Post IST, Pre Getting Down to Business
February 13–16, 2015
The few days after 3 month In Service Training (IST) were, for me, the time to relax, take it easy, and prepare to hit the ground running when I got back to site.
This last week was the transition between getting my bearings and getting to work. Needless to say, I was terrified. This is the least structured my life has ever been. The thought of the number of choices I have to make and the lack of experience and knowledge I have to make those choices left me feeling like I was trying to grab answers out of thin air, like I was proceeding in some direction, but blind.
Thankfully, a few conversations with other volunteers left me feeling a little bit better. First of all, many other people in my group feel just as I do. So we ALL don’t know what we’re doing! *nervous laughter* One thing that another volunteer friend told me that made me feel better was that this was what Peace Corps, and much more, was about. We try one thing. If it does work, you have to accept that and keep going. If it doesn’t work, you have to accept that, make a change, and keep going. Thankfully, over the last few months I have gotten much, much better at letting things roll of my back, instead of having a melt down when something doesn’t work. I am sure I will become even better at this.
That is a theme I have heard other volunteers struggle with as well. What defines success? For who?
The idea of the volunteer life cycle also makes me feel better. Here, the idea is that it will take 3 volunteers (6 years) at one site to complete the work. So the first volunteer at the site is doing a lot of preperation and explanation, getting people to understand and try the programs. The second volunteer will be able to maintain and grow the programs. The third volunteer works on sustainibility and maintenance. This is a simple overview of the idea, but it takes the pressure off. I am the first volunteer at my site. I am not pressured to create and make sustainable 5 health groups. Instead, I can focus on smaller goals. Which is excellent for me. My shoulders feel lighter. After IST, my Peace Corps Volunteer Leader assured me that all I have to focus on this year (until October) is one women’s group and one youth group. That doesn’t sound as intimidating. And I know starting two groups in one year may seem like no work at all, espescially to someone used to the pace of college or the expectations of most things, places, and people in the US. Many volunteers struggle with getting community members motivated to go to these groups. There are a thousand reasons why this work gets so difficult, which is why it is nice to know I am not expected to save the world in my two very short years in the DR.
Though I was provided with training and many very useful tools, my job is very flexible. I can work with my community how they and I see fit. Every community has different needs, strengths, and weaknesses, so I am excited to see how PC and Loma work together.
On the social side of post-IST activities, I spent some time at the beach, at the mall, and at hotels. I grocery shopped for my food so that I wouldn’t have to buy meals at restaurants, took some walks, and Skyped some friends. I was sleep-deprived and emotional all week, though still enjoyed the time with my fellow volunteers. It was interesting to see how our group dynamic had changed since training and how everyone was doing. Listening to people’s experiences and brainstorming with them was extremely valuable and enjoyable. It took me until the end of the week to realize that I had to take care of myself and take full advantage that this time was for MY vacation as well. So on Sunday night my friends went out, but I stayed in to have two Skype dates, take a long, hot shower (my fifth or so since arriving in country,) watch a little bit of tv, and just enjoy a big, comfortable bed in an air-conditioned room. I needed the space and the time to myself, I needed to connect with people who really knew me and could provide the support I needed at the time.
Now back at site, my first steps are to catch up on sleep, to make lists and really organize myself, and to start working on housing forms so that I will be able to move out of my host family’s house soon.
I believe in the programs I am going to start, but I have to start showing it, living and breathing it. I want to become passionate and motivated in an outward way that others also become excited about the health groups. I have to balance taking care of my health with working and socializing. I have to budget better.
There are little things to celebrate and I want to take the time to appreciate them. I have lived in the Dominican Republic for 6 months now. I have completed training and my community assessment. I have stayed relatively healthy. I have been shoved out of my comfort zone and tried to step out myself. I can speak some Spanish. I can dance bachata and merengue. I know how to cook yuca, rice, and beans. I got my first dog and I think we have a good relationship. I stayed in touch with my family and friends back in the States, to some extent.
I know the world can be a horrible place and even in my experience here in the Peace Corps, I have been fortunate enough to have a safe life. I look forward to the challenges and the wonders that lie ahead, I feel strength and support from all the experience of my past, and I try to acknowledge and appreciate each moment that comes. Universe, be kind to me.