The other day I think I hit my tipping point. I finally cracked and ended up telling my host sister about how I’ve been feeling when we were waiting for her husband to pull the car out, to go on our hunt for the perfect fruit…Mbak Nur, Saya stressed…Her expression immediately changed to console me, she was really concerned, but I assured her it wasn’t her, it was just the new situation…Peace Corps had warned us about this, and even gave us a nice little chart so we can track it. It looks like I’m right where I should be, high and low. The fact that I don’t really have any friends here my age (yet!), the fact that village life is no New York City except for the possibility that I could get hit by a truck walking, the fact that EVERYONE stares at me like I’m from another Universe, the list could go on. Overall I feel like gadu-gadu –the food that’s comprised of a mixture of things. I have been talking to other volunteers and friends back home (thanks everyone!), and I know that what I’m feeling is completely normal. I keep telling myself that this is what being a celebrity much be like, except with squatting toilets! My host sister ended up comforting me, as she knows that a tiny village is not the most ideal place for someone in their 20’s, she even attended a university in Surabaya, so she understands that there’s more out there…
It’s funny thinking back on my first Peace Corps interview with my recruiter back in March 2010, one question that sticks out from that conversation was him asking me “how would you cope with extreme loneliness?” I spat out some long spiel of activities that I do to keep myself busy and occupied, thinking “yeah, I do value privacy and alone time”, without really factoring in complete language barriers, extreme cultural differences, and the fact that I would have no friends over the age of 13 my first few months here. I thought I was more adaptable, but all in all, I’ve felt myself growing shy, even nervous to speak in the native tongue because people laugh and mock me. Things will improve, and I will adjust. Physically, it’s not challenging to me here, I’m comfortable, I have everything I need to function, it’s just the emotional part that’s challenging. Last night night I found myself laying in bed watching Mad Men, eating chocolate ice cream in bed, what could I possibly have to complain about? Anyways, I keep remembering that while this is one of the most challenging times that I may ever have in my young adult life, this is something I should embrace, for I will likely never feel this way again. I applied for Peace Corps wanting to escape all the comforts of my life in America. If my life here in Indonesia was anything like it was back home (minus the chocolate ice cream and Mad Men), I wouldn’t have joined in the first place. The challenge is thrilling and it’s why I came here, and when I finally pulang (go return home), I will have my 25th birthday to look forward to (ahem, read: 4th time turning 21 celebrations), and all of the comforts of home will be waiting for me with open arms. Like them: Many things will have changed, too, but we’ll worry about that when the time comes!
And for now, I will take my little friends, the loneliness, the weird questions (do you know the Biebs? and just now one of the teachers asked me if I like terrorists with beards like the ones from 9/11…what?), the staring, the ants, the rice, the laughing at me, the awkwardness, the language barrier, the lack of hugging in this country, and feeling like a handicapped 5 year-old. At least I know I have chocolate ice cream and the Mad Men times under the mosquito net. The good things definitely outweigh the bad–and sometimes I just need to ramble. Thank you for reading and for the endless support
Welcome Home, Elle, welcome home.