I lay in our hostal bed with my best friend and fellow volunteer, Jamie. The unchanged sheets were slightly moist. We stared up at the water stained ceiling, eating an in-country favorite, Dino cookies. The fan was slightly broken, hanging off the wall, but it still worked. The bathroom was left filthy from leftover sand we dragged in from the beach. The TV didn’t work.
“Before I came to this country I would have thought this hostal room was gross, but now, I am like yeah, this is pretty nice,” I said. Having reliable electricity, running water, a flushing toilet and a private room with floor to ceiling walls was now viewed as bougesy- or in other words, fancy.
“I told you, Jordan, your standards will just keep on falling.” Jamie said, laughing out loud. Being in-country five months longer than me, she has acted as my Peace Corps spirit guide, allowing me priceless insight that I would not have been able to get without her.
“Right. Like now when I get my coffee and there are ants in it, I fish them out and drink it anyway. Before I would never had drank it.” I said, as I thought about how drastically my perception has changed since being in-country.
“Hell!” Jamie said, “ Now I just drink the coffee with the ants in it!” We roared with laughter. It was true- what I once viewed as basic necessities, I now understood to be frivolous luxuries- and that now included ant-less coffee.
Since moving to the Dominican Republic, I have been able to be an observer to my own changes. Watching as I have adapted to the new world around me has been one of my favorite parts of service so far, as this type of change is so tangible and evident.
When I first arrived to country, I remember being overwhelmed by my host-family’s house in Santo Domingo. I remember thinking, “It’s okay, with time I will adjust.”
The house had more-or-less consistent electricity, tiled floors, an indoor bathroom without running water and a fan that functioned as my source of AC. Now, a house like that is without a doubt #bougesy.
I now live in a wood and zinc house, the floors are concrete, I have an in-door bathroom with a bucket-flushing toilet and tanque to shower with. We have a more-or-less consistent electricity schedule- which normally includes having light during the evening, which is something I always celebrate. Our water schedule is slightly less consistent, but we normally have enough water stored to get us through the days when we are without. The majority of our streets are paved, and I can find most of what I need here in my site. I have access to cell phone service and even have a local Community Technology Center.
Thus, according to PCDR standards, my site is pretty #bougesy.
Many of my fellow volunteers lives in isolated sites, where access to resources is much harder. Many bathe and shower in a detached latrine-which means, they will use buckets in their bedrooms as their bathroom during the night. Volunteers like Jamie do not have cell phone or WIFI service, meaning she has to hike to a rock or go an hour into town to get service. Fruits and vegetables are often difficult to get and expensive to eat regularly.
And its important to note, that this is how the rest of our communities have lived before we came and most will continue to live like this after we leave. For us, this experience can be viewed as a grand adventure, but for our community members, this is not an adventure, this is their lives- and when we find ourselves frustrated by the inconveniences that come with living without the privileges we once had, we are grounded by this reality- if our community can live their lives like this, then surely we can do it for 2 years.
But to be honest, it is amazing how quickly we can adapt to our changing environment. I feel quite comfortable in my site home now and no longer feel the frustration I once did by what was once viewed as inconveniences and “hardship.”
We were told time and time again throughout training that it would not be our living environment that would be the hardest part of service, it would be the work- and though at the time, I struggled with ever imagining myself finding comfort in this foreign place, I am realizing that, for me at least, this is certainly true.
I have been in country for 4.5 months and already I know that my worldview and perception is changing drastically. It’s a view that has allowed me to think critically about how I lived before I came to this country- and though of course I look forward to once again enjoying the luxuries I once had, I am realizing how little we actually need to live a dignified life.
In fact, living simply has allowed me to live without distraction. Here I have the time and the space to be able to enjoy people, read books, be alone with my thoughts. Back home we have so many things around us that can distract us from living intentionally- infinite access to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Youtube, 1000s of cable channels, smart phones, tablets, iPads, video games, online shopping, endless entertainment- that is easy to get lost in the static and the noise, to just go through life. However here, I have the time to enjoy conversations with my neighbors, to sit outside and read a book that has been on my reading list for year’s now… I think a lot about the past, present and future and realize that the time I have uprooted from the comfort of home can be invaluable if I allow it to be.
Photos from the week(s):
Home sweet home