‘Decision made to suspend PC Madagascar. Very sad. Process of leaving will be lengthy. Prepare tonight for consolidation and onward as flights are confirmed. STAY IN SITE. For now we must be able to find you!’
I read the text message last night as I was eating one my favorite loaka (side dishes) in Madagascar. As you can imagine my food quickly became tasteless.
As I tossed and turned all night, I continually had to reread the message on my phone…check that I didn’t dream it, make sure I understood it, the ‘reality’ of the situation was slowly creeping in.
I can’t say I have many regrets in my shortly lived life. Maybe I wish I played a particular sport, had the courage to ask out a particular girl, or wish that at times I pursued a particular path. But the decision that was made for me only a few hours ago will haunt me for the unforeseeable future. Here’s why…
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Peace Corps Experience
The Good—I think I do a good job summing up all the ‘good’ under my last post and throughout this blog. The ‘good’ is found in the lives you touch, the smiles you bring, and the relationships you build. It’s an indescribable experience, a bond that is shared with only other PC volunteers who are serving or have served, an experience that could never be captured in just a few words.
The Bad—I have also touched on throughout this blog. It’s the homesickness, the heat, the rain, the mold, the food (or lack of), the rats, the infections and persistent infections, and the leaky roofs. It’s the ‘labels’ you are given, the stereotypes you try desperately to break, and the harassment you endure.
We all know that we need the ‘bad.’ It compliments the ‘good.’ Without the ‘Bad,’ the ‘Good’ would never be as sweet, beautiful, or nearly as rewarding.
The Ugly—the ‘Ugly’ I hate. One joins Peace Corps naively overlooking it. I joined Peace Corps knowing I was in for a marathon. I endured training—pushing my comfort level beyond its limits. I knew this course was going to be hard, uncomfortable, and at times brutally unbearable. But nothing is worse than falling short of an overarching goal—crossing the finish line. To stop in the middle of a race and forced to walk off the course…it’s the feelings of defeat, humiliation, and failure all entwined.
The Bitterness of this Experience
Thoughts of my experience here in Madagascar will forever be sweet—this was a life enriching experience. But that sweetness will also be associated with a sharp bitterness. My community took me in as a ‘student,’ they shared their culture, beliefs, hopes, and fears. We laughed together, grieved together. We experienced the cold and the heat, times of plenty and moments of scarcity. They provided me with so much and in the end I feel I have done little to return the favor. This is a common feeling, so I have been told. Returned PC volunteers would agree— all volunteers get more out of their experience than they could ever have given in return. But my sharp bitterness isn’t just that. It’s rooted in the ‘if only…’ and the ‘what if…’ Because I have been forced off the course prematurely, I will never know my full potential as a Peace Corps Volunteer—it’s been taken. I will never know what obstacles I might have faced or what challenges I may have needed to be overcome. Ultimately, I will also never know the potential of my impact. What I could have built on—the relationships I worked so hard build and the trust I managed to create. All those lives I could have touched.
…and for all that Sainte Luce, I am sorry!