I anticipated that some things might feel weird, that my perceptions would have changed. I thought that maybe my previous life would now feel foreign to me or apart from me, like an old friend I once knew well but years of life had distanced us.
It wasn’t that way at all.
I stepped off the place into the Denver International Airport and a wave of relief washed over me. The sounds, the smells, the language- it all felt familiar, it felt comfortable. I did not have to pre-rehearse what I wanted to say in my head, I did not have to worry about cultural misunderstandings, I wasn’t filled with anxiety when I had to figure out where I was going and how I was getting there. It was as though the past eight months of my life in Peace Corps never happened, I stepped right back into my life before, picking up conversations where they left off, falling right back into old routines and habits.
I felt like Dorothy clicking her ruby slippers, chanting “There is no place like home.” And that is exactly how I felt. I could breathe easily again.
When I was back in the States, people often asked me how I felt, if things felt weird, if reverse culture shock had taken over, I would respond saying, “The only thing that has been weird is how not weird it has been.” I am not sure how I was suppose to feel, but I didn’t think it would be this- so easy, well mostly easy.
It was easy until people reminded me that I in fact had been gone for the past eight months, that I had been working and serving as a Peace Corps volunteer, and that my work was suppose to be meaningful and “good.” I could see the question forming, I could see it leaving their lips and coming for me and my body would react robotically- anxiety would take over. I would begin to wonder what I would say… Can I avoid the question all together… I should have planned an elevator pitch- 30 seconds that would encompass the past 8 months…
“So what does a typical day look like for you anyway?” They would ask me.
The question would hit me squarely, like a smack to the face. I thought I would be more excited to talk about my life, about my experience. After all, I am proud to be doing the work I am doing, to be serving with the volunteers I serve with in this beautiful country I am learning to call home, so I did not expect to feel so unprepared, so unwilling to discuss it. I would try ways to maneuver around it, to deflect….
“Well, that is the question, isn’t it?” I normally would say with a smirk, which would give me a few more seconds of trying to scrap something together in response.
Peace Corps is such a unique, beautiful but incredibly challenging experience. It is difficult to put to words something I am still figuring out, that I am still processing. 8 months may seem like a long time to most people, but really 8 months is still considered the beginning of service. Feeling protective over the experience, I wanted to respond to this question fairly and justly. And knowing my experience is so familiar to so many volunteers but also uniquely different, I felt the importance of sharing my story, our Peace Corps story responsibly, and I guess I just didn’t feel like I could do that quite yet, in the normal 30 seconds I would have to explain life as volunteer in the Dominican Republic.
I think that is why I have relied so much on this blog, as it has given me the time and space to collect my thoughts and feelings, to put them to paper, to process them in a way that I think can be helpful to others. Because the answer to this question can be particularly complex, I have decided it would be better to respond to it with the help of a handful of my fellow volunteers. Each person will give their own interpretation of their response to “What is a ‘typical” day?”, I will collect their responses and share them with you beautiful humans right here.
Stay tuned… A ‘Typical Day’ post to come.