Friday, May 28, 2010

Early Service Conference

Playing a game of Monopoly during after hours of Early Service
Conference. Clockwise from me: Tiffany, Cassie and Corina.

The past two weeks I have been attending my Early Service Conference. This is a program that all Peace Corps volunteers at different posts around the world are required to take part in. It is a chance for the Peace Corps staff to give us more training in our projects so that we can become even more powerful volunteers in our communities. There are several informative sessions on teaching methodologies and strategies. We learn the steps in implementing development projects within our villages and how to go about seeking aid from donor organizations.

Luckily, we have also had a large amount of time dedicated to sharing our own personal successes and challenges of the past six months since we have been at our sites. There is nothing more enjoyable for me than to hear about what worked well for another volunteer and then think to myself how I can implement that in my own village. We have all learned so much in the past months and to have an opportunity for all 17 of us to meet as a group has been empowering. It has motivated me to do even better and has reassured me that I have been doing a lot of things well.

A few days ago while I was sitting at one of our sessions, I started thinking to myself about this whole new life I’ve been living. I just sat there in amazement and had one of those moments of awe where chills ran through me. At moments like that I can’t wrap my head around how much my life has changed and how much I have changed. In those iconic pictures of Peace Corps volunteers serving in far off lands, I went from being the observer to being the doer. When I sit by myself and ask the question, “Kyle, do you feel different now than you did eight months ago?” I say no. I don’t feel different, but when I look at different aspects of my life and the things I have overcome, I know I am different.

I love those moments of fascination when I tell myself how happy I am I went through with this. It makes those hard days seem a little more distant and moves the good moments more towards the forefront. If you had told me last December that I would be telling myself in May, that I was glad I joined the Peace Corps, I would have called you a liar. That is how far I have come.

A couple months ago I was eating dinner with my neighbors. I was sitting there with my legs crossed on a woven mat, wearing a lava lava (a piece of colorful cloth worn around the waist), eating traditional Samoan food, listening to and speaking in Samoan, in the South Pacific, overlooking the ocean, with people who were strangers just a few months earlier. That is when I just started to cry. I felt so lucky, so honored and so ready to serve my country and their country. It was one of those moments of awe I’ve been describing, where everything seemed to mesh at just the right time. I can’t remember if the next day was a rotten one or if the day before it was a fantastic one, but I remember that moment, that moment where I felt a part of something so unique.

Our conference will be ending soon and we will all be going back out to our villages which we have been away from for two weeks. Many of us are ready to go back to that life which is waiting for us. It has become familiar and a part of our routine. It is what makes us feel comfortable, productive and gives us those moments of awe. Village life has its challenges, but the more I overcome and adjust to them, the more I value the lessons they provide and the rewards that wait on the other side.

Enjoying dinner at the Curry House. Clockwise from
front left: Bill, Kathleen (they're married), Matt, Dana,
and Tiffany.

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