Here ye! Here ye! Praise be to both Tupac Amarus because Pre-Service Training is over and out of my life!
“But Brittany, Brittany! All of your pictures and blog posts make it seem like you’d been having so much fun.”
True enough. Over all I have been having fun but I also haven’t talked much about any hardships or frustrations because this isn’t Catcher in the Rye, my name aint Holden Caulfied, and I certainly didn’t set up this blog to complain for the next 27 months. But just because I don’t take after the whiny protagonist in JD Salinger’s classic, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t taken a ride or two on the struggle bus. Now that those arduous 11 weeks are over and hindsight is now my home girl, I feel comfortable enough talking about how I was able to stay sane enough to swear in as a volunteer.
1. Know What Makes You Tick
One thing I am thankful for is deciding to do PC a few years after college. I’m still a spring chicken but I’ve also had a few years to grow professionally and personally before being thrown into the culture shock fire. I know that I work well in groups but really enjoy working by myself. I know that I’m not a super detail oriented person and I don’t like over planning cause I’m more of a game time player. And I know that my personality is definitely more on the introverted side of things. Hanging out in large groups is extremely draining for me and I not only love but need my alone time in order to feel sane. I knew coming in that PST was going to be challenging for me (particularly because my tendency towards introversion)… Which brings me to my next point…
2. Know How to Mitigate Your Stress
A lot of people would assume that the ridiculous amounts of information and language
learning would be the most stressful part of training but not for ya girl. Although these things were frustrating at times, the most stressful thing for me had to have been being around people 24/7. I had training sessions Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm with 39 other people and then would come home to a place where there were at least 5 other people in the house at all times – yelling, playing, watching the tv at an excruciatingly loud volume, asking me questions about how my day went. Some people may think, “Oh how lovely! A great support system!” But not for me – The last thing I ever want to do after a long day of being around a bunch of people is to go home to more people. Lawd Jesus, just the thought makes my skin crawl.
So what I started doing was taking time during lunch to sit by myself to read or listen to my audiobooks. At my house, I would go to my room an hour or so before I actually went to sleep to do more reading, audiobooking, or to mindlessly play Snake on my cheapo Peace Corps burner cell. And let me tell you, when I need to break me off a round of Snake before I go to bed, you know it’s been a long day.
3. Be Selfish
Just like everything else in the world, selfishness is great in moderation.Wanna blow some money in Lima on a burger that costs 36 Soles? Go for it! Need a dose of sugary sweet picarones from the picarone lady? Buy you some! And when things are really desperate and you can feel yourself snapping, maybe you need to tell the staff that you’re not feeling well and miss out on training one day.
My old boss didn’t call me the Queen of Work-Life Balance for nothing, honey. I know that I cannot be productive at work or at training if I haven’t taken care of myself first. Furthermore, just because Peace Corps is the poster child for altruism, doesn’t mean that I need to leave my “Treat Yoself” philosophy back home in the States – and that’s all I have to say about that.
4. Just Do It
On the flip side, sometimes you just have to shut up, stop complaining about how futile
a particular training activity is, and just do it. This is definitely one of the things I learned through my City Year service. Most of the things we had to do were by no means fun and sexy but I learned real quick the less I complained about something the sooner it was over. Like CY, there are so many less than ideal, super unsexy things that you have to do or that they spring on you last minute and you really just have to say, “It is what is is,” and keep it moving.
5. Pick Out Things To Look Forward To
Also another gem I learned during my City Year service. My second year of service was especially hard for me for various reasons and I learned really quickly that having things to look forward to every week (or month) really helped. So for example, a small group of other trainees and I would pick out something fun to do at the end of each week. Or every now and then there would be a particular training event that I would really look forward to i.e. travelling to Ancash, Site Assignment Day, Site Visit Week, and Swearing In.
I looked forward to our Immersion Wednesdays because I knew that I would be able to buy my favorite dish, Arroz a la Cubana, in that town. I looked forward to Medical Tuesdays because our Peace Corps Medical Officers (PCMOs) would always have entertaining PowerPoints like the infamous “Never Trust a Fart, It Could Be a Shart” presentation. Sometimes it’s these little things that help you get through the weeks.
6. Remember, It’s Only Temporary
Finally, if all else fails, remind yourself that PST is only temporary. Anyone in PST right now and reading this is probably thinking, “Yeah right, pal. You’re just saying that cause you’re BFFs with hindsight and perspective now.” And it’s true, when you’re in it, training is daunting and seemingly interminable. But soon you realize that while the days may be moving at the speed of molasses running down a sand dune, the weeks are FLYING. And before you know it, those long days have turned into the one month, two months, three months, and the swearing in mark.
I like my training group but I know I won’t miss congregating with 39 other people all day, everyday. I really appreciate my amazing host family but I won’t miss being packed like sardines in a house with 5 million other people. Not cooking any of your meals is great until you realize that you have to deal with the pure, unadulterated lunacy of eating potatoes and rice with EV-ERY-THING. Constantly reminding yourself that fighting in the training trench has an end date really works, and keeps you from becoming an obnoxious little Holden Caufield that whines about everything.
And that, dear readers, is how I got through the first ninth of my Peace Corps Service. Hopefully my first three months at site (Community Entry in PC lingo) will go as [relatively] smoothly as PST. We can only hope, I suppose.
Until next time, ya’ll.