A Different Road….

One of the most difficult decisions I have had to make, came once I finished my physical therapy after my back surgery and the doctor cleared me to go back to normal. Do I apply to return to my Peace Corps service in Indonesia? Or, do I forge ahead and take a different road in life? After seeking advice from many people and getting comments about how I am “Not a Spring Chicken any longer” or how my “baby bearing days are almost at an end” I decided to think about my decision and come up with a plan that was best for me. All I knew at the time was that after being in pain and having limited movement from May 2012 to January 2013, It was time to take action and get my life jump started. After much debate, tears of frustration, and talking to other Peace Corps Volunteers and friends, I made the decision NOT to go back to Indonesia, and try to start my life here in the States. My best friend Emily (We banded together in College when we sat next to each other in an African American Lit class with a teacher that didn’t really appreciate our thoughts and views, and have been best friends ever since) told me that she had talked to her parents about my staying in the States and wanting to start fresh, and they were kind enough to make me the offer to move up to Chicago and stay with them while I looked for a job and got on my feet. There would be no rush, and I could take my time looking for a job that I actually wanted. After thinking about it and weighing out all of my options, I decided to take them up on their extremely generous offer and moved up to Illinois smack dab in the middle of winter in January.

Jacket

Where I am living in the suburbs of Chicago is pretty amazing. I am getting used to the cold out here, though there are days that I look like an Eskimo when I go outside. We have tons of farm fields out here and wide open spaces. Every time I take a drive, I can’t get over how pretty it is out here. There are also tons of birds of prey around here. I see hawks and falcons every day. Harry and Libby (Emily’s Parents) took me to go Eagle watching a few weeks back. It was pretty amazing. We bundled up and went out to one of the dams in the area. There were about 5 bald eagles in the tree, and we watched as they flew around and swooped into the water to catch fish. There were a ton of people out there taking pictures with these amazingly awesome cameras and lenses. I WANT ONE! Maybe one of these days I will be out there with them. We have gotten a couple of snow storms and are due for another this week, but nothing too terrible. Its giving me good practice for the future winters. I even went out and shoveled the walkway (it seems just plain wrong to sweat that much when there is so much snow all around you).

Neighborhood

I am not that far from the city. I live probably 5 – 10 minutes from the train station, and just take that right in to downtown. That being said I have only been into the city a few times. I went a few weeks ago for a night out with my friend Travis. We went to an underground circus show that totally blew my socks off. The people were beyond talented and it was absolutely breath taking. I can’t even imagine the stamina and training it takes to do the things that they were able to do… tight rope walking, trapeze, ribbons. etc. Absolute craziness. But it was an AMAZING time and we had a lot of laughs.

Circus2

Circus1

I also started the craziness that is Job Searching. There is nothing that stresses me out more than having to sit down and search for a job. Its not just looking for a job that doesn’t sound like I would want to scratch my eyeballs out while working, it is the nervous wreck I become while I sit and wait for a call back, or go for an interview. I always wonder why haven’t I heard back from anyone? Am I not qualified for a job that I felt like a monkey could do? So needless to say I have been a little stressed and irritable. That being said, I did find a job, and even though it seems like it took FOREVER, it didn’t take that long… maybe a month total. I was hired at Mooseheart Child City and School as a Family Teacher. Mooseheart is a residential childcare facility, located on a 1,000-acre campus west of Chicago. Its a home for children and teens in need, from infancy through high school. The position requires me to live on campus in one of the homes of the kids. I will be there to help the kids with every day life problems. homework, teaching them how to do every day chores and tasks, learn responsibility, how to do laundry, banking, etc. The goal is to teach them the skills they will need to survive after graduation when they are on their own. I will be working in the boys community. I am nervous and excited at the same time. I start mid March, and have to go through 3 weeks of training before I take on responsibilities at the house. This is exactly the kind of job I was hoping to find. I am still striving to do good, and help kids in need. That to me makes the perfect career, and I couldn’t ask for a better way to start my new life.

Moose Statue on Campus

Moose Statue on Campus

Also new… after over 2 years of growing my hair out naturally and not having anyone touch it (not even a trim) I decided to go and get my hair trimmed to remove the split ends and help it grow. To cut my hair they had to flat iron it straight. I love how it looks. It is tempting me to permanently straighten my hair.

Straight Hair

So my new journey has started here in Illinois… Lets hope this one is successful and fulfilling.

When it Rains it Pours

I just took three ibuprofen trying to ebb the tension headache that is pounding behind my eyeballs.  So while I wait for my skull to return to normal I am going to do a little therapeutic blogging. To say that the past couple of days have been emotionally draining would be a drastic understatement. I have cried in the privacy of my room for two days. I have gone between anger, sadness, and calm reserve on a roller coaster ride that has left my nerves shot.  So What happened? What happened to all of my positive “You can do anything talk?” That hasn’t gone away completely, but sometimes it gets hard to keep the positive going when you are hit with one thing after another… and the feeling like you are drowning takes over.

I take pride in my work. I want to excel at what I do, no matter what it is. I want people to walk around and say “hey that girl has her stuff together!” I am my worst critic, and I tend to view even constructive criticism as a negative. Is that rational? No not at all, but I never claimed to be the most level headed person in the world. That leads me to my story.

So I was sleeping off my vacation in Yogyakarta (another blog post to come) when my phone buzzed to life. It was a staff member from Peace Corps saying that she had just talked to one of my co-teachers and that she would like to talk to me. I immediately went on alert trying to figure out what I had done wrong. Upon talking to her, I found out that my co-teachers felt like I should be doing more and being a bigger resource to them and their teaching methods. I immediately got angry. I am a decent teacher. I love my kids, they enjoy their class time with me. What was she talking about that I wasn’t doing enough!? Then I thought about all the meetings I tried to hold that were canceled and all of the ideas I have presented that were not deemed acceptable… and my anger just grew. Then I thought about how my co-teacher and friend went directly to Peace Corps to voice her complaints instead of talking to me directly… and my anger grew. Now I am the type of person that when I get really angry… I cry. I don’t know why, but I always have. And I am the type of person that tends to freak out first and then go back and problem solve. Its a little backwards I know, but like I said, I never claimed to be the most level headed person. So I got off the phone after my brain shorted out and I started to give clipped one word answers to the Peace Corps staff, I went to my room, and then proceeded to have the most glorious freak out of my life. When it was over and I could breathe again, I started to think about everything that was said, and really analyze the situation or situations as the case may be.

Situation 1…. Why did my co-teacher / friend go to Peace Corps instead of first talking to me about her concerns.  My first thought was that she must secretly hate me and wanted me to get into trouble. Possible… but maybe a bit melodramatic.  Then I thought about it from her point of view… She speaks English as a foreign language. And when she and I talk we do not always understand what the other person is saying. Peace Corps offers staff members that are fluent in both Indonesian and English. So it possibly could have been more comfortable for her to voice her concerns in her native language and then have Peace Corps be able to relay those to me in a way that I would understand… with nothing lost in translation. Ok. Makes sense. Am I happy about it. No. But I understand.

Situation 2…. What is the issue with my teaching skills?  First reaction was to be like.. “My teaching skills… lady what about yours!” But resorting to being a 5 year old wasn’t going to solve anything. So thinking about it all, I decided… Am I perfect? Hell no. Do I have all of the teaching answers? Definitely not even close. Can I improve on my teacher to teacher communication and lesson planning? Definitely. Does her concern say I am a terrible teacher? No. It says that she wishes that I would give her more teaching ideas and strategies. Understandable. I am only here for two years, she will be teaching much longer after I am gone. So for sustainability purposes adjustments need to be made. So I am going to push to have weekly meetings to lesson plan and talk about what our goals for the week are. We will go from there… I will hear what their expectations of me are, I will share what my expectations of them are, and we will compromise and meet somewhere in the middle. Does this whole thing suck? A little, but it can be tackled and solved.

So with all of that brainstorming I woke up this morning feeling so much better, and ready to start the day. I went to school, to plan and prepare for the radio show that I was doing with my co-teacher and a student to talk about learning English with me. I was still a little worn out, but things didn’t seem impossible.

Then my phone started buzzing this morning at 10:30 and it was Peace Corps, telling me that they would like to have a conference call with me. Again warning bells went off and I started to freak out and get sick to my stomach. So upon reading the message  they said that they would call at 11:30. I had an hour to wait and imagine the worst scenarios possible. When the phone rang I answered to discover that a couple of new issues had popped up in the middle of all of the stuff from the previous day…  1)My host mother would like me to move out and find a new place to live. I immediately felt hurt and betrayed. I thought that we had a very good and close relationship. 2) The school is a bit tired of having to pick me up every morning to bring me to school. Since I got hit by the truck I have been unable to bike to school due to the back injury. So what I thought was a good arrangement apparently is leaving people bitter that they have to be my chauffeur. Again I felt hurt and like I was a burden that no one wanted to deal with.  The tears started flowing again, this time from sadness rather than anger. And I said something that I didn’t think I would say: “I am just done. This isn’t worth it anymore.”I went home and cried in my room again. Calmed down (sort of) and then went to go talk to my host mother. She started crying as she explained that she loved me and that I am family, but the house was very crowded and all of my host siblings are preparing to move back home. So there just isn’t enough room for everyone. I told her that I understood and that I was just sad because I was really happy living with her and her family. She apologized more and I reassured her that it was ok. Then I went up to my room, and screamed “This sucks!” into my pillow.  Then I figured that I can solve both of these new issues with one move. I will move into a home closer to the school.  That way I can walk to school and my current host family has the room they need for their expanding family. It this ideal?Not at all. I hate it. I am very sad and still a little hurt that I am being booted out of what I have come to feel is my home. But I am not going to let it affect my relationship with a fantastic family…. I hope that I am able to continue to be close with them for the next year I am here.

So this brings me to my current place.. Laying in my bed with a pounding head… feeling a bit weepy, and trying to figure out if I have what it takes to hack it for another year.  I hope the answer is yes.  Though I am ready to throw in the towel I know that I have come too far now to just quit… and if I am honest… I would miss my students and Indonesia terribly.

I know you can’t always have 100% positive days. Some days just plain suck the big one. The past two days have been those kind of days. I am emotionally drained and very much frazzled, but I am hoping that tomorrow is better and this rain cloud that has settled over me starts to dry up and I can get rid of this drowning feeling.