I’ve hit a rough spot.
I was doing pretty great the Monday before I left for our Fourth of July celebration. I felt comfortable, happy, in charge. Kids were hanging out on my porch, my host family and I were joking with each other, and life was good. I went to Samaná and hung out with other Volunteers, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a while, to celebrate America. We swam, we sunbathed, we drank, we sang. We relaxed and we celebrated. It was a good time.
I came back to my site exhausted from travel but ready to hit the ground running and finish up my diagnostic. Then I woke up on Saturday with a sore throat, coughing, headache, and fatigue. Great. I literally spent my whole weekend in bed watching TV shows, coughing a lot and getting lots of sympathy from my host family. Sunday night I promised myself I would get up the next morning, be healthy, and go out and start my interviews. (I often believe that I can just will myself healthy, which repeatedly proves to be false. I never learn.)
Monday morning. I get up, feel moderately better, and make my way down to my project partner’s house. Nancy is the secretary of my school and runs a sala de tarea out of her house for kids who need extra help with schoolwork. I’ve been planning on working with her at her sala de tarea and using it to meet new people in my neighborhood. So I went down there, talked to her a while, and then she gave me a kid to follow home. It turns out he lives in a family compound that I had already visited before, so I sat and tried to make awkward conversation with a high school mother about education in Bani. After a while I cut my losses and made my way home under a gathering cloud of disappointment and self-doubt.
Since then, I have felt awful. I can’t kick this cough, but at least I can get up and walk around. But the awfulness is more in my mind than in my body. I am behind in my diagnostic interviews. I should know more of my neighbors. I need to have a presentation on my diagnostic planned and ready to go for our training at the end of the month. A lot of my neighborhood kids are gone for vacation. The kids that are here are doing their best to try my patience every waking moment. I should go out and interview my neighbors, but it’s just so much easier to watch 30 Rock in my room. Since getting back to my site, I’ve felt uncomfortable, almost like a visitor again. I’m realizing how much I don’t know about my new home. The “easy win” projects I’ve tried to start have failed. I’m questioning my ability to be a youth group leader, a teacher, a trainer, a neighbor. I find myself wishing that I lived in an isolated batey where the boundaries are clear and the population manageable, instead of in a barrio that blends into its neighboring communities and is part of a busy town of more than 60,000 people.
In order not to drive myself down into a dark hole, I’ve taken stock of the good things in my life. I found a house to rent. It’s right next to my host family’s house and needs to be fixed up, but once it is it will be my own space. And there should be a toilet there by December! I get to talk to my parents every week. I can talk to my friends here whenever I want. I have an excellent Dominican family. I’m relatively healthy. I’ve been reading a lot of books and, by extension, going on lots of imaginary adventures. Life’s not as bad as I make it out to be when I’m distressing in a dark place in my head.
Rough spots smooth out.