After a site visit from my Country Director, Dr. Darlene Grant, I began reflecting more on how perspective can transform situations and circumstances from debilitating to challenging.
I’ve expressed some of my difficulties with my Peace Corps service in my blog… about how my homestay is often overbearing, how I walk – a lot (I started keeping track of how much I walk every day and last month I walked 100.05 miles!), am somewhat isolated from other volunteers, and a plethora of other little things that can really, really add up, especially in conjunction with cultural and language barriers.
I would admit that the first few months at site I saw these struggles as a bit debilitating – no WiFi is tough, living in a small house with 7 host siblings where no one speaks English is tough, living far from other Americans is tough, I mean, even just living here in Kosovo being away from everything I’m comfortable with is tough. But that’s Peace Corps! That’s what I signed up for. My Country Director told me I was living the quintessential Peace Corps experience. And (I’m paraphrasing), also told me that no good stories and no real growth came from resources being readily available and everything being laid out for you. It’s up to you to address what you have and where to go from there.
Dr. Darlene Grant had mentioned to me how other PCVs have found providers to get WiFi for 10 Euros a month, and asked if I had looked into that. I explained that I started viewing not having WiFi at home (and having to walk 40 minutes to get it) as more of a challenge than something setting me back; I hadn’t been looking for a solution and didn’t need one, because I didn’t view it as a problem. I truly don’t need WiFi at home. I think if I had it, I’d spend more time in my room doing more pointless things than I already do. It’d be more convenient, of course, but Peace Corps service isn’t about convenience.
And that explanation was sort of a jumping off point of reflection for me these past 2 weeks about how perspective can turn potentially debilitating circumstances into challenging ones, and vice versa. After a few months at site, once I accepted that this was really my site, that this was my school, that this was my host family, my village, my community… I stopped viewing these as debilitations and more as challenges: this is what I’ve got, where do I go from here? I listened to a TED Talk recently from Linda Cliatt-Wayman who, as principal, led two low-performing urban high schools in Philadelphia to success with improved test scores and increased college admissions among students, and she would tell her students: so what? Now what?
So… this is what I’ve been given for my Peace Corps service. Now, what am I going to do with it?
Kinda like a cooking show: here are your ingredients, now make something good with them.
I’m very thankful for my Country Director’s visit to my school, for my students to see some diversity of Americans, and for kind words and advice from my boss. Peace Corps has been a lot of things to me, but the biggest thing it’s been is a catalyst for growth. I thought I was patient before service but now I have an incredible amount of patience (kinda a requirement in my household – either become patient or become resentful); I thought I was resilient before service but now I’m incredibly resilient. I’m looking forward to my second year of service and harnessing my developed strength to make an impact in my community. Happy Spring!