** Let me preface this post by saying that I have shied away from going into major details about my current ‘job’ and living situation to avoid wrong impressions, misunderstandings, and bias opinions, that and I am required to attach a disclaimer to anything I write about it… which becomes a bit annoying… but that being said, please know that the writings and ideas in this post and blog in no way reflect the views and opinions of the United States government or Peace Corps. They are mine alone and should be viewed as such.**
After college I went through a very LONG phase where I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, I didn’t understand about the real world, and things that presented a challenge were easier to run away from than deal with. Then at age 27, I found myself single, living on my own, with a list of employment history that had nothing to do with my college degree. I had just been laid off for the third time in three years and hit a downward spiral of depression and confusion. I was unhappy with my life and myself because I was not doing anything the benefited anyone for the greater good. My contributions to society were nil. I thought about joining the military, but was way too out of shape and had a BMI way too high to even be considered… and the thought of going to war didn’t sit very well with me (I have never been much of a fighter). So one day I sat crying in my bedroom not knowing what was going to happen to me, when I remembered a Peace Corps seminar I had gone to my freshman year of college. I went to the website, read everything I could, and then decided… “What the hell! You only have one life to live.”
After a very very long application (complete with essay questions and an aspiration statement) that took about a month to complete, I was granted an interview with a recruiter in Atlanta. My interview went great and I was passed to go onto the next part of the process… Medical, dental, financial, and background clearance. I was deemed acceptable except for still having my wisdom teeth. So at the beginning of 2011 after 7 months of starting the application process I was invited to join the Peace Corps and serve in Indonesia… (Pending the removal of all 4 of my wisdom teeth by 30 days prior to my departure). I would leave in April… over a year after I started the application.
Before this I had never been out of the country.. hell I had never been off of the East Coast. Now I have been living in Indonesia for almost a year (April will be one year). I can say with all honesty that I love this experience. I spend my time teaching in a Muslim High School, and my students mean the world to me. They are always happy to see me coming and
always have a smile to share with me. I live with a host family who is like a real family in every sense of the word… we fight, we annoy each other, we fight over the remote, and who gets the last brownie on the plate! I have visited places and seen things that I would never in a million years have imagined that I would have the opportunity to see. And I can say with all honesty that Indonesia is absolutely beautiful.
But to say that this is easy would be a horrible lie. It is hard as hell. I am living in a country that doesn’t know English. Every day I have to communicate in 3 different languages that I
barely have a grasp on and try to teach my students English when they don’t understand a word I am saying. I have to mingle with my village and community and try to understand their beliefs and culture. Every day I learn something new about Muslim beliefs and practices and Javanese culture. I don’t always agree with the things I learn but I respect them and follow them when it is required of me. Everyone wants to take my picture. Everyone asks me a million times where I am from, where I am going, what I am doing. etc. Honestly there are times when escaping to my room is necessary. But then I sit back and think about everything I am learning from this experience (about life, people, and myself), and everything I hope that the people I come into contact with are learning from me…. it is enough to keep me going.
But it is not like this for everyone. Since arriving in Indonesia with a group of 30 people. I have said goodbye to 8 friends. 8 people who for different reasons have decided that Peace Corps service and / or Indonesia wasn’t the perfect match for them for their 27 months of service. I have been very sad to see these people go, some of them I was very close to… it has even raised questions in myself about if I am doing the right thing by staying. I got hit by a truck. I miss my family. I have three gorgeous nieces that are growing up without me. I went from seeing them every week to having to send them postcards in the mail so that they don’t forget who I am. I have a sister and a mother who mean the world to me, and they are getting on with their lives without me. I miss my friends. I miss food! I miss TV…. and I know that if I just say ‘enough’ I could be on a plane and back in the United States by next week… But then I think about how far I have come, how much I have learned, and how this is the first time in my life where the need to run away from something difficult is not overwhelming my every decision.
Am I changing the world? No, probably not… but I guarantee that my host family and my students will remember me for the rest of their lives… They will remember the crazy American who lived with them and taught them for two years. They will remember how Miss Angela pushed them to give their all in class and never settled for second rate work when she knew they could do better. I am not saving the world… but I am changing lives (even if it is just one or two people)…. what about that should be easy?