Monday, January 3, 2011

What to Expect When You're Expecting*

I'm gonna cut right to it, as you are filling out that PC application, interviewing, going through the medical review (and subsequent mental health review), and finally tearing open your invitation, you've got expectations.

And they mount.

Honestly, I cannot remember the expectations I had before I was invited. I barely remember what I was expecting when I stepped off that plane, and my first day of service my expectations went haywire.

27 months later, I feel like I've got a pretty good grasp on the expectations:

1. Expect to feel awkward and out of place for 26 months. There may be a few months where everything fits, but that won't stick. You'll always be learning something that tosses the baby out with the bathwater;
2. Expect to feel "funky". Stomach issues and bowel movements are the topics de jour for PCVs;
3. Expect to get frustrated. Most of my day is spent trying to explain my feelings in a way that locals will understand. Words do not directly translate, so figuring out how to extract your meaning and translate that all before your convo partner starts guessing at what you are trying to say gets...tiresome;
4. Expect a total lack of privacy. Anyway you want to slice it, you are a celebrity;
5. Expect a total lack of privacy (among PCVs);
6. Expect down-time. I've never felt more like an American except when I am railing on a local counterpart for not showing up on time and their response being, "but I had to drink tea [duh!]." It is a different pace of life...everywhere besides the US;
7. Expect disconnect. You are now in a very special club. Even if your friends/family/wife has served before, they haven't lived in your country in your situation. Nobody is gonna get it. That happens;
8. Expect to wash your clothes by hand. I am not sure why, it just seems like there are few PC countries with washing machines; and,
9. Expect to love every minute of it. This experience, albeit annoying and frustrating and tiresome, is so rewarding there are barely any words to describe it. Expect to have fun and learn so much about yourself you will feel like you have been in years of intensive therapy.

*Weird title. I know.