Being Heard

Have you ever taken one of those Meyers Briggs tests? As a hard core extra curricular organization junkie and given my field of study I have ended up taking the Meyers Briggs test numerous times over the last five or so years at various retreats and even in a course I took. And I always end up, without a doubt, with as an I (INTJ being the whole thing, if you were curious). Which means Introvert.

I have some friends who scoff at this, but who I am with people I know and love is drastically different from the person I am when faced with multitudes of strangers. I’m not the type who goes to bars or large gatherings to meet new people, I go to spend time with people I already know. I don’t particularly enjoy mixers or networking. I mean, I can do it. You kind of have to in this world. I suck it up and occasionally manage to muster the charisma and pluck to make chit chat and occasionally make a new friend. But it’s daunting and exhausting.  That year I spent in Seattle for grad school? I loved it and left with some great friends, but it was not easy.

Things here? Ten times harder. Just can’t get past that language barrier. And can’t do much about the fact that I will always feel like an outsider. Plus modes of socializing are different. Unless it’s feria or someone’s birthday/quiceñera/wedding/funeral, people don’t really gather. There’s no just going out for a post class/work beer and shooting the shit. And I’ve tried just hanging out during “family time” in front of the TV with both my host family and neighbors and I just feel like I’m intruding because, duh, I am not their family. I’m that weird extranjera. That weird introvert extranjera that can’t figure out how some volunteers do it, how they amass these large groups of Guatemalan friends and seem to have no problems communicating and connecting and, you know, being friends.

Some days it’s not bad at all. I converse with the acquaintances I have, laugh at some jokes, spend some time with the neighbors, maybe go see my old host family. Life is grand. But then some days I’m walking to a youth group after a weird day at work where all the practicantes (interns) talked around me and get singled out and heckled by jerks on the street as passerby go about their lives. Or I have to go the local Instituto (like a high school) and I can hear students making jokes about me behind my back and Damn It. I’m 24  and I shouldn’t care about a bunch of punk 14 year olds laughing at me. But I do. And all of a sudden I’m feeling annoyed and very alone and also really awful for not reaching out to all those foreign exchange students who were around in college.

Some days it feels like the only friends I have in site are the various neighbor kids. And I’m pretty sure that’s only because I occasionally give them candy (yes, I realize how creepy that sounds). And, yes, it’s adorable (except for the fact that one of them peed on my floor last night…) but I miss being someone who had lots of friends and lots of things to do on the weekends and plenty of opportunities to just talk and be heard. That was probably the best part of my trip home in May. Simply feeling like I was truly being heard. It’s probably the thing I miss most. Right up there with friends and family and good cheese.

I probably wouldn’t feel quite so lost if work were at least going well (or anywhere at all) but things are tough when everyone’s got one foot out the door. It’s going to be okay and it’s going to get better and this is not going to break me. I’m just frustrated because I am a year into this and I thought things were supposed to make more sense by now. I was supposed to have more accomplished by now. The frustration brings down everything else and makes things that aren’t that big of a deal into huge issues.

And I know whining about it on my blog isn’t going to fix anything but at least this way I don’t feel like I’m intruding and don’t have to worry about if I used the right conjugation and pronunciation. It will get better. I mean, probably tomorrow something will happen and I’ll experience another high point and be reminded of how lucky I am to be here and what this whole crazy peace corps thing is all about and be exhilarated and super pumped about life. So, I’ll stick out this Saturday night, hanging out alone and look forward to the good things that I know are coming. Maybe I’ll bust out my spanish notes so I can be more ready for them.

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5 Responses to Being Heard

  1. azerbaijane says:

    I totally hear you. We’re lucky here, because people do hang out and visit each other beyond traditional celebrations, and “guesting” is so popular here we’re given instructions on etiquette during training. But for some reason, it’s still incredibly hard to make friends. Some people seem to do it so well, but when someone sees me walking and invites me in to guest, I’m already so exhausted, I can’t muster up the energy to say yes. I don’t like to do things last minute, but I have trouble getting people to plan guesting with me. The result is, they constantly tell me that the woman who was at my site before me used to come over all the time and do I not like them?

    I think it’s the year mark when PCVs start really feeling the weight of what they’re doing, cause half their time is gone, so how will they get anything done in the short time they have left but they’ve also been here a year, and why is it their language sucks and they don’t have friends?

    I want you to know you’re not a bad person or a failure for being frustrated.

    Also, that candy thing totally works.

  2. Andrea Clark says:

    I HEAR this. I love you

  3. Anonymous says:

    How is it that you always manage to say exactly what I’m thinking, only so much more eloquently? My blog should just be one big “what she said” with a link to yours. Point being, you’re not alone. We can complain together on wednesday =)

  4. genabee says:

    Completely agreed with your post and all the comments. I’m in the exact same boat, so don’t feel alone or that it is just you. I never thought that 14 year old girls or complete strangers making fun of me or my French could bring me to the brink of tears, but oh.. they can. Not having “true” friends and being able to be around friends that I can just be myself with and not have to try (and with the language its ALWAYS a struggle) is definitely one of the hardest parts of being a volunteer for me. Like Jane said, I think we’re one year in and kind of like what the f@#k shouldn’t it be easier and better by now?! Hang in there 🙂

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