Breaking it Down

So on Monday, instead of going to a meeting, I spent an hour in my host brother’s backyard, crying and talking on the phone with another volunteer. My host brother was in Santiago working, so no one new I was there. It was the most privacy I’ve had in 3.5 months.

So the few days before Monday I had been feeling particularly annoyed and frustrated. My head was not clear.

On Monday, I went to a mass. In the Dominican Republic, the tradition is that a person’s death is mourned for nine days. This was the ninth day after the death of a teen who had been sick for months. The mass started 45 minutes late, I was in the second pew, right behind the crying family. After the mass, my grandma and I walked to the home of the family, where we were served lunch, which is customary. I hung out with the family and guests, most of whom I did not know. By two o’clock, I knew if I stayed I would just be in a worse and worse mood, be worse and worse company. Usually this hanging out is nice. I like the sitting around with people thing. But I was not in the mood. For the first time. So I asked my grandma for the keys and walked back.

I decided that day not to do any interviews; I felt that annoyed and mentally cloudy. I knew myself well enough that if I did go, I would not do them well. I needed some way to get some health and clarity back. I did go to the church for the teen group’s rehearsal of the nativity, but I was five minutes late and only two people were there. Knowing we wouldn’t start for at least another 15 minutes, I went to the store to buy milk and walked back to my house. Everything was close enough that I could make it back to the church before they started.

Do you know the feeling of waiting for a bus? But it’s midnight and the bus is late and you’ve already been waiting two and a half hours after a long, frustrating day? And you’re thirsty and hungry and tired and just want to be in your bed? That’s how I felt. I was carrying the waiting: waiting for public transportation, waiting for meetings to start, literally just sitting around. I felt that I could not wait another minute.

As I was walking back to the church, I got more and more overwhelmed. On the verge of tears, knowing to use my support system, I called a volunteer friend. I was next to my host uncle’s house, so there I was, skipping a meeting, looking at banana plants, having a minor meltdown.

I think it was the whole of the last month and a half at site that got to me. All the little things that at the time I was saying were fine, that I was taking deep breaths through, just got together.

I think some of these things include: Now that I got a dog, getting twice the amount of advice from people, on top of all the other advice I was getting about everything I was doing, being a new dog owner and helicopter parenting said new dog, an incident of machismo/sexual harassment on Sunday night when I had to talk to an older dude who kept looking me up and down and heavily flirting with me, while I did the give one-syllable-answers-close-your-body-language-don’t-make-eye-contact thing with no success and while receiving no help from the women present, all the other sexual harassment, lack of privacy, lack of independence, not being able to express myself, realizing half a year has passed since my last birthday, being homesick, the stress of gaining weight, not being patient with myself about learning Spanish (or anything else,) a friend early terminating, stress from making sure I am doing my work fast and well enough, the every day questions of: How do I get more nutrients into my diet? Oh god is my skin aging a year every time I walk outside? Am I really not going to have a relationship with a man for the next two years? How do I support my family and friends at home while I am over here without a way to talk to them? Are they okay?

And so on.

Crying helped. Talking it out helped. I am better.

I talked to another volunteer friend a few days later and she was amazed I only cried for an hour and it was only one day. She does a lot more.

I know other volunteers have similar frustrations. A lot of people are dealing with more intense things here, along with more intense situations at home. I am lucky to have such a quiet and comfortable life.

I do hope my patience and my tolerance are growing. I do hope that every day is easier. Since I cannot change most of these frustrations, I am trying to work on my reactions to them. Another mantra to live by.

Either to reassure you or myself, things are good. Sometimes I think about the idea of early terminating, about quitting and going home, and I realize that I would not be happier at home. I would be more comfortable, but my mental strength and my outlook would be equally positive on some days and negative on others.

(Universe be kind to me.)

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