As I sit here in my coat, watching the snow come down outside (and double-checking my calendar that it is indeed March 27), I cannot help but be a bit distracted. It is cold, the heat has been turned off, and the only thing I can think of is “when do I get to be someplace where it is already warm?”
Call it Spring Fever, “Short-Timer’s Disease”, or any number of things – the fact of the matter is, I am having a hard time maintaining my focus on what I am doing here instead of reflecting and looking ahead to what is next. The Close of Service Conference last week seemed to make everything final, and we were given all kinds of information on what is next, discussed what it would be like to reintegrate, saw people.
Then we went back to our sites for two more months of service. Kind of seems strange, saying goodbye and doing paperwork and then having two more months to say a longer goodbye. I’m not a big fan of the long goodbye – I like to prepare for it, do it, and then be done. So this is strange for me, to basically be done, and still have to try to maintain focus to do a few more things before I am REALLY done.
Some people seem to already consider me done and gone too (I also went through this before I came here). I guess they also don’t like long goodbyes. People whom I was seeing on a regular basis, all of a sudden I have “radio silence” from them. Ah well, you cannot figure on making a huge impact on everyone’s lives, and everyone has their own lives to live.
When I was at the conference, a couple of volunteers put together a “slide show” of photos we had submitted. When I watched the slide show, I realized once again just how different each of our experiences have been. When people hear that someone is in Peace Corps, they usually associate it with digging ditches or teaching English in Africa or South America. However, every country is different, and within each country, each of us have very different experiences, because we are assigned to different organizations and live in different communities. The individual’s interaction with workplace, locals, and everyone else is so unique that it is hard to generalize. This is a frustration I have when reading things that PCVs or RPCVs have written that are broadcast through media channels – that person’s writing only represents that person’s experience.
But sitting there, watching the slide show, it was really driven home. Me personally – I did not leave my site a great amount. I went to the western part of the country twice for a few days at a time, visited my friend a couple of hours away, went to Kiev, worked in Sudak, and visited Odessa. That pretty much sums it up. I also had the opportunity to go to Egypt, the Czech Republic, and Thailand. I spend most of my time at site, and did not have a great deal of interaction with other volunteers. Other volunteers traveled pretty much the whole country and spent a great deal of time with others. I am not making a judgment either way – but because of simple factors such as these, we had very different experiences. Notwithstanding the language, site, assignment, projects, etc.
There is so much a person goes through when she is in Peace Corps. Things that most other people would not be able to handle become normal. Situations you did not think of happening, happen. Experiences you never anticipated, you have those. The unusual becomes the norm so much that when things settle down to “normal”, you wonder what is wrong – and always, when the next challenge will come your way (because it always does). The thing is, though – because you have so many other things that could possibly be stressors, the challenges seem less challenging. I am starting to get a better understanding of what a friend of mine meant when he was talking about how merely the fact that a person makes it through two years is significant. And it is impossible to do so without undergoing change in yourself.
Assessing the change at the end, well, that is what is pulling my focus away from living in the moment and experiencing the rest of my service. I don’t want people to think I have already “checked out”, but it is hard to avoid doing so when you are trying to figure out what comes next.