Monday, March 23, 2009

Stronger, Faster, Smarter... we hope

I have some more thoughts and observations I want to share with you. Some may sound depressing, but I want you to know that I am happy and proudly working through my obstacles. I am safe, healthy, and I am excited almost all the time about everything around me. Nonetheless, the things I am writing are very real and very much a part of my daily challenges. It is important for me to write them here because I want you to know what it is like from my mind's eye.

· There is no garbage service in Guyana. Everyone dumps their trash in the trenches, on the side of the road, or on the beach. It's depressing.

· Farmers do not compost, they throw everything away.

· Did I mention this? Guyanese drive on the opposite side of the road, just like the Brits.

· Road kill is a near daily occurrence. It smells and it is bloody.

· I feel like I have been here for a long time. Months. It has only been 3 weeks.

· I am getting used to the humidity and my confidence is rising.

· We (Guy 21) get to design our own T-shirt. I am uber excited.

Sometimes I get up early (4am) to cook with my host mom before going to school or to training. Other days, I sleep in until 6:30. I usually get home at 5:30, shower, eat dinner, read or write, and then go to bed by 8:30. Sometimes I watch a movie with Tolga, the trainee that lives a few houses down from me. Movies are great escapes. You can now see how much of my day plays out. Weekends are wonderful, because you have your entire day to whatever you want. But, then there are too many things that you want to do like: Go to an Indian wedding, go to an Afro wedding, go to the market, go to a cricket match, go to the seawall, cook with your host mother, etc. It's overwhelming.

Side note: two cats just fought outside my bedroom window (the ones in heat, probably) and it sounded like they tore the shit outta each other.

I haven't had time to go to the post office and I have a bunch of letters that sit in my backpack waiting to be mailed. Just moving around to do errands is an ordeal here because of the limited free time and the cost of transportation and lack of conveniences that the States provide. No mailboxes and we aren't allowed to ride bicycles during training.

We all live on 2-3 US dollars a day and our transportation to go to our training site costs 1 US dollar (half of our daily income). The economy of a developing country is very different than in the US and $1 has new meaning to all of us. A bottle of Coke or beer does, too.

Side note: two dogs just fought behind my house and it sounded like one tore the shit outta the other. I'm not kidding.

Sometimes I feel like I am not connecting socially with my peers. I feel that they don't get me, my personality, or my sense of humor. I also feel isolated because I don't react to stressors the way most of them do. This is difficult for me to express, but I'll explain it like this: If we have a large assignment due on top of two other assignments, then trainees begin to complain and frantically worry about doing the assignment "right," like or needing to get an "A+" for the work done. I may agree with them, but I often remain quiet and make no comment. I assume that trying my best will be satisfactory and if that isn't good enough for the Peace Corps staff, then they can send me home. I won't push myself harder than I am comfortable because I am already uncomfortable due to my transition into a new life here. This is my philosophy and I learned it from my parents and from my education in Anthropology. One cannot rush something like this; cultural integration takes time to complete. I have to stop, observe, and make the appropriate decisions at the appropriate time. Because of this, I am usually slower at doing my part of an assignment, or I may get hung up on something that was done half-assed because my team ran out of time and had to present with what we had. Call me a perfectionist or a slow person, but this is the best way that I know, and the process has rarely let me down. Some of my peers have taken my attitude as laxidasical or remedial and I fear that they are judging me for it. In this way, training is testing my confidence in my methods and everyone else's as well. Yet, mostly I feel that I am doing well and that Peace Corps staff likes what I bring to the table. If not, they can send me home.

On Friday afternoons, most of us trainees go to the seawall to have a beer, unwind, and unplug from being "on" 24/7 as a US ambassador. At the seawall, or anytime I am with my peers, I am so tired that I am not able to socialize at the pace I am use to with my friends in the States. I find myself struggling to stay interested in conversations that trainees are having and I can't keep up with the pace of the humor. It was so easy to make people laugh or be interested in conversation in the States... or was that just my imagination? I doubt my ability to charm my peers constantly, it is uncomfortably humbling, I miss the friendships at home, and I realize the value of my closest friends at home. You know who you are, thank you.

Our training pushes the slow process of cultural integration into a faster speed and I believe it is because Peace Corps has a lot to teach us before we go out into our sites. I understand their logic and hope that my peers see it, too. Sometimes I worry about their confidence.

In closing, I hope to shed this constant exhaustion. If I can do that, then I will be able to function at my normal level and absorb so much more of what is happening. Besides, my ability to observe and absorb information is one of my favorite characteristics; when it is handicapped I feel like I can't keep up with everyone else. I think I will change for the better once training is over and I can move at my own pace. My slower pace.

Peace. Love. Joy.

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