Not so Perfect Endings

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.
Delicious Ambiguity.” 
-Gilda Radner

   I think the most valuable lesson Peace Corps has taught me so far is that sometimes the things you plan out so well and think will work out do not, and other things that you never would have expected to work out or happen do, and that is ok. I think this is an important lesson that applies not only to this experience but to life in general. I remember when I decided to leave my MSW program at NYU after one semester because I felt I needed more work and life experience first I felt so guilty. I had spent so much time wanting to live in NYC and my plan all through college had been to move there for grad school right away. My dream had come true, but I was unsure and unhappy. At the time it didn't make any sense, and I was so angry with myself.  It took a long time for me to except it for what it was and move on. My Peace Corps experience has not been what I previously expected. I pictured myself  living in a hut, using a pit latrine my whole service, and  having infrequent communication with my family and friends. Even when I first got to my site, I had these big plans for this sponsored camel ride and my idea of what I'd be doing in my social work office was more like social work in the United States. I was so very wrong and so many of the projects I originally planned when I first got here failed miserably. Things here have not been so  "stereotypical Peace Corps". Not everyone has been so friendly or welcoming. Not everything I've experienced here or every project I've tried to work on has had a happy ending. However, I feel so differently about that than I did about my "failed" NYC experience. This time instead of feeling guilty or angry that things haven't worked out the way they were "supposed to", I've learned to embrace that and appreciate things for what they are. I've had experiences here that I never thought I would have had, some good, others not so great, but all of them have taught me something. I'm more grateful for those moments when things do work out and for the positive experiences that take me by surprise. 
   Currently I find myself "taken by surprise" by a couple of events that I never really would have anticipated getting to plan. One of these is a "Guys Leading Our World Day" for the teenage boys in my village to be able to talk about issues that impact them in an open environment with guidance teachers and PCV volunteers present. Some of my guy PCV friends will be there to help facilitate discussions. In the U.S, I worked mostly with teenage girls so I never really would have expected to be planning an event for just boys in my village, but it is a need here, and I think it will be a rewarding experience. The other event is "Teddy Bear Day". An organization in the U.S. is donating 100 teddy bears that will be given to orphans and vulnerable children in the care of my S&CD office. There will be a teddy bear ceremony at the kgotla , followed by a parade to the S&CD office, where I work. The plan is for the event to also create some awareness that these children need the support and kindness of the community. I'm really excited about both of these events. 
    I'm trying to remember all  of this as I start to think about what my life after Peace Corps will be like. Part of me is terrified to think about that at this point. The other part of me knows it will be ok because of this lesson I've learned here. 


Mid-Service Training...and Life here at this Point

   Recently I had Mid-Service Training with the rest of Bots10. It was really nice to see everyone because there are members of my group who live very far away who I had not seen since IST last August. This training felt different to me than other trainings, and I think that is mostly because we are all different. There was a general feeling of "We know what we are doing and are at peace with how life is here" opposed to our previous trainings where as a group we were still new and freaking out. It was kind of cool to see how far each of us has come. MST is also about starting to think about life after service, which honestly caused me to have a slight mental break down at the end of MST because I was not prepared to start thinking about that yet. I've really been enjoying just living in the present here. I've known for a while that I want to go to grad school after this, but now I actually have to start planning and getting ready to apply. This is both exciting and scary because I'm not sure at this point where I want to go. My plan is to apply to several schools and see what happens. I definitely will spend a couple of months at home in Maine with my family and friends there before I go anywhere else though since the programs I'm applying to start in August or September. It feels so crazy to be even thinking about this right now.
   My life here has felt very normal lately. My schedule of going to the schools has been pretty consistent for a while now, and I have a weekly routine. I was actually pretty glad to get back to my site after MST and back into my routine so that I could be around for the last week of school before break. The schools here go on break for the month of July, which means I have less going on now. However, I do have some projects planned for pre-school age kids and am working on getting funding and planning another event for my village that will hopefully take place toward the end of August. I remember being sooooo bored and sad this time last year. Things are so different now.


Thank YOU

 I've now been in Botswana for 15 months, and although I have many more good days than bad days at this point of my service, I'd like to take some time to write a post to thank those from home who have stayed in touch and been so supportive through the bad times and good times. 

Mom- My mother is a worrier, and I know my being so far from home has been difficult for her. Despite the fact that she much rather have me back on U.S. soil where she can see that I'm ok, she has been very supportive of me throughout this adventure. She is a busy woman who has dealt with enough on her own this past year or so and been running around like crazy to school event after school event and dance show after dance show with my little brother, but she still takes the time to send me thoughtful emails, letters, and care packages. She does way more than I would ever expect, and she still worries that it isn't enough. It is more than enough, Mom! 

Dad-My dad wishes all of his kids would stay in Maine forever and never leave. I know this because even when I was in Boston and NY he would ask me all of the time when I was coming home. Nonetheless, he has been very supportive of my being here as well. He emails me and keeps me posted on life at home, and I keep him posted on life here. It is nice to feel that connection to family still, and I really appreciate it. 

Zim-Zim has been my best friend since we were 15, and she knew about my PC dream long before it became a reality. She is an incredibly busy mother to a wonderful almost 5 year old, who is like a nephew to me since she is like a sister to me. We don't get to chat very often because of the time difference and her busy life at home, but when we do it feels like I never left. Zim is nothing but encouraging and supportive. 

Lindsay- Lindsay has also been one of my best friends for as long as I've known Zim. We are NLS members together and will always be. ('No Life Society' because in high school we used to joke that we had no lives even though we were actually quite busy kids..and have all been pretty busy adults). Lindsay has been a good pen pal since I've  been here and sent me some pictures that remind me of home and make me smile. I have them hanging up in my house. 

Mariah-Mariah has been one of my best friends since my sophomore year in college when she was a freshman and joined Delta Zeta. I have a memory book from college that Mariah once wrote in "I have a feeling we are going to be friends for a long time". Well, Mariah, you were right! Mariah is busy with work and school, but we have been able to stay in touch and talk fairly often, which I'm grateful for. 

Ashley-Ash and I have known each other since she joined Delta Zeta her freshman year of college and my sophomore year, and she became my DZ little sister. Ash has written more letters to me since I've been here than anyone, and I realllllllly appreciate that. It is nice having a constant pen pal. Getting letters gives me something to look forward to during the tough times. 

Morgan-Morgan and I met at Umaine, and even though it has been a long time since we have lived in the same state, we have stayed in touch, and I'm grateful for that. Morgan has sent me some awesome mail, and we have also has stayed in touch through internet. She also is in charge of a Girl Scout Troupe and has been so helpful in helping to facilitate letter writing between her Girl Scouts and some kids here. Thanks so much for helping to support a project that is important to me! 

Steph: Steph and I joined Delta Zeta together in spring of '04. Since then we have both had busy lives and not lived near each other. However, we have stayed in touch and visited each other some over the years. Steph has been very busy with work and planning her wedding/getting married during the time that I've been here, but she still took the time to send me a wedding invite even though she knew I wouldn't be able to come home for it, which really did mean a lot to me. She also sent me some wonderful craft items for a camp that I've been planning with other volunteers. 

Ebeth- Ebeth and I have been Delta Zeta sisters since we were freshman in college. I can't believe it has been so long! Ebeth has been great about frequently sending me witty comments on facebook since I've been here that make me smile and remind me that I have great people at home like her who support me. 

This is not everyone who has given me words of encouragement since I've been here, but if I wrote about everyone I would be writing all day long! Thanks and lots of love to everyone who has given me support since I've been here!