Because a global health pandemic isn’t the only time we have to confront feelings of loneliness and isolation.

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Photo by Nicola Nuttall on Unsplash

Social distancing. Though states across the country are reopening businesses, social distancing is still important, yet harder and more monotonous than ever as we enter month four of a global health pandemic. But the Covid-19 crisis isn’t the only reason we often have to deal with social isolation and uncertainty about the future.

While adapting to life in my rural Colombian pueblo for 20 months, isolation and uncertainty were two of the biggest challenges I faced as a Peace Corps Volunteer. …


A guide to tolerating solitude in the Peace Corps

Jane is a Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in a pueblo in the department of Atlántico, Colombia.

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Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

First things first — if you’re a natural introvert, get outta here. The following is about how I learned to enjoy spending time alone, despite my extroversion. Introverts have their own issues, and I’m not a good person to write about them. Go somewhere else.

Before joining the Peace Corps, I was a raging extrovert. Unlike introversion, extroversion is generally considered by society and pop culture to be a good thing. It’s how you win friends, forge connections, and make money; It’s how you integrate into a new school or city; It’s how you find roommates and jobs and basically anything you need to survive as a person. …


Jane is a Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in a pueblo in the department of Atlántico, Colombia.

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Photo by Nirzar Pangarkar on Unsplash

In the States, we little more than hesitate before calling the cops on a neighbor playing music too loud for our taste. Yelling is rude and makes people feel uncomfortable. Here on the Colombian coast, volume is not synonymous with anger, but happiness. The decibel at which you play your music indicates how fun of a time you’re having; yelling at your neighbors conveys how glad you are to see them.

In my rural pueblo community, as in many here on the Atlantic coast, many women are amas de casa, or housewives that take care of daily chores such as preparing three meals a day from scratch and cleaning the house (which, by the way, is constantly exposed to heat, bugs, humidity, and rain.) One of my favorite parts about knowing these women has been watching them interact with their children. We’ll call it tough love, but you could also call their preferred parenting style nit-picky or overbearing. …


Jane is a Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in a pueblo in the department of Atlántico, Colombia.

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This seems like a silly article to have to write. One of our main jobs as community economic development volunteers in Colombia is to teach business owners and students how to budget, but learning how to budget our own volunteer stipends can be a challenge in itself.

After a few months in a row of running out of money (a common citizen might sneer, but we’ve all been there), I decided it was time to start 2019 off right with a sparkly new personal budget. …


Jane is a Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in a pueblo in the department of Atlántico, Colombia.

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Photo by Ricky Kharawala on Unsplash

It’s two o’clock in the morning when a loud clanging jerks me awake.

Robbery? No, my neighborhood is safe; the noise came from inside my room. Did something fall? I turn on my light to see everything in place, but my usually reliable fan is making a strange ticking noise.

I get closer to see a mouse stuck in the bottom of the cage, shaking a little every time the fan blade grazes its now lifeless body. I wasn’t surprised there was a mouse in my room — when the power goes out in the middle of the night I can often hear them scurrying around in the stillness. …


Jane Haines is a Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in a pueblo in the department of Atlántico, Colombia

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Every year on Good Friday in Santo Tomás, Colombia, penitents walk down the streets flogging their backs with whips. This self-flagellation is part of a 160+ year old tradition. Image courtesy of Genaro Morales, friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer.

When I was five years old, I stood at the back of a large, ornate sanctuary and watched my mom take the oath to be ordained as a Presbyterian pastor. Someone next to me, a family friend, leaned down and whispered “wow, two pastors for parents, you’re really in for it now.” And I was.

Every movie we watched as a family turned into a literary-theology lesson about representations of God and the Holy Spirit (the most notorious cinematic moments were Harry Potter’s death and Aslan’s rebirth in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). I learned the Greek alphabet when I was four years old from studying my mom’s seminary textbooks, and my brother and I memorized a Hebrew dinner prayer that, to this day, we still know like the backs of our hands. My aunt is also a Presbyterian pastor, and I spent a good chunk of my formative years listening to my parents preach in church sanctuaries from North Carolina to Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio. …


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If you’re a Peace Corps volunteer — or friends with one — you’ve probably seen this hashtag before. It shows up unabashedly on all of our instagram posts and blogs; and usually accompanied by a photo of some free-roaming chickens, beautiful host country scenery, or groups of people working in tandem on a community project. They’re the images of Peace Corps we know and love. Marking them with the hashtag #Howiseepc fortifies our beloved cult identity as volunteers and diligent citizen ambassadors of world peace.

Don’t get me wrong, Peace Corps is all those things. It’s romantic and glorious and wonderfully life-changing and life-affirming at the same time. The purpose of this blog post is to talk about why Peace Corps has such a influence on the lives of volunteers and host communities, and why my belief in the concept of the Peace Corps remains stronger than ever, despite fluctuating levels of enthusiasm for my day-to-day work. …


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“red neon signage turned on” by Ian Kim on Unsplash

At the end of September, 2018, a new group of community economic development trainees reached the end of their training period.

Language? Check.

Practicum project? Check.

Site visits? Check.

One million tiny Styrofoam cups of coffee? Check.

During the final days of training, our group was buzzing with excitement to swear in as official Peace Corps volunteers. On the very last day, surrounded by staff, language facilitators, and dear friends, we reaffirmed our commitment to service. …


5 questions people ask me about Peace Corps Colombia (& the questions I ask myself)

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1. Isn’t Colombia dangerous?

Yes and no. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Colombia. The country’s 50+ years of civil conflict are rooted in intricately intertwined political, social, economic, and cultural histories. Drugs, paramilitaries, and the FARC explain a portion of the violence, but it still takes a lot of research and reading to even begin to understand why this conflict persists, as well as what caused it in the first place.

I recommend starting here, here, and here.

The biggest safety risk volunteers face in Colombia is petty theft. I won’t focus on explaining the conflict or peace agreements in this blog because, aside from its implications for Colombia’s development on a grand scale, the conflict will have little to do with my daily work as a Peace Corps Volunteer (see Q5.) Colombians, like Americans (ahem) don’t deserve to be characterized by their politics or trauma. …


To all the women and girls affected by past, present and future gag rules: your struggles do not go unnoticed

The first time abortion became real for me was the day I stood at a pharmacy counter in Guatemala ordering birth control pills in Spanish.

What if they don’t work and I get pregnant?

My stomach sank at the thought of buying an early flight home and culling my money to pay for an abortion in my home state of Ohio. That is not how I intended my summer to end.

In reality, I stood in the incredibly privileged position of even having the option to travel for reproductive healthcare and pay for it out-of-pocket. …

About

Jane Haines

Newly-minted Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Formerly w/ Marie Stopes International.

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