Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Order...Metaphor...One-year

(Headed to the states soon, hence...)
May 22nd: My order
I'd like the start with the french toast with bacon and home a bowl of Lucky Charms, a strawberry creamcheese croissant, two powdered donuts with that white filling, the bacon, egg & cheese croissant and an everything bagel with chive and onion.

I’d like the sweet potato burrito, the chicken fingers sub with wing sauce, the cuban, a gyro, a chopped Greek salad, mall Chinese, the beef supreme with guac, the six-piece chicken nuggets with Polynesian sauce and the waffle fries, and three slices of Hawaiian pizza with ranch dressing.

I'd like the spicy tuna roll, the Tampa roll and the Mexican roll. The miso soup too. And the mussels. And crab wontons. And wasabi-seared tuna steak. A big bowl of pad thai, then the crab legs.

To drink I'll have a Grimbergen. Iced tea. A venti mocha frappachino, extra whip. A Coors Light. A mojito. A margarita.

I think there's still a little room for a slice of Carvel ice cream cake, bananas foster, apple crisp with ice cream, brownies, seven-layer bars, a black and white cookie and a Haagandaz chocolate shake.

I only have three weeks, but I think I can do it. I’ll bring the stretchy pants.

May 27: My metaphor about what my service is like
Take a mother of three. Ask her if she’d like some help organizing her house. Of course she would. Send someone to live in her house, someone foreign who kind of talks like an idiot, though this mother feels bad for even thinking this.

While the mother is feeding babies, changing diapers, chasing naked children toward the bath and breaking up fights, foreign person follows her around, saying, “Well, how could we organize your house?”

The mother, kind of over her shoulder while she’s stirring a boiling pot and keeping an eye on the baby rocker, says, “Um, I don’t know, the garage is a disaster.” And the foreign helper says, “We will organize the garage.” But the mother thinks for a moment and says, “Eh.” “Well, what else?” “My closets are overflowing,” she offers. And the foreigner says, “Great! I’ll go for some pen and paper, and we will list all the ways you and your husband might be able to organize the closets and keep for them clean. Then --Are you having time this weekend?-- I will show you some charts about why it’s better to keep your closets clean. I will teach you alphabetizing.” (only the way the foreigner says alphabetizing, it’s more like alpibitizing.) But then there’s a child’s scream from somewhere down the hall, and the mother stops to give a pained look toward the foreigner and say, “I have dishes to wash,” before rushing off down the hall. And this foreigner is starting to wonder if this woman wants her closets organized or not.

A few days later, as the mother backs in with groceries, pulling a stroller and yelling for her son to close the van door and get in the house already, she turns to see that the foreigner is waiting for her just inside the door, the pen in one hand, the paper in the other. The foreigner raises his eyebrows and says, “Have you today time?”

“Look,” says the mother, putting the groceries down on the table and unstrapping her now-sniffling baby from her cart, “Why can’t you just organize the closets? It would be a big help.”

“Then how would the closets stay organized, after I’m go?” asked the foreigner. To which the mother just lets out a heavy breath, and wonders why she ever let the foreigner, who was supposed to help organize the house but as of yet seems to have done nothing, into her home.

May 29th: One year in country
Yes, a year has passed since I boarded a plane as a responsible adult and was born again in Paraguay, unable to speak, requiring constant supervision, shooed away from electronics. I forget how far I’ve come, and get sucked into the need to quantify everything, as if this had been just another year of working.

You want to add it all up, put it in a spreadsheet (and it doesn’t help that Peace Corps actually makes you do this). The numbers seem embarrassingly small, of how many people you’ve helped, how many charlas you’ve done. I caught a glimpse of my work plan from a few months ago and would have laughed if I hadn’t found it so depressing, to read all my hopes that were never realized. A year is when you grasp how fast a year can go, and you only have one more, so you wonder, Will I get anything done?

Our “sister group” arrived today, the people we will be mentoring, going to their training to give advice. I remember when the G-24 people, our “big sisters” came to face us, bright-eyed world savers in brand-new North Face jackets. I could sense their exhaustion, their annoyance at our enthusiasm, their skepticism, and I swore it’d never happen to me.

After a year, you have to admit that you are more human than hero. Just like they said, it did take you a year just to figure out what the hell you’re doing here. And yes, just like they said, the shiny gloss of the experience wears off, and your just left with a cold shower and a job that can feel just like a 9 to 5, if you don’t keep your eyes open.

You admit that no, you will not be building a library. No, you will not _. And no, you will never get that photo with you, looking happy in a baseball cap, surrounded on both sides by children smiling smiles that you put there with your hard work and dedication.

But as I was complaining about this today to my friend Mariela, I said, but look, I’m complaining in Spanish, to a friend that is from South America. That wouldn’t have happened a year ago. And sometimes I say stuff in Guarani. And, ya know, I can cook now, kind of. And this shirt? Oh, I made it, out of Ao Po’i. And I sambaed, in a gold sequins bra in public, and I modeled, and I peeped my head outside of the United States and found this whole other world that I now walk around in freely.

And one might wonder, who are you yelling at?

I’m yelling at myself. That person who joined the mythical Peace Corps a year ago, and even after all this time in the real Peace Corps, won’t just let herself enjoy what comes, without grabbing it and trying to shove as a puzzle piece into the life picture she thinks she should be living.

So all I can do is make a sentimental video, go to bed tonight, and wake up tomorrow, trying not to count.

No comments: