All alone, surrounded by people:
One-sentence summary: Sunday through Friday in Peace Corps training – average length day was 16 hours; learning project management in a second language; rainy season and road closures like wintry I-80 in Wyoming; the awkward consequences of an unsuccessful take down attempt of my birthday on Facebook; and completely, radically bombing my New Year’s resolution and all the joyful learning that follows.
Right Now: Catching up on phone calls / birthday messages from loved ones in the States in a 90F heat apartment without air.
Expression of the Week: Está colorado. “You are red” as in sunburned or flushed. Yeah, this Irish-white girl is having a tough time not being bright pink with constant underboob sweat in a hot summer city in South America. Go figure.
I am happy to report Week Thirty-Three is the F over.
Sunday I arrived to our training center in Huarochirí, Villa de Paz, with my new socia Mirna, a positive can-do/got-this attitude, optimistically ready to make it through the week. However, all of that fortification I brilliantly pre-banked Week 32 was emptied out by Tuesday.
The content, training programming and facilitation was well run, interesting, and dynamic. Classes were from 8am to 5:30pm each day. It was helpful for me to learn project management in Spanish and to work directly with someone from my community. When not in class, we were team building with our socios and in any possible lull, frantically catching up (more accurately: talking at) with our fellow Peru 31 CED volunteers.
The being “ON” aspect with a group of 40 people (volunteers, guest socios, and staff) from 7:30am – 11pm wrecked me. Luckily I won a great roommate, fellow volunteer and now blog-star Jazmin, who didn’t mind when I left to exercise before daylight and had my back when I needed to hide for an emergency Introvert recharge.
Before getting into the messy highlights in a public forum of my hot-mess disaster mind trip– starting Tuesday continuing through end of day Thursday — let me just state I picked a very challenging and relevant personal goal for 2019. I got a whole mountain range of work to do.
I think one of the main reasons I am here (getting existential, it was my birthday after all) is to practice asking for what I want, speaking up for myself, and improving communication and self-advocacy in those areas. I am my best self helping others. I am a
wreck work in progress at accepting help myself.
The other fun factor: When upside down and inside out in the fishbowl, it is really just so hard to know when it isn’t my “communication skills” and the other person is behaving with the emotional maturity equivalent of a toddler. How many times do you risk vulnerability and allow yourself to be run over before walking away? Once? Twice? This week it feels like I am rounding up to ten times.
This is a surprise challenge that keeps coming up for me in service.
In short, I was called out for underperforming at my site and being “unapproachable” by staff through an indirect channel. Quite possibly the two most painful things for an overachiever to hear. I went from 0 to 100 and instantly shutdown, hard-locked into stubborn, full of rage, and before I knew it – attack mode. Happy birthday to me.
The good news is after 20 hours of perseveration, wasted emotion with a second course of evident over-reaction (personal goal fail) I was able to course correct. One friend told me to get out of Victim Mode. Another friend suggested the players involved had not earned my vulnerability. I woke up, boot-strapped up, and swallowed my aversion to conflict, checked my assumptions, and hosted a series of individual meetings to speak directly to staff to clear the air, get confirmation and clarification of the messaging I thought I heard, and hopefully set everyone straight moving forward.
It wasn’t the prettiest but I got the job done.
For the record, I am not underperforming. This minute’s take is I am just not being “needy” enough and my independence and professionalism is perceived as being evasive from some program staff. Let me rewrite that last sentence in another way, with less Jess. Moving forward, I can communicate more intimately and more often with some staff about how I am doing on a personal level. Investing in these connections will foster better relationships all around.
They tell us not to compare ourselves to other volunteers. But holy hell and my god why isn’t anyone else having this hard of a time? It cannot be 100% just me.
Vamos a ver, amigos.
Things that Did Not Suck this Week:
- My host family sent presents into Kindergarten Prison as a birthday surprise delivered to me by a neighboring volunteer. I feel so very loved.
- My dorm roommate Jazmin. Hope she finds the present I hid in her backpack one day.
- Burritos pretending to be tacos. We were allowed out one night and I ate delicious Mexican food.
- Videos of Cabot in snowy Wyoming sent with so much love from Willy.
- Talking to Carol King on the phone last night and laughing from my gut like I was sitting next to her on a bale of hay under the sunny Wyoming sky.
- Surprise midnight birthday phone call from Marie, in the Safeway parking lot in Port Townsend.
- Sound-boarding with a friend planning her upcoming Peruvian-American wedding.
- Debriefing IST with Vivek (who dropped out because he couldn’t hack it) while he (appropriately) ignored the bulk of my external venting / processing and cleaned his apartment.
- Amazing text support from Site Mate B all week. Amazing support from my KB, including tenderly editing this post.
- All the notes, calls, Play-Doh cakes, and texts this week from all of you. Thanks for sticking with this underperforming unapproachable overachiever.
Tim impersonating a Lemming, a favorite Nintendo game in my family from the 90’s.
Leaderboard: SerPost called me (four times!) on my birthday. Evidently it is Very Important I come for a letter. I am aiming to stop by February 8 or 9th.
Hermana Jessica Rice, Cuerpo de Paz
Apartado NO. 120 SERPOST La Merced
La Merced, Chanchamayo, Junín, PERU
Please note: 1) This mailbox is two hours away 2) It costs a lot of money to send me stuff – (like $23.50 for one pound of candy) and only send through USPS to SERPOST 3)
Keep packages under 1lb (or to not appear worth $100) or they get sent to Customs Jail in Lima. 4) Customs Jail is as arbitrary and random as my blog posts, so don’t send me anything that you’ll be sad goes missing. 5) The last numbers are my Peru cell phone AND THEY ACTUALLY CALLED ME. Place them in the spot you would look if you were lost.