Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pieces from Peace Corps

I'm finding it increasingly harder to write about things - I don't know if it's because there is so much that happens to me each and every day, the fear of sounding negative (because sometimes things just aren't totally awesome) or because of the fear of being a bad Peace Corps Volunteer (how do I know if I'm doing all of this right?). But I'm here to speak my truth or life in the Peace Corps... as I know it.

It's also hard for me to write about the culture of Tonga. I'm afraid I'm comparing it to America in hopes of finding out which one is better (and as I said in an earlier post, I truly don't believe that either one is better or worse ... they're just different). A mere snapshot of Tongan culture doesn't give you any idea of what living here is like. Or what it is like to grow up Tongan. I will never know this either, but I'm beginning too. Slowly. I'm in the middle of a season of culture shock [the "yay I live in a different country" honeymoon period is just about over]. But we're told that emotions ebb and flow in the Peace Corps. While everyone's experiences are different, a common theme seems to be that are very high highs and very low lows.

When it rains it pores and on top of a lot of [literal] rain (which should be expected as it's cyclone season), I spent last week attending a training while being sick as a dog. Don't worry. This isn't going to be a TMI (Too Much Information) situation, but let's just say that it felt like every system in my body was fighting a great war against itself. I was a hot mess. And you can't be an effective Peace Corps Volunteer and take care of others if you aren't taking care of yourself. So after 5 different types of medicine, I'm all good. [fingers crossed]

I've learned that the cloudy and rainy parts of my life are what make the bright and sun-shiney ones that much more magical. It's some good advice, even if my PCV friend Harrison would roll his eyes and call me a hippy. So even if this last few weeks have been full of hard times, I want to share with you a list of some magic bits (moments, things, or people that have me smiling):

If you haven't figured it out yet, I love lists. Lists just make everything better.

Top 5 Peace Corps Pieces from the last week:
1. Easi-Yo Yogurt Maker - I had never heard of these marvelous things before joining Peace Corps. They come from NZ and are literally just a container inside of another container. It only takes 12 hours to make your own yogurt and if you freeze it, you get your own fro-yo. Fro Yo in Tonga! What a cool and fun treat during the summer months.
2. Other PCVs - Group FituFitu (77) rocks. We support each other and share ideas and it isn't about competing or comparing but celebrating what we're doing and that we're doing it together. I definitely thought that joining the Peace Corps was going to feel much more like an individual journey, but the more I get to know these 14 friends, the more I'm realizing the importance of sticking together and supporting each other... even if it's only by an occasional email or text message. Building and maintaining relationships are just important in community, but in the PCV community as well.
3. The Doctor at Peace Corps - I can't use his name since I didn't ask permission, but let's just say that Doctor PCV is amazing. I am healthy as a horse now because of him. He is a walking textbook of knowledge and I am sure would win any pub trivia night anywhere. I have never met anyone who is as smart as he is, except for this one farmer in TN that I know and my mom. He makes feeling sick not so bad. He's genuinely a good guy who really cares how you are feeling and is on call 24/7 for Peace Corps.
4. Eva pe-ing - (Walking Around) Last night, after I got back from the conference, I dropped off my bags (still haven't unpacked) and walked around my village. It was a beautiful night in Tonga. There was a cool-ish breeze coming off of the turquoise water and everyone was out and about. Some women were drying the leave from the tree in order to weave, men were drinking kava, and kids were playing in the street (clothing optional). It's a really special feeling when you walk down the road and hear your name being yelled from so many different people. While my Tongan language is still developing, I held my own and could actually answer questions about where I was and what I had been up to for the last week.
5. Reuniting with my host family - When I saw them last week, it had been two months. The majority of the family speaks in English aside from Una Si'i's grandmother and grandfather. So when I was dropped off in Fatumu last weekend and walked into the house, Siluaki (the grandfather) stood up, threw his arms into the air and yelled (in broken English) "Kiss-a me!" It was so much fun to attend church and feast with them last Sunday. They said that I will always be their adopted daughter and that if I ever needed anything to call. I feel the same.

I have so much to be grateful for this week, but sometimes life in the Peace Corps can be a bit overwhelming. Here's to a better attitude, a better week and to consciously looking for the good in all things.

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