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Today I was thinking about post-Peace Corps service and what it was going to be like going back to the states. I tried to imagine the reverse culture shock that I hear so much about and how it was going to affect me. I started to think about all the things I really love and miss about the States and it really got me thinking about my experience in Namibia thus far.
Don’t get me wrong, I love America. I never realized how truly wonderful it is until coming here. I miss so much about it that I often daydream about the things I used to have, or write lists of the foods I’m going to eat or the things I’m going to do when I return. Mostly I miss my family and friends, which in a way are America, but I know mean so much more to me than just location. I miss what is comfortable to me, I miss the familiar, I miss all of the wonderful things I’ve spent twenty-three years finding, experiencing and loving.
But I also love Namibia. What had begun as a love/hate kind of relationship has turned more into a love/appreciate sort of relationship. I absolutely do get frustrated with certain things here and I definitely do not like some things about Namibia…but in the most important ways I am really loving my experience here and I appreciate Nam for all it has to offer – the good, the bad, the totally unexpected. I’m not in a hut in the middle of the bush doing tribal dances around a fire like I had prepared for…but I am living in a really great community, I have resources which will help make my time here extremely productive and I have lots of traditional experiences available in other parts of the country. This place may not be what I expected, but it has become something that I have learned to love.
I love that in Namibia my life just seems so much more peaceful than it was in America. Peace Corps…I know…seems logical…but I know other volunteers that may not feel the same. I feel like I’m finally living the holistic life I always strived for but seemed to fall just short of. I have a home, work that I enjoy, friends (even if they are at least an hour and fifteen minutes away)…I exercise, I read, garden, create, cook, travel, plan and feel needed. I don’t worry about money or the future too much and I don’t stress over my appearance or what people think of me. The only thing that is really missing is the people I care about and those bits of home that were so important to me.
In America, I remember feeling like no matter how hard I worked there was going to be someone better than me and a part of myself pushing to achieve more. I remember feeling like whenever I was able to get one part of my life under control another would evade my grasp. I remember worrying too much about what others thought of me and specifically how I looked. I remember being surrounded by media that focuses on the negative things happening in the world with little to no nod to the wonderful things happening or even just an appreciation of the amazing things this world has to offer. I remember even when I was making a decent amount of money and paying all my bills that I would need to find a way to get more. I remember hearing people complain about their smartphones or what they wanted but couldn’t have. I remember people fighting over things that in the end just don’t matter. I remember people not appreciating all of the good things that come with being a US citizen and a member of a 1st world country; nonetheless, a hegemony.
Definitely a part of this experience is meant for me to realize all of these things. To understand a different way of living, a new way of life, a new host of problems and ideas that revolve around a different theme than my own past life. A newer understanding of what it means to be successful. A perspectival lens to filter my own life through and decide what’s really important. How can I complain about the comfortable life I led before when people here don’t even have a proper home to go to? How could I feel inadequate when my education is one of the best in the world and I didn’t even have to pay a cent until college? Will I ever be able to relate to another person again when I feel like now I see things so differently? These are the questions I’m constantly asking myself and something I’m not sure there is really an answer to.
The best of both worlds is really the situation I am in now. I have US citizenship. I can return to all the comforts of home, all that is familiar and to the people I love. With me will come this new understanding – this enlightened way of thinking. I honestly feel as though Namibia will have given me far greater a gift than my two years of service could have ever given Namibia. It may be extremely frustrating to hear the remarks of others or go back to a place where maybe I’ll never quite fit in again…but it’s a small price to pay for the growth I’ve experienced thus far and intend to continue during my service. I need to find a way to reconcile my previous life, ambitions, values, and goals…with that of my Namibian life…my Peace Corps experience. Eventually I hope to find a place where I can not only focus on, but be uplifted by, all of the wonderful things that I have come to love in both places. I’ll have known another world, and if all goes as planned, I will hopefully be able to create my own hybrid world so that I will never have to let go of either of the places I love. Namerica.