A few days ago, I had the opportunity to read a book written by an RPCV [link]. Although the book itself was not my cup of tea (I am more of an economic commentary & sci-fi fan), I was reminded that Peace Corps work is hard. For all the exciting projects and events we got going on, so much falls through the cracks. Whether it's a sudden change in plans, a failure on the part of the PCV to really explain, or a disinterest by the local community, it's not infrequent for a PCV to experience gut-wrenching setbacks.
This sucks. It's hard and hurtful and often requires quite a bit of energy to get back up, reassess, and go forward.
For me, this has happened more times than I can count - often because I failed my community in some way. The good news is that I have learned and grown and know I am a better community-based development activist because of it. The bad news is that after each experience it's gotten harder and harder to get back up. Recently, I have really struggled with this. I want to cancel events even before they happen because I am afraid something will go wrong.
Anyway, a few months ago, I knew Halloween was going to be my last big bash in Azerbaijan. It's my job to organize cultural exchange events and if I was going to get myself up once again, my favorite American holiday was a great excuse to pull out all the stops.
My dad lead the call - asking my home community (Nome, Alaska!) to donate decorations and treats. My site mate Jessica bought the pumpkins and my other site mate Mike brought the kids. Over 20 younguns showed up and actually partied. We had masks, decorations, costumes, dirt cake, and pumpkin carving. Several local counterparts (young women from the summer art program) came to help with the mask making and pumpkin carving, while a duo of former FLEX kids helped translate and explain why we carve pumpkins. If there was any reason I haven't given up in frustration, it was moments like that. Such a great note to begin saying good-bye on.
Special thanks to the community of Nome, Alaska, Jessica A., Mike R., Jane R., Aaron M., Şəbnəm, Ramilə, Tellar, and Sakina.