Trapped by the foreshadowing fictions, I grew sullen and resentful with my isolated placement. I had just sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and would saunter to work repeating the incantation of foreign words to myself in preparation of any 30-second conversation – everything was a fireball of effort. I resented the caterpillars of sweat that would slink down my spine just from moving about my house in the humid air. Whew, boy, does a year make a world of difference. Recently, I sat down to write the personal statement that is to be attached with and sent off to jobs/universities around the globe as I try to piece together the next chapter of my life. While revisiting the words on the screen, I realized I wasn’t selling myself to these programs as a perfect fit for their school, but rather how the world has evolved around me over the last year, and how I decided to move with it. This has been a pivotal year for my life – the challenges that were faced head on and the small victories that have been achieved have bound me to a scrupulous and literal honesty that I might not have oterwise found.
I truly believe that when luxuries are stripped we are set apart from our limitations. I feel it daily, but can now see it in the faces of the new volunteers (the M28’s). I had the pleasure of greeting them upon arrival, assisting in their training, observing their development, and facilitating the hell that is practice school. Communicating that struggling to get a sentence out and writhing to create a lesson plan with a host country national sets up a baseline for enhancement was difficult, but vital for both parties. I then watched as this new group walked the length of the stage after 10 weeks to swear into the government in similar fashion to my ceremony last year. I couldn’t help but incessantly reflect on the difference of being a member of the audience versus the awe stricken amateur standing up on the stage. I witnessed the same, uniform emotions that were so extant in me. But, man, are they an impressive group. Earlier in the week, we commemorated the 20th anniversary of Peace Corps Moldova, with a TEDx-inspired event called Storytellers. We heard stories from the first ever Country Director and US Ambassador to Moldova (among others), both of whom flew in to celebrate with us. It was fascinating to hear the chronicles of my predecessors, equivalent hindrances and the advancements of our work. My colleagues thought up this event, just like all the others. In this industry, there is no egocentric rival-race to the top, as our objective is communal. There is ubiquitous, dynamic genius amid these people.
Divergent of 365 days ago, I couldn’t wait to get back to my village and call up my partners to meet up. This time, conversely, I saw it. A world full of experiences; A world full of people; A world of difference. The pragmatism was there – it was the absent link. Sure, maybe it’s because I speak the language now, but it’s really more than that. In between comical flashbacks to last year, I take notice that I now know the movers and shakers in the village, areas where pushing buttons is permitted, and when to expect the passivity. Rudimentary ideas can and will actually come to fruition now that I can maneuver the course. I was able to handpick my classes, capsize the delayed start of my park project, devise a more efficient curriculum, and even start the execution of a new project. So, I get it, I really do – this is why we must endure the massive fireball of effort.
Let me replace the inflexibility that shadowed disappointment with optimistic patience. Let me understand that ostentatious panache of some could be in lieu of concealed troubles and reservation. The imperative year of past instigated some very real keenness for year 2. A memory is only as good as the ones you share it with; Reminescence and reflection are key, but could also be crippling. Such personal and peripheral growth is only possible if you break your heart in the right way. Those moments of white-hot rage, those moments that leaves your heart pulsating an audible throb, those moments of swimming in bemusement – its how we metamorphose resistance into value.
So after summer of non stop interchange as the trainer and not the trainee, I find myself back in the MY village – once regarded as just an isolated assignment. The pairs of eyes and stoic profiles that used to frighten and coerce me are now warm faces faceted like jewels of my students and neighbors. I’m not bothered by the unneccesary conversations voiced in numbing plangency, but instead meet them with equal animation and vigour. I was once worried about the possibility of a loss of luster after I „figured out” how things work here in Moldova. I’m more than okay admitting I was wrong. I now call the meetings – meetings I once dubbed soundless explosions, that felt as if I was stuck in an elevator full of strangers. Salutations in the form of enigmatic whispers are now welcomed forms of tribute. What is happening?
Starting in a countable number of days, I’ll return for my second – and possibly final – year as Domnul Brett. I’ll have my 8 hours of Health Education, an English club for people in the community, an Entrepreneurship club for aspiring young adults, ongoing construction on our park, and blueprints laid out for several other secondary projects. I’ll also have my lessons learned. When I fielded questions throughout the year that revolved around “how are things for you, in your country” – I felt a vague accusation in those final words. I’ve made the connection, as I was a visitor learning the way of life. I now walk the same route to work, with a clear head. Familiar kids yelling your name in the street of your village brings that rare joy like ice water slipping down your throat on a scorching day, or a real, honest kiss. Now, I’ve had my heart broken in the right way.
“We can’t really know what a pleasure it is to run in our own language until we’re forced to stumble in someone else’s”.