Good days and bad days

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These little devils have been the cause of both good days and days that try my patience

It’s a popular adage that you have good days and bad days in the Peace Corps. However, this is kind of like saying that you are happy on your wedding day, or it hurts when you get shot. Is it true? Sure. Does it adequately describe the situation? Not particularly.

Some days I stand just inside my door for what feels like an eternity, paralyzed with anxiety, listening to the bustle of village life outside my hut and mentally willing myself to step outside and face another day. Some days I am wracked with guilt and self-doubt, crippled by the fear that I’m not doing enough and disillusioned by the sobering realization that whatever I do won’t matter in the long run anyway. Some days I learn over and over again that you can be surrounded by people and still feel hopelessly alone.

On these days I can’t avoid the sinking sensation that I’ve made a huge mistake in joining the Peace Corps, that I don’t belong here and never will.

Other days I bound outside like I’ve been living in rural Zambia all my life, cheerfully interrogating the flock of children in my insaka on what they studied in school that day and complimenting 4-year-old Shatelle on her new braids. I exchange funny faces with my headman’s 11-year-old daughter Maggie as she skips along the path in front of my hut, I dispense high-fives like Pez to a throng of raucous iwes as I sail past on my bike, I tease the bamayos at the well and joke about how men never do any work. And I begin to feel maybe for the first time in my life that I am truly a part of a community.

On these days I float on clouds, buoyed by a kind of effervescent love that emanates from being at peace with my place in the world and everything in it. On these days I realize that the simple bonds of fellowship and common purpose have the power to move mountains.

Sometimes the good days and the bad days happen all on the same morning. Fancy that.

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5 thoughts on “Good days and bad days

  1. Yep, man. You’ve got it. When I’m peeping out my door, waiting for the throngs to pass so I can slip out unnoticed on the bad days… I go almost as low as I go high in those bamayo-joking-iwe-laughin’-lovin’-life times. Never can get used to them all flowing into the same few hours, though.

  2. Matt,

    I’ve been reading a different blog (they’re a PCV in Uganda), and the blogger recently talked about a similar situation to an extent. That PCV’s co-worker’s daughter is eligible to attend college for roughly 95$ a year. While that may not be much to us, comparing it to the fact that she only makes $12 a month, it sort of puts things into perspective. As much as that PCV wanted to help her out, you can’t help everyone.

    I’m actually having a hard time explaining myself and it’s so much harder seeing that I’m not in the Peace Corps. But you shouldn’t have doubt about the long-run. From what I can tell, PC as a whole is making a lasting impression on everyone involved.

    Couple months ago, I didn’t know anything of Zambia, nor did it ever cross my mind. And while I certainly have a different perspective about the country, even of Africa now. Somewhere along the lines, whether it was your blog, the PC, or other people in my life… you as a whole have made an impression on me. What you’re doing there is great, and perhaps it may take extra time than needed for your or other volunteer’s communities to really take on what you’re sharing with them.

    I hope some of that makes sense. And maybe, just maybe, we have different viewpoints of success … and it might just come to how we all define it.

    • Hey Besim, thanks for the thoughts and the words of encouragement! I really appreciate them. I guess the hardest part for me isn’t in knowing these things, but in reconciling how I can think and feel one way one day, and then think and feel a completely different way the next. I’m usually a rather emotionally stable person (some would even say emotionally deficient!), so needless to say it’s a bit surprising at times. 🙂

  3. Hi Matt
    There have been times when I’ve experienced something similar to what you are expressing (not in the same day). You are just brave enough to share it with the world. Thank you for being transparent and honest with your feelings.

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