Last week, I was fortunate enough to take my first, honest-to-goodness world traveling trip to another country during my Peace Corps service.
It was the sort of adventure I dreamed of before moving half way across the world. Living in a new country and growing and serving with others certainly made up most of decision to join Peace Corps, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to a wee bit o’ selfishness in my desire to join as it allows me to see and travel more of this big crazy world that I’ve met so little of.
And boy, did it not disappoint. My dear partner and I traveled with two fellow friends and volunteers to Tbilisi, spending four days discovering the capital and nearby sites. Though it rained for most of the trip, we were easily comforted by pork (cheese wrapped in bacon, two nights in a row), wine, cheap eats, stunning waterfalls, ancient ruins, and more wine. Did I mention wine? We had a lot of wine.
While I knew coming back might be a bit of a struggle, as it always is when vacation glow wears thin, I don’t think I was quite as prepared as I considered myself being. Don’t get me wrong. I am madly in love with our new home and am finally on the upswing at work. We held our first teacher training seminar (on the always stimulating topic of FLASHCARDS – hollah!) and we are on a roll with visiting schools. I am making (minimal) progress with my language skills and finally feel a strong level of confidence and comfort when walking the streets.
But after a whirlwind trip, coming home to no gas, no electricity, no water, and no internet can really take me down a few pegs. And quickly.
It’s never really as bad as my diva self likes to make it, but those first few hours home when all I wanted was some hot water to splash on myself after over 20+ hours of traveling (night trains! taxis! city buses! buses back home! walking! getting stopped by the police for looking suspicious!) took a toll on my perseverance far more than they should have. I was just at such a high and through self-inflicted exuberance met reality with the wrong face. Overall, I’ve had a pretty stellar service thus far, but for whatever reason – be it lack of sleep, lack of utilities, a chilly dark house, missing home. family, and the thrill of travel, nerves for the coming work week, smelling like a weird piece of cheese – it was one of the lowest moments I’ve felt so far.
I like to imagine myself as a strange little third party observer during those moments – maybe a little speck on the wall looking down on the two people in a dark living room. One, a smelly blonde in hysterics, one moment shaking it off and smiling and walking around unpacking things into drawers and eating old carrots, the next moment dramatically hurling herself onto the chair ruing life, the universe and everything; the other figure, a tall, equally smelly but infinitely calmer gentleman patting the former’s back when calmed and dodging flying arms when gesticulating about the unfairness and cruelties of life – a true saint in the making.
As that speck, I’d like to remain unseen for most of the time just to soak in all the ridiculousness of the smelly woman’s behaviors. But around 11 0′clock, as the sadness and despair are just getting too pathetic to bare, I’d like to jump in and pop her right in her big round face. I’d like to shake her up a bit, force her to change her clothes, pull her hair back, hug her partner and look in the mirror and remind herself what she committed to. Life isn’t easy, but it isn’t that damn hard, either. Some days you find yourself strolling around and easily taking in the majesty of the world, and other days you have to take a moment, breathe some deep breaths, and still see all the majesty of the world, but know that it might take a bit more will power and patience.
Eventually I discovered such things on my own, but only after pushing my spouse unfairly through an annoying evening of reassuring me we’d be just fine. At some point, I fell asleep, cuddled close, and woke up hours later to a sunny day. I turned on our gas stove, got the room all toasty, made some coffee and toast and with a smile, pulled my work things together and made it a great day. And it really was. My father, annoying as it is, turns out to be right way too often: attitude really is everything. I think I learned it the hard way, but the NEXT time we face a small bump or detour or concern or any sort of inconvenience, I’m hoping I can more easily re-discover this passion that makes it all worth while.As you dropp’d from the sky low down as if to my side (while the other stars all look’d on),
As we wander’d together the solemn night (for something I know not what kept me from sleep),
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west how full you were of woe,
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze in the cool transparent night,
As I watch’d where you pass’d and was lost in the netherward black of the night,
As my soul in its trouble dissatisfied sank, as where you sad orb,
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone. - Walt Whitman