Friday, September 25, 2009

"Survivor is Only 40 Days, You're Here Two Years"

This one goes out to my fellow members of SA20, because we survived. We survived PST and became volunteers. And after our swearing in, on our long trip to our new home, I am feeling sentimental.

There is nothing like a shared experience to bring people together. We shared common enemies: roosters, the chaos of Peace Corps, the training itself. We came out with the same battle-scars (bogobe burns). More importantly, we shared the same extreme joys of being in a new country, discovering a new culture, and finding strength within ourselves and each other.

I am remembering one of our first sessions at training where, I think it was Jeff, who quoted a poster that got him through his service, "You can get used to anything." Looking back on our first eight weeks here, it is absolutely true. You CAN get used to anything. For all those who think "I couldn't do that" about anything involved in this process (leaving friends and family, giving up the conveniences we are used to, surviving without running water and consistent electricity, pit toilets, etc.), you absolutely, 100%, without a doubt can. People don't just survive under these circumstances, they flourish. I don't mention this because I think that I, or anyone in our group, has done anything extraordinary by being here or making it through two months in a place where people live-out their entire lives. I mention it because I was one of the people who thought "I couldn't do that", both before I left and many times while I've been here, but I got used to it, and I did it.

In order to get used to training, we made family out of each other. We left the U.S. mentally prepared to go to our sites, deal with the isolation, take our grand ideas and put them to work. Instead, we were thrust into the organized chaos that is training. We spent the next 10 hours a day, 6 days a week together learning language, medical, safety, and technical information while complaining about it every chance we could get. We made the kinds of friendships in two months it would normally take years to make. And just as we were starting to really get used to it all, it was over. If everyone else was like me, we got so used to training, we forgot why we came in here in the first place. All of a sudden I felt completely dependent on people I barely knew, and I was faced with saying goodbye to them, just as I had to all my friends and family two months before.

But because we got used to all this craziness in eight of the longest and shortest weeks of our lives, we CAN do this. We can get used to what's coming up in the next four months before we all get to see each other again. No matter what is facing us at or sites, we can get used to it. Don't believe me? Just ask your Trainee self sitting back there in Washington DC what (s)he is capable of. I'm going to guess none of what we just went through is on that list. And yet, here we are.

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