Monday, January 30, 2012

Well, it's been brought to my attention again that I've been a horrible blogger. And seeing as my last entry was...almost half a year ago (!?) I can't really argue. But I will anyways, because as anyone who knows me is aware, I'm always up for a good argument.

Somewhere around being in country for a year, the feeling of “living in Africa” sort of ceased. The weird things became less weird, the scary things less scary, and the novel things downright tedious. The feeling of waking up everyday slightly nervous about what strange, madcap things might happen lessened, and eventually I settled into what could more or less be called a routine. I know that when I wake up now I'll immediately go outside to fetch water, come in and make coffee (and oatmeal if I have it), eat breakfast, and chat online for a little bit. Then I'll get ready for work and go to the CSB to do prenatal consultations, vaccines, or malaria tests depending on the day. At lunch I head over to the middle school to run while the kids are at home for lunch, and afterwards, I'll follow suit. I can usually set my lunch to cooking while I heat a little water to take a shower, and then I come back and eat. Afternoons are a little less structured, but typically involve some combination of reading, studying for the MCAT, watching a movie, or hanging out with my site mate, Travis. After that it's dinner time, so another round of cooking, or maybe going to the hotely for soup, then cleaning, and then it's practically time to go to bed, most often to the sounds of mice and lizards scurrying around my house.

To summarize, “living in Africa” became simply “living,” and most of it seemed too mundane to really even mention to people back home. At least, that's what I thought until I went home last month.

As Peace Corps volunteers, we build up what America is like in our heads, because for many of us, it's been several months (or even years) since we've been there. Obviously I hadn't forgotten America in the year and a half since I had left home, but I was overconfident in my thinking that reverse culture shock wouldn't be a problem. On the one hand, when my plane landed in Paris I was ready to get on the next return flight to Madagascar because holy crap, there are a million cars, and buildings, and roads, and it's FREEZING. On the other, by the time my tired and delirious feet hit Chicago and had my first bite of deep-dish pizza, I was ready to stow my suitcases for good and never look back.

America was all kinds of wonderful- spending time with family and friends, eating food I'd been craving for so long, going places and not having everyone pointing at me, and actually, having places to go in general was simply amazing. But there were constant reminders to me of how I've changed since leaving, and how different my life in Madagascar really is. Though I can't honestly say I missed Madagascar while I was home, there was a part of me that was happy to be back to my simple life for a while more.

Being in America was a reality check, and I don't think I would have been ready to stay there for good when I was home for the holidays. People have jobs and bills and schedules, and while I do miss a faster pace of life, it's kind of nice to only worry about buying rice (or usually ramen in my case) and rat hunting in a day. But, it was a wake up call. My stage of PCVs has less than 7 months left here, and then it's back to “real life”. It's created kind of a weird dichotomy of feeling like I need to be planning for when I'm home but at the same time, trying to really make the most of my time here. The usual challenge of “being present” I suppose.

In any case, my trip home was a reminder that the weird things ARE still weird here, or cool, or different, or whatever your interpretation of them is if you live in America. And I remember reading blogs before I left and thinking how interesting everything about Peace Corps seemed, and being excited about having that life. So, I'll try to keep that in mind over the next several months and do a better job of blogging. Because hey, rat hunting might seem normal to me, but there is really nothing normal about 3 grown-ass adults chasing rats around a room with broom sticks and wiffle-ball bats (combined, we have a .5 “batting” average).

What's next for me and the blog? My photography project with girls from the Girls Club is scheduled to start next week, so I'll be updating about that as much as I can, hopefully with pictures! And also, if you've seen the news (CNN, Al Jazeera), you know that Madagascar is in a bit of a tenuous state, politically speaking. One of the exiled presidents has been trying to come back to country, which is being met with opposition from the current regime. So, everyone here has been closely monitoring that situation and waiting to see how it plays out, myself included.

Other than that, not much big news on the island! Till next update, take care.