Today marks six months in country.
And the thing I get asked more than anything else is, “So, how are you doing?” Which isn’t a weird or remotely surprising question at all. But there’s something about the way it’s asked, the tone of voice or the way I can imagine their brow furrowing slightly as they ask, that indicates the concern underlying that curiosity.
I get it. I’ve posted on this blog all about my crying, my frustration, my bug bites. I don’t attempt to hide just how much I miss my family and my friends back home. I leave site fairly often and can see how this could be interpreted as attempts at escape.
But I want to assure you (and maybe myself?) that I’m doing just fine.
After having my life be in constant upheaval since last May when I left Seattle, I’m finally settling into my own space. It’s a little loud and the courtyard out front is still littered with debris, but I bought a fridge and chatted with my neighbors today. And can’t wait to plant a little garden of my very own. And maybe get those chickens I’ve been talking about.
I actually spend most of my time at work working nowadays. I have five youth groups and eight women’s groups that I meet with regularly – meaning I am working directly with about 350 individuals – with more on the way. I help my counterpart research opportunities and resources, I teach her how to better use excel and word, we make plans for the future of the office.
I still hate bartering at the market, but celebrate when I manage to save myself a Q or two. I know which stores to go to for my favorite things and they now know me, reaching for the diet coke or a piece of fresh, local cheese when I walk in the door. The guys that drive the microbusses know where I need to get off and I have a go-to tuk tuk driver.
People have finally gotten used to seeing me around town. We exchange “Buenas tardes”. They know more about me than I realize and I am often taken aback by their familiarity with facts about me and my routines. Like when my neighbor asks me what I do in the muni – though I have never told her I work there. Or when the lady that sells tostadas asked me if I moved because she hasn’t seen me pass her house lately.
I like the countless animals roaming the streets. I love riding in the back of pick-ups. I like that we all eat lunch together in my office while chisme flies along with the occasional dirty joke that I only sometimes understand. I’ve gotten used to using a pila and have still not tired of beans and tortillas. I appreciate my friends that put forth the effort to keep in touch and look forward to my planned visit home in May, but I don’t feel crippling loneliness here.
It’s a process. I have good days and bad days and still couldn’t tell you if I’m making progress on any of those three goals. I might not be a model volunteer and may spend way too many weekends crisscrossing the country on chicken busses. My community may never really understand why that girl lived here for two years. I will never get used to the bugs and may never figure out why my bathroom smells the way it does. But I think I’m doing okay.