I am officially a month into my service here in St. Vincent--or Vincy. My lifestyle has dramatically changed in some ways and remained completely stagnant in others; however if you had asked me to predict the outcome of either, I would have been way off. My reliance on pop culture is waining, whereas my interest in politics is continuing to increase. I have learned to fully depend on people for certain things, such as a ride into town or food on the table, but have become self sufficient in other areas, such as braiding my hair (if you've ever lived with me..you know what a big deal this is.) Finding time to myself has become a constant, yet important, struggle; whereas I am finding it easier and easier to develop fascinating and forever evolving relationships. I have learned how to bite my tongue at differences but speak louder when boundaries are crossed. I've learned that just glancing at the ocean or a worn out note from an old friend can change the outcome of a day. And I've learned that there's something to be said about taking it slow--whether it be a relationship, a friendship, a job or just an unfamiliar situation.
I have been playing volleyball pretty regularly with some of the locals. They play shoeless on some of the hardest concrete I have ever stepped on. The experience has far exceeded the daily workout I anticipated. One of the other volunteers gave me a book about a volunteer in Africa and he explained my situation so brilliantly that I had never looked at it this way until I read it right off the pages. You come into the Peace Corps with the intention of learning how to live off of minimum wage, how to modestly conduct yourself for the next two years--only focusing on what you don't have. When, in actuality, the antithesis comes up and slaps you in the face when you're least expecting it. I never realized the men I played next to each night had no other choice--I thought they were just opting out of shoes. When I asked one of them why they didn't wear shoes, he looked at the ground, ashamed, and said 'I don't have any, miss.' In my mind, I couldn't fathom someone not having tennis shoes. And then it hit me. This isn't just about learning how to live without things--it's also about realizing just how much I do have. I might play volleyball on an uneven concrete court with only three balls for the next two years, but I will go home. I will go home to air conditioned gyms with brand new balls and perfect lighting. I will go home to a country where the majority of people have a job and a health care plan. I will go home to diversity and a melting pot of religions, ethnicity and backgrounds. But they will still be playing on that concrete court without any shoes.
Better to die standing, than to live on your knees--Ernesto 'Che' Guevara