Creative Destruction

This is Felix. See that bag, there? It's full of tricks.

This is Felix. See that bag, there? It’s full of tricks.

I have a great many marketable skills at my disposal. I’m a good electrician, I can cook pretty well, I can sing on key, and I go big. Alright, so maybe that last isn’t really marketable, but my point is that I have developed a bag of tricks, so to speak. I keep adding to the bag as I get older, and now is no exception.

I have become quite gifted at the art of burning things down when I have decided it’s time to build something new. Well, folks, the time is nigh.

I’m coming home.

I’ve known for a while that this was an eventuality I was wrestling towards. It has honestly been one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I’ve come at it from places of guilt, of anger, of determination, and now of pride. It has slowly come to my attention over the last few months that I have not been happy here. Not just an inkling of displeasure but a genuine discomfort. Rule one is that if you are not happy you are the only person who can act to rectify that situation. So, I did. I acted. I changed the way I went to class, I added activities with local youth outside of school, I altered my workout regimen, I went through and systematically sorted through to try and squash this bug. But it didn’t die. I would leave my house in the morning and dread the ride to school. I would try and let off steam but the catcalls and comments would make me boil over. I was having arguments in my head before they could even became a reality. And finally the only thing I could see left to change was my environs.

No, but really. How could you not love this place?

No, but really. How could you not love this place?

I must take this moment to make it perfectly clear that I do, despite its quarks and irksome details, love Indonesia. I love it like the super annoying kid sibling that kicks you and laughs at your pain. Sometimes I want to strangle it, but even in those moments I have this deep and pure love for this country and its peoples. I have, generally, never been so completely welcomed by a group of complete strangers. My host mother took me into her home and treated me like her own child. My two best friends at school led me by the arm and made me feel included and welcome. My students grew to respect and love me as a mentor and teacher.

Despite all these wonderful and inspiring parts of my service, there is a darker side. I’m a big fan of lists and order. In any decision process you can generally pin me down and have me admit I made a pro/con list. I even broke up with a boy that way. And now, it seems, this list has come back to solve another relationship riddled with irreconcilable differences. There are a myriad things on the pros side of my list. As I mentioned, my students, my host family, my sheer will and pride, etc. However, on the cons side there were a few things and then this glaring singularity. It was this seemingly infinitely small thing but it was infinitely dense and could not be overcome. I no longer felt that the benefits outweighed the unwanted attention and outright sexual harassment to which I was being exposed.

Many of you may not know about this part. I’ve hinted at certain instances here and there but I try to keep it light in the blogosphere. This is not light. This is the heaviest of singularities. New universe, status. Peace Corps Indonesia is still considered an ‘adolescent’ program. We are no longer shiny and new with extra money at our disposal, but we’re still not a mature program with clean procedures and lines in place. To their credit, the staff have been working tirelessly to put these procedures in motion, however, one must consider the constant turnover in American staff (there are only ever three in country and they are required to change every 5 years or so) and the green nature of the program and, consequently, its local staff. We are only 5 years old. You can’t grow a program specific to a country in 5 years. You can have a damn good start, but it’s not a lego set with pre-printed instructions. It’s an ikea bookshelf with extra dowels leftover and directions in Swedish. So, with each group they listen to our feedback. They ask us questions and try to mold the program accordingly. Each individual’s needs will, of course, be different, and so unfortunately there is a requirement that they cater to the masses. In short: they’re trying to figure it out. Everything they learned from my experience will be applied to future groups and, indeed, already has been in some cases. I was able to help facilitate an open forum for communication about unwanted attention and sexual harassment in further trainings. They reached out to me and other volunteers to assist them in creating new sessions to ensure the continuation of important information to the volunteers to keep them safer and healthier. We are taking steps to arm every volunteer with the tools they will need to deal with the inevitabilities of these wretched events.

But that wasn’t enough to keep me here. Someone put it to my nerdy self in terms of physics. An object in motion requires very little energy to keep it in motion. It requires a great expenditure of energy, however, to stop an object already in motion. The easiest course might have been to continue my service and see it through to its terminus. The cons of such an action, however, were heavier than the pros, though the latter list was bursting. It was no longer a question of could I complete my service, but should I. And maybe that voice screaming at me to suck it up and carry on was coming from a place of hubris and folly.

My wonderful Ibu Haji Esin. I couldn't have done it without her.

My wonderful Ibu Haji Esin. I couldn’t have done it without her.

So. I made a tough call. I spent the last week in a living hell. I said goodbye to sobbing students and cried along with them as they told me how much I had changed their lives. I hugged my Ibu for the last time (for the foreseeable future) today. That woman who stood with me through everything and yelled at people on my behalf. I am leaving friends that I will keep for my lifetime to fend for themselves. I’m leaving my new home behind. This is not easy. But I’ve never been afraid of the tough choices before, and I certainly will not stand down now.

Do that thing you do.

Little miss adorable herself.

Little miss adorable herself.

Let me start this entry by saying, I really don’t have much to say. Most of my pictures this week are courtesy of my small human friend, Noreen. I did not go to a waterfall, I did not climb a mountain. I switched my malaria meds this week so you can expect lots of sunburned pictures in the future.

I mentioned this briefly on the book of face but I think it’s worth reiterating here. We had a training session last week that featured a current PCV (as many do) and she said something that really stuck with me. When asked what made her happiest at site, she responded “When I feel like it’s been a normal day. When I feel like I’m just living my life.” It may not seem like much at first when you read it. You may think, “But, Margaux, you live your life every day.” Well, yes. Yes, I do. To a very full extent. But here in Indonesia everything is under a microscope. Everything about me. I had a margaux-moment a few days ago when it was raining (as it is wont to do in the “dry” season…). Bu Yanik called to me and when I turned around to respond I fell straight on my rear. Of course. I scraped up my hand but I didn’t really get hurt. No, not even my pride; I’ve fallen far too much in my life to get a bruised ego over something so small. My friends’ families already know. They don’t even live close and they know. I have nigh strangers coming up to me to make sure I’m ok days after the fact. I laugh it off and show them my hand and tell them I’m fine, but at the end of the day everyone knows. All I did was slip and fall. Some days it feels like everything is a song and dance. It’s nice when I have moments, they don’t even have to be full days, but moments of normalcy. Moments of home. Moments of familiar. My step-dad made fun of me for bringing three Eeyores. In your face, Kevin. Those guys are with me every night and thank goodness for it. It’s the little things that seem to matter the most to me here. (Anyone who’s known me longer than 5 minutes can tell you I am a huge fan of little things, being one myself…) I walked to class with my headphones in and the music cranked up to ten. It. Was. Amazing. We were in a group so I didn’t have to worry about saying hello to everyone or getting hit by a motorcycle; I knew my fellow trainees would look out for me. So, I just walked. Not only that, all the buzzing little thoughts that never seem to stop floating about in my head ceased. Just for a brief 20 minute walk, but stop they did. Not only did the buzzing stop but it meant that I really just enjoyed myself. I was walking down a nearly deserted road over rivers and rice patties in Indonesia. It was stunning. That’s all I need. Some people need drunken debauchery in town. Some need a massage. Some need a crazy vacation. I just need a moment of calm. I need a moment I control to do with what I please in exactly the way I please and just like that; batteries fully recharged.

Otherwise life is as normal as normal gets for PST. I’ll be headed to the post office soon to try and send out some post cards. I go to weddings pretty regularly around here. I have no idea how so many people can get married in such rapid succession. I’m making friends with small humans and having odd conversations about my nose. All in all it would seem things are getting to a norm. I can wash my clothes on my own; I can eat almost everything that’s handed to me; I can get to and from my house and school; I can converse in the local language with relative ease.

We find out next week where our permanent sites will be. I’m hoping for West Java and proximity to other volunteers. I’ll be sure to let everyone know as soon as I’m able. I don’t think I’m allowed to really post the exact village so you’ll have to hit me up in the private sector to get the mailing address. Until then, my friends, Gaux out.