Those of you who are close to us don't need to hear us say that Peace Corps is not what we expected. We arrived in country March 2010, bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to save the world. OK, so maybe it wasn't that bad, but we were pretty hopeful about what this experience would throw our way and how we would handle it. Our previous experiences with AmeriCorps had been incredible and service has been a big part of our relationship.
I know that most things in life do not go as expected, if they did things wouldn't be interesting, you might begin to lose excitement for the potential of each new day, life would be predictable and no one really wants that, do they? It's not that we were expecting this experience to be predictable or that we thought it wouldn't stimulate us, be we did show up wanting more. I think we were wanting this to be AmeriCorps 2.0 - service abroad more than Study Abroad 2.0 - life abroad. Instead of one or the other, it is a mix.
There is no denying that part of what brought us to Peace Corps was the opportunity to live abroad, experience a new culture and learn a new language, but we were thinking that the life part would be secondary to the service part instead of vice versa. However, one of the things that we have learned is that it is practically impossible to do the service without doing the life. You need to learn how things work in your individual community - training cannot teach you what your community's personality will be or how it will accept or not accept you. You need to understand that things will not go as smoothly, as quickly or even as planned. This has been a year of increasing our flexibility, both emotionally and physically (we've picked up yoga). It has been a year of persevering when we want to give up and a year of trying to overcome endless challenges.
That being said, it's not that it has been all bad. It's just that we've continually had to readjust what we want this experience to be and what it has the potential to be.
In the past year in our community we have made some great friends - they may be mostly under the age of 15, but we love spending time with them. We've fallen into a comfortable routine with our host family. We've learned to make new foods and love trying new foods. We've learned new skills and we have taught others new skills. We've been able to work with teachers to provide students with a more global education and have been able to introduce students to concepts that they may have otherwise missed. We've been able to focus more time on our personal fitness. We've been able to explore in ways that are new to us. Thanks to technology we've been able to easily keep in touch with family and friends at home. Thanks to technology we've been able to receive the support of friends and family at home when it's been needed most. We've been able to pet sloths, hold birds, enjoy the sight of curious new chicks jumping from heights twice or triple their own and watch newborn calves play in the fields. We've received milk, delivered on horseback and in old soda bottles. We've offered endless camps to youth without anything else to do during school vacations. We've learned Spanish. We've become members of the community. We walk through town and it's rare to not have at least one person greet us by name.
In other words, we've done a lot. Now we just need to keep reminding ourselves of that regardless of what we may think in our low moments.
One year, it's a lot to digest.