The first is now over.
As of yesterday, I completed my first my in village.
The first month is meant to be a challenging one. In an unfamiliar setting on your own for the first time, external and internal challenges arise constantly. You realize instantly that the cultural knowledge and language skills you are acquired during training don’t take you very far and you are often are guessing and making mistakes.
In those first few weeks you set the tone for your service, giving off an impression and explaining your role here. You goal is to meet the community and ask it to adopt you. Nothing is comfortable and most things seem like a risk.
That’s a typical first month, full of stress and anxiety. My stage did not have a typical first month; we said goodbye to a friend in the most excruciating ways, which added more layers of emotions.
But I survived it, and in some ways, thrived.
My sense of self has changed in the last thirty days and I have a better understanding of what it will take for me to make it in Africa. In some ways, I’m still Heather, in others I have made drastic changes, for the better, or at least I think so.
In such a short time my villagers have taught me generosity and hospitality. They do laugh at me, but I join the laughter and instead of feeling defeated I am connected to a group of people.
What’s important is that I am happy. My good days are greater in number than the bad. Nothing seems unmanageable. Through a text message, I told a friend one of our stag has decided to leave and he replied that although we think about leaving we needed to remember the good over the bad. Honestly, I’ve never thought about leaving.
I am happy and the next 23 months will have difficulties but they’ll have immense joy. Every day, I reminded that I am supposed to be here and I am eternally grateful.