So i should have written this a long time ago…but as I sit here having retuned to the states nearly a month ago, I figured this could be therapeutic now as all my friends gear up for a conference that on health projects that I would have been at if I were still in peru.
I made probably the toughest decision i’ve ever made to come home after a long and tough road that I thought was all “part of the experience”. In the end, when “part of the experience” has you down and feeling things that you can’t control and really can’t talk to administration about due to its personal nature and also just due to the nature of how we as Americans percieve the concept of feelings and morale differently than other cultures. Coming home was due to many different factors that I won’t necessarily go into. I think in my video blog I was able to successfully portray all the positive and happy aspects of my experience in Peru…which honestly, I will ALWAYS look back fondly on. The trouble is, there was so much that I ignored and chose not to address simply to “stick it out”; endure the tough stuff, it’ll be worth it in the end; just keep going so that you can say you did it.
I couldn’t be one of those people who “stuck with peace corps” just to say that they “did it”; completed it. For what though?
I had too much invested in why I was there…too much desire to really be thriving in my site and loving the situation I was in. The people were wonderful…I have nothing bad to say about any cultural aspect of my time, that is the part of the experience that I loved so much as an anthopologist…but when you know that something just isn’t right about the idea of you staying for two years and feeling certain feelings of being down like I did, the stronger thing to do is to reevaluate. So I did just that. I went into Lima for some good clearing of the mind. It was an incredibly rough week for me. Thank goodness I was with one of my best friends in Peace Corps, Sophie, also an Ancash volunteer so I was really able to have a friend’s perspective on all of my processing as I went through the arduous task of realizing that I was probably making the decision to go home.
As a truly determined Peace Corps Volunteer, the thought to go home doesn’t enter your head ever…until it does. Then there is almost no denying it.
So there I was, coming to the realization that I was going to be leaving. NOT quiting. Leaving. I had given Peru such an effort. And damnit, I walk away accomplished. For anyone who belittles another volunteer’s experience simply because they didn’t complete the two years, doesn’t consider how different every peace corps volunteers experience as being SO different from the next…so unique to that specific American. What I did experience, was truly something I will always have with me…but noone else will know all the challenges that that meant FOR ME.
I’m back now. Noone really asks about my time in Peru past the extent of simple questioning…which I knew would be the case, so this isn’t upsetting. I find it strange though that you live it…then you return and really, there’s no processing of what just happened. There is obviously noone here to talk to me about what I did more indepth or what it was like to see what I saw daily…things that I wouldn’t think were that interesting at all. I remember going for one of my last hikes with Shannon thinking, there are things that I see every day here that I just don’t think are interesting or strange but that someone from home wouldn’t believe are part of daily life. And I’m not talking eating guinea pig, traditional polleras, or head soup…I’m talking about like a cow crossing the street, the infamous bus ride over the cordillera blanca, malnourished children on the streets, mothers carrying their babies on their backs, older women spinning the wool on their sticks to weave with, using a letrine…
I hope that people might read this and realize that not completely two years isn’t something to be looked down upon. I say this not having experienced any sort of negative feedback from my friends here at all…so this wasn’t triggered by anything particularly…It’s more of just me justifying why I feel so nostalgic now about a place and about people that I truly didn’t want to leave. Yes, I did make the decision, but I was once told that we have the ability to just make the decision to be happy…that if we are sad or depressed, that it’s almost as easy as flipping on a light switch (even if it’s a gradual one) and we have it in us to be happy. I didn’t agree with this at all when I heard it. I thought it to be rather naive advice to distribute…to think that there are no oustide actors that can really make us feel one way or another isn’t right (not to say that we are completely influenced in our morale or mood by outside influences but to ignore that is naive in itself I think). Eventually I realized though that the decision for me to “decide to be happy” was to make the unhappy decision to return home.