As I sit here listening to the pouring rain on my zinc roof, I can’t help put think about how much my “typical day” has changed over the course of my Peace Corps service. This change wasn’t really about my Peace Corps work, but more about a change in my perspective and overall outlook on my service.
When I first arrived in my site (October 2015), a typical day went a little something like this:
7:00 AM: Wake up to farm animals and my doña playing the Christian radio station at a very high volume
8:00 AM: Eat the usual viveres and eggs/salami breakfast with a heavy dose of Old Bay seasoning and hot sauce to get through it
9:00 AM: Go into PANIC MODE about what work I should be doing for Peace Corps, how I need to study more Spanish, how I must get to know and connect with the same people the volunteer in my site did before me, etc.
10:00 AM: Go for a walk to clear my head and discover new areas of my campo
10:30 AM: Returning from said walk, the following exchange occurs with a neighbor at least once a day:
Neighbor: Have you talked to Yvonne (PC volunteer who lived in my site before me) today?
Neighbor: How is she? When is she coming back?
Me: [Does awkward robot dance] um…I don’t know. You can ask her if you have her number.
Neighbor: When Yvonne was here [insert random story]
Me: [pretends to listen intently]
10:30ish AM: Still returning from said walk, another exchange with a neighbor occurs:
Neighbor: So what’s going on with the water project?
Me: [Continues to awkward robot dance because I have no idea what’s going on]
12:30ish PM: Amazing lunch by my doña…I’m convinced no one cooks better on this island
1:30 PM: Nap or exercise time
4:00 PM: ???? But really
7:00 PM: Dinnertime with the fam
9:00 PM: Telenovela time / Secretly watching movies in my room time
So as you can see from above, my first four months in my site were filled with many emotions. If I’m being completely honest, an emotion I felt a lot was frustration. A lot of my frustration came from comparing my site and experience to the experiences of other volunteers in my cohort. From day one in Peace Corps you’re told not to compare your experience to others, but that’s definitely easier said than done, especially when you have way too much free time on your hands. From WhatsApp groups, to Facebook and Instagram posts, people are always sharing all the cool things they are doing and it can be hard to swallow when you’re having a rough time in site. I felt that I personally had a very different experience being a follow-up volunteer, and luckily my friend and fellow PCV Brooke dealt with this too.
Another part of my frustration came from expectations. I am the second health volunteer in my site, so upon my arrival almost everyone had very specific expectations of what I should be doing or working on (mainly a water project that I was given no background on). I also came in with expectations on my end. I expected to work and build off of already established youth and women’s groups…I mean, that was supposed to be my job, right? Right?!
As the first couple months passed I started to learn that my expectations of myself, my community, and what Peace Corps wants would never come together perfectly as I had imagined. And all of that is OK. I learned that things eventually fall into place, even though it may feel like it’s taking forever.
My typical day now at 20 months down and 7 to go (April 2017) is a little something like this:
Anytime between 7:00 AM – 9:00 AM I wake up, feed my cat that is patiently sitting on top of my face for food, and make breakfast accompanied by a large coffee. I take my time eating and sipping coffee on my porch, which has become my favorite place. The morning has also become my favorite time of day…never in my life did I think that would happen.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays I head to the elementary school in the afternoon to teach Yo Sé Leer sessions to groups of 3rd and 4th grade boys. I am not an education volunteer, but doing activities from the PCDR education sector have been my favorite type of work. Since the elementary school is in the area where I used to live, I like to go visit my doña on these days. She is my favorite person in my campo, so I always feel most relaxed when I am at her house, drinking coffee and talking about anything and everything.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I usually head up to the high school after breakfast. Another PCV named Brooke who I referenced earlier only lives 20 minutes away from me, so the teenagers in our campos go to the same high school. Brooke and I do our best to teach Escojo Escolar (sexuality education course) alongside the school psychologist. When I say, “do our best” it’s because as many volunteers know, it’s always something. Between the constant rain, plentiful holidays, and lack of schedule, we’ve definitely learned to role with the punches while trying to implement this course.
When I’m not in the schools I’m either at my project partner’s house helping him coordinate things for the community water project, obsessively cleaning my house, or taking Snapchat photos with the neighborhood kids. You know, the usual.
As you can see, my typical day has evolved overtime. I hope this blog post will give hope to any newbie Peace Corps volunteers struggling out there. Trust me, I feel you. But remember to let go of those frustrations of your site and find what works best for you and your community. Embrace the constant change that comes with your Peace Corps life and never look back.
Name: Julie Starvarski
COS Date: October 2017
Site: El Carmen, Mano de Pilon, and Mateo Pico; Monte Plata: Outside of Peralvillo, over a flooded bridge and through the cacao forests in a campo known as Mano de Pilon in the Monte Plata province