|The road less traveled?|
As I'm listening to Aya by Davido for possibly the hundredth time since 7am, I'm contemplating this place where I find myself. In my house with no sound proofing and all of the noises come in from the market: children's antics on the way to school, moto engines revving (it sounds like a dirt bike competition out there), horns honking, Market DJ's beats vibrating over everything.
December 11th marks Month 15 of my Peace Corps service. While I'm online, I read about adventures that I'm not having and people I admire and sometimes Melancholy threatens. But then I remember: I am having an amazing adventure. The adventure of a lifetime. (Though I hope to have many more adventures before I get fat from making cookies for my grandchildren. That way my stories - which are of course the price of eating the aforementioned cookies - don't always start with "When I was in the Peace Corps…")
I suppose it is inevitable that while on this escapade, I learn a thing or two.
|Cameroon is full of love and rainbows and unicorns. Or something.|
"Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life - and travel - leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks - on your body or on your heart - are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt." - Anthony Bourdain
Some of the things I've learned have been practical… Always check your pants for live spiders before putting them on. Check the beans for rocks and the tomatoes for worms. Don't respond "yes" to a question in the local language that you don't understand, because you might be agreeing to a shotgun wedding. Greet everyone, because that way no one can be insulted. Always carry clean water and tissues or toilet paper with you, because you never know. These are the things that get you through the days unscathed.
|Enjoying the scenery|
But many of the things I've learned have been more philosophical.
I have spent a year full of downtime (is that an oxymoron?), a lot of time hanging out with me, myself, and I. In college, I spent all my time with friends or classmates or boyfriend or books. Here, not so much. And that was really rough at first. How to fill all that time? But somewhere along the way I became more comfortable with solitude, and sometimes I even crave it. And I have become intimately acquainted with me. When talking about Peace Corps, people almost inevitable toss out clichés like "discovering oneself" blah blah blah. But maybe there's some truth in that overused phrase. It's an unfinished process, but learning how to deal with solitude and learning the necessity of self-reflection has definitely been - healthy? fulfilling? At the very least, good.
|Admiring the tree I call "fire tree" for its bright orange flowers|
Here's a short list of "how to be happy life lessons" I've learned during my Peace Corps service:
Physical comforts (like running water or consistent electricity) are some of the least important requirements for being happy.
Time is money, but sometimes slowing down is worth it.
|Sometimes you have to stop and appreciate the little things...|
|...little things like preparing & eating nkwi.|
So much is possible with a lot of stubborn persistence and a little creativity. Set little goals and work towards a big one, celebrating the little successes along the way. But also never do yourself what you can get someone else to do. It's good for development, it's good for you, and that's a win-win situation!
"Unplugging" - partially removing myself from Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Youtube - is great for one's mental health. It encourages me to pursue complexity rather than simplicity, to seek out relationships with physical proximity rather than Likes.
The value of human relationships is immeasurable. Not only for work (why do we spend so much time discussing this "networking" thing?) but also for the simple reasons: friendship, solidarity, happiness in each other's company.
|We're all connected.|
And last but not least, when you're down and everything feels wrong, a dance party with P Square is always right. #testimony #tastedamoney
|All night looong|
|And all day looong.|