The 3 Best and Worst Things About Being a PCV

Living in Tanzania has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, joys and frustrations. Sometimes I feel like I never want to go back to my old way of life, and then other days I would resort to violence if it would result in a bagel with cream cheese. Here are 3 reasons that (for me) living here is wonderful and rewarding, and 3 reasons that living here can be really, really tough.

THE BEST THINGS

1. More free time than I will probably ever have again in my life (or until I retire).

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We wake up any time we want. We cook breakfast, sip coffee, and lay around reading for a couple of hours. We amble outside to poke around in the garden or talk to some kids. Then maybe we will go to a meeting, or go grab some lunch, or just walk around a bit. Then it is time to go back home and relax again. Maybe we will exercise, or Andrew will play guitar, or our counterparts will come over to plan what’s next (though we mostly just chat and drink coffee). Get the picture? This life is beautiful. We don’t have to rush. I could probably count on one hand the amount of times that I have felt any type of stress while in my village. This slow paced life filled with friends and free time is something we will likely never have again, so oh boy do we soak it up.

2. Instant, fast tracked, guaranteed friendships with other volunteers.

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I read a lot about being a Peace Corps Volunteer before coming here, but nobody had written anything about this spectacular phenomenon. When we meet other Peace Corps volunteers, we are instantly friends. So many times we have shared hotel rooms with people that we’d just met that day, and it isn’t even weird at all. This strange and wonderful law even exists with PCVs who are serving in different countries who come here to visit. It is truly fantastic and I can’t wait to see if this magic carries on when we move back to the States.

3. A sense of fulfillment in the work that we do.

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To work really hard at something and then feel like it was truly worthwhile and that it might have even bettered someone’s life is really priceless. Coming home after a day of confusing meetings and encounters and culture barriers, but feeling like we took a step forward towards something meaningful is definitely one of the greatest parts of being here.

THE WORST THINGS

1. Never, ever being able to blend in.

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We are watched constantly while we are here because of how we stand out as foreigners. Everything we do is noted and commented on. When I visited the States in November, one of the things I desired most to do was to be dropped off at Target so that I could just walk around and enjoy my anonymity, my ability to be amongst strangers without being looked at. It was actually a very strange sensation, after growing so accustomed to how it is here.

2. There is no such thing as instant gratification.

In the States, when you want a certain type of food, you can probably obtain it within the hour, no matter where you are. If you want to learn something new, say knitting, you can go to the store and buy some yarn and a book. If you want to drink some coffee, you just put some water in your coffee pot and boom, there’s coffee. Here, everything takes time. When you wake up in the morning and want that coffee, you’ve got an hour’s work ahead of you. If you want to learn some new craft, you may have to travel several hours to town to get the supplies or even ask someone from the States to send it to you. In reality it is actually a good practice to have to wait or work for the things you want. But of course, it is not what we are accustomed to, so it is tough.

3. Feelings of guilt for all sorts of different things.

Sometimes it is discouraging to hear about the awesome projects that other volunteers have successfully implemented and it brings on a wave of guilt, and thoughts like “I’m not doing enough!” or “They are so much more integrated than I am!”. We try not to compare ourselves to other volunteers because everyone’s service is so very different, but sometimes it is difficult not to. There is also some feelings of guilt when we leave our village to go to town or to travel. Sometimes we go to town just because we so desperately miss conveniences such as showers and Wifi and pizza- and then we feel guilty because the people in our village don’t ever get these things.

So, as you see, there are conflicting feelings of angst and awesome that go along with living here. But it is definitely an experience that we wouldn’t trade for the world and have benefited from greatly. Life is so vivid and tangible here, and we learn new things every day.

 

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