Near the beginning of training, our Medical Officer Teuila showed us a graph somewhat similar to the one at left. I can’t find the actual one she showed us, and mine is a terrible reproduction, but it captures the essence of what I took away from hers. According to my ears, the overarching point was the Peace Corps is an emotional rollercoaster that has ridiculous ups and downs at the beginning, but which evolve and become more elongated as time goes on. And any time you cross the x-axis, your chances of going home early become higher. At Volunteers en Masse events, we often recall this chart and talk about how accurate it was.
Teuila’s chart also had a more specific timeline. There are specific moments in the life cycle of a volunteer when most cross the line: the first couple weeks of training, after 1 month, after 3 months, after 6 months, after 12 months, and after 24 months (I’m reciting all this from memory, so take it with a grain of salt.). And as group 81 has passed each of these milestones, we’ve noticed the collective mood swings.
I bring this up because this morning I made arrangements to hang out with two people, one midday and the second for dinner, who are having particularly difficult times crossing the x-axis at their respective points. The back-to-back scheduling was a coincidence, but I worried a little about what this one-two punch would do to my psyche.
The first was a fellow member of Group 81. My group just hit our one-year mark, and most of us should be crossing the x-axis in the next couple months. We’re at the point when a lot of factors are coming to a head: our first year of school is coming to a close, many volunteers are going home for Christmas, stuff is starting to feel re-hashed, the excitement of new things has dwindled. Though we’re just about halfway through service, there’s a feeling of culmination in the air right now sort of like the kicking a field goal right before halftime, or bringing down the house just before the end of Act 1. And people are getting antsy about coming back after intermission.
Conversation went as well as can be expected.
Dinner tonight was with an outgoing member of Group 82. I’d say the first 4 months of the Peace Corps are the most difficult, as is demonstrated in the frequent ups and downs in the graph. The days are so long, and going to bed with the satisfaction of getting through the day is erased the next morning when facing another day is daunting. There’s adjusting to the new place and the new climate and a new set of friends. Then adjusting to the host village. Then adjusting to training and having your hand held. And when you’re finally adjusted to all that, you’re kicked out of training and there’s a whole new round of re-adjustment at your permanent site. All feelings are tentative, and the ups and downs and loop-the-loops can be nauseating. It’s not uncommon for people to want off the ride.
Once again, conversation went as well as can be expected.
The encouraging thing was the two conversations forced me to assess my own situation, and it seems like I’m doing okay. I like my job, I like my site, I like Samoa. There’s a constant feeling that any state of mind in the Peace Corps is temporary and tentative and that line-crossing can come any time, but today things were good.
I hope you’re well. Pictures below.
Jordan and Briony laughing at Lynn's faleoloa.
Luke McGrath and his posters advertising Punjas Breakfast Crackers are all over Samoa. Dude isn't listed in Wikipedia nor on the first page of "Luke McGrath" hits on Google. He is wearing goggles in the picture and by googling "Luke McGrath" AND swimming, I found out Luke McGrath is a reasonably talented ocean swimmer from Fiji.
5 months ago