I just got done (pitifully) hauling a jerry can of water from the rain tank to my house. As usual, I was sweaty during the entire walk but this time, I found myself day dreaming about the luxury that is indoor plumbing. This is dangerous territory since I only have ~ 7-8 months left in my Peace Corps service. I could day dream about tap water and sinks forever but then I would never get any work done. By no means am I ready to go back to America (Exhibit A: the school library, still in disarray. Exhibit B: the unfinished latrines, still in disarray. Exhibit C: my neighbors, still in disarray at the idea of me leaving) but to rectify this problem and put a halt to my outrageous fantasies of steamy showers, I have decided to make a list of all the things that I am not looking forward to about moving back to the states. (Note: This is not a list of all the things I will miss about Uganda. The fact that I almost teared up writing that sentence probably means that I’m not ready for that list yet).
Number of bills I had before joining the Peace Corps: 7
Number of bills I have while serving in the Peace Corps: 0
Number of bills I will have upon returning from the Peace Corps: a million, probablyThe idea of having bills again gives me anxiety. It just feels so…suffocating. The other day, I found myself seriously thinking about how I could live without electricity in the states. I’m already accustomed to candle-lit dinners and accidentally ruining furniture/articles of clothing with candle wax and I’m sure that finding a place to charge my electronics in the states would be super easy. I’ve also considered only moving to cities with exceptional mass transit systems (helloooo, D.C.) so that I can avoid buying a car, even though I absolutely L.O.V.E driving (but I love the freedom of not having car payments and car insurance more).
Another thing that scares me is having a phone plan. Peace Corps gives us free PCV to PCV calling but for communication with anyone outside Peace Corps, you have to buy airtime. It’s like a pay-as-you-go plan and I have a sneaking suspicion that those don’t exist anymore in the states. (Is Boost Mobile still around or am I just old?). I really don’t want to go back to paying $104384980948 for minutes/texts I will never use and unlimited internet that will only fuel my stalker-ish tendencies on Facebook. Really, the only thing I’m willing to pay for at this point without question is water. Hot showers > everything.
- Having a built in excuse for all of life’s problems
Forgot to respond to an email/FB message/whatsapp?: “Oh, I live without electricity.”
Didn’t feel like taking someone’s call?: “Oh, I live without electricity.”
Don’t feel like having people over?: “Oh, I live without electricity.”
Forgot to reply to a text message?: “Oh, I live without electricity.”
Ignoring a party invite?: “Oh, I live without electricity.”
Living without electricity also gives you a false sense of superiority that’s helpful when you need an ego boost. For example: “Uhm, I’ve lived without electricity for 18 months, I THINK I can [insert outrageous and virtually impossible task here. Ex: climb Mt. Everest].”
WHAT IS DATING???? I DON’T KNOW BUT I’M SCARED OF IT AND EXCITED BY IT AT THE SAME TIME. Which pretty much sums up how I feel about boys, too.
I miss the anticipation and excitement of meeting someone new and although I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some really cool guys during my Peace Corps travels, I’m not sure that I know how to act around boys anymore. A few weeks ago (maybe a month ago. My sense of time is so warped – yesterday, I thought it was December), I met an intelligent, attractive, funny guy at a hostel. My method of trying to impress him? “Hey Attractive Guy, look!” *proceed to pull at a section of my very dirty leggings that I was wearing and then release it to watch a dust cloud form in the air above my legs* WHY. In my defense, my leggings were only that dirty because I had been traveling, and have you ever seen a dust cloud coming off your clothes? It’s like a miniature bomb going off. But I digress. If that’s what I’m like around boys here, what’s it going to be like in the states? “Hey Attractive Guy, look how clean my clothes are” ???????? I’ll probably just hide in my electricity-less apartment having romantic candle-lit dinners by myself for the rest of my life…which actually doesn’t sound bad at all. (Yes, there will be cats).
- Not knowing my neighbors
In Uganda, your neighbors are your family…to the extent that if I had friends over and didn’t take them to meet my neighbors, my neighbors would be offended. Every evening is a giant block party and it is wonderful. Meanwhile in the states, I’ve lived in apartment complexes where I never even saw my neighbors. I could’ve died in my apartment and no one would’ve known. Here, if I didn’t leave my house for a day, my neighbors would think I was dead or that something was seriously wrong. (And, actually, if I didn’t leave my house for a day here, it would be very likely that I was on the verge of death….or deeply depressed. *cough*April 4th*cough*).
- Shaving, Wearing a Bra & General acquiescence to all the gender expectations
TMI TIME! (What am I saying, all the time is TMI Time on this blog) – I don’t wear a bra very often here and I shave my legs probably twice a month. I love having smooth legs but it’s a pain to shave them all the time ESPECIALLY when you’re only mode of bathing is bucket bathing. (Have you ever shaved in the dark? That’s exactly what it’s like). Because of this, I’ve learned to love the freedom of having unshaven legs and not feel the need to cover them up. It’s very liberating. As much as I would love to carry these habits back with me to the states, I’m sure I’ll give in to the allure of smooth legs after watching my first shaving commercial in 2 years. (I’m weak).
SERIOUS UPDATE: I just got back to site this week after traveling around Uganda for a month talking about gender roles and power dynamics and their effects on labor & access and gender-based violence. Two weeks ago, I crossed “Safe and Friendly Schools Conference” – a project aimed at eliminating violence in schools and cultivating more compassionate teachers to create safer spaces for children to learn in – off my Peace Corps Bucket List. I watched a year’s worth of hard work come into fruition. Both Emery and I poured our heart and soul into the conference. Afterwards, as we interviewed some of the Ugandan participants about their experience, I realized that the conference was easily my proudest accomplishment in life.
I am at a point in my Peace Corps service where everything I’ve wanted to do is in motion. The latrines that my amazing family & friends back home funded are almost finished, the library that I’ve worked in tirelessly over the last year and a half is almost ready to be opened and my ReUsable Menstrual Pads program is onto its second phase. Today, a thought popped into my head – the volunteer who will be taking over my site and living in my house come January has already gotten her invitation to serve in Peace Corps Uganda just like I did at this time two years ago. I have gone from counting up the days (“I’ve been here for 18 months!”) to counting down. It’s a scary feeling, especially since I still have so much work left to do, but at this exact moment, it feels right.