After recently celebrating my 6th anniversary of meeting a great guy, we reflected on my Peace Corps experience. Discussing how we met, the people I worked with, but mostly laughing at the craziness that was my service. Surprisingly, I still find myself running into people who are interested in learning more about Peace Corps, or my experience overseas. After most encounters I think back to those 3+ years.
Waking up every day to a new experience might frighten some, but to volunteers serving in the Peace Corps it’s just a regular day. I lived in Burkina Faso, a country in Western Africa, serving from 2008-2012. As a health volunteer I taught health education and outreach. I spent most of my time weighing babies, teaching mother’s proper food preparation, and children how to wash their hands.
Teaching overseas in a another language was really hard, and sometimes felt very daunting. During training, Peace Corps helps to teach the common language spoken, which in my case was French, but like most African communities the local tribal language is also very prevalent. Even though I used, Moore, the local African language more than French, my skill level was far from being perfect. Each program I put on was a struggle, always needing a translator. Which to most, would be great, but I seemed to never be able to get the translator to show up at the same time as my women, or vice versa. Rainy season was a whole different story; I just knew people wouldn’t show up to programs because everyone and I do mean EVERYONE was in the field farming.
While on vacation in the United States for a short time in 2010, I would get all sorts of questions. The most common was, “What did you like or didn’t like about being overseas?” The one thing I did not like, was having to barter for my food. It’s petty, but going from booth to booth to get all my vegetables, fighting for a fair price is not how I like to spend my time. That was something that would never change, but I learned to deal with it.
I loved the sense of community. My village was small, were everyone knew each other. Not in the way were you know everyone’s business, but when there was a crisis everyone banned together. I loved everyone knowing my name, or when I was gone people took turns feeding and caring for my dog. These villagers lack in resources and materials, but they are rich. They have a strong community, stronger than most communities I’ve been a part of in the US. One person may have nothing but together they have it all.
When most people ask me to describe my 3+ years worth of experience in a sentence or two, I usually say, “It was great!” which is was, but it is better described as a roller-coaster. Once you start you’re normally scared for the future, you don’t really know what you got yourself into. Then you get used to the roller-coaster and start to like it. During the ride you have a lot of ups and downs, but in the end you love it so much it leaves you wanting more, and you beg to ride it one more time.
That’s exactly how my Peace Corps experience was, it left me wanting more.
View some of my pictures of my service here.