This got me thinking about how crazy fast the time has gone by. I know I sound like a broken record, but truly it never ceases to amaze me how fast Peace Corps service really is. (I really think I might talk about how fast the time is going - more than anything else on this blog).
Partially, I think it is because we are always in some sort of transition... This week I am going to break down the stages of Peace Corps service up until now - so maybe you can see what I mean when I say it is going really fast. Then maybe you will also understand why I talk about it so much.
The “new group” is at the end of this period of service and they are currently doing their second training, taking breathers, and starting some real work. In various orders and what not.
After the second training, you think things are going to slow down, but they don't. There are fundraisers and meetings, people are talking about camps and girls empowerment, and all of a sudden you are applying to be PSN or VAC or a Trainer, or to run the workstation – maybe you will even do an Amour et Vie team, and boom it is time for these various training workshops now too. (about 3 months after the last peace corps general training)..
Last week, at the wellness weekend, I had a few new volunteers say to me, something along the lines of “How are we going to survive here when you all leave?” – the sentiment, one I completely understand, is that at this point in your service, when you are being asked what second year projects and positions you want to fill, you have really only been at post for about 6 months. AND you can't imagine that you possibly know enough about work and about Benin to be filling any of these positions – and to train a new group of volunteers?!?! It is normal, we all felt that way last year too. It is true the longer you are here the more you know, but people seem to really come into their own in the second year, you will step up to the plate whether you realize you are doing it or not, and then next thing you know you are running the show and the group of volunteers that held your hand in year one have left the country (or at least in the case of last years group – most of them have left the country).
Anyway you become PSN, a trainer, VAC – or nothing at all if you so choose.. and as summer ends the old group leaves the new group swears in, and then you are getting invited to your mid-service conference. Wait are we half way done already? It has been over a year since your plane landed in country – more like a year and 3 months. At this point your in-service training is over and you are left alone to succeed, or flounder as gracefully as possible, at post.
So you finally have a footing, you are finally on your own with “no interruptions” – you finally know what you are doing. But.. oh wait it is the fete season (which at least here in Benin means not much is happening) – that is ok, most people chose to take a vacation around the holidays anyway. – New Years happens. If you want to go to grad school you should be sending in those applications right about now (if you haven't already). It is the year you are leaving and you are wondering where the time went and how on earth you are going to get any projects accomplished in the time remaining. – You started sending out applications for second year programs to the “new kids” so they can start thinking about what shoes they want to fill, and Administration starts sending out notifications about 3rd year positions. Yes, some people stay for a 3rd year. I know, I feel the same way.
This is where I am in my service.
We are talking about COS (Close of Service) and COS trips, we are squeezing in our last vacation days before May hits (when we will no longer be allowed to leave the country until we COS). We are looking at post-Peace Corps career options, waiting to hear back from graduate programs, thinking about staying, and reading about things like health insurance plans. We still have 6 months left, but by this point we know better than to count on it feeling that way. I mean it took us 6 months just to get settled in!
You really need the full two years to make a difference.
There are some very long days, and honestly January was the longest month so far.
Really though, I can't believe how fast the time has gone.
Highlight of my week? Teaching two men how to properly shuffle cards -- neither of them had ever even seen cards shuffled before and really were just enjoying watching me do it. BUT I insisted that they try. It was a good time, they made progress.