“The logic of the Peace Corps is that someday we are going to bring it home to America.”
President John F. KennedyThere is a lot spoken about "reverse culture shock" from the Peace Corps. Without a doubt, the first couple weeks back in the United States I experienced a sense of disorientation.
After two years of serving in the D.R. the first three things I noticed was: the cleanliness, the quiet, and the high prices. Seriously?!? $9 for a sandwich?!?
But those things you get over pretty quickly. What is much harder to do is to communicate your experiences.
The first thing that you get asked by your friends and family when you get back is, "So, how was it over there?"
How does one answer that question? You just spent two years of your life doing something that was life changing. How do you create a one sentence answer to that question? It's impossible.
Some of it was horrible. Some of it was immensely rewarding. Much of it was simply boring or emotionally challenging. And then there is the parts that are hard to describe.
Inevitably I answer, "I'm glad I did it. I wouldn't do it again, but I'm glad I went."
The real problems happen when you want to tell the details of your experiences.
These things are very important to you. Yet you discover that most people simply don't care. They are wrapped up in the minutia of their everyday lives and have a hard time seeing beyond it. Family and friends have usually not been interested in seeing my pictures, much less hearing my stories.
And even if they do care, they often are unable to.
It occurred to me last night when I was trying to explain to a friend some factors of life in a third world country that she wasn't understanding what I was saying. Not because she wasn't listening, but because what I was describing was so far outside of her life experience that she didn't have a basis of comparison to use.
I've come to the conclusion that my Peace Corps experiences are for myself.
Which is unfortunate, because I would like to share, but sharing requires at least two interested parties.
The other conclusion I've come to is that I can't go back. I can't go back to my former life that revolves around useless commercial culture, work, trivia, and a surrender to a life of "just getting by". I couldn't live with myself if I did.
There is a much larger world out there and I'm going to experience as much as I can.