I’m in week eight on these islands and I still can’t believe I’m here. The past few months have been a strength I haven’t known about myself. A strength that I know has only just begun. Between a deep loneliness and the fear of missing out on the life I left back home, I know why I’m here- and that’s what keeps me going. Whatever I’m leaving, whatever could’ve been… I’m leaving for who I’m going to become and who I want to be.
A few weeks back, we received our island placements. I was selected to stay on the main island, Ngazidja, in a village called Ouzioini (pronounced ooziwani) on the South end. I will be the only volunteer in my village for my two years of service. This is frightening yet invigorating. I have lived my whole life in the presence of other Merekanis (Americans) and Shingareza (English) speakers. Taking this leap will test every cell of my being and it won’t be easy. Fortunately, I have another few weeks of complaining, laughing about the weird new parts of life, and preparing with my fellow trainees.
That all being said, for my first post about life in Comoros… I thought it would better showcase what I’m going through if I listed the various things and thoughts that I’m experiencing. Pre-service training (PST) is physically taxing, emotionally draining, and one of the hardest parts of a Peace Corps service (so we’ve been told.) Since I haven’t been able to see much of my new home, besides the inside of a classroom, this is my list:
- The three palm trees outside my bathroom window have an energy of my dad, mom, and sister. When I first saw them, there was an immediate rush of comfort and protection.
- Every night is Animal Planet Live when you watch the lizards that roam your walls prey, pounce, and eat various insects inhabiting your living spaces (this appreciation took a few weeks).
- I’ve gained a new life skill for my resume: I made ONE roll of toilet paper last FIVE weeks. How did she do it? Constipation.
- I miss smelling good! I’m not sure what I smell like, but it can’t be the best. I’ve mastered a trick for bucket showers, though. Before you dump cold water on your head do some sit-ups or jumping jacks so you won’t shiver as much.
- I wake up every single day to a choir composed of chickens, goats, and the morning prayer through an amplifier/megaphone of some type from a nearby mosque.
- A mother’s love is truly universal. When it rains, my host mom fills a giant bucket, carries it to my room on her head, and pours it in my bucket of water that I bathe from and use to flush my toilet. She also gives me a hug and kiss every morning before school and every night before bed.
- Hand-washing your clothes ages them significantly and takes about 2-3 hours. You scrub your clothes using your knuckles. Allah help you if your hands start bleeding.
- For our Fourth of July celebration the US Embassy in Madagascar flew in cheese for us because Comoros is having a cheese shortage. When will I ever be that important again?
- I have a mosquito net but they still manage to get inside. I sleep next to their corpses after I smash them with my solar lantern.
- I dream of salty ruffle potato chips almost every night (please send some).
- This country encourages napping. This is an important commonality.
- The collectivism and trust here is beautiful to witness. Our social fabric and connectedness in the States could use some work in comparison.
- Women are powerhouses and the backbone of society (everywhere). I will commit my service to backing this empowerment.
- I am considered desirable, beautiful, and wealthy solely because of my skin color. I hate it and I hate that I can never take this mask off.
- One of my hardest struggles: I am always hungry. I eat once a day at school and if we don’t have training, I eat whatever snacks I can find at a village Duka (small convenience-type of store). It’s safe to say weekends are the hardest days where I have little to no energy and am easily irritable.
- The nora (stars) are unlike I’ve ever seen them. At night, if you find yourself looking to the sky, you drown in their endlessness.
- I am grateful for the life and opportunities that are paired with haphazardly being born on US soil.
- Empathy could solve the world’s issues.
Overall, this country is beautiful. I have a lot to learn, but this placement will aid me in the growth that I seek. It’s humbling to sift through the recognitions I have already made in my short time here and living in this small corner of Africa. Unfortunately, the reality that America has manufactured, is blinding and desensitizing all of us. I’m motivated to dive deeper into these insights and essentially let go of my previous world views to reshape them over, and over again. Thanks for following my journey- there’s a lot to come!