Friday, December 13, 2013

When Home Became Scary

I was talking to my friend Boo on the phone the other day and at some point the idea of our impending COS date came up. I don’t know when it happened, if I woke up and things had just changed, or if it was a slow and gradual switch over, but at some point in the last 20 months, the idea of home became a little scary. Now let us be clear, when I say “home” I don’t mean my actual household filled with my loving family, I mean the general idea of moving back to the US. Boo agreed, and I doubt it is just the two of us.

Home used to be this big glorious infallible thing, but now the concept of it has become a little hazy and vague, and the idea of imagining what my life is going to be like is perplexing. Its like what thinking about Peace Corps in Botswana was going to be like before I left. My reality is in Botswana, my comfort zone is here, I have a job and a house, and people I enjoy spending time with. I have no job in the US, I'm going to end up moving back in with the parents for a little while, and there are a lot of different discoveries I have made over the past two years, and some that I made before but have now just started opening up to people about (maybe the distance makes me feel safe?) and they are going to change how I live my life. 

The Claire that left the states, the life she had, the perspectives she thought she held, and the actual mechanics of how she thought, are all gone. I get this is a part of living and growing up, I just think Peace Corps crams a bit more into two years than what would have happened had I staid home.

I remember before leaving for Botswana hearing a story from a girl who had a friend who had just gotten back from Peace Corps Madagascar. She was complaining about how this person had returned from Peace Corps and just couldn't talk about anything other than Madagascar. I remember how she rolled her eyes and spoke about how "it just came up in every conversation! I was like 'common! Talk about something else.'" What this individual failed to understand is that the majority of material that we draw on in everyday conversations and debates, comes from the past couple years of ones life. 

I don't want to sound like the douche bag that is trying to rub my experiences in everyone's faces, but if I am trying to contribute to a conversation on, lets say, transportation; it is completely possible that something like this comment will come out "I remember when a car we had rented to take my friends and I out of the bush broke down after helping run a youth camp in one of the more remote villages. We had to hitchhike on the back of a semi truck platform to get out of there." This happened a few weeks ago, and its not me trying to draw a similarity between myself and Indiana Jones, it is just a reality of how things work here.

You may be saying to yourself that this would be cool, and an interesting point in the conversation, but imagine hanging out with me and that kind of thing coming up regularly. I end up sounding like that bro who just came back from his eco-tourism vacation and makes a point to bring up the pygmy witch doctor he met, at every... possible... moment.

The other thing that freaks me out is that I am going to bore people. When people ask me about Peace Corps, they don't want to know all the details, the experiences, or how it changed me as a person. They want to know a quick 5 minute sound bite, and then move on to something they can relate to. I don't blame them, one way conversations blow. But Peace Corps is not a vacation for me, it is not me stepping out of my "real life" and then when I COS I will be going back to it. This was real, and not getting that kind of confirmation of my time is going to be difficult. 

Lastly, my independence. I have been living on my own, in my own little house, being in charge of only myself, for the past two years. This independence is made ever fiercer by the solitude that has accompanied it. I have spent a larger chunk of time being alone in the past two years, than any of my previous years on this earth. It has taught me a lot about myself and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity, but that suddenly comes to a halt come July 2014. The real kicker is that I am super social, I love talking with people and I am ABSOLUTELY that chick who will start random conversations with strangers whenever, and wherever possible. 

List of random places Claire has made new friends:

-Standing in line for Deal or No Deal try outs
-While waiting to get on the Ellen Show at Christmas time
-At the movie theater
-Amusement parks
-Post Offices

I'm just worried I won't know how to be that any more, or that I'm going to get overwhelmed. This whole idea is very overwhelming. I'm going back to a familiar place, but I'm no longer familiar within it, or with it for that matter. I know I'm lucky in a lot of ways, that I have parents to move back in with, that I have friends that are going to support me, that I have a sweatheart who has been out here, and who has been dealing with my freak outs as of late and so knows what they are getting themselves into (thanks honey.) Ultimately though, I have to figure out on a personal level how I fit back into America...or scarier yet...IF I fit back into America, and if I don't, where to next?

Thanks for tuning in, as ever. 

Hugs and smooches, 

p.s. Click here please, and then buy a book! Great Christmas idea: The GENDER book


  1. I have to let you know that you guys are most definitely NOT the only two people with similar feelings! So much of what you wrote here describes exactly what I am going through-- especially the part about it creeping up on you from out of nowhere. All of sudden, I went from being psyched to go home at some abstract point in the future, to being freaked out about going home in a very short 4 months, because now I need to figure out my identity and life post-PC. I think this happens to a lot of people midway between MSC and COS conference. I felt like for the longest time, I kept idealizing "home" and thinking about getting back to my life back home. But then I realized that I I pretty much gave up that life to come to Madagascar and serve as a PCV, and it won't be as easy as just stepping back in time to 2011. As I read somewhere on a piece of advice from RPCVs: when you come home, you have to remember that just as you've changed during the 2+ years, so have your friends and family. Oh and don't worry, I will definitely be another person talking waaaay too much about my country of service-- but like you said, how can you not? (I am dying to know who that girl was who "wouldn't stop talking about Madagascar"!) Actually I already got a taste of that when I met my friend for a vacay back in March and I talked about Madagascar practically every other sentence! Luckily, she didn't slap me.

  2. Lucky for you Claire you also have lots of friends back stateside who will adore you even if every sentence is about Bots and not just every other one is. :D I know the feeling of worrying if you're over talking about experiences. I feel the same way whenever I tell a story about when I studied abroad in college, and that was only for a semester! Or about any of my other over seas trips. It's hard to balance the wanting to share your stories and perspectives and also not wanting to bore people who don't understand those experiences you've had or make it seem like you're bragging about being well traveled or...whatever else you might worry about in such circumstances. But I know I, for one, will be more than happy to hear any tales you want to share about your time there and how life is there, or anything else. Love you and miss you! Can't wait to see you for at least a little bit at Christmas. <3<3

  3. Good Day Claire,

    Sorry to bother you. My name is Ray Blakney and I am a RPCV from Mexico. I am working on a 3rd goal project with the PC regional offices and the main office in DC to try to create an online archive to keep the language training material made all over the world from getting lost. I have created a sub-section on my website with all the information I have been able to get to date (from over the web and sent to me directly by PC staff and PCV's). I currently have close to 100 languages with ebooks, audios and even some videos.

    The next step for this project is that I am trying to get the world out about this resource so that it can not only be used by PCV's or those accepted into the Peace Corps, but also so that when people run across material that is not on the site they can send it to me and I can get it up for everybody to use. I was hoping that you could help getting the word out by putting a link on this on your site at:

    so that people know it is there. There should be something there for almost everybody. It is all 100% free to use and share. Here is the page:

    Thanks for any help you can provide in making this 3rd goal project a success. And if anybody in your group has some old material they can scan or already have in digital form, and want to add to the archive, please don't hesitate to pass them my email. Thanks and have a great day.

    Ray Blakney