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.