I hear it all the time from RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) that after your service is over, it almost feels like a piece of your life that never happened; it becomes some sort of crazy dream that only you experienced.
In just one week I can feel like I was born in several different decades. I go from feeling like a grandma while giving life advice to my students, colleagues, and new , to feeling like a high schooler while gossiping with other volunteers and Facebook stalking out of boredom. I jump from eloquently speaking in public and giving presentations as a seemingly 35 year old business professional at trainings and workshops, to barely getting out sentences in shqip like a 5 year old. I’ll party like a college kid, and the next day sit down and have a coffee with 60 year old men while discussing political issues. I run around and play Frisbee with children like a middle school child and then close out a grant and complete a project as if I were a 50 year old CEO (yeahhhhh like a boss!). I get worldly experience by speaking with various locals about different ways of life and culture than my own, and then go straight to watching hours of Disney movies at my apartment without leaving for a whole day. I travel with the independence of a 40 year old, the irresponsibility of a 16 year old, the financial stability of an 8 year old, the appearance of a 20 year old, and the apathy of an 80 year old. I am constantly moving around and am engaging in all sorts of different levels of responsibility and maturity. It is easy for me to forget how old I am –except for the fact that Albanians constantly remind me that I am “marriage age.”
I think the Peace Corps can be for volunteers who are any age because in a way, it covers all of the ages you can be—even if only for brief moments. It is these constant changes in roles and “age” that cause the Peace Corps experience to not seem like a reality. There is so much that happens in 2 years. Sometimes, there is just so much that happens in one day. It makes me feel like Peace Corps, in that sense, is more of reality and more ‘living life’ than ever. It’s living a lot of styles of life. Before Peace Corps I was a student athlete. I spent my time studying, training/doing gymnastics, and yes occasionally partying—as student athletes do. I began looking at my future, and yet held onto all the comforts of a child (i.e. my parents paid my cell phone bill etc.). I had a pretty set schedule and knew exactly what my responsibilities were.
Other volunteers came from stable jobs, some from retirement, and others from tragic life events. There are a lot of reasons to join the Peace Corps and there are a lot of different backgrounds that people come from. While the phrase “every Peace Corps experience is different” is extremely true and follows suit with this range in backgrounds, I personally feel that every PCV feels that they experience these changes in roles. Nobody’s life is the same here in country as it was in the states or wherever they were before Peace Corps. We are thrown in many different positions and at the very least, no matter what age you are in Peace Corps you go through Pre-Service Training feeling like an infant and wind up at site as an adult out in the world on your own in a foreign country.
Peace Corps has me all over the map figuratively and literally. I’m always learning some sort of life lesson here, and I really enjoy getting to know other volunteers’ background stories. As the new group of volunteers settles in and the last of the older group leaves, I find myself very much at the heart of my service. I can reflect on an eventful and adventurous year, and look forward/wonder to what the rest of my service has to offer me.
I’m waiting until my next post to share with you all the details of the sports court project that I’m currently working on. It’s really exciting! Also, I apologize for the lack of keeping up with this blog.