First 5 months complete: the early challenges and the victories.

Back in town again~

So where are we at now? Well, writing general entries seems to get more and more difficult the longer we are here. How do I sum up this experience in any sort of well-rounded entry? I have no idea. This is why I love that people are helping me compile my letters into one place. Letters are usually written while I’m at site, in the middle of a genuine experience. Every day is so different, every letter is created out of a completely unique mood and context, even if they are all written from the same table and chair.

But I’m not at site right now, and I’m not writing a letter from that table or chair. I am currently sitting in the Peace Corps resource center in Port Vila. Tomorrow we leave for a quick getaway to New Zealand- where we will DRIVE. On the wrong side of the road, even! Slightly scared, slightly excited, slightly ashamed to be using so much petroleum for just the two of us. Maybe they’ll have a super cheap, solar powered electric car for rent when we get there? Not likely… darn.

On our island we actually have a remarkable amount of electronics (more than I thought anyway), all of which we keep powered via a solar panel, car battery and inverter. Other than the plastic that wraps the very rare food we actually buy at our village co-op, we use very little petroleum products. The only common uses of gasoline in our village are “grass cutters” (weed whackers that they use to cut acres of grass at a time), fiberglass boats (we have 2 or 3 in our village that, all together, maybe make runs between 1 and 4 times a week), and generators. Though I did have to borrow a generator and use 4 or 5 liters of gasoline for my most recent workshop, it feels good to be living so oil non-dependent.

The latest workshop was my first real connection with our village’s youth, ages 17-30, and it was totally worth it—they are so full of potential, talent and energy! I can’t wait to work with them more. Even if I do have to do night workshops to make sure I’m not interrupting any form of being at the schools, several of them being either teachers or students. In this workshop, we did everything from discuss their role in kid’s lives and how they affect children’s rights to discussing whether it is moral or not to tell couples they can only have two kids, to blowing up condoms like balloons and bouncing them all over the room. The last day was spent with them making their own activities for the topics of their choice and sharing it with our community. Considering this is the demographic that I have heard little good things about (most references to our village youth include substance use, laziness, lack of productivity, etc.), I was thrilled to see the community engage with them and voice their excitement to see more—and the performers’ enthusiasm both during the activities they planned and in response to being called out by the community. I am SO excited to get back to my community and exploit their talents for all their worth in service of lifting up, educating, and developing our community.

So that’s one of the major successes (to me) of what is turning out to be an incredibly busy beginning to my service. The biggest challenge by far is everything to do with personal life.

The homesickness seems to come in something akin to waves, and it also seems to evolve. I miss my family and friends so much. And what’s harder than missing them is the fear of disconnecting from them. A wise man once told Peter than when people are together, they grow together; when they are apart, they grow apart. I know so many amazing people and adore them, and feel so incredibly disconnected from all the amazing things they are doing with their lives, and them from what I am doing with mine, I fear for a widening gap that will never quite be bridged. But who knows? In the meantime, I’m going to keep writing those letters and hoping hoping HOPING for replies, and never take for granted the friendships I am developing with the awesome people here who I am growing through this Peace Corps Vanuatu experience with.

Speaking of personal life difficulties and people I am growing with, if I didn’t have Peter here….I am seriously doubtful that I would have made it as far as I have. Having a partner here to just be present and to see going through so many of the same kinds of challenges in the same context—and persevere…I’m pretty sure I could not do this without him. That said, personal relationships are work. When you are both going through so much and just struggling in ways you can only understand by being in such situations—it’s work to remember that the effort it takes to help the other carry his/her burdens pays off with them helping you carry yours. And it takes that work on both sides—and if one side persistently forgets and gets stuck in their own struggle, the weight of everything builds on the shoulders of their relationship with each other, rather than building a strong foundation from which to work through the toughest situations together. And even at it’s worse, neither of you can blame the other – this whole scenario is just hard. It’s hard to remember all the time to reach out to the person next to you when your eyes are transfixed on the avalanche of self-doubt, discomfort, stress, seemingly impossible situations, road blocks, fatigue, and so much more that is seemingly pouring onto your own life everyday. It’s hard work, but it’s work worthwhile. There are bad days—but the good days are bound to make up for it. And in the end, struggles shared means successes are shared as well. By the end of this adventure, if all goes well Peter and I will slough off the stress from the most challenging times, and celebrate many successes together.

Wish us luck.

p.s. I’ll try to get some pics up while we’re in New Zealand and have access to better internet service. 🙂

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