Tuesday, March 24, 2009

a return to normalcy

Whew! I’m getting settled back into my site after being MIA for so long (2 weeks gallivanting about with mom & dad; 1 week working on the Gringo Grita in the capital, 1 weekend barricaded in my house recovering from Grita and not socializing with everyone).

I just hosted a new volunteer for four days, which was a ton of fun. (As part of training, the new PC trainees go out to visit a volunteer in their site to get an idea of what the experience is really like). Having my visitor was a lot of fun, both because she was a super cool girl (who requested to watch High School Musical her first night here, yessss) and because all her questions were like a flashback to my early days (yes, the arrival of a new batch of IT volunteers means that I’ve been here for a whole year! Ay, Dios santissimo!)

For example:

Q. Wow, your house is huge! Do all IT volunteers have houses like this?
A. Yes, basically. We’re the swankiest of PC volunteers… we all tend to be placed in pretty well-off areas, so these are the kinds of houses available. So we really are living like our neighbors, which is a Peace Corps objective….it’s just that are neighbors are way better off than in the average Peace Corps site.

Q. So how much work do you do in an average week?
A. Like… six hours. I mean, I try to plan more activities… and also I sort of count every time I have to speak Spanish to someone as doing work, which raises the amount of work I do…

Q. What do you do in an average day?
A. Well, I get up whenever I feel like it, usually around 9… I make coffee and hang out and read or watch a TV show on my computer, then maybe I go run errands or go hang out at the teachers’ lounge at school… I don’t really have any work to do at the school, but they get mad at me if I don’t just go hang out there at least a few times a week… then I come home, make lunch, clean up, hang out more… lately in the afternoons I’ve been trying to fix the computers at the other computer center, if I feel like it, and then sometime at night I have English class if anyone shows up, which a lot of times they don’t. Then maybe I go visit a doña, or maybe I just go home and watch a movie or read until I go to bed. ….it used to drive me crazy that I had so much free time, and I felt really guilty about it, but now I basically just think it’s awesome. I’m reading so many books and catching up on tons of TV shows I didn’t have time to watch in the States.

Q. Are they really strict about the 2 vacation days a month thing?
A. Pfffft.

Q. OK, I thought so, because like, how do they even know what I’m doing in my site?
A. Exactly.

I hope this doesn’t make it sound like Peace Corps volunteers are lazy. Well, I guess maybe we are, a little. But it’s a learned laziness; a response to the general community apathy we encounter in response to our projects. It’s either embrace the free time, go crazy, or quit the Peace Corps. Insanity sounds unpleasant, and we hear jobs are hard to come by in Nueva York these days, so we’re all staying put in the county where we’re guaranteed $300 a month (and can live comfortably off of it).