This is my third summer away from friends and family. I have missed my own birthday, the 4th of July and my son’s birthday just to name a few things. Do I regret it? Not on your life. Just knowing that I have spent my time living is enough to make it worthwhile. I do miss my friends and family back in the states, but not as much as you would think. Maybe it is the fact that things are starting to fall into place. I have had a couple of successful projects a few exciting meetings and people know who I am. I still cannot place names with the faces, but the faces are definitely becoming familiar. The marriage proposals are less frequent as well. Not that I had an issue with them, but they do get tiresome.
All my life I have had this desire to fly away. Not in the literal sense but in the sense that to just be able to leave and experience life. I tend to look at my decisions from my younger years as limiting and the wrong decisions, which they may be, but in the end those decisions gave me two beautiful children. I do not regret my past, I just see it more clearly now. I do wish I had realized I could survive on my own much earlier and not stayed in bad relationships so long. I cannot change those facts, so I will simply enjoy how those play a huge role in how my life has progressed to where it is. As envious as I am of those younger lives that are currently connected to mine, I am still very aware of the amazing things I have experienced.
This weekend was a great bonding time. We had an “American Weekend” celebrating American things. But mostly we got sunburned, bug bitten and renewed friendships. I had no idea that a few of my fellow volunteers thought that I was very successful. In reality I have felt much a failure in my ability to integrate. I have met most of my community but then I am alone much of my time. It feels very disjointed. I would spend much more time on the farm if we had water up there to work some major projects. I hate investing time and energy into a project that will likely fail due to lack of water. If that were not an issue I would be up at the farm by 5:30 every morning.
I started projects just to feel like I did something with some of my time. I have found that a project makes life seem productive. I have a new project planned for the next week. This one is a huge project. I am having another girl from Peace Corps come here to give a demonstration and workshop on BioChar. She will stay 4 days and I have invited anyone from the nearby Parishes to send farmers to come participate. I have a great feeling that this will be a great workshop and so worthwhile. I even heard a rumor that our Peace Corps Program Manager will be joining us for this workshop. I am very excited, not only will she come to the workshop but there are two community meetings planned on those days as well. So she can get an idea of how things are really going here. I would love honest and genuine feedback on how things are going.
I have had a few conversations with my Peace Corps leaders about general frustrations with the lack of information available to complete my reports. I have explained how I have been going about things since just as in real life reality is far from the projected expectations and experiences. After this weekend though, I feel a bit better knowing that other volunteers are also feeling useless and lost at times. It always feels better to know there is someone who can empathize with you.
As a female the one thing I do not do is go out at night alone. I have had the neighbor guy carry me down to a dead yard and the crossroads, but then I realized that maybe he thought there would be compensation, which is not ever going to happen. He did not suggest it nor did he pursue it, but I just sensed an expectation at the end of the night. I need to find some females that are willing to go do things, that is my biggest desire currently. I have found two that might be interested in ladies dinner parties. That encouraged me to think I could have a couple of ladies who may be interested in cooking and playing a game a few nights a month. It could open up some doors. I have also started leaving my apartment later in the day. I have noticed much more activity around 4:30 in the afternoon. The past few weeks have felt isolated, and maybe that is my own fault for not reading the community better. I am hoping to walk around the scheme later in the evenings and meet more people in the scheme. I suppose that fact that school just got out has changed the activity around the community as well.
I envision my days looking more like split shifts in the near future. Early morning farm projects and evening walks and meetings to integrate better. Maybe integration always feels like failure. Maybe no matter how much you integrate you always feel outside the community. One think I do know, I feel much more part of this community than I felt in Liberia. I think having that first time around was beneficial. Knowing the things I would have done differently gives me insight into how to go about it this time around. I feel as though even those moments where I feel as if I am doing nothing, I am doing something.
One thing I do know is that I am accomplishing goal 3 pretty well. This is the goal to share the culture here with Americans back home and this I am certain I do best of the three goals.