I'm going through Peace Corps' version of a mid-life crisis, what we call a mid-service crisis. It basically means that I'm about half way (over half-way, if you want to get technical about it--in two weeks I'll have been here 15 months!) through my 27-month service and am freaking out about what I'm supposed to do for the next year.
My garden is basically done and looks fabulous. The fence and wells are finished and all the beds have been marked. So great! I have pictures that I'll post here soon soon. And while I'm extremely proud of myself and the women for successfully building this garden, I'm also worried. The garden was my main project, the way I spent the majority of my time here and now it's finished. Granted, I'm still doing work with the Press Club at the high school in my town, which I love, but that's only two days a week at most, what the hell am I supposed to do for the next year?
For the past couple months, my last year of service seemed like nothing. I had decided that I'd rather be here than in America, that time was going to fly and it'd be January 2011 before I knew it. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that positive thinking was almost entirely due to the fact that the weather had greatly improved around November. It was cold at night and mild during the day. But now that the weather is slowly warming, I'm not only dreading the hot season (And by dread, I mean I'm downright terrified of March), but also starting to think about how much I don't want to be here and how long a year.
It doesn't help that I just had three friends come visit, one from home and two from college. Don't get me wrong, I had an amazing time with all of them and couldn't be happier that they actually flew to Africa to visit me, but saying bye to them was extremely difficult. It made me want to go home for the first time in months. I also kepy trying to imagine how everything looked to them, which sort of made me to revert to how I saw things when I first got here. After laughing at how crazy everything here is with my friends, the level of normalcy I had reached sort of disappeared, and life again became extremely foreign and difficult.
For about a week, I could think of nothing else but leaving. I had always told myself that I would only leave early if I was really happy but ready to go. I never wanted to leave because it was too difficult. And although I wouldn't admit it to myself that's exactly why I wanted to go home--I was homesick and with every roach, mouse, gross meal, pool of sweat, I felt more and more inclined to leave. But it's amazing how I was able to trick myself by finding all these ways to rationalize going home, without admitting why I really wanted to leave: I'm wasting time here. I thought I wanted to do development work and I now I know I want to write. So why stay? There's nothing else for me to do here and if I were home with internet, I could focus on my writing and submit work to magazines and papers.
I decided that I would book a flight home in May for a visit, but a refundable one. And if come May, I still felt this way, I would leave. But, I didn't know what to tell my friend, Tawny, who wants to visit in July because I didn't know if I would still be here then. Fortunately, I talked to my mom about it and she set me straight. She assured me that if I left early I would not be happier at home and I would definitely regret it--facts I knew, but refused to admit to myself. She said, "You need to stop looking at leaving early as an option. Even thinking about it is hurting you." And she's right. Before we hung up, I decided that if I go home to visit, I HAVE to come back and will NOT book a refundable ticket.
But, was it a good idea to go home at all? What if I went home and didn't want to come back? Or what if I came back and was just miserable? But, I talked to my sister today and decided that I can do it, but I will only go to New York, not California. And then, when I come back in June, I will have only 6 months left and Tawny's visit in July to look forward to. It will be a breeze.
*Note: I wrote this the day before yesterday, it's amazing what 2 days (and a change in weather--it's gotten cold again these past few days) can do to a person's psyche. In my current state, I couldn't imagine leaving early. Life here is great. And what a joke to say I should go home in order to focus on my writing--I'll never have more free time to write than I do here. So don't worry about me. I'm in it for the long haul. See you all in May, or January 2010!
MAIL ME STUFF: Marnie Florin, PCV U.S. Peace Corps PO Box 582 Banjul, The Gambia West Africa
Note- Label the green customs forms with "school supplies," "religious materials," "food," "personal health supplies" etc. DO NOT write down anything valuable (like batteries, solar radio, etc.) even if they are in the box. You can use generic terms like "electronics." **Thanks Leslie and Ryan!