I’ll have to admit that when I was awakened yesterday morning at 7:15 am I was a bit bothered. The sun had just risen, meaning that the tin roof hadn’t quite yet turned my house into an oven. The whir of the fan was comfortable in both the breeze it provided and its ability to drown out the around-the-clock roosters. Despite my slumber caused by a full day of traveling, I had mustered to fix clean cotton sheets onto my queen-sized mattress the night before, and they were still crisp on my skin. I was cozy and protected under my mosquito net, which my kitty has begun to use as his own personal hammock; he seemed to be just as perturbed as I was by the unanticipated alarm.
It was two of my oldest Chicas graduates, Oda and Grissel, calling my name through the window as if not to wake me but with enough angst to get my attention. “Qué?”, I managed, hoping I could answer their proposition from my bed. “Háganos el favor,” – a common Dominican phrase literally meaning ‘do the favor’, and used when someone has to ask or tell you something and they make YOU go to them rather than the other way around. I debated telling them to come back later, but I knew that they were on their way to school so I figured it was important. I shooed Mio from atop of the mosquito net and untucked it, stepping barefoot onto the needing-a-sweeping cement floor and accepting an early start to the day. I opened the window and gave them a sleepy smirk, not even pretending that they hadn’t woken me up. “We need the charla paper you have of the woman’s parts. We are going to teach Gris’s class about female anatomy today.” And just like that, my slumber and annoyance vanished and I felt on top of the world; I was home.
“Where we love is home,
Home that the feet may leave,
but not our hearts.”
I just spent five days surprising and visiting friends back at Clemson University. Clemson was home for four years – a quintessential college experience that provided me with a sturdy academic career and a friend group I wouldn’t change for the world. Now that we’re each living a new chapter, it was refreshing to come back and catch up.
“Travel does not exist without home….If we never return to the place we started, we would just be wandering, lost. Home is a reflecting surface, a place to measure our growth and enrich us after being infused with the outside world.”
After recognizing a pattern among a few of my friends, I reflected on my time here in the Dominican Republic. Am I happy? Do I take care of myself? Am I loved? Do I love? Am I giving this my all? How am I helping? What am I learning? What’s not working? What should/can I change? Will I be happy to do what I’m doing tomorrow?
All in all, life here is pretty dang fulfilling. So fulfilling in fact that I seem to be abandoning this blog 🙂 Every day is different and unexpected, which is both challenging and liberating. There’s a typical routine, but more often than not I diverge from it, and it’s satisfying to have the freedom to be able to do just that. My projects, in terms of audiences and themes, have been all over the place, and have recently been based around my knack for sexual education (local high school) and slight knowledge of marketing (goat group). I am witnessing and experiencing progress, not just in terms of ‘work’ but also in my level of integration within the community. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m not just a Peace Corps Volunteer anymore, but also a colleague, running buddy, daughter, girl-with-the-WiFi, and trusty dance partner.
What makes Peace Corps challenging, particularly for outcome-based folk, is that here results come slowly, and typically not in the form that one might expect. They are rarely grandiose in numbers, but rather moments that shimmer amidst frustrating dark ones; results are witnessing a slight but positive change in behavior and recognizing a signal of potentially sustainable progress…The family across the street not allowing the photographer at Reni’s graduation to take the family portrait until I was in it. A student in my environment course commenting that her backpack is now always full of trash because there are no trashcans at school and she feels bad throwing it on the ground. Oda and Grissel stepping up to share what they’ve learned about the human body with their class, striving to protect their own peers from an unwanted pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections.
These kinds of results are heart-warming and significant, but they are also the ones that are most difficult to communicate or validate with others. Their attainment is as sweet as it is complex, and can be accomplished regardless of a Peace Corps’ service. They don’t occur within a given environment actually, but rather where the individual that accomplishes such results is in his/her element; where there is a feeling of both ease and motivation; when feet hit the floor once a challenge is accepted; where she is at home.
“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”