The New Year began quietly for us, save for the bar music from town blasting down the street for 2 and a half days straight. Admittedly, we are not big New Year’s Eve people and we did, in fact, fall asleep at 9:30 watching ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ which was slightly reminiscent of a NYE 6 years ago when we feel asleep early in Costa Rica watching ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ on Spanish TV. We did, however, celebrate on the first day of 2016 with mimosas, a memory of a great, long cross-country ski on last year’s January 1, and the realization that it was the first day of (possibly) our only full year living abroad. Our first month at site is now behind us, and a mere 23 months lie ahead.
In the last couple weeks, I have smiled about making some good, solid friends in town. We live in a teacher neighborhood on our school grounds so, unlike the houses of some other Peace Corps Volunteers, we don’t have people passing by our house on their way to somewhere. Additionally, none of our teacher colleagues live in this neighborhood full time, so they have all left for the holidays to go visit family. Some PCV’s would kill for the privacy and quiet that we have at our house. But on the other hand this means that we have to make a very conscious effort to leave our house every day and go find people to talk to; they certainly don’t come to us. In doing this, we have started to find a few great people to stop and have conversations with in town. I look forward to seeing these people and I know that, for me, there is nothing that makes me feel more a part of a community than running into someone familiar wherever I go. This small-town fact was special to me where we lived in Colorado, and I can see that it is here as well.
The second smile recently was from hosting Christmas. We had 11 other PCV’s at our house for 3 days around Christmas, cooking, baking, watching movies, chatting, and just hanging out. Many of these people were people I didn’t get to know very well during training, and it was great to have this time to get to know them, share holiday traditions, and just generally be in good company. These are some of our closest PCV neighbors for the next 2 years, and I am so excited about that. Our Christmas celebration ended with a night at the beach together..which is always a good thing 🙂
The third smile has to be that I recently feel less bothered by the Mozambican summer heat. There were moments in our first 2 weeks at site that I didn’t know if I could handle the heat..and I am sure there will be more of these moments in the future. In fact, I expected it to take me much longer to get used to the heat. But, I have noticed recently that the heat doesn’t bother me as much as it did at first. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel really hot when it’s 100 degrees, but I don’t feel as irritated by it. It may sound silly, but it’s nice to be able to go out walking around and not feel completely paralyzed by something like weather! Still, it’s odd to think that we are experiencing a 100+ degree temperature difference than what we are used to for this time of year.
And finally, it has been a struggle recently to feel useful, to feel that our time here- as of right now- really has any point at all. Peace Corps says all the time that they are all about relationship-building and, as noted above, I can already feel this starting to happen with people in our town. I know that intangible things, like conversations, have such a far-reaching impact on both sides, for social change, education, and widening perspectives. But, even with the hours we spend out and about chatting with people, there are many hours left to be filled during each day. When we are sitting in our house watching yet another episode of ‘Friends,’ passing the time until the next meal, it can be hard to remember why we came here. We are not teaching or working on projects yet, we don’t feel like we are doing anything useful or helpful for anyone anywhere, and we wonder what our purpose is.
It doesn’t matter how many times we were warned in training that we were inevitably going to feel this way, feeling useless is difficult.
The comfort comes in knowing that this will probably be one of the slowest times of our service, that taking this time to build relationships is a powerful thing, that instant gratification does not exist here (or anywhere, really), and that this is just a part of our journey….a really long, slow part of our journey.