Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Was It Worth It?

So much time has been spent dreaming of this moment. Now it’s finally here. Is it what I expected? I don’t know. I am not even completely sure of what I expected. Relief, sadness, pride in what I accomplished, regret for what I did not, excitement for the next phase in my life, worry that it’s what I should be doing.

Time that went so slowly in those first few months completely flew over the second year. When I think over my time here, the most prominent memories are not those of frustration, anger and sadness. What I think of the most are the incredible moments I had working with the students and women. These friendships along with those created with other PCVs and ex-pats will forever color how I view the world.

Sure I have struggled. There were many moments when I wanted to cut my loses and return home. But I didn’t. And now I am so grateful. When I first arrived in my village, I remember a group of education volunteers preparing to COS (Close of Service). The sense of accomplishment and completion they had was what I wanted. It’s what motivated me through those hardest initial months.
Now I have that and it is sweeter than I imagined. Yes, I can now say I lived for two years in an African village without electricity, modern plumbing or even seeing my friends and family in the US. But what is so sweet is not all that. It was the culture sharing moments…

--Communicating in Kiswahili to explain how my family’s farm operates as compared to theirs or to share good news like when my sister and her husband had their baby

--Teaching my students to play Hoki Poki and Red Rover and then having them teach me local games…as we’re surrounded by the backdrop of mountains, banana trees and other “African-looking foliage”

 --Being surprised by my birthday party thrown by the women’s group….especially considering in the local culture Tanzanians rarely celebrate birthdays or even know their own age

 --Giving a tour of my village to two American women from VA….one of whom was 80-years-old and had lived in my village around 1932-36 when her father worked on the coffee farm

 --The Mwezi wa Farasi, or month of the horse, to celebrate the Kentucky Derby by doing arts and crafts projects with my students

No, I did not “save the world” or even do much to improve it. But- contrary to popular belief- that is not what Peace Corps is all about. As the TZ Peace Corps staff likes to remind us, two-thirds of the Peace Corps Goals is about cultural exchange: sharing my culture with my host country and then sharing their culture with Americans. In turn, we are opening the realm of possibilities for our villagers and helping Americans see the world outside of our own bubble.

When I applied for Peace Corps, I needed a change to shake up my life. I got that and so much more. For that reason, I can honestly say that these past two years have definitely been worth it.

No comments:

Post a Comment