Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The End of an Era

I realize that it's been awhile since I last posted (almost three months!), but it hasn't been for lack of trying. It's been a busy summer, including starting a new job, officially finishing up my Peace Corps service, moving out of the convent and into a lovely house on the lake, an unfortunate stint in the hospital, and my first trip back to America in two years and three months.

I've tried to sit down and write a "sum it all up"post reflecting on how the last two years and a couple months have changed me for awhile now. But every time I've managed to find a couple of minutes to write, all I end up with is a bunch of cliches.

"It was the most profound experience of my life"
"Peace Corps is the hardest job you'll ever love"
"I went to Rwanda to teach others, but I ended up learning so much about the world and myself."

It's like trying to tell someone who has never tasted strawberries what they taste like, or trying to explain the complex plot of a movie or book without spoiling it, or those reviews of music albums that try to put the impossible into print. Every time I try to simplify the ups and downs of my Peace Corps service into a nice little blog post, it feels like I'm somehow cheapening the experience.

I am glad that I joined Peace Corps? Definitely.
Was it the hardest thing I've ever done? Absolutely.

I think some people tend to look back on their service with rose-tinted glasses, forgetting the times you felt like an utter and complete failure, felt disappointment so deep it crushed your soul, felt confusion at the clashing of cultures, and debated pressing the "send me back to America" button. I never, ever want to forget those times, if for no other reason than how good it makes the other times seem. The struggles of my first year shaped my second year, and made them that much better when things actually worked out, when relationships strengthened, and I really, truly began to love living in Rwanda.

I'm writing this from what my Dad refers to as "the radioactive room", my bedroom in what used to be my house, the walls painted electric pink, yellow, and orange stripes since seventh grade. My stomach is full of cherries and cheese and hummus and good beer and the million other things I've been sorely lacking. I'm using the fastest internet I've ever seen, listening to music I've never heard before, and using apps I didn't know existed. I feel like I'm living in a different yet strangely familiar world, like I'm dreaming at warp speed.

I've had two and a half weeks of hot showers every day, of drinking cold, clean water straight from the tap, of sleeping in the most comfortable bed I know, of hugging family members and laughing with friends. It's simply... marvelous.

I'm looking back on early blog posts, like this one fretting about what I should possibly pack for Peace Corps, and I feel like a different person altogether (Note to any future Peace Corps Volunteers reading this: don't freak out that much over packing). And I'm okay with that.

Maybe I'll write that big "sum it all up" post someday, but it isn't today. Today I'm just an observer, taking it all in.

Peace Corps, it was a fantastic ride. Rwanda, we're not finished yet.