Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Panicked Buildup to America

It's all coming to an end. I've been in Kazakhstan for two years now. I have less than three months left before I am released and start toward home. It seems an appropriate time to do some reflection.

Has my service been exceptional and everything I wanted it to be? No. But has it been good, fun and fulfilling? Yes. I've second guessed my decision to join Peace Corps, but I believe the experience has been positive. I've taken a lot away from my time here: learning a bit about the world but even more about myself. In no other program can you get the same experience of living within a community, and becoming a part of it, than in Peace Corps.

I feel that a lot of the work I do is futile. The school children are not really learning much English. They aren't interested in foreign languages. Sometimes I think that this is through some fault of my own. Then I remember what I was like during High School, and how much attention I paid during German class. I like to think I've at least provided a good role model for the young men at school and left a lasting impression on the people I've met.

I had a nightmare the other night. I was home, in my old bedroom, and I was holding the door closed so none of my family could come in. I was feeling lost and apart from everybody. Since that dream, a sort of dread has begun to grow in me about what I will do with myself once I'm back. How I will go from being a local celebrity to another face in the crowd? How will I go from a setting where I'm experiencing something new almost daily, challenging myself and growing to the daily grind and typical mid-20's lifestyle?

On top of that, how will I find a job? What sort of career am I actually interested in? It's a lot to consider, and will likely lead to minor panic attacks as my Close of Service date (Nov. 6th) approaches. The closer I come to leaving, the more worried I will grow, I'm sure. I have friends, both Americans and locals, that I feel like I will be seeing for the last time. Leaving America to come here, I had the knowledge that in two or three years I would see them all again. Now, it's unlikely I will make the trip out here again, unless I find a job that will pay me to. How do you say goodbye for the last time?

All of these questions run through my head every day, and every night as I wait for sleep to overtake me and bring me that much closer to all of you back home. I'm immensely excited for coming home. The things I will do, people I will get to see and get to know again. Sometimes it makes it hard to remain here, sitting in my apartment or going to school. But once the fairy tale wears off and I've been home for a month or two, it'll be hard.

Sort of a morose blog post. I hate to leave all of you on such a down note. Summer has been slow though, and not post-worthy has happened. My days are filled with running, internet, tv and books. I visit some folks, I got to do a little bit of travel that was relaxing and very welcome. School will begin in about a month, at which point time will race by and before I know it, I'll be home. I'm savoring my remaining time here. It's been great, and the departure will be very bitter sweet.


Randy said...

Sometimes doing what you can is all you really need to do. So they're not building a full sized Jeff statue (does anyone really want that, anyway?), but maybe a few kids in the village will remember the cool American that helped them in the comedy competition, or taught them Ultimate Frisbee, or any number of things you shared with them.

When you come home you might have a little bit of fitting back in to do, but you'll find something worthwhile, especially if you go off to grad school. Life doesn't have to be mundane if you don't let it. We love you, and we can't wait to welcome you home. I hope you can find a way to enjoy your last months of service.

Jeff said...

I don't worry about enjoying it. I'm sure that will happen. I was walking around tonight, as the sun was setting, and thinking how much I really enjoy this place. There are things I wish were different about it, but it has been my home for two years and I really do love it.

My worry comes more from my repatriation and sense of fulfillment I hope to have when this is all done. It'll take some work, but I'm sure I'll adjust without too many problems.

Pavlodar Swede said...

Oh the terrible summer lives of a TEFL volunteer...

Hear ya on the what to do next, though... I decided that I can't make a decision here and so I'm gonna keep my options open by applying to everything (jobs, grad schools, taking GREs, etc.), but that I won't be able to examine where my life is going next until i'm home and removed from this life. If I miss it enough, I might come back to Almaty, if not, i'll move on to working and then grad school.