Counterparts, Site Visit, Freak Out

The last week has been a whirlwind of activity. Shortly after finding out our sites we found ourselves standing awkwardly around the Peace Corps Office courtyard waiting for our counterparts (host country nationals that are part colleague, part mentor). The two women from the Muni (one from the planning office, another from the women’s office) showed up about five minutes late. I was pleased because this meant that I avoided some awkward chit-chat and they didn’t miss anything really important. Win.

Eventually, however, I did have to speak to them and I noticed two things:

  1. They were nice and seemed excited to start working with me.
  2. My Spanish teachers and host family have been really dumbing down their speech for me. Apparently normal Guatemaltecos aren’t that easy to understand all the time.

The next day was the big day though, SITE VISIT! Site visit is when we move most of our stuff, when we meet all of the people we’ll be working with and basically begin to shape the next two years.

Lucky for me, my Muni arranged for a car to come get me and my impressively heavy bags (I love that Peace Corps encourages you to pack light just so they can weigh you down with an assortment of books, binders and paper) for the three hour journey. I waved goodbye to my fellow volunteers (many of whom were facing several hours of travel, many on camioneta) and we were off.

Of course, I dozed off and awoke as we were parking… in front of a mall. A really nice mall. I guiltily enjoyed a chicken sandwich at the Pollo Campero as I thought about my fellow trainees on busses. Eventually, after checking out the pet store and having them point out the IMAX theatre, we made it to the site.

The first order of business was to choose housing for the first three months. I had four choices (which is a lot). I immediately threw two out of the running – one for the lack of door on the room and a sketchy ceiling, the other due to distance and the location of the bathroom – and was down to two. Here is where things got stressful. I chose the first option mostly (okay, entirely) based on the fact that it had a private bathroom. Yes, World, I am a nervous pooer and highly value bathroom privacy.

It wasn’t until the drive back to the house later that I realized just. how. far. it was from the municipal offices. I tried to lightheartedly ask how long it would take to walk to work.

45 minutes.

Now, I’m not opposed to walking that far. But there’s very little in this particular area and as I was sitting in my new room I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming isolation. And started thinking about what a pain it would be to carry things home and how I wouldn’t be able to stay late for events in the Muni or the park. And then I noticed a giant fucking spider outside my room. And then heard their baby crying upstairs.

And then I cried.

I’m not proud of it, but I did and I feel like it’d be cheating to hide that fact. I won’t go into the details of how I switched houses but I will say that it was awkward and not how I envisioned starting my life in town.

I guess I should also admit that even after switching houses I cried the third night and came close to crying in the actual office at several points during the week.

Why?

I had scoffed at the stories of trainees who came back from Site Visit and immediately ET’d (Early Terminated). Because isn’t this what we signed up for? Don’t we all know what we’re getting into? Well, I realized during Site Visit that all the mental preparation in the world and all sorts of logic couldn’t change the fact that I felt overwhelmed. And lost. And that all I could think about is how much I missed my family and how weird my site was compared to the training site I had grown to love and how all I asked for was to not be hot and how I was sweating profusely and how it wasn’t helping that everyone kept asking if I was sad to be so far from home… So, yeah, I totally get it now. I have no plans to ET, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it. 

However, the tears didn’t define my entire site visit. I spent most of the second day in a car (they are apparently very serious about transporting me) driving to almost all of the aldeas within the Municipality with my amazing tour guide, Challio. He literally drove me around, pointing things out for six hours and occasionally stealing various plantlife from people’s land to show me. I worked the third day with my counterpart on a presentation for the Municipal Deputies (we’re trying to convince them to give the office its own budget) and was impressed with her level of dedication and eagerness to include me in planning. And the new house is pretty nice, with about thirty rabbits in the backyard and a really nice family. Without crying babies.

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7 Responses to Counterparts, Site Visit, Freak Out

  1. DD says:

    tupac says, keep ya head up.

    think of it this way, when you come back, you can say you’ve dedicated two years of your life doing ‘good’ as opposed to many of us here lounging around in america watching reality tv…

    also, i need your new mailing address.

  2. Jen says:

    I think you should name all those rabbits. Also, very glad that there are no crying babies now…because gross.

  3. Jenn says:

    *hugs* hang in there beefy, I am sure you will grow to love your site, just like your training spot.

  4. Johntaneous says:

    That all sounds great, Carmen. This is such an important experience because it is hard. You’re testing yourself in ways you’ve never tried before and, in many respects, ways most Americans (or people!) never will. There’s no shame in feeling overwhelmed, especially considering it’s your first week in a new and foreign place. Soon, you’ll have a rhythm going and wonder how you could have ever considered turning back. The adjustment is always the hardest part but it makes me happy knowing you’ve already toughed through the worst of it. Like a boss. I don’t think I’d have been able to make the decision to change houses after committing. I’d likely suffer with my choice, but clearly, being closer to your site is important and it sounds like you made the right decision in making the change. Kudos for having the drive and foresight there.

    Miss you loads. Stay above it and if you ever need to reach out across miles of fiber cable, I’ll be hear eager to hear from you. Much love

  5. Augustus Elizashaeba Michillium (Yensul) says:

    GF. Hugs, for days. Name all the beautiful baby bunnies.

  6. Liz says:

    Carmen, you are so amazing. Being here, I cry at regular intervals. I get overwhelmed all the time…and I’m in the same country i’ve always been in. You are definitely sooooo cool to get through as much as you’ve done already and then to be really candid about it all. It really gives me inspiration to be better and to push myself more. Keep it up, pretty. I miss you.

  7. Pingback: Confession | Carmen in Guatemala

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