I can now speak first-hand about the difficulties of pre-service training. It’s a time for learning and assimilating to a new culture, while being on a so-called lock down from the world outside Botswana. We are like newborns in this country and are often treated as such: we are discouraged from being out after dark, our schedule is rigid (including recesses to relieve stress), and our connectivity to the world back home is stifled, making our new environment the central focus. Stepping back to observe this format is the most cohesive picture I have of the Peace Corps experience. In a way, it makes the most sense. We cannot even hope to be effective without first adjusting to the lifestyles with which we will be working. And beyond this, I have to admit that there is a refreshing aspect to being disconnected.
I acknowledge the irony of such a realization coming on my blog (which is highly connected to my facebook, subscribers, community feeds, etcetera). And truthfully, I know full well how troubling it is for trainees to be disconnected from their families during tough times at home. I am hoping to depart from that and speak on a more personal level of soul-searching. After all, Peace Corps is as much a personal journey as it is a service opportunity. Yes, believe it or not, volunteerism has a selfish side. We throw ourselves into the great unknown to see how we survive. Of course Peace Corps attracts optimists and do-gooders of every flavor, but there is a tangible adventure-seeking theme throughout my group. I know I’m not alone when I say that a major goal of my service is to learn about myself in the midst of those adventures.
Wanting to be disconnected implies a life of escapism, which is hardly the case for many volunteers, including myself. In fact, I hope to approach the same people and situations from my past with a new perspective, and perhaps a better attitude. There are no guarantees in life, and this is the largest leap of faith I can imagine for myself. How often does the end product match the picture we start with? It’s always about the journey.
I have been fortunate enough to talk with some friends and my family back home recently. I experienced my first longing for home, hearing about things I missed out on and people I would be seeing, especially in the midst of my grandpa’s passing. But this is life now and distance don’t be my downfall. This is merely the beginning and adaptation is just one part of this experience.
Logistically, I will be leaving Kanye this week and heading to a village in the Okavango Delta for shadowing. It’ll probably take me a day and a half to get there by bus, but shadowing gives each of us a chance to see a day in the life of a volunteer, and also provides a change of scenery. I’m pretty excited to get out of the classroom for a few days, and I’ll probably get to see some interesting wildlife as well. I hope everyone is having a good holiday. Until next week, cheers.