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:
- They were nice and seemed excited to start working with me.
- 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.
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.
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.