Talk to a peace corps trainer: Giving up.

It seems like my whole life was about sitting in training, itching and wishing I had something to eat.  This was a mixed blessing because the rash and the starving were the only things keeping the afternoon swelter from putting me to sleep.  Every so often I would tune back in to our shocks and sandal training coordinator to make sure I didn’t miss something I thought was relevant.  I was excited when I heard his normally hopeful voice drop an octave and become brittle.   I wait on these moments because he ceases to train and begins to teach.

And I ask you what will you give up?  Will you give up hygiene?  That’s easy, you came here expecting to be dirty.   We live a rigid life in America, we like things just so. We like to order our coffee with fifteen words in the title and complain to the manager if the cream is too thick.  Is anything just so here?  Will you give up having things just so?

What more will you give up?  Will you give up sarcasm?  No sarcasm here.  Will you give up getting what you want?  Ooooh… everybody likes to get what they want! Will you give it up?  Remember expectations?  Will you give those up? Better hope so.  It’ll lighten your load.

And that is just the tip, those are just the day to day things.  What about the big things. The things that are so ingrained you don’t even know you can give them up?.

Will you give up the idea of who you are and accept who you are here?  It’s going to be different than you think.  Will you give up the idea, well the belief, that the way you were raised was right?  That the way you want things done is better?  What more can you give up?

One of you,  Maybe two of you are going to walk out of training and into a dream.  Good community, fulfilling job, challenging situations, good friends and beautiful scenery.  It happens, some people lead a charmed life.

Will the rest of you give up wanting that?  Will you give up jealousy and injustice? When you’re sitting in the bugs and the heat and no one has talked to you for three days.  And here’s your colleague and they’re living your dream?  Will you give up that dream?  Will you learn to accept what is?

You are not going to believe me, but contact with the people in this group, your training family, will make it more difficult for you to integrate.  Are you willing to give them up?

Will you give up helping?  We’re here to help right? Provide skilled people- all that. Will you give that up?  What if it’s not what your community is ready for?  What if all your volunteer buddies has a project and they’re bringing it home and all you have is a couple of people who know your name.  What if it’s one year and eleven months from now and that’s all you’ve got?  Will you give it up?  Will you give up wanting to help?  Sometimes we don’t get too help.  Sometimes all we can do is try and fail make your site easier for the next volunteer. Will you learn to accept that?”

He pauses and rubs the sweat off the back of his neck looking slightly lost; clears his throat and then glances down at his forgotten hand out.  I fade back into my stupor knowing I will have hours to read it twice while I wait for sleep this evening.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.