I think the biggest fault of my blog is that I gloss over everyday life. It hasn’t really been a conscious exclusion, though now I feel like it’s an important missing piece. My friend Marjorie’s tumblr has a lot in the way of observation, and it offers a more complete picture of our lives here. Go check it out!
Despite all of the positive changes I can see in myself through this experience (16 months and counting), I know there are a fair few bad habits I’ve picked up or enhanced. Most of it comes with the territory and stress that this work brings, and I’m not above unhealthy outlets once in a while, though I wouldn’t say they’re my usual go-to. Actually, I am more of a binge eater than anything else, but trying to curb that.
I would venture that it’s more common for Peace Corps Volunteers here to pick up bad habits than improve their lifestyles. Stress does that. Some of my friends have picked up smoking, and alcohol finds its way into most social gatherings. I’m definitely not alone in my departure from vegetarianism, and I would say that I am more sedentary now than I was in the US (though I do walk everywhere). I find myself bargaining or letting some things slide because many other aspects of my life aren’t as convenient.
Part of it might be cultural though; for instance, I would guess that 95% of toilets I encounter are unaccompanied by a sink with soap, so I am really only washing my hands in the bath or while doing dishes. Interestingly enough I have only been sick here once or twice, notwithstanding the natural inclination many Batswana have to casually pick their noses during conversation (of course tissues are even less common than soap). Few hygiene practices are maintained for me: I go a ridiculously long time between washing clothing items and often reuse dishes and water. Let’s look on the bright side and say I’m just environmentally aware.
On a deeper level, I find myself being much more candid and outspoken with Batswana now that I’m comfortable with the culture. It’s ironic that this was borne out of my higher level of integration because the culture is overtly passive and non-confrontational. My filter of blithe politeness eludes me. It isn’t to say that I’m rude, I just feel compelled to tell people when they do something wrong. It has almost gotten me into trouble a few times (like the time I talked back to a cop at a border gate). I sort of feel justified when I shake things up and I’ve even got some pats on the back for speaking up. Maybe these are the first stones in a rockslide of revolution and rebellion! Or maybe it’s wishful thinking.