During training, my fellow volunteers and I sat through a few sessions entitled Vulnerability, Resiliency or some other emotional catchword. Well meaning staff members talked about developing strategies until I wanted to stuff my ears with rice. They passed out papers with sine functions graphs, subnoted with ThePeaceCorpsVolunteer’s predictable emotions at the various times in her service. Amused, I envisioned the process leading up to these graphs, hundreds of volunteers flipping through their journals, hunched down under their mosquito nets, stomachs cramping and sweating through their wrapskirts, plotting relative states of anger and depression from their entries. But that was before I installed at site.
Now if I were brave enough to revisit the angry scrawls through my notebook, I’m sure my graph would not so much undulate as jerk like a seismograph – quakes high up on the Richter scale at that. Nevertheless, I can’t deny the highs and lows of serving in the Peace Corps. Now, though, the lows are frequent and the highs far between. And as it happens, that’s what them graphs were predictin’: that I’d be in the pits right about now. Yet again, Peace Corps knows what it’s talking about.
How to explain what makes living here hard? It’s no one thing so much as the constant push, I think. The mocking and begging children as I walk through the streets, the daily guilt of balancing of time to self and time to Senegal, planning routes to destinations to avoid the manboys who won’t leave me alone (I would rather DIE than marry you), being ignored except when being called upon to Dance, monkey, dance!, and the exhaustion of denying someone my earrings for the sixteenth time that afternoon – all with a smile and a joke, of course…and Wolof is not helping me out. Damn pronouns.
This is the part in the post where I’m supposed to say how all the pain is worth it when I sit under the tree, watching the children play or look up at the stars as goats bleat harmoniously or teach my whole city of 17000 how to properly space tomato plants, and singlehandedly end malnutrition, malaria, and stop the Saharan desert’s expansion…ha.
But I won’t. Because it’s not. Today it’s not. And yesterday it wasn’t. And hopefully tomorrow it might be, but probably not. And instead I leave you with a quote by Elizabeth Lane from Christmas in Connecticut and urge you to cherish the tacos you eat today.
“I’m tired of being pushed around, told what to do, tired of writing your gol-darned articles, dancing to everybody else’s tune, tired of being told whom to marry! In short, I’m tired!”