14 Jul

Peace Corps loves its metaphors. At various points during training, I’ve been out on a limb, learning to scuba dive, discovering the tips of icebergs, living epic-ally, holding heavy glasses of water all on my own, standing alone in a field, standing in the middle of a busy street, building a house brick by brick – I think you get the picture. Or really, the pictures. Lots of them.

One I hear most commonly, however, is that king of all metaphors (see what I did there?) “riding a rollercoaster.” You ask nearly any volunteer or listen in on any training session and they’ll throw it out:

“Oh, the highs are high, and the lows are low, but it is quite a ride.”

“Yes, the highs are totally worth it! But I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster!”

“You don’t know which way your emotions will go next – up, down, sideways, it’s a constant ride.”

“Yup. It’s a rollercoaster, alright.”

Since we’ve been at site nearly three weeks already (whoooooa), I can certainly attest to the presence of those brilliant moments as well as the potentially less enthusiastic ones.  There are certainly ups – and just as many downs.

But I don’t know whether it’s because I’m insanely stubborn, or annoying, or vigilant, or that I just like to be a pain in the ass, but I promise I will never use that mantra.

I couldn’t even begin to tell you why, but I just cringe and die a little inside every time I hear that r word. It’s totally accurate – especially in terms of these first few weeks.

When we first got to site, I couldn’t even begin to fathom ever functioning like a normal person, never the less a productive volunteer, while living in my community. Everything was so new and challenging and big and often scary and just as often monotonous and at the same time quickly changing then dull and duller and then it was nap time, followed by nap time, followed by a little rest and then it started all over again.

As time passes, however, I am slowly starting to get it. I mean, not really get it get it, but I’m no longer worried that I won’t ever get it. I’m increasingly astounded by my courageous and active site mates and love seeing and tagging along on all the great things they are doing. I’m meeting people. I’m becoming (slowly) less awkward around every person I meet. I’m not squinching away from every kiss slobbered on my sweaty cheek by all the little old ladies. I even went into the music store! And made friends! And we played instruments together and it was totally bitching!

So yes – there are certainly crazy-high highs and I constantly worry about what might turn up next. But I just can’t picture myself on that rollercoaster.

Maybe it’s because I’m bossy, but I don’t like to think that I’m helplessly strapped into a speeding car moving up and down and under and around on a rickety track, passively just dealing with what happens to me next.

Sure, I have very little say in where my host mother will escort me next (today, it was across the street to wash, literally, hundreds of dishes from a neighbor’s party. I’ve never had so much fun cleaning). I can’t control the stares I get walking down the street, and I certainly don’t know what crazy things my community people will tell or ask me next (“Is your hair real?” “Your head looks like an apple.” “Your big eyes scare me.” “Look – let’s pluck this chicken! First we have to cut its head off.” “I like Americans, especially Jackie Chan.”) Nor do I really know what my counterpart will pounce on me next. In fact, I don’t even really know what to expect when I wake up each morning.

But I do, however, have this amazing gift of a new day and a new chance to react and move and create and live in this crazy-beautiful world that I’m so grateful to be a part of. I am fortunate to have this ridiculously perfect (albeit totally weird) life partner and positive family and wonderful friends – both golden and new. And sure things go up and down, but more than being a rollercoaster of emotions they are a strong force by which I am insanely awed each and every moment of each and every day.  More than dipping up and down, it is constantly pushing forward, and I’m just trying my best to control those things I can, contribute and learn when possible, and take deep breaths and relax when I cannot.

More than anything, I’m just excited to be here. To be – here.


Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.
Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.

– Walt Whitman



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