Friday, February 26, 2016

Reverse culture shock

Two weeks post service and I'm delighted to say integration back into the US is going well. One minor anxiety moment in the middle of Sam's Club. I have never wanted a cigarette so bad in my life.

One thing I have noticed that seems odd, everything seems cheaper. I remember our first rest stop after arriving in South Africa we walked into a convenience store. One volunteer shouted "Twenty dollars for grapes what the hell!" Then we all realized the price was in rand not dollars. Now back in the land of green pieces of paper with the pictures of former presidents my subconscious is trying to reset. Going out to eat is no longer 150 rand but maybe 20 dollars. It's no longer 58 rand to watch Tom Hanks defeat pirates but $8.50 to watch George Clooney recover priceless art from Nazis.

I was told this would happen once I returned stateside but like everything it's one thing to know something and quite different to experience it.

Interesting point

Staying at a lovely lodge in a city in South Africa during the holidays with several travelers from all over the world. Today wanted to attend a farmer's market unfortunately it didn't work out so instead we went to a food market near many embassies. With me was a lovely woman from France and our tour guide an Afrikaner and his nephew and son. I walked with my new fellow traveler Francois and we checked out the various stands with some of the most delectable treats. Fudge, meat pies, flat bread pizza, Mexican food (a lovely attempt at Mexican food), cheeses galore, cakes, cookies and many beautiful crafts. As we were walking Francois remarked there were only white people at the market. I looked around and saw some Asian families and one or two black families. This did not surprise me. I explained to Francoise that there will be events that will appear racially homogeneous and other events that seem racially diverse. I explained that while everyone loves food some cultures are adventurous food eaters and others are not. The other issue is money. While for me spending 30 rand ($3) on a slice of cake isn't a large expense for someone that makes 60 rand a day it can be quite expensive. Add to that 14 rand for one way public transport and you have an event that is just too expensive.

When Francois and I met up with our tour guide she asked him about why the food market wasn't more racially diverse. He explained that it has a lot to do with culture. Going to an outdoor market to buy fancy cheeses, meats and fruits is more a European or western concept than an African concept. I listened as the two talked a bit more and Francois (South African Francois not French Francoise) said something very interesting. He explained Apartheid didn't just affect the black, colored and Asia South Africans but also prevented white South Africans from exploring or interacting with other cultures. He is the second Afrikaner I've heard make this remark and it is a pause for thought.

An unexpected result of service

While serving overseas was often difficult, frustrating, uncomfortable and embarrassing; it did have some amazing highlights. I went to South Africa with a small family; brother, mother, father, nephew and cousins I came back with five more borthers, another mom, a sister and twelve nieces and nephews. Two amazing friends; one from Zambia and another from Greece. And on top of this a great deal more insight and growth. But one thing I never thought would or could happen did. I lost a friend. Don't know what happened, what changed or even why this occurred but it did. What was shocking was the speed in which this change occured. One moment everything seemed great and then no return calls or emails. Others have told me to be patient so I waited a year to see if anything would change. It did not somehow i lost a friend of 20 years with no explanation. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wrap Up

Feel the end to tie up this blog in a neat little bow. Unfortunately can't quite do that. I was hired at a great non-profit in April but I'm waiting for my actual work to begin almost two months later. Three friends from Arizona moved to Illinois. But we don't get to see each other all the time which I miss. My friend M and I would go to the movies every Sunday. I enjoy my work and my co-workers are great people but when I complain to my friends they tell me it sounds familiar. They remind me I had the same complaints when I was an AmeriCorps which means I haven't changed as much as I thought. I'm exercising now and began the couch to 5K training and Bikram Yoga and feel great but I am eating crap like it's going out of style. I am overall happy and grateful for everything that has happened in the past five months since returning home. I still have a ways to go in achieving my goals; return to school, learn to smile more and get my health back on track. While much of my blog are complaints I would definitely join Peace Corps again. My advice is anyone thinking about joining talk to returned volunteers. Think beyond the romantic idea of going overseas and saving a community. Understand you may have days upon days of nothing happening or you may be so busy you won't know up from down. Peace Corps is difficult, scary, exciting, boring, challenging, horrible and a great adventure. It is not for everyone but it is something to strive for. As I wrote it's not a nice and neat little bow but it's the truth and I hope it helps.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Interview time

Tomorrow is my first interview since returning to the States. A bit nervous but also very excited. Thankfully had a few days to prepare and plan. Only one sour note, still waiting for my readjustment settlement from Peace Corps. Readjustment settlement is the money volunteers receive after service. Each month of service equals I believe (cant really think right now) $225 towards your readjustment. It's very helpful while you begin your job search. Unfortunately I have a long wait which creates a huge stressor. But deep breath everything works out in the end.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Growing pains

As an RPCV or returned volunteer I find my home has increased. I am an American but South Africa is my second home. Attached is an opinion piece regarding the growing pains SA is facing as she reaches 20.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/opinion/keller-south-africas-growing-pains.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Now what?

One week later and the question is what do I do now? Yesterday I was out with my mother running errands and she had a few questions. What was the purpose of Peace Corps? Do you have a plan? So first question, why Peace Corps? Peace Corps is definitely not for everyone and is a very personal choice. For me I wanted to join Peace Corps for years. I had applied multiple times in the past and later would pull my application. When it finally seemed like my life was in such a state that Peace Corps could fit; laid off, debt under control, I thought now is the time. Peace Corps provided the opportunity to live and work overseas. But more than that it provided several life lessons that are still revealing themselves one of which is, heaping amounts of patience. Things that once bothered me seem ridiculous to worry about now. My service provided time for self reflection; to see how I keep making the same mistakes over and over professionally and personally.

Next part do I have a plan? Well yes and no. I know I need to complete my Master's degree and learn a language. I have thoughts and ideas but unfortunately nothing firm at this point. So now begins the what now portion of the RPCV (returned Peace Corps volunteer) journey. For a woman that likes to have a clear plan this is a bit frightening.