Today on “hidden side of Peace Corps, what PCVs aren’t telling you” I’ll be talking about my emotions.
This past week I was in Thies (the second largest city in Senegal that also hosts the Peace Corps Training Center where we have trainings, conferences, and summits). I was there for what we call a our “Mid-Service Conference.” It’s a 3 day conference where we explore and rehash old concepts of being in country, new project ideas, etc. At one of our sessions we discussed what our emotions have been like since we have been in country. We were asked to draw a graph of our journey. We were given 20 minutes to draw it. Here is my (recreated) graph below.
As you can see most of the graph is positive and it correlates with specific moments that made me happy while I’ve been in country. Among those include vacation, my family visiting, seeing my fellow English speakers, summits, etc. My lows include Ramadan (hunger…), hot season, and feeling trapped with being at site. I want to draw your attention to the everyday fluctutations of my emotions. Even the second time round, I couldn’t do the graph justice. Here’s the other harsh truth, in those moments of daily lows, I will be mad, lonely, and frustrated, but a week later, I bet I won’t even remember feeling mad. Now if there is a specific incident, a couple of weeks later, I might remember it and I might also think it’s hilarious. I will feel silly for feeling that way, but really only time will tell.
Let me give you and example of a daily low. I’ll tell you about today’s. Up until this moment, my day was very pleasant. It might sound hilarious to you, but in fact even a couple of hours later, I’m still annoyed. To do laundry I need what we call the key to the spiket, which just means the T shaped piece to turn on the spiket. When I had finished doing my laundry, I left it in the spiket. There were some workers doing construction upstairs next to the laundry area and a couple of hours later they asked me where the key went. I had no idea, so I told them I didn’t know and that I don’t have it. 3 more hours went by and this time I was leaving the house after lunch to go do some work, but I was stopped on my way out by the same worker, who asked me again for the key. Part of me wanted to say “did you not listen earlier? I said I don’t have the key,” but instead I repeated my answer earlier and continued walking out of the house. There are 2 reasons for such a harsh response, the first is that in Wolof, there are no “pleases” there is no round about way to convey something, the culture is very harsh and speaks the truth as bluntly as possible. The second reason is that I’ve had trouble with men believing me when I say something. His response of asking me twice, made it seem like he thought I was hiding it from him, that I am purposefully not giving it to him because I am messing with him. The truth, no, I simply don’t know where it went. My brother is in charge of these things, and I don’t know where he took it to. So yes, it does sound stupid, but all my emotions in PC are amplified.
Now here’s a very positive things I experienced this past week. Thanks to being at conference I got to hang out with my best friends in my training group. We went on a day trip to a lake with pink algae, and it was wonderful! I laughed a lot, got to speak English, didn’t get harassed with marriage proposals, it was wonderful! At the end of that day, I smiled as I went to bed and felt so blessed. Talk about polar opposites of emotions.
One small thing can change the course of my day. It’s especially prevalent when I am struggling with ideas that are inherently American, but are tough to comeby in Senegal. In this case it was credibility of women. It’s tough not to take things personally, especially with a new language, and a completely different environment. One thing can change the way I sleep at night, one thing can make me smile all day, and all at the same time one thing can make me cry. No one ever told me that my emotions would be stretched to the limit every day and no one ever told me that I would rely so heavily on my fellow PCVs to help me see situations clearly.
So that’s it! Thanks for reading!