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.