“Dear Mom, maple syrup is delicious…”

I found out yesterday that a second trainee had decided to “ET”, or early terminate, meaning they leave early. Hearing such news isn’t necessarily surprising, but it’s disconcerting, because it reminds the rest of us of the fact that there’s always an option to go home, regardless of our attempts to push it out of our minds based on sheer will of finishing the job we’ve sacrificed so much to start.

This isn’t being judgmental by any means – you have to do what you have to do, and I’m sure decisions to ET aren’t made lightly, especially after having sacrificed so much to get to this country. The double edged sword of working as a Peace Corps volunteer, essentially comes down to that – you’re a volunteer, and nobody’s going to try and convince you to stay. In certain cases, like having problems with the host family, can be fixed, but how do you solve something like homesickness? As a volunteer, you’re not ever forced to stay (since this isn’t the army), and it’s always better (to Uncle Sam, at least) for you to ET earlier than later, since the sheer amount of resources it takes to support you as a volunteer is mind boggling. This is assuming you will be ETing, that is.

And that’s the problem. Hearing about other people ETing reminds me that you, Jay, also have that option of going home. You’ll have tons of family waiting for you at the airport with open arms, tears of joy streaming down their face, welcoming you with open arms, telling you that “you’re home now… no one’s here to judge you.” Which I’m sure is true, but the self is always the harshest critic. It’s a delicate balance – entertaining the thoughts of going home does exist in my mind, certainly, but another part of me tells me that while doing that would make me feel happier for the present, the act of doing so would be extremely traumatic and probably a source of regret for the rest of my life.

Even more disconcerting is what one of the Uzbekers (Uzbeker being one of the 4 volunteers who joined us in Kazakhstan after the evacuation in Uzbekistan) told me – every one in their class had passed training, which is a complete rarity – but 10 ETed within the first 2 weeks of moving to their sites because the change was so traumatic. After suffering through language lessons and training with the rest of your fellow volunteers for 3 months, you’re thrown into the lion’s den, all by yourself to sites around the country to start your work with much less structural support than you’re used to in Training (where your daily life is planned out for you to the hour).

So in the back of your mind, you always wonder. Am I going to be one of those 10? Nobody wants to be, but the fact that it can hit any of us, regardless of how we feel now, is certainly real. Life here has been filled with wonderful experiences, and I’m enjoying making friends and learning to do my job, but it’s not at all easy. I wake up everyday thinking I’m just on a long vacation that will end soon, and in many ways seems like a dream. Who the hell says they wake up every day to roosters crowing at 4 in the morning and walking out to see cattle in the street in front of their house in Kazakhstan? Am I really doing this?

I was joking with another volunteer about ETing – in that we both had made a mistake of making such a big stink of our joining the Peace Corps, that if we were ever kicked out or decided to ET, we wouldn’t actually go home – we’d just go and hide out in Canada for 2 years, and write home just as if we were still in the Peace Corps. I like maple syrup and all, but all I can do is hold on for the ride and play it as it goes.


Anonymous said...

Jay, copy the link to Ie address

Shaio Gu

Cynthia said...

Wow! You always amazed me with your actions, especially this one. You went to Peace Crop! What leaves me in wonders is that you have the courage to go! That simply amazed me! From the posting you've written I know this is probably a worriesome (or puzzling?) time for you. And i can't give you any advice beyond what you already know, heck, i'm just a freshmen! (okay, going on to sophmore) But know this, I support you in whatever decision you make, actually, I'm sure the whole family does. If you do feel frustrated, you can come home. Just like what you wrote, everyone will welcome you with open arms, and tears of joy. We will all enjoy that moment. But, the feeling of coming home after you accomplish your goals is always much better than coming home without. Thanks for listening to a younger cousin's pointless rambling! anyway, good luck!!!

Oh! and this is my xanga: http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=twilight_wings

cynthia said...

k, here goes,
mine : cyndygirl@hotmail.com

mom: pasosunchen@yahoo.com

Dad: michael_lu@tsmc.com

Jennifer said...

wow i can surely feel the love within our family

anyway. if u want to come home, its cool. cause i still have to wait for you to build that closet of mine. haha just kidding

very proud of u big brother. stay strong. and keep on crapping in your pants. its a different feeling indeed.
love you