I walked out of language class this afternoon in tears of exasperation . It’s been coming for a while. The majority of my frustration is because I don’t have a place to be alone here. It’s something I need. Even our bedroom which does have a door, only has walls to about seven feet and then is open to the sloping zinc roof. Not having my own time and space was okay for a while.
I imploded today, for a number of reasons. Not having alone time being the greatest. But also, Jeff didn’t come home for lunch today, I didn‘t realize he wasn‘t coming back. He’s a good part of what keeps me going. Also, in technical class, we tasted a bunch of coffee and I think the caffeine wore off right about the time language class started. The last straw, so to speak, was discovering during language class that Jeff and I are all the way out in the province of Darien for our Culture Week. Jeff and I travel all the way out together, because we are the only Asprirantes in the Panama Este province. Then after that week, we go strait to Technical Week separately. I go across country over to a town which is on the corner of the provinces Colce, Herrera and Veraguas. It’s a long way to go by myself. This maybe the first solo trip I take. I found out about all this traveling today, less than 39 hours before we commence travel.
If there is anything I have learned about Peace Corps it is to be ready for anything, because they tell the volunteers very little and/or very late. I like having a plan, or at least knowing the plan. I’m sure that someone at PC headquarters rationalizes this mental limbo the volunteers are in as “good training for when they get to their site and things don’t go the way planned”. Maybe they don’t even know they create this psychological halfway house. Or maybe they realize we all have to go through it and just try to minimize.
So after realizing I needed to make a solo trip across Panama, Peter, the Country Director for Peace Corps, arrives. All the volunteers go on little walks with him, to get a little one-on-one time and get a little talk about sticking with our two years of service. It’s about this time that the tears start coming. He enters our language class and asks if I would like to take a walk now. Sure why not, I definitely don‘t want to be in class. I somehow managed to cry my way through the whole 15-20 minute talk. Peter was really good about it. He didn’t press matters. Afterwards, I didn’t go back to language class, I just picked up my books and started walking. I eventually walked myself home. I’m still not sure how to reset my mental state. I think writing this is helping. And, as always, sleeping it off seems to be one of the best answers for me. Also visiting this near by waterfall is always reviving.
I’m not rethinking being in PC. I want to be here. I have been told people from the USA need more alone time than practically any other culture. I’d believe it. Culturally here, there is more to adjust to than I have ever experienced before. With the pressure and frustration of learning a new language added on top, I’m actually surprised I haven’t imploded sooner. And I know I am not the only one. I’ve talked with many other aspirantes and they are also working through rough patches.
I debated about whether or not to post this entry at all. However, I feel it is important for people to realize that Jeff and I have taken big steps into integrating ourselves into the culture in Panama, but that there isn’t always and easy and clear path. We are acclimating to a lot of things and sometimes it seems we are walking blind up a slippery slope. But, we are making it.
We’ve been here over a month now. We only have to make it through two more months of training and then three months of living with a host family at our site. By November we should have a house of our own. Maybe by then I’ll be so intigrated into this culture that I won’t want alone time. (Um, yeah right.)