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Peace Corps: “What the fuck am I doing here?”

April 9, 2013
Today’s guest post is from Monika, who is currently serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco! Today, her focus is on uncertainty and what one gives up to have the adventure of a lifetime. To read and subscribe to her blog, you can find the link here:
I’ve come to realize that “The toughest job you’ll ever love” should, in fact, not be the motto of Peace Corps. Alright, maybe not that extreme of a statement. This is a very tough job, and I do love it. Whether my 21 year old self will declare here and now, not quite in country for 4 months, that of all the jobs I’ll ever have, it’s the toughest I’ll ever love is another story entirely. So if that’s the official motto, the unofficial motto should be this: “What the fuck am I doing here?” I’ve probably thought this line at least a hundred times in the last week and a half I’ve been in site. In some form or another, I’ve been thinking it for the last 4 months. And my 21 year old self will declare here and now this fact: if you spend a whole 27 months in the Peace Corps during your life, and don’t at some point think “What the fuck am I doing here?” you’re doing it wrong. Alright, maybe not wrong, but I at least think you’re a little abnormal in the head.
monikaWhen this thought runs through your head on a fairly regular basis, you can’t help but try to answer it a little bit while you sit bored and tuning out a conversation you can’t understand that’s happening around you. I joined Peace Corps and came to Morocco to challenge myself. I came to experience a new culture. To meet new people. To learn something about myself. To maybe help a person or two. I came because it’s been my dream since I was 14. And when it all comes down to it, I know this is going to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. I can already tell. I worry a little bit that I may have taken on an adventure that will be the peak of my life experiences at too young of an age. But seriously, when that’s my worry, I’ve got it made right? Exactly.
But let’s not forget what the actual motto of the Peace Corps is: “The toughest job you’ll ever love.” This shit is tough. It’s not like a study abroad trip where you have a group of 15 other American’s with you all day long to lean on. When you hit final site, it’s sink or swim. I’ve got it better than most with three site-mates who have been here for a year and a half already. But come November, it’s going to be just me here. And it’s not like I’m all alone. I’m in a city of 70,000 people. I’ll have friends. I’ll have coworkers. I’ll have counterparts. And this may sound weird and a bit of stating the obvious, but they’ll all be Moroccan. And don’t get me wrong, I came here to meet and experience a new culture of people, but sometimes, it’s just exhausting. Every time you step out your door, you have to think in a new language, try to follow all the various new customs, and try to ignore the endless catcalls thrown at you when you walk down the street.
When you have “Bonjour!!” yelled after you by the same group of boys you pass every day, who know you’re the English teacher in town, for the 100th time, that’s where the “What the fuck am I doing here” moment comes in. A friend of mine and fellow PCV made a great point when we were talking about what it would take to quit and go home. “You need to have both a push to leave here, and you need to have a pull back home to make you go.” So, most days, I really do love everything about being here. I mean, let’s be real, it’s not the States. I get a new adventure every day. I get to blow people’s minds with the next best “guess what I saw that crazy blond American do today…” moment. But I’m willing to bet every volunteer at some point gets that push to go home. You know, that place where in the winter, the houses are actually heated, and in the summer it doesn’t hit 130 degrees. That place where people speak the same language that you think in. That place where you can wear shorts and a T-shirt and not be a prostitute. Yeah, that place.
But you gotta remember the other half of that statement. There needs to be something from home to pull you just as much as there is a reason pushing you out of here. And, in all honesty, 130 degree weather isn’t a valid reason to pick up and leave. I didn’t join Peace Corps to be a pansy. So what would pull you back? Traveling is a deep and true love of mine. It’s something I don’t plan on giving up at any point of my life, and is worth giving up the life I knew back home in order to know what it’s like to be a little bit uncomfortable once in awhile. Its new friends, exotic cities, ancient history, weird foods, bodily dysfunctions, and personal exploration. I love it. But it comes with sacrifices. And these sacrifices can sometimes feel like a pull back home. I can’t buy Reese’s in Morocco for one thing. Alright, that’s minor, but still, I do miss Hershey’s products. It’s the bigger things. It’s the relationships.
 Sitting alone 5500 miles away working on an English lesson plan and seeing a Facebook status about ten of your closest friends all playing pool at your favorite bar is tough. Friendships are hard to keep up when you live next door to someone. They’re even tougher when you aren’t on the same continent. When you love to travel like I do, you also give up something else that’s a pretty big deal. Any chance at any sort of steady, semi-healthy romantic relationship. Even getting ready to leave for Peace Corps was hard. I know I’m getting ready to leave for two years. I know there’s zero chance I want to go into Peace Corps in any kind of a relationship. But you also don’t want to write the whole world off. What if that girl you met at a party is down to go travel the world with you? What if another year back home would have made something out of nothing? What if that girl that beat you at pool that one time is also a die-hard snowboarder? I guess nobody will ever know. But it’s a choice I make when I choose to travel. Not that I think travel is incompatible with relationships. But it’s a very specific type of relationship and a very specific type of person you need to find. And it’s not exactly Peace Corps ready. Yeah, PCV’s have hooked up, are hooking up, and will continue to hook up. Yeah, PCV’s have married locals, are marrying locals, and will continue marrying locals. I don’t really see marrying a local woman here as culturally acceptable, so that’s out. Dating another PCV? Very possible. Time will tell on that one.
All and all, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from traveling about relationships (both friendly and romantic) left behind back home, it’s this: The people who matter the most will stick with you through thick and thin. I do everything I can to stay in touch with as many people as possible back home, but if people don’t stay in touch back, there’s only so much I can do about it. Sometimes it feels like going home would suddenly fix that problem of lost relationships, but I think being apart is one of the best things I can do for them. It shows me my truest friends. It shows me who cares enough to stay in touch. It shows me who the deadbeats that I should forget about are. And it shows me which relationships would actually have lasted had I stayed back home, and who is worth calling up when I hit stateside again.
Two years is a long time. At least that’s what my 21 year old self feels right now. Give me another 40 years, and it’s only going to feel like a drop in the bucket. Peace Corps is nothing more than a warm up for the adventures the rest of my life is going to bring, and is going to teach me more than I could have ever realized I needed to learn. I live the coolest life I could ever imagine. Sometimes, that comes with consequences, but sometimes, there are perks I don’t even realize until they happen. And when it all comes down to it, my friends and my family are going to be standing right there waiting for me when I get back. Who will make up that group of friends is up to them by this point, not me. As Peter Pan once said: “To live would be an awfully big adventure.”
One Comment leave one →
  1. April 10, 2013 11:40 pm

    Well said and hang in there.

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