The Anniversary Edition

Our merry band of volunteers in the first week we arrived.

Our merry band of volunteers in the first week we arrived.

My goal was to have already written this piece so I could publish it nicely and neatly on my one year anniversary of living in Indonesia. Aptly, however, life seldom follows the plan you set out for yourself and so here I am, one year in, trying to sort of what it all means.

As with most things in the Peace Corps I am of mixed feelings about my anniversary. I can’t believe it’s really been a whole year but at the same time I can’t believe I have a whole year to go.

So, what have I learned? What is different? What are the things I can point at and say, a year in, Indonesia has done this? Well, these are questions we actually ask ourselves a lot as Peace Corps Volunteers, not just on special days and occasions, but also on the average weekday. Why am I here? What am I doing? What have I done? Where am I going?

These seem as though they could be questions asked by any twenty-something regardless of job or international location but when you live in a place that is not your own on a contract you know will end you start to reevaluate things a little more heavily. So, what in the world am I doing? I have upended my life, quit my very comfortable job, said goodbye to the people I love, moved to a country in which I do not speak the language, and became a Peace Corps Volunteer. Of course, on the other hand, I restarted my life, quit a job in which I was unhappy, achieved a better idea of who actually loves me, learned a new language in a new country, and became a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I am not the same girl I was when I stepped onto that plane a year ago. I don’t plan to be the same girl as I am now when I step off that plane in a year. The only thing that’s certain in life is death and taxes, right? Isn’t that how the old Ben Franklin adage goes? I’d like to add just a few things to that list: stars and changes. The only thing that will never stop changing is that everything changes. Even my love of the stars is heavily based on their constant fluctuation and alteration juxtaposed against their seeming consistency and reliability. You never look at the same sky twice. Just so, I find it highly unlikely you will ever meet the same person twice. What, then, is so different about my personal changes after a year in Peace Corps versus the average human’s changes after a year of life?

To find the answer I think we need to get down to some real talk. Some people play the victim with their Peace Corps service and claim the whole thing is awful. Those are the people who usually Early Terminate (ET). Other people whitewash the whole thing and talk about nothing but the overwhelming love and joy of service. I have always strived to walk right down the middle in life, especially when it comes to situations such as these. So, we get back to the question, why have my changes while in Peace Corps been so different than that of your average Jill? Because this nonsense is hard. I get up everyday and I make the choice to stay. It’s not some inherent truth of life, it is a daily decision I make. I decide to snooze my alarm eight times and sometime between snooze number four and five, I decide that maybe I’ll stay in this country for another day. It’s the freedom in that choice alone that keeps me going. This is my decision. My choice. So when I have bad days I can look around and say, “Well, kid, you chose this.” Then, when I have those magical moments of happiness, I can look around and say, “Hot damn, gaux, you chose this!”

How have I changed, though? We know that I have, but the specifics are a bit harder for me to pinpoint. I’m still the same girl who stops mid-sentence when she realizes she has American chocolate in the freezer. (Twice.) I’m still the girl who mercilessly protects the people she loves. I’m still the girl who will move mountains for the people who mean the most to her. But my methods have changed. I value my own time now. I acknowledge my own strength. I am more patient on occasion. I am more tolerant in some ways and less in others. I have filled out a good amount of unused potential in the emotional growth category and for that I am impressed and grateful.

The Peace Corps Cycle of Vulnerability and Adjustment. And illustration of our emotions for the 27 months we serve.

The Peace Corps Cycle of Vulnerability and Adjustment. And illustration of our emotions for the 27 months we serve.

During our various training sessions they show us this nifty little graph of a PCV’s emotions. Of course, being me, I scoffed at it at first, thinking there was no way I would fall so easily into the predictions of some mass equation. The second time I saw it, however, was a little later in service and I thought to myself, “Well. Shit.” So, I’m slated for what they call a “Mid-Service Crisis” any month now. What does that mean for me? Well, it means I spend a lot of time thinking about how little I feel I do. It means I think back on the things I could have done and I reprimand myself for not doing more. I think I am perhaps in the midst of said crisis at present, but I am hopeful that the difficulty will just propel me that much further. So, I started looking for secondary projects to inspire me and I’ve pulled out old materials to renew my attempts to lesson plan. It would seem that even in what could be called a ‘crisis’ the new version of me remains solution oriented and hopeful. I’ll go ahead and put another tick in the positive change category.

One year down, one year two months and seven (ish) days to go. In the loving words of Doctor Who, “Well, there’s so much to discover. Think of how much wiser we’ll be by the end of this.”

The trusty Barat Pack of ID-7 now, one year later.

The trusty Barat Pack of ID-7 now, one year later.

Epic Nomad

Epic Nomad

I really want to be that lady when I grow up.

My mom has been hounding me to update the blog. It didn’t really seem like there was anything to update anyone about. I’m still moving all over, being an epic nomad.

Then I started getting a million people asking me the same questions. I still get “Are you nervous? Are you excited?” a lot. Yes. Both. Nervicited is what the other Peace Corps Volunteers and I have dubbed the sensation. Now I’m getting a lot of inquiry into what the hell is going on. People swear they’ve said good-bye to my at least five times and keep seeing me. Well, you have. Get over it?

I had my going away party a month before my actual departure because, for all intents and purposes, I was out of SF and not really coming back. Then I went to North Carolina to visit my dad and brothers for a minute. Now I’m back in Santa Cruz until I leave for good…sort of.

You see, we depart from sunny San Francisco (that was a joke, guys. Laugh.) on Sunday, April 7 at 12:50pm. Every Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) who is coming to Indonesia is meeting up in San Francisco before we peace out; even the Peace Corps spoils me. On Saturday, April 6 we then have a full day of registration, introduction, and general indoctrination. The Peace Corps is setting us up in the Radisson in the Fisherman’s Wharf for the night following registration. I can only imagine the other PCVs and I will need some quality bonding time after a full day of being told what heavy responsibilities and immense challenges lie ahead. I have, therefore, recruited some locals to show us where the best watering holes are in the area. Some PCVs will be arriving starting April 5 so I’m going to head up to my City in the sky on the 4th or 5th in order to be a one man welcoming party. That and to have a final City hurrah (…so, eat Indian food).

For all the visual learners

For all the visual learners

On April 7 we leave San Francisco to head to Narita, Japan (which will take roughly 12 hours of excruciating plane ride that might kill me). We have a two and a half hour layover in Narita with which we can do very little. From there we head to Singapore (a mere 7 hours) where we will have about 6 hours of layover in which we can romp around, kiss the ground, shower, nap, see the butterfly garden, or even get a foot massage in this supposedly massive airport. I might be more excited for Singapore than Indonesia, guys. After they rip us away from the airport we hop over to Surabaya, Indonesia. After the days of travel, the last 2 and a half hour flight might push me over the top and you’ll find me floating somewhere in the Java Sea after I dive from the plane in sheer exasperation. If I make it to Indonesia they’ll put us up in a hotel for about 5 days where we have introductions and begin training and get settled. They will then promptly move us to Malang where we will commence Pre-Service Training (PST). (If you look above, you’ll note I’ve added a new page called “Wait, where?” It has the mailing address for me during PST.) I will move in with a host family once in Malang and chances are good I will have very limited access to the interwebs. You’ve all been warned. I’ll be there until the end of May/beginning of June. If all goes according to plan, once I leave Malang they will send me to god-knows-where village to begin my actual service in my own village all by my lonesome.

So, apparently this is really happening. The plane tickets are purchased, the plans are set, my homework is due. I do believe I may actually be moving to Indonesia, my fair friends. This whole farewell process has been immensely interesting. I can’t say I expected it to be so hard. I don’t generally like people, so I didn’t expect there to be so freaking many that I will miss.

I also feel woefully unprepared. They keep telling me that there is no way to really be ready, but for those of you who know me well, unpreparedness just doesn’t jive. I keep feeling like I need to be doing a million things, that I’ve forgotten things or fallen down on the job or had a crucial plan malfunction. But it’s not so. There is no plan malfunction because the plan is constantly changing. Things are going to unfold as they will and I’m going to have to learn to be ok with not being in control at some point. It may as well be now. (All you stage managers out there, please cringe with me now in a collective “oh god, it’s my worst nightmare” moment. Thanks.) So it won’t be enough to simply become comfortable with being uncomfortable but also coming to terms with the fact that I am no longer in full control. I can’t plan every minute of every day for the next 2 years. I can’t tell you where exactly I’ll be in 4 months. It’s not even my decision. Let that thought rattle around your noggin for a minute and tell me you wouldn’t be losing your mind too.