Wednesday, September 15, 2010

To my Peace Corps Friends,

Being in the Peace Corps is unlike any other traveling experience I've had. I've learned so far that not only is everyone's experience completely different from each other, but they're also deeply and significantly common in many ways. So much so that in times of distress-- whether they are real, such as the death of a coworker or a failure of a project, or petty, such as not having water for a few days or finishing all the seasons of Lost-- no one quite understands the tragedy of it all except for someone who has been in the Peace Corps. Someone who understands that even the littlest things can make us feel so very small, ineffective, and stupid for being here.

I'm not saying that I don't appreciate the love and support, care packages and kind encouraging words of friends and families, or the phone calls, emails, and facebook comments-- I'm not saying that at all. Most of the time and in very real cases, these words and acknowledgments of where I am and what I'm doing get me through the dark nights and remind me that I am here for a reason, I am someone, I can do something. What I am saying is nothing, nothing I had read before departure has prepared me for the kind of mixed emotions I have experienced in the past few months. "Ups and Downs," no longer describes it accurately. "Roller Coaster" would even insinuate that somehow I had expected the fall down to be timed proportionally with the ride up. A better way to describe it is more instantaneous, almost... manic.

Ice cream one spoonful with friends can make your days seem glorious and the sunsets endless, that comradery and friendship will last a lifetime. The next spoonful, you're remembering that you're the fattest you've ever been, the ice cream isn't made from real dairy, you're almost as poor as the man outside the store begging for money, and you smell like you haven't bathed in months.

In this next phase of service, I have an instinctual feeling that instant gratification will no longer work anymore. That chocolate bar at night, that ice cream in the morning, that shot of whisky with dinner, it's a temporary solution to a more significant and daily more concrete challenge-- The challenge? To make this TRUE:
Peace Corps will be the hardest job You'll ever love.
So love the mania. Love the difficulties. Love the smells, the stares, the weight gain, the weight loss, and the occasional hot shower that runs out mid-shampoo. Love the drunk people, love the orphan children, love your impossible boss, and importantly, love your friends. Love the dark lonely nights, and equally important, love the bright sunny days. Love every second of the hour you wait for a meeting to start and love every word of Setswana you can and cannot understand. Love it all so that, even if we fail in all our programming somewhere along the way, we can at least say, We Learned how to Live and we Loved Every God-Damn Moment of it. Cause to be honest, when you get home, no one is going to ask you what you accomplished, they're going to ask you what you did. And to be able to say that and actually mean it is pretty god-damn awesome.

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