As I sit at the Frankfurt International Airport heading back to Accra Ghana, I have a few moments to reflect on my time home (Seattle, Washington) for the last 30 days. When I left my village on April 18th to begin my journey home, I had a few months to think and ponder on what I wanted to eat, what to do, who I wish and wanted to see. Even wrote a ‘things to do list,’ to make sure I didn’t forget anything major which I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t have too much expectations and wanted to be open-minded to what my experience and view would be after having been in Peace Corps and Ghana, West Africa.
My first week back in the U.S. was difficult and trying to explain what I felt was even more challenging. I sought out friends who either have been in Peace Corps, lived in another country for some time or were from other countries yet we’re now citizens or members of the U.S. These friends help me to process my feelings and express my bewilderment and anguish of being not necessarily welcomed in the country I am helping and serving yet also not being respected and and appreciated in my home country.
Because I do not have a television nor do I have constant access to news, internet or radio on what is occurring in the world; I was a bit taken back on the raging racial tensions due to police shootings, civilians frustration with corporations and government as well as insensitivity and lack of empathy of the general population about issues which can greatly (in my opinion) further affect and inherently destroy the fabric of humanity. Hearing the frustration and building bitterness in friends’ voices regarding the insanely increase in rent and house prices, the stubbornness of companies to increase living wages and salaries, the blinded awkwardness of elitism and privilege; I wondered if I would truly enjoy my vacation.
I, myself, had my own weariness, based on what I was seeing and hearing. Yet, as I adjusted my view and interactions with friends and family, I received what I had been lacking and craving since being in Ghana. I had longed for deep conversations and debates. People listening and offering their insights, opinions and solutions and not trying to save face. Being able to express my emotions without apology or being considered weak. These interactions have been a lifesaver for me and I felt more at ease to tell my experience since being in Ghana.
Eating food, sleeping and walking were the other activities I did as much as possible. My hubby was quite entertained with my indulgence with fruits and vegetables along with lean meats and drinking white wine or ciders would make me grin from ear to ear. Before I left for Peace Corps, I weighed 140 pounds, fitting a bit too snug in size six clothing; after my first year of service, I weighed 113 pounds, back in a size four, body taking longer to recover from injuries and colds. Being home, I’ve been able to have a larger variety of fresh food to choose, get more than six hours of sleep daily and walk more than five miles weekly.
However, even with all these conveniences and enjoyment so I’ve missed, I did not fully enjoy my holiday. I have a challenging time relaxing. I found myself thinking about the children in the village I’m serving in, the projects I’ve been planning and organizing (the library project, the English Fun/storytelling sessions, adolescent sexual health course, etc.) The way we (US citizens) work and exist in our jobs and the work ethics our families instill in U.S., might be part of the reason of always staying busy. Even my own religious upbringing has influenced my ‘quiet time’ in which I cannot sit still. ‘A ideal mind is the devil’s playground,’ was something said to us, if someone felt we were being unproductive or relaxing too much. Yet, after this experience, I know I have to be diligent in working on this issue. I have to do better.
I’m glad I came home during my mid-service. I am glad to be a Peace Corps volunteer. I am thankful for all my complexities and uncertainties I’ve been feeling and reflecting on. I know I will continue to evolve as a concerned and caring individual determine to make the world a bit better with each interaction I have.