substitute taught in Kindergarten the other day, and completely lost control. Literally, I was standing in a room with children swirling around me in a maelstrom of sticky fingers and broken crayons. I had been trying unsuccessfully for the past couple hours to get them to focus on their coloring, stop beating each other, and stay in their seats. I tried being nice, being firm, pretending to be angry and laying down the law (I rarely actually get angry, so I have to pretend), and a few other techniques, to no avail. Finally, something broke and I lost them, thus initiating the swirling mass of 4 year olds. As I stood there, I looked at how completely I lost control, and I just started laughing (which was bad because it just egged them on). If I had lost control so completely in the past, I might have stared crying, but no. I just started laughing and joined the chaos. Was this the best move as a teacher? No way. Was it the best way to preserve my sanity? Absolutely. Sometimes you just have to embrace the chaos and swim with the flow.
Will I still try to be controlling in the States? Will I still be angry when people aren’t on time? Will I be vague? Will I get a good job when I get home? Will I feel intense reverse culture shock? Will I be a better or worse person?
Me nah know.
And that’s fine for now.