Apparently I have been in country for one year. If it weren’t for the social media accounts of the other volunteers in my group, I probably would not have known. I have not been thinking about my service in terms of time. For others, their service is a countdown to close-of-service (COS). The presence my service has brought me is one of the most beautiful parts of it. Yes I do think ahead and have things planned such as work events and vacation, but most days, my world is utterly whats in front of me. I don’t wear a watch, obsess over my calendar or count the days until a major event. I try to lose track of time and stay focused only on the people in front of me.
So yes, one year in country and one more to go. I did a 6-month check in so I figured a 1-year check in would be logical. Some things have changed since the last time I reflected, so I would like to briefly share them.
1.) Perhaps the biggest personal identity shift I’ve experienced is that I no longer feel like a Master’s Student. In August I submitted my paper and watched as it got uploaded into digital permanence in my University’s repository for student and faculty work. Click this LINK to download and read my paper. It is true that I still need to present my work (thats happening on September 27th), but for the most part, I am feeling like just a volunteer.
The fact that I am done with my degree is still sinking in. What I am noticing is that being done has had positive effects on my daily life and Service. I have been teaching a lot more and coordinating with my socios more effectively. I have been reading and writing for fun more.
I am realizing just how much time and energy I was pumping into my Master’s work, and it’s kind of scary. I am happy to be done and proud of the research I produced. And if we haven’t celebrated yet, there is still time to buy me a beer!
2.) A second very important transformation that is having impacts on my identity in site is the fact that I now live alone. I wrote a blog post about this not too long ago, so I will try not to repeat myself. In the other post, I focused on the shift in my food consumption. However, choosing to live alone has also changed how I see myself in site and how community members see me.
In Peruvian culture, leaving the home is normally only done when one becomes married. I guess that is changing now with the influx of community members leaving to go and study, but culturally, living at home with mom and dad is much more drawn out. So because of that, moving out was a big deal. Having felt like the eldest son/brother in my host family, moving out has done wonders for my confidence in site. I feel more comfortable moving around site on my own and starting my own adventures. I come and go as I please and it’s a lot of fun. I have more of a routine that satisfies me. I am much more myself.
I also feel like community members see me more as a professional now. Before I was very attached to my host family unit. Just a gringo doing a homestay. But now that I am solo, I feel more attached to my work. Community members have commented about how I am geographically closer to work now and how that’s better for me. I also think community members see me more as a neighbor. Before, when I would get home, I would remain mostly inside or just on the front porch. Now, having moved down to the more populated part of town, I find myself out and about more. Buying bread, sitting in the plaza or playing soccer.
During PST, we learned that a lot of volunteers experience a slump at the one year mark. I think I am still susceptible to that, but for the most part, I am riding a mid-service high.
The second half of my service is off to a really good start. On a personal level, I am feeling happier and healthier. On a professional level, I am feeling more useful and fulfilled in my work. And on the community level, I am feeling more comfortable and confident.