Please note that the opinions reflected on this blog are solely MY opinion. They do not reflect the Peace Corps or the US Government in any way.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wait, where's Utah?

I felt this title was appropriate because it sums up a lot of what I am feeling over here lately. I'm feeling a little bit of identity loss. It's been happening so strongly that Utah seems as if it's slowly falling out of existence. Now, a loss of identity can definitely be good and necessary as well as terrifying. Most of my conversations here go as follows:

Bonjour! Ca va? Ah, ca va bien merci! D'ou venez vous? Je viens des Etats-Unis, l'Utah c'est mon etat.  This results in a blank gaze....followed by "Ohh Utah." Even though 90% of the time no one still knows where I'm talking about. Thank God we had the 2002 Winter Olympics there or we'd be completely off the grid! Oh and for those of you that couldn't pick up on that dialogue. I basically go through the hi, how are you/where are you from conversation resulting in the Utah dilemma. Everyone has pride associated with where they are from, whether or not they like to admit it. It can be incredibly disarming for no one to even have an accurate idea of the place you called home for 23 years. 

Speaking of that place I call home. The strangest things can set me off into thinking about home and they usually hit me out of nowhere like a ton of bricks. Sometimes I will catch a whiff of aftershave or different colognes that remind me of my dad. I will hear a song that reminds me of certain people or just America in general. Among other things, I miss the independence I had back home. It's difficult to just get up and go to the gym (by gym I mean go lift rocks up and down outside) or have the ability to fend for myself at meal times. Basically I miss being able to call the shots in my own life. Hopefully once I install at my site I will be able to cook for myself a little and develop a sort of routine in order to feel more at home. In America people typically  have a way of measuring if their day was successful. Maybe you got a lot done at work or you went to the gym and had a hard work out, etc. Here, I don't get that successful day to day feeling which can be difficult. 

Another frustration that I'm dealing with is the language immersion. I have been placed in a fairly large town because the language I am intensively learning is French. This can be good and bad. I'm excited because I get to really hone my French and truly become fluent but it's frustrating because most local people speak Wolof or another language among each other. This can result in hours of sitting around knowing people are talking about me (because they glance my way and giggle) and not knowing what's being said. Back home you guys might just be having a lazy summer day but here there just is no such thing at this point. Even on the days that I don't have anything scheduled, my brain is constantly working. 

Enough of the negative stuff though! Yesterday my language teacher took us to meet with a local painter. This man told me about a Peace Corps volunteer that he worked with a few years ago. He told me about how much she helped him in his work. She helped him reach larger markets and improve his business skills immensely. A Peace Corps saying we heard recently is, "In your Peace Corps service, you will help plant trees whose shade you will not get to sit under." I think this is completely accurate in the case of this other volunteer. She may not know how much of an impact she had on this artisans life but now I know. The people of Senegal know. Most importantly, he knows the success that he is capable of. A common frustration among current volunteers is that they feel like they aren't making any sort of progress. Instances such as this make me realize that we may never know the impact of our service but it is there and is incredibly powerful. 

1 comment:

  1. Reading your blog posts is taking me back to my Peace Corps days! It makes me happy, anxious, reminiscent, nostalgic, and a little nauseous all at the same time - but so is the life in the Peace Corps world, right?

    We the same Utah issue in Azerbaijan. We would tell them and they would give us a look like perhaps we had tricked them and we weren't actually from the US. We got to the point where we would say, "Utah. It's near California." And then their eyes would light up and say, "Oh, California!" It worked. :)

    There are SO many frustrations along the way - more than you'll ever even thought possible. Things will frustrate you almost to your breaking point - things that you wouldn't even have thought twice about back home, but hang in there! You won't regret doing this! I promise Alexx! Keep focusing on the positive events - like you are already doing!

    I look forward to many more updates on FB and your blog!