Monday, March 28, 2011

Tick-Tock, Tip-Top, Please Don't Let the Good Times Stop

I'm down to seven months left. There was a point around the end of last year when I was looking towards the end of my service thinking it wouldn't come fast enough, completely bored with what I was doing, day dreaming about my uncertain future, and wishing I could just fast-forward one year. Be careful what you wish for. Time is flying by, and the clock is resting on my shoulders, ticking in my ears. A lot of volunteers will tell you how time is a weird thing in Peace Corps, where the days crawl, but the months pass you by as you blink. Right now, my days are even racing. I can't believe it's almost April. I keep thinking, surely everything will slow down, but it's not happening. I know that one day I will wake up and it will be time to say goodbye, and suddenly it feels like that will be the day I won't want to roll out of bed instead of all those other mornings a few months back. For some reason when I walk out of my door with the same old hikes ahead of me to the same old schools, something is different. I don't dread personifying a jungle gym to forty kids. I don't wonder, "What else can I possibly do with the women's groups?" I still look forward to the weekend, but it's not because the weekdays are miserable.

A friend recently gave me some sound advice. He too was a Peace Corps Volunteer here in the cumbre some years ago. He told me when he first got up here he didn't know how he would last a month. Things went on like that for a little while, but during his second year his experience changed too. He told himself, "At least I get to go home... They don't. This is as good as it gets for them unless I help." That was exactly what I needed to hear. It was a thought that was meandering through my head, but suddenly came front and center. No longer am I just going through the motions, luke warm and burned out. I have a new sense of urgency, enthusiasm, and actually believe that I can contribute something instead of just telling myself that this is how I'm supposed to feel. This has led me to some of the most fulfilling work I have done thus far.
I've been taking my computer to the local schools and showing the kids Planet Earth episodes.
The response has been amazing. They sit attentively for my pre-show lectures and hour long awful translation, and when it is finished they actually beg for more. I've never seen anything like it. Even some of the teachers are learning new things. I asked for ones help while I was trying to explain tectonic plates, and, to my surprise, he had no idea they existed. The kids are so into watching the videos, especially the ones who live in communities with no electricity or televisions, that I am even able to use it as a motivating tool for our work in the gardens.
"If you don't start paying attention during my soil prep talk, we will not watch the video today." Works every time. With my women's groups, I don't even need the videos to keep their attention anymore. I've worked with them for a year already, so maybe they are more
accustomed to me, maybe I'm better prepared than I used to be, or maybe my Spanish is just that much more intelligible (probably all three), but I am definitely getting more of a response from the women as well. I've started a worm box that I intend to pass on to my host family as a possible source of extra income after I have to go, along with my rabbits (which are giving me problems, but are hopefully soon to be resolved when I find a new male and stew up the old one with the family), and we have never been closer. My parents just visited me from the States, and couldn't have come at a better time (we should have a guest blog coming from them soon, no pressure guys). We had a blast, and I'm so glad they were able to see not only a couple of the amazing tourist attractions here in Guatemala, but a little bit of what the day to day reality is like here in my site. What else can I say besides, things are going great and I am certainly having the time of my life.

I should point out here that it is not my intention to be annoyingly satisfied and happy with everything that is going on at the moment. I do still have my "ugh" moments (although I am mostly satisfied and happy with everything that is going on at the moment). That's not why I am writing this post. I hope that any words of encouragement that I may have can be passed on to another in their moment of need, just like they have been passed on to me, and will close with another memorable piece of advice, from the volunteer I replaced, that I will heed myself right now: "Ride the wave." It will almost always return you to the beach; burned, bruised, and beaten, and will leave you with sand torturing every crevice, but, while it lasts, make it one that you will always remember, and always be there to catch the next one when it comes (I think the waves usually come in sets of seven). I hope this one will take me all the way in to the end.