Here I am back in Mainstay Village in Region 2 after an 11-day trip to meet my counterpart, Dr. Orin Lewis, whom I will be working alongside for the next 2 years. I also traveled to my new community, Waramuri in Region 1 to meet the rest of my colleagues, host family, and community members. After touching base with multiple other PCV’s one could say that the emotions raged for everyone just about as much as they did when that lovely stage of puberty graced our presence. It is interesting the wide range of emotions that we humans are capable of when thrown into an entirely new experience and surrounded by everything foreign. You grasp at anything that makes you feel comfortable and familiar; that feeling of being UNDERSTOOD becomes one of the most precious gifts that you could be given.
We all spent a week in our respective communities. Some of us were the only Americans in the area for hours, others were placed into the somewhat busy coastal regions. Some were placed in a house on a river without a canoe in complete isolation (one could say that they were up a creek without a paddle) and others closer to their neighbors than they care to experience (aka they could probably hear you fart…smh). I was among some of the more isolated volunteers in a village on the Moruca river. I did get to see a PCV from the year before me, Eneka, for about 30 minutes during a supply run for our health center at the district hospital. My heart nearly burst seeing another American and for someone who has taken pride in independence and a confidence in meeting people from different backgrounds (hello FreeZone!) that was a foreign feeling. I feel like it’s in those moments that you realize that you are never going to stop pushing against your comfort zone; it’s a continual choice that will consistently plunge you into the unknown, whether in the states or in a different continent.
As I walked around in the community, being watched and analyzed like a zoo animal, trying to get to know the traditionally shy and reserved Amerindian community, I felt the feeling of discouragement wash over me. Conversations were short and simple, people avoided eye-contact, relationships were proper and professional, and I, the eternal child, was melting away as it seemed. Of course this propelled me into the journaling and prayer (per usual), and as I prayed, this question slammed into me, “Am I just trying to make myself feel productive, useful, and liked or do I actually care about the people that I’m serving?” Service is a more complex thing than I had previously thought. It is tested in the face of challenge. Do you continue to serve the people around you, or do you retreat into your deservedly felt emotional distress? When in a position of service, do you choose to continually plead to God to open your eyes to see the needs of others or do you plead to God for him to open his eyes to see yours? I know that in this week I just wanted to feel seen in a community that only saw my skin color, my nationality, and the clothes that I wore; a community that only heard the oh so out of place American accent that I spoke in.
Whether you are choosing to love a difficult friend or family member, launching into a new stage of schooling/career/therapy, or trying to integrate into a new world, do not forget that you are already seen, loved, known, pursued, and desired. You have a God that is BIG and in control. You are held tighter and closer than you could ever know. This was the deeply needed message that I heard God whisper to me as I journaled and gave him that emotional distress. Not to say that I won’t feel those same feelings of failure, discouragement, and insecurity. This is simply to say that I will pray for remembrance of truths that have propelled me into service and that I will ask those who read this to partner with me in that, for their own lives and for mine.