“So, how’s it going?”
“Great! Well, good… Pretty okay… I think. Here’s the thing…”
I’m sorry if you’ve been one of the people I’ve had this conversation with and have had to suffer through my inability to answer a seemingly simple question. (I won’t blame you if you stop calling/messaging.)
It’s difficult because mostly I don’t want to come right out and say, “I still haven’t done anything.” Because no one wants to hear that! Because I’m supposed to be saving the world! Because how awesome is it to be in Guatemala and in the Peace Corps?! But that’s how I feel most days. Particularly when I see all of the projects that other volunteers have undertaken in their communities.
My fellow Masters International classmates are changing lives worldwide. Pat in Mozambique just got a couple hundred bikes delivered to a community she is working with, enabling students to get to and from school more efficiently. Brad and Jane in Azerbaijan are writing up grants like there’s no tomorrow, organizing sports groups and even gearing up to build a community sports complex. And… have I mentioned that they’ve all been in site a month less than I have?
So, you’ll say, I shouldn’t compare my work to theirs. They’re in different countries under an entirely different set of circumstances with different resources. Fine. Except from my training class we also have some high achievers. Justin’s already a couple thousand bottles into his own bottle school project and a few weeks away from breaking ground. And Carolyn just launched a campaign to construct and equip a local cultural center. Alli and Britini? They have a healthy cooking show on their local TV station. Mapping, implementing community gardens, writing business plans, helping cooperatives spread their product availability and operations, organizing and traveling up and down the country with women’s groups… They’re doing it all. Every time we get together I’m blown away by the projects everyone has undertaken and their success stories. And I’m so proud to be a part of such an amazing group of people and I am more than willing to join them in a celebratory Gallo.
But I feel lazy. I feel like my progress is too slow. I feel like I have nothing to show for my five months in site. I worry that I’m going to get to the end of my service here and will leave my community utterly unchanged from the state it was in when I arrived. I fear my time here will have been a waste, leaving everyone asking, “Um, that’s nice that the gringa lived here for two years. But what was the point?”
Thankfully, my Project Director came to visit yesterday. And he claims I’m doing just fine.
I have an understanding of community needs. My projects and plans are in line with the program’s overall goals. My relationship with my office is positive and healthy. My integration into the community has been smooth. According to him, these are all things that should be recognized and are the basis of a successful service.
So, I’m not building things (yet) and people aren’t naming their children after me. And my biggest accomplishment so far is getting my office to fully adopt maintaining a monthly calendar. But I suppose that’s why we’re here for a full two years – some things just take that long.