“If this were an easy job, we wouldn’t be here,” my colleague/language-class-soulmate Lorenzo said through a mouthful of chapatti and passion fruit juice. I couldn’t dispute the statement. We were in an Indian restaurant in Mombasa, pausing on the long arduous journey back to our sites after two rather eventful weeks of In-Service Training (IST). I had been considering going out for drinks and hookah after dinner with some other PCVs, but honestly? I was completely drained. Even though there were days of mind-numbing note-taking and moments when we felt we were just filling seats between tea breaks, IST was a bit intense. I learned a great deal – some of it per the syllabus, some of it not. I attended sessions about alternative energy sources, small enterprise ethics, and raising profitable dairy goats. I learned oodles about Kenya. About myself. About where I am in the world in relation to where I want to be and/or where I need to be. About sources of outside funding. About means of circumventing the need for outside funding. About how to tie a proper toga out of a leso. About how to best placate a finicky hotel hot water heater. About where to find the cheapest electronics in Nairobi (and when it’s just not worth it to venture into sketchy places). About how to assemble killer cheddar jalapeno cornbread. About how to assemble reusable sanitary pads so girls in rural villages don’t have to skip school 5-7 days each month because they’re menstruating. About how to insult someone in a Luo dialect. About workable methods to inspire youth and empower young women to become community leaders. About how long it takes a Flemish Giant rabbit to reach maturity before you can breed it, sell it, or make it into stew.

Whew. I also didn’t sleep a whole lot. Can you tell?

Additionally, I spent the requisite amount of time (not during business hours, of course) laughing, playing scrabble, drinking boxed wine, lying in the sun, and banking memories with faraway friends for future moments of frustration and isolation. The face time with other volunteers may sound mostly like a summercamp-ish added bonus or, at best, a means by which we can commiserate and keep each other sane. It is both of these things. However, it also encourages the exchange of ideas. I learned at least as much from my group as I did from our trainers, and even today, spent most of dinner and all of a post-dinner-drinking-soda-in-the-hotel-bar session troubleshooting project ideas and attempting to foresee implementation problems that could use a fresh pair of eyes. It’s fantastic.

Finally, I was able to pull myself out of the immediacy of daily life at site and … well … think about what I’m doing here. I used to have this wacky yoga teacher in DC named River – ok, her name was actually Willow or Aspen or Pine Needle or something, but she bore such a striking resemblance to River Tam both in appearance and mannerism that I will never think of her as anything else. At the beginning of every session, as well as if we were really struggling with a pose, she’d add in her lilting, dreamy voice, “Pause in this moment and recommit to your intentions.” The phrase resonated with me then, and does to this day. When you feel overwhelmed with minutiae, it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re doing. This is equally true whether you’re writing a paper, struggling in a job, or trying to affect permanent change in the developing world as a Peace Corps volunteer. Even amid complications and stresses of every possible variety, I know why I’m here. I took time to remind myself of this, and even scribbled down some notes on the bus ride today so I can refer back to them as a touchstone in case my focus slips. I have been able to go from feeling grasping to grounded.

This, if nothing else, was worth the trip.

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