I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that volunteers never think about quitting or that those who think about quitting are quitters or ‘not cut out for Peace Corps’. And much like how nobody can watch a full episode of Extreme Home Make Over without crying, a volunteer never goes through service without thinking about quitting.
You think how easy it could be to just call up HQ, pack up, and have the plane ticket ready to go home. You miss your family, your friends, the life you had beforehand. You think everything would just be easier. You think about how in the States you could just roll out and go to the drive through to get something that wasn’t rice, or that in the States it wouldn’t take so many loopholes and set backs. You think about how much easier it was back home and how much easier life would be if you were there right now.
And, there you speak the language. You get the jokes, even if they’re not funny. TV makes sense. People talk like you, share the same interests. No one asks you if you’ve adjusted or if you like the girls. You can have a beer without passing a small glass around in the circle. You just think it would be easier if….
But then you remember what brought you here. You remember that while things were great at home, something brought you to this foreign land. Something drove you to agree to live two years, and even though you didn’t fully understand what you were getting into (nobody does), the fire couldn’t be put out. You remember you came to learn, to share, to help. You remember all the good relationships you have with the people in your site, and even though they’re not like the relationship with your friends in the States, they’re unique. You remember how you’re home stay family calls you hijo, or that they know your favorite Peru dish.
Then you think that it might be worse if you left. Your project is finally getting off the ground, and you’d let those families down (even if it was fewer than you were expecting). You think that some people here would be upset if you suddenly left. You think that you’d like to see your homestay sister receive her high school promocion. You think about the elementary school kids that pass you every day can now differentiate between Good Morning and Good Afternoon, and how proud they get about it. You think that you’d just be starting from scratch in the States anyways. You start to think leaving here is more difficult than you thought.
And these thoughts come and go. A good day can be ruined by a meeting that no one shows up to, just like a bad day is made better just because someone stops you in the street and asks your advice for something other than learning English. A volunteer’s life is not easy by any means; not only is there stress from the Goal 1 section of Peace Corps (the technical and development goal of Peace Corps), but also emotionally. And this never really pops up on the pamphlets and is a blip on the radar on the application. One or two questions about handling multi-cultural experiences (that I think we’re all hardwired to answer the correct way without thinking) but a page of information about your technical background or lack thereof. But if you’re a current or future volunteer, know that you’re not alone…everyone’s thought about giving it up and going home. Everyone’s thought that it would, in fact, be easier in the States and if they just left Peace Corps, but think about what if you actually did leave….would you really be better off?