Distance puts things into perspective. Not just in a manner of inches and miles, but in time. In the small measurements of progress and growth. Every day for more than 15 months, I have thought about how lucky I am be here – to be serving, to be living up to this idea formed in an eleven-year-old’s brain of being a Peace Corps Volunteer. But it takes distance, time, to realize what that means. And I was lucky enough to take both distance and time in a trip home to see family and friends in June and July.
Let me be clear: I don’t say lucky lightly. I’m lucky that I could afford to fly halfway across the world, that my I could take a break from my site for a few weeks. That my family and friends put their life on pause to let me ramble on and on about Kyrgyzstan and health promotion and lack of showers and missing cheeseburgers and the importance of service over beers and endless cups of coffee. That I can see the impact of my work towards Peace Corps’ Third Goal, sharing my experiences and understanding of Kyrgyzstan with my community in America. I’m lucky to be in a post that is supportive, a site that appreciates my hard work and challenges me to do more, to be doing something I am passionate about. That, even now that Peace Corps offers applicants more control over where they fulfill their two years of service, that I ended up in a tiny country in the mountains of Central Asia surrounded by incredible people and dedicated Volunteers. I’m lucky that I was given the chance to put my service in context – this time not in Soviet history or Kyrgyz culture – but in my life, my own personal and professional development, to start thinking about what’s next. I’m lucky that that can all be wrapped up in a few weeks and that I have incredible people in my life that allow me to bounce ideas around and talk about what this all means.
And that means a lot. So thank you to everyone who made this trip home incredible, to my family and friends for their unwavering support (whether I am right in front of you or six thousand miles away), for letting me share this experience with you as I try to understand it myself. Thank you to strangers who shared their ideas about Peace Corps, who encouraged me to do more, be more. Thank you for putting up with my ramblings in attempting to put my Peace Corps service into perspective, thank you for giving me the time and distance and air to articulate what this experience has offered me, to question it, to hypothesize what it will mean to me in my second year.
It’s made all the difference.