2015, came and went, and brought with it many triumphs and trials. This year has not been easy, but it sure has been interesting. There is a lot I learned and that I hope to share with other PCVs for advice, and for myself to remember how far I've come.
#1: Sometimes it's nice to remind yourself why you joined Peace Corps in the first place. It is very easy to get discouraged by the small irritations of your host country, and many a days I have said to myself WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I DOING HERE?! Or ask myself why do I even try? Do people even care? But guess what, THEY DO! It was not until two weeks ago during my sixth graders graduation ceremony did I feel a sense of appreciation. All of my students expressed to me how happy they were that I was able to share this past year with them and that they couldn't wait to be a part of my activities next year. Even though there are some days where I DO NOT want to interact with anyone in my site, at the end of the day, they really do enjoy having me around; even if they aren't as an environmental nerd as I am. So, remove yourself from the annoying situation and ask yourself, why did you join Peace Corps? For yourself? or for your Host country? It can be both.
#2: Being sick does not mean DEATH. This is something I constantly need to remind myself because being sick SUCKS, period. But, that doesn't mean it's the end of the world. So I have diarrhea again, for the third time this month, doesn't mean I'm going to be cranky and miss out on Maria's awesome baptism party across the street. At the beginning when I would get sick, all I wanted to do was cry and be in the fetal position in my room (or the bathroom floor), but after having had the worst bacterial infection of my life during my trip to the states in October, I realized being sick doesn't mean I can't still have fun and enjoy what is going on. So Michelle, poop does not mean death, it just sucks.
#3: ALWAYS leave your house at least ONCE per day. This is a tough one, but has helped me from becoming a hermit in my site. Everyone in my site thinks I leave every weekend to be in the capital since they rarely see me, that isn't true. It's simply that as an introvert, my weekends are time to recharge, ALONE. But, that doesn't mean that Friday through Sunday means that I should have NO human contact. It's helped keep me sane and forces me to leave the house even if it's just for five minutes to buy milk for my breakfast. I feel better in knowing that people don't think I no longer live there, and I get my daily dose of Vitamin D.
#4: Always be open to ANYTHING. This is another tough one, because I like my comfort zones. I won't go as far as follow the SAY YES to everything model because that's just plain crazy. That means that I would have consumed multiple bull testicle soups, and iguana eggs during my service if I did. But, I have gotten to do a lot of awesome things during my service by being more open to trying new things, like swimming in lakes with volcanoes, God knows how much the water terrifies me.
#5: NEVER be afraid to ask for help, especially when your health is involved. Not many people are aware of this, but during my Peace Corps service I developed an anxiety disorder and social phobia. It was something I struggled with for over a month before I decided to seek help. Waiting as long as I did only made my symptoms worse and I had no coping mechanisms to assist me. Leaving my room was a struggle every day and interacting with people was a constant challenge. I was unable to accomplish my duties as Peace Corps volunteer but I was afraid to seek help for fear of being Med-evacd (medically evacuated due to health concerns). This story has a good ending, I was encouraged to get help and have been on the road to recovery, YAY!
#6: You is kind, you is smart, you is important: Guess what...you're an awesome Peace Corps volunteer. Some of the best advice I ever received from RPCVs was to never compare myself to other Peace Corps Volunteers' service. Some volunteers can plan and execute 1000 awesome projects during their 27 month service, but that my friend is not me. I have worked hard to accomplish SIGNIFICANTLY less projects in my site than awesome PCV over there, but that doesn't mean I'm not awesome. We have accomplished so much and we are AWESOME! Our projects may be stressful and a surprise everyday, but they don't define us. Things are completely out of our control and projects may crash and burn days before it is going to be executed, but that doesn't mean we didn't give it our all. We may not receive constant appreciation (I never realized how necessary this is) but that doesn't mean we aren't.
As always...time for pictures!
My boyfriend and I were very fortunate of being asked to be the God-parents of two awesome girls from one of my favorite families in my site. A privilege I never expected out of my Peace Corps service.