Saturday, April 20, 2013

My fellow PCVs

 I find that it’s been really difficult to keep in good contact with my fellow volunteers since being home. I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on why this is. These people were everything to me for two years. They were my best friends, they were my family, they were my vital support system. There is no way I would have made it through those two years without them. I became so close with some of these people and it was amazing.

I feel that especially with volunteers from my own group, SUR16, I got to see these people at their best and their worst. And they got to see the same of me. I think it’s very rare to see and know so much about someone in such a short amount of time. As an adult, I think it’s harder to make those kinds of connections with people. Everyone has there own thing going on and their own lives to live. They have jobs, school, relationships, etc, and it’s just difficult to really set aside the time and effort to form extremely close friendships. In Peace Corps, you are thrown into this crazy adventure with (in my case) 23 other people. You go through things together that no one else will ever understand. There are parts of me that no one else but a SUR16 will ever truly understand. I miss these people. I miss that connection.

The Peace Corps Volunteers I met were some of the most amazing people I have ever known. I think it is common to view PCVs as these humanitarian saints, and this is far from the truth. PCVs as flawed as anyone else, but we all have some basic things in common. We all saw a challenging situation, and we ran towards it instead of hiding from it. Every PCV has a different reason for joining the Peace Corps, but whether it’s the “selfish” reason of pushing yourself to the limit and growing as a human (that’s selfish?), helping those who are less fortunate, going on an adventure, etc., it’s always a good reason. There is a certain way that most PCVs look at life, and I found it extremely refreshing and wonderful.

So, to wrap this up, I miss my fellow SUR15s, the few SUR14s I got to know, SUR16s and SUR17s. I miss them a lot. I think I’m still waiting for the day where I have absolutely nothing to do but talk on the phone with one of my volunteers. The U.S. is rather busy. In the 10 months I’ve been back in the States, this day has not yet come. It may take awhile to figure out how we communicate in this new environment of ours, but we will. And in the meantime, I hope they all know that they are always in my thoughts and that I miss them.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


There is hands-down, no question one person I miss above all others from my village, Ovia Ollo, in Suriname. Maiamba. She was my 7-year old neighbor girl, who turned into my best friend. My first day in my village I remember her very clearly. I was standing at the side of my bat shack, with a couple of huge buckets of water trying to wash the never-ending grime off of something-or-another. She bounces up to me and just starts an endless stream of chatter, all while standing either about 2 inches from me, or leaning against me. I was extremely exhausted, having just moved into my shack and having spent the last day from dawn to dusk scrubbing my place and meeting very curious villagers. I immediately thought that this little girl and her endless talking was going to eventually get on my nerves. I was right. She got on my nerves, and right past them. She turned into my basic reason for being in Suriname. I fell very in love with this little elf of a girl. I came to regard her as my best friend, my shadow, and in a way, my child. If I ever have a little girl of my own, I’d love her to be exactly like Maiamba. Maiamba is quirky and unusual, she has some serious spunk, she is smart, and she is very loving. She is wonderful. Unfortunately, her mother was gone most of everyday working in the fields, so she did not get much attention. This little girl was very needy for love and attention. Because of this, I made sure to give her lots of hugs, which I sorely needed also.

Maiamba said to me one day, “Megan, do you notice that wherever you are, there I am?” I responded, “Yes, I actually have noticed that.” She replied, “Yeah, I’m your shadow.” Very true.

Anyway, I think about this little girl a lot, and when I do, fairly often I start to cry a bit because I miss her and know that at 7, it was probably pretty hard for her to understand why I left. She’ll stay with me in my thoughts and heart for the rest of my life. She really made my service possible and for that I’m extremely grateful.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Integrating then and now

I think a common fear and anxiety among volunteers who are nearing the end of their service is the question of how they are going to readjust to life back in the United States. So, I’m going to share a few of the experiences I’ve personally had during my re-integration process.

I would say that one of the greater challenges I’ve dealt with in returning to the States has been integrating my Peace Corps life and experiences into my life in the U.S. There were a lot of “challenges” upon first coming home, but this one has stayed with me a bit longer than most. I think it’s important that I integrate my PC life into my “everyday” life and this can be very difficult. I think that this is one of the main reasons I’m re-starting this blog. My life in Wisconsin is about as different as could possibly be imagined from my life in Suriname, so I find it important to honor my experience by bringing it into my current life when and where I can.

One thing I have been surprised about is how rarely people ask me about Peace Corps. I don’t usually bring up that I’m an RPCV with people I just meet. When it naturally comes up, I talk about it, but I’ve learned to avoid that awkward moment where the person I’m talking to clearly has no idea what to say. Fairly often, upon telling someone that I returned this summer from 2 years in the jungles of South America, I get a 5 second blank stare. Then the person invariably says, “that sounds like a blast” and changes the subject. This has been difficult, because I want to talk about my experiences. I feel like I’m denying a part of who I am when I just avoid the subject. I really think that people don’t ask questions because they feel ignorant about not knowing anything about Suriname and hardly anything about Peace Corps. It seems so natural and obvious that most people would know next to nothing about these things. I think this has led me to push for a change in how I act towards others. When I don’t know about something that someone is talking about, I’m working on simply asking questions. I guess I’ve learned to be less afraid of looking foolish or ignorant. Sometimes you can look more foolish by not being curious.

I do feel fortunate because my family and close friends are amazing at asking questions about PC and hearing endless weird stories about my experience. Because my father was a Peace Corps Volunteer, my family has always existed with Peace Corps as a sort of backdrop to our world. We’re all travelers and we all have very curious minds. So, when I do feel like I need to talk about my experience, my family and close friends have been really wonderful at allowing me to open up to them.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Blog Version 1.2

I've recently decided to continue this blog. I think it will be a really great way for me to reflect upon my PC experiences and to share how things unfold as I move forward from Peace Corps. Peace Corps doesn't end when you get on that plane to come home. Honestly, I don't think Peace Corps can ever end for a volunteer. Before leaving for Suriname, I read a lot (I mean A LOT) of PC blogs from countries all over the world. It always seemed like the blog ended when service officially ended. I always found this disappointing because the story really doesn't end there. So, I'm going to try to continue my story.

While I was serving in the Peace Corps, I felt fairly limited in what I could openly share through my blog. There were a lot of factors to balance. I didn't want to use my blog as a venting source. I also wanted to respect other people's privacy since different people have different comfort levels with having an online presence. Thirdly, I had to make sure not to accidentally reveal one of the many ways that the volunteers (including myself) were breaking Peace Corps rules and accidentally get the boot. Lastly, I wanted to make sure to be respectful of Suriname. The country and its people were welcoming me in as one of their own, and I didn't want to repay that kindness with talking harshly about the country. This could be hard, because honestly, Suriname was a hard place to live. It is a beautiful, wonderful country, but it definitely took its toll on me.

I'm going to leave it here for now. I just wanted to officially re-start this whole blogging thing.