Oh. Here goes.
What started out as a two-week rest period in Dar became a month-long+ ordeal. I rested and medicated like I was supposed to and the pain had lessened, but was lingering. Then our good ole Close-Of-Service Conference (COSC) came along and the lingering pain came back.
With Peace Corps, it's almost like there's no happy medium. We PCVs have lived in villages with no running water, no electricity, ass-print sinking-in mattresses, and limited access to good foods; and where do they put us for our last training? A resort. On an island. Yes, 5 meals a day (mostly Indian food), a pool with a light-up rain-stage, a HOT shower with water that came from above, and a lovely bar and swing set area (I'm a child); which was all right next to the Indian Ocean. Talk about pampered. It's almost like we didn't know how to act.
We had daily sessions about readjustment into American society, PC closing documents, resume writing, job searching, grad school options, among other important information. Some barely went to sessions; others attended nearly all of them. I thought it was the most informative training yet.
After treating us like royalty, we were supposed to get back to our villages asap so we could sit there for the next 2.5 months until we were finished with our service. As much as I was dreading twiddling my thumbs (they don’t allow us to start any new projects in our last 3 months), I was disappointed when it was taken away from me…
Long story short, the doctors in Tanzania and the personnel in Washington D.C decided that I needed more assistance than Tanzania could provide. I had 6 days from the time they told me until the time I was looking at the moon while saying goodbye to my home through a plane window.
Thankfully, I was able to get down to my village for 2 nights to say goodbye, pack my things, look at my last project, and remember what my house feels like. A friend of mine was able to accompany me, which I appreciated immensely since I was in no mental or emotional state to do all of the above alone. What was going to be a 2.5 month process turned into a 2 night tribulation. The Tanzanian family I had grown close with were saddened and caught off guard by this news. Believe me, it was not fun to tell them. It was not until this moment that I felt remorse for not hanging out with them more often, or not putting in the extra effort to accompany my Mama to her cashew farm. The excuses were plentiful and I’m sure made sense at the time, but reflecting upon my time there in those last few days, I felt holes.
All I wanted to do was hug my Mama and Baba goodbye, but this is considered inappropriate in the culture. So, I merely shook the hands of the two people who were integral to my sanity and survival. No justice.
So, here I am, back in America. I’ve been back for almost a month now, and maybe it was a friend’s letter I received today from Tanzania, or maybe it is the fact that I’ve been too involved with medical frustrations that I haven’t given myself the proper reflection I deserve. I mean, I was in Tanzania, AFRICA, for 2 years. Living in a completely new and unknown world; brought together with 40 other people I now know like the back of my hand.
I thought culture shock was supposed to be this big hullaballoo and I was supposed to have some sort of break down when I enter Walmart, which I have yet to venture into (it’s my conscious effort to never step foot in a Walmart again). I’m guessing everyone experiences culture shock in many different ways; my sister said she felt some sort of difference when she went back to America and she was only visiting me for a month. Here, I’ve been gone for 2 years and can’t seem to pinpoint any sort of “culture shock” moments. I’ve drawn a blank many a time when asked about my experiences of reintegrating into American society. I just seemed to do it, because it was expected of me.
But, a friend just wrote in a letter: “take time to appreciate where you’ve been and where you are before you even start to worry about where you’re going.” That’s the best advice I’ve been given in a while…
If I were still in my village and I received this same advice, it would be so easy to reflect on the separate words in that sentence and their separate meanings. Time and space are abundant and the availability of distractions are limited. However, in America, I, first of all, never would have received a hand-written letter from anyone, and second of all, could read it and simply move onto the next “thing”; be it tv, computer, smart phone, stressing about work, worrying about medical insurance, etc. The list goes on. I’m not saying I didn’t worry about things in Tanzania, or crave internet when I was deprived of friends and family for too long; I simply let it be that way.
So, I’m going to try to take my friend’s advice and appreciate where I’ve been for the last two years. Even though I can’t put it into words at the moment, I feel it. The last 2 years have changed me and made me into a different person. I didn’t magically become more patient or less anxious about things, but I believe I did find a way to channel those qualities and lessen their impact on my life as a whole. I became closer with friends from home I thought I would have separated from, and allowed the friends I had no desire in keeping in my life slip away. I had the opportunity to sit back, read a book, and cook a pot of beans for 4 hours while I integrated into the village I called home.
So. I will continue to consciously reflect on where my life was, where my life is, and then worry about where my life will go...