Peace Corps Coping Mechanisms

WORST BLOGGER EVER. I swear I’m alive and doing things, I just don’t really have the calling to blog about much in the current moment. In light of this, I want to write about what I do do (haha) to cope with all the changes that come with being in the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps medical staff might refer to these things as coping mechanisms. They ask that you steer away from drugs and alcohol, but Imnotgonnalie, I do have some wine once in a while. Luckily this is more of a “I like wine” thing than a “I need wine” thing, so I think I’m good for now.

Why do you need coping mechanisms (one may ask)? The answer is multifaceted, but in a nutshell: Being in the Peace Corps requires you to give up almost everything you did in your former life (or tweak it drastically). Many of the things that I loved are kind of out of reach. A lot of these things are pieces of my life that I thought really made me who I am. For example, things that I loved from the States that are out of reach here:

-family time

-hanging with my dog

-hanging with my friends

-going out for a meal

-hot showers/most personal grooming (nails, hair, etc.)

-backpacking

-camping

-driving

-shopping

-going to the gym

-seeing a movie

-running

-snowboarding

-going out for drinks

-dating

-going out alone

All of these things, I either can’t do, or won’t do here for various reasons. Usually these reasons are related to either safety or accessibility. For a hot minute here, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself because I couldn’t do these things. I really felt like they made up the person that I was, and without them, I felt kind of empty. Mostly, I felt like much of my independence was taken away. Not being able to drive made me feel so trapped. I don’t mind being alone, but, at home, I would go for a walk or go see a movie alone. Here I can’t really do those things. I do go walking, but the time and places I can do that are very limited. Unfortunately, that’s not just me being paranoid, locals have told me that it’s less than safe. Anyway, I digress. I needed to find a way to fill the holes left in my personality by the absence of these things.

So without further ado, here are some of the coping strategies I have come up with to try and stay sane.

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  1. Journal. I journal, keep a diary, whatever you want to call it. I’ve done it since high school and it really helps me by acting as a filter between my brain and my mouth. If I need to get something off my chest, it goes right into the journal, which often stops it from spewing onto some unsuspecting soul at a later date. I can reason out my feelings and move on. Because of this, my journal probably reads like that of a homicidal little psycho. It also helps me remember things that have happened. I listen to a lot of crime podcasts and always think, “If that fool had kept a journal, we would know exactly what happened!” Which brings me to #2
  2. Podcasts. I didn’t listen to podcasts that frequently in the States, but here they are my gospel, and Terry Gross and Ira Glass are my patron saints. So yeah, I listen to copious amounts of NPR. It really relaxes me.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
  3. Reading. I’m back to reading tons of books. One of my best friends got me a kindle before I left. I had resisted it for so long, but now I’m glad I have it. I also have access to a huge Google drive full of books from another friend that I’m sure were all obtained legally *cough cough*. I spend a lot of time reading between the classes I teach, which feels far more productive than my next mechanism…
  4. Netflix. We all do it. It’s like the worst drug. There is something really nice about being able to slug out and binge watch something after a long day though.
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  5. Hiking. Hiking the Volcano, Soufriere is a really nice way to spend a Saturday. Another thing that I, unfortunately, can’t do alone, but I can usually rustle up somebody to go with me.
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  6. Beach Days and hanging with other PCV’s. I am so lucky to have found people who I am sure will be lifelong friends. Getting to see them most weekends really revives me when I’m feeling frustrated. I seriously love those people. We usually spent the night at each other’s houses at least once a month.
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  7. Beans. Having a cat has been great. He’s no dog, but my time at home is way more entertaining thanks to him.
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  8. Cooking. I’m slowly but surely learning to make new things. I have lots of fails, but the successes are awesome.
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  9. Host Mom/ Local Friends. I really like going to visit with my host mom. She lives down the street from me and is seriously the funniest lady. I actually don’t visit her enough, maybe I’ll do that tomorrow… I also work with some people at the school who always manage to brighten my day and put me in a good mood. I’ve gotten to the point where I actually love going to school, rather than being afraid of the hoards of small children.
  10. Skyping Family and Friends. It makes me cry just thinking about it, but I could talk to them for hours. This is another thing that makes me feel SO MUCH BETTER.
  11. Finding New Things. Anytime I find a new thing I like, it feels like a little win. For example, the other day it occurred to me that instead of taking an ice cold shower in the morning, I could fill up a bucket with hot water and take a bucket bath. I have no idea why I didn’t do this before, but now that I am, I don’t dread bathing anymore! When instant gratification is no longer an option, the little things become much more valuable.

So anyway, the list could go on, but the point is that I am able to find things to brighten my day. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t need my day brightened so much if I got more respect from some men walking down the street… but I don’t want to harp on that too much. I may not be able to feel safe walking down a lonely road, but I hope one day to get to the point where their rude/ misogynistic comments won’t dampen my spirit. I know the things in the list above will help.

I guess if it weren’t a challenge, everyone would do it. I think that the thought that really gets me through is that the challenge is making me better in a way I couldn’t have experienced at home. When people do things like this, when you get out of your comfort zone, you do it because you want to be a better human when you come out the other side. If I can achieve that, every challenge will be worth it. The added benefit of the Peace Corps is that I can do my best to brighten other people’s days along the way. I can work every day to make myself a better person and give opportunities to the students I work with.

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