It’s been awhile right? Yes it has. I’ve been busy and completely free for a while now. I finished my Peace Corps service in the midst of parties, tears, and projects nearly not coming to fruition. As I said my last goodbyes I gathered up my final paperwork and retired my official Peace Corps passport. I would no longer be able to exit Costa Rica without paying their fees. Upon my return to the United States, I could feel a change within me that hadn’t been apparent while living in Costa Rica.
While my parents complained about barking dogs and the sidewalks seemed eerily quiet, I enjoyed being in the presence of people. I wanted to say hi to everyone I met walking outside. The barking dogs were slightly endearing. I felt guilt buying shoes, trying to convince myself that my one pair could be dressed up or down, right? I would listen to Minnesota’s only Latino radio station, but still long for merengue, bachata, and cumbia.
My life was made easier by having internet access 24/7 and the ability to call US numbers with my phone. But relocating wasn’t easy either. I missed Costa Rica. I missed the pace. I missed having coffee with neighbors. I missed my family and friends there. I wanted the days I would get trapped inside someone’s house due to the rain having to stay for lunch as well as cafecito. I wanted my free healthcare provided by the best Medical Officers in Peace Corps history. I didn’t want to think about driving a car and having accidents because of bad weather or bad drivers. I didn’t want to think about trying to buy insurance for my car or my health. I still don’t.
I felt distanced from my friends and family. People asked how it was, but how could I explain all the bad times and the good times without be reductive. How could I explain that sometimes I failed miserably at my job, but it always was important and necessary? How could I explain all my successes and make sure they understood how important they were to my community and me? And most importantly, how could I do all this without sounding self-important. After the 10th time of explaining the same sound bite or detail about my life in Costa Rica, especially to the same person, I got exhausted and sometimes would ask myself if they really cared. But when no one would ask questions or bring up my life for those 2 years I would feel hurt. Like what I did wasn’t important. Like it was something that everyone does, similar to going to school or traveling abroad. I hated to explain the difference between a Peace Corps volunteer and someone who loves world travel. I don’t want to explain that I’m a little jaded right now of volunteer services and organizations, or general do-gooders. And I’m terrified to let people know this.
Fortunately, I was able to go back to Costa Rica and be a part of a community that I missed. But that turned out more different than I had expected as well. I was glad to be back, but I had morphed into a different person within the first month of returning to the States. I had concerns that were based in the US and needed my attention there. The freedom and independence in the US has scared me, but the isolation in the mountain and lack of access felt confining. I had another culture shock moment. I was fairly inconsolable. I didn’t want to let down the people of my town, and felt like I had to visit them, but I also needed time for myself to process everything I was feeling. I hadn’t even started to process my feelings about returning home yet. And there I was, sitting in a house, alone, stressed, worrying about hurting people’s feelings, and wondering why I had done what I did.
I eventually did cut my trip short by 2 weeks, spending only a month there. I did accomplish things there that I wanted to for my two years in the Peace Corps, including riding a horse into the mountains. I was glad I had that time to fully process what I felt and what I did. I still am process it all and trying to sort out who I am now that I’ve been back. Mostly I wanted to get back to the States because it allowed me time to visit the people who I care about there, family and friends included.
I was able to spend a whole week with my uncles, their respective families and my grandmother. I sometimes feel as if I am not able to spend as much time with these people who are so important to me. They are one a connection to my father that I will never be able to having personally anymore, and they have tried to care for me the best they could throughout the years. I am eternally grateful the way they have allowed me to become more than just their niece.
I wish I had more time in Minnesota, but time doesn’t stop here in States like it sometimes seemed to do in Costa Rica. It has its good points, everything is always changing and challenging me in new ways, and its bad points, I can’t have more time to spend with the people and things that I care about. I am now in New Jersey with new concerns, including finding a job and figuring out the bus system. I am prepared and excited to start researching and attending classes. That is probably the least scary aspect of my life. If I could study and write papers without the concerns of transporting myself, money, and work, I would be the happiest girl in the world. I know the easy going nature of Costa Rica, the ability to stop and reflect and take time to think about every single option out there, isn’t going to be available here in New Jersey, but I hope I can teach someone here that it’s still okay to watch the rain instead of bemoaning it.
Also, I will try to continue this blog in regards to my Grad School life. Hopefully, I'll keep it up better than I did in Costa Rica. I guess, Si Dios Quiere, right??