Oh hey guys, remember me? That intrepid Peace Corps Volunteer narrating her various experiences with charm and wit? Ha, me neither!
WELL. I’m now what is officially called a RETURNED Peace Corps Volunteer. You see, you’re never “former” or “ex.” Once a PCV, always a PCV. Although sometimes, I think the “R” means “Recovering,” but that’s neither here nor there.
There’s a pretty well documented cycle of vulnerability that all PCVs go through in country. In addition, many experience reverse culture shock upon returning home. I have to say, my transition back to American, first-world life cannot have gone better. My best PCV friend Julie and I took a bit of our readjustment allowance and made some of our dreams come true:
We stuffed our faces with all the good food and beer we’d been denied for more than two years (and probably put on 5 lbs in the process). We had a grand time buying wands, butterbeer, eating at the Hog’s Head and Florean Fortescue’s and drinking our way through EPCOT. It was marvelous and exactly what we needed to transition into the “real world.”
After our Close of Service (COS) conference in January, most of Group 84 began touching up resumes and applying for jobs. I applied for a job at Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and I’m thrilled to say that I got it! It’s unpaid but it’s an excellent way to get my foot in the door at PC HQ and other federal agencies. I’m working in the Office of Programming and Training Support (OPATS), specifically with the Overseas Staff Training (OST) conference, which is a month long. It’s a lot of administrative and logistical work, making sure the conference runs smoothly but I’m learning a lot.
As you might have gathered from my previous blog posts, I had a love/hate relationship with Jamaica and my assignment with St. Ann 4-H. A lot of PCVs have a similar relationship with their countries of service, and that’s been gratifying to find out. My fellow interns and a large portion of the staff at PC are RPCVs, so they all understand what I’m going through and know not to ask certain questions (“How was it?” “Oh, you’re so lucky to have served in Jamaica, that must have been *sooo* tough!” etc etc etc.). I can’t say I miss much about Jamaica, and the folks I’m surrounded by can empathize with that. The way RPCVs feel about their countries of service are a wide spectrum but we all have something in common: we’re changed by our two years in the field, in ways large and small. It feels a bit like a secret club, being an RPCV.
The OST conference has been eye opening so far. Overseas staff (both Americans and host country nationals) come from all over the world to complete this training. My Peace Corps experience has just expanded from Jamaica to over 20 different countries (PS. Those PC/Mongolia folks have it ROUGH. I’ll never complain about the heat and humidity again. Although I get a lot of sympathy for being a chikungunya survivor, so I’ve still got some PC cred.). I’ve learned about posts in different regions that are in conflict and have rich histories and cultures. If I get the chance to serve again, I’ve got my eye on you, Kosovo. Or Armenia. So many choices!
This is all to say, hey! I’m still alive. And I’m still in the Peace Corps. But then again, you can never leave.