The views expressed herein are mine and not those of the Peace Corps.



Useful Acronyms

PC Peace Corps
ICT Information & Communications Technology
PCT Peace Corps Trainee (pre-swearing-in)
PCV Peace Corps Volunteer (post-swearing-in)
PST Pre-Service Training
CBT Community-Based Training


As I walked from my house to the school buildings this morning, my ever-wandering brain began to dwell on my time in State College two summers ago, at an REU. Now it’s hard for me to even remember what I was researching, something about the conductivity of ultra-cooled somethingorother. The research never really grabbed me like my holographic polymer-dispersed liquid crystal research at Drexel did, and so I went to work, did my tests, and stayed no later than I had to. I was living in an apartment with three other girls and we chatted but didn’t really get close: I didn’t mind being alone and they didn’t mind leaving me alone. Most of what I did that summer was drive my beloved decrepit ’88 Volvo station wagon around the mountains of State College, admiring the views and visiting the local thrift stores (which are pretty fantastic). I spent a lot of time online, watched a lot of movies, read a lot of books. I visited the library once or twice a week. It was a nice, if not particularly stimulating, way to spend a summer.

I was in State College for ten weeks over the summer between junior and senior years of college.

I’ll be in Tanzania for 110 weeks between graduating from college and the rest of my life.

And yet so far, the situations are very similar to me. There are definite differences, of course: in State College, when the mood struck me, I could drive home to visit my family and see a concert in D.C., drive up to Philly to visit my college friends and see a concert there, and be back at work without missing more than two days. Here, family and college friends are an ocean away, and I have no car, but there are other friends nearby, my fellow PCVs with whom I am already close. In State College I had roommates living in the same apartment but chose not to socialize much; here I’d love to socialize more but don’t have the time, money, or energy to visit more often than every other weekend.

But the experiences are shockingly similar. Both here and in State College I love the environment, really enjoy being in the mountains, but am somewhat apathetic about the work (horrible to say but completely true). Both here and in State College I’m being paid by the government to live in a place I enjoy living and do work I’m willing to do. I don’t often talk to other Americans (talking to Tanzanians, although enjoyable, is not the same); I indulge in a lot of hobbies that I can do alone in my room: reading (both here and there); playing the mandolin (here); watching movies (both); sewing and knitting (both); chatting online (not here, and although I feel its lack I think it’s a good thing). In both places I am content to be solitary, I don’t mind spending time by myself, in my own space, doing what I want.

The main difference is the span of time. Already I’ve spent more time here at site than I spent in State College, and although the feeling of temporariness is lessened with a longer span of time, I’m still very aware that my presence here is not permanent, that there will be a time in the not-that-distant future when I start sentences “when I was in the Peace Corps in Tanzania…” rather than “well, here in Tanzania…”

Weeks here pass by so quickly, days so slowly. The cognizance of the limits of my time here is good and bad: even as it keeps me sane, setting bounds–I measure time by the next time I’ll see other Americans, the next time I’ll see friends, the next time I’ll see family–it justifies my remaining at home, inert, doing only the job I was sent here to do. But for me, for now, that’s enough. As I remind myself when I feel like a terrible teacher, when I wish I wanted to do more for the students, I’m better than nothing. And that much, at least, is true.

(Several of you have expressed concern over my mental state. I’m quite fine, but I tend to write blog posts only when I’m thinking about things and need to work them out, which means that you only see the side of me that’s discontented. By and large I’m quite happy here, I do love the mountains, and I’m adjusting to the cold.)

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