I was startled awake by Trixie licking my my face. The warm doggie breath was a shock to my senses, and pulled me from my sleep. I roll over, nearly falling off the couch, and gave Trixie a good scratch behind her ears- she immediately drops to her back, with all four legs wiggling in the air, offering me her belly- it makes me laugh. I hear movement in the kitchen; the boys are awake. I follow the smell of fresh coffee into the next room, and join the small crowd. Everyone is buzzing, preparing for work, making breakfast, fighting for the last few clean dishes. This place reminds me of home, of being with my friends in the states, I feel like myself here; I am not ready to go.
I’m heading back to my homestead after 3 days with my friends in the city- I’m not prepared to go back to the silence yet; to the empty hours of my weekdays. I have a line graph hanging on the wall of my hut that shows the average PCV morale throughout their service- a sharp line with deep dips and high peaks. Months 10-12 are a dip- and I’m in it.
Ever since I came home from my vacation in Mozambique I have been fighting to return to my optimistic, productive state but the bundu is making it difficult for me. My work partners at the clinic are gone, teachers at the schools have left to find better schools, the kagogo centers have locked their gates, my homestead is empty without Bulanda who is now in Zambia and Hacheema who stays in Siteki during the week. I am often alone, and can’t find motivation beyond watching entire seasons of ‘Dexter’ in my hut.
The Peace Corps is hard. Its hard in ways you don’t really think about when your in the states. Bucket baths, spotty electricity, ridiculous transportation- those are insignificant bumps in the road I don’t even consider anymore. The Peace Corps is like being unemployed, but you can’t find a job, and you don’t speak the language anyway, your painted purple, have 3 eyes, and wear a clown suit (because apparently you are very funny- all the time), your unemployment check never came, and you can survive on only plastic cheese and moldy bread, everyone around you has the mentality of a 3-year old “what’s that? What’s that?”, you live in a glass box- or at the zoo where you are the main attraction, and your starting to think you have narcolepsy because everyone else thinks you sleep all the time (even when you are clearly awake in your house). You have good days that are amazing. The kind of days where you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and you want to shout “THIS is why I’m here!” You have days when you think to yourself, “how did I get here??”. And you have lots of days when you just ponder, “well this is more interesting than a cubicle…”
I know this is just a temporary state of mind… the graph supports my theory and I know myself well enough to know that I can stay in a lull for long. I am grateful for my skills as a graphic designer- who knew it would be so handy in a 3rd world country? I spend a lot of time making logos, business cards, flyers, brochures and websites for friends who own businesses. I may not be saving the world, but it makes me feel productive. It makes me feel good that I am helping people build their businesses and I have been able to bring in local people from my community to help with the web codding too.
Honestly I think the hardest part of the Peace Corps is getting over the idea that you are going to save the world. The process from application to invitation is long, and then when you arrive in country you spend 3 months learning skills so you can go out and conquer anything. The reality is you will do lots of little things that will ripple into change; and it will probably be a little change. You will talk to someone at the bus rank, or teach someone something new about HIV, tell someone something about life in the states, talk to someone in the states about living in rural Swaziland (or write to 300+ random people subscribed to your blog), encourage someone to get tested for HIV, help someone start a business, teach someone how to create a business plan or just teach a young group of guys the lyrics to your favorite lil Wayne song. The change part is subjective, and small– it takes some time to convince yourself that these ripples are what your here for.
My blog helps. Knowing that so many people are interested in my life (sorry this one is a little ranty and depressing), helps me get through some days. People I have never met, read this and email me that they are proud of what I’m doing. Its crazy, and awesome. I received a random email the other day from a guy in New Zealand that is writing a book about a NZ settler that lived in Siteki. He stumbled across my blog about the history of Siteki and wondered if I could help him collect information for his new book. It’s things like this that keep me going. Thank you all for your support, warm wishes and encouragement. It’s true what they say, the Peace Corps is the hardest job you will ever love- and knowing I have friends here and at home helps me through the dips. 🙂