With Jason no longer pursuing a teaching career, international living may be on the back burner for a while and with that in mind I've been trying to process why exactly I'm so drawn to living away.
(I know, I know ... we lived in Vermont for two years before we moved here, but somehow living there still had the feel of being somewhere "different." Perhaps, it had something to do with living without electricity, TV, internet and an indoor toilet, or perhaps it had more to do with the hearty people of Vermont?)
As I wrestle with the reality of what our "next" may look like, some of the things that have popped into my mind are:
- How I LOVE the randomness of life in other countries (especially developing countries). Things that are simply everyday life here are things you would never see or even imagine in the US. Just watching daily life is incredibly entertaining and makes life so interesting. Where else will a skirt-wearing man with bowling shoes on his feet and a huge machete in his hand, emerge from a day of back-breaking fieldwork and give me a wide toothless grin that lights up his whole face?
- I've realized that in the US I rarely feel like I fit in. I don't know if I'm the only one that feels like this, but by living overseas I automatically do not fit in and so the pressure of trying to do/say/look "right" is removed. I am free to be an unfit foreigner. Although that brings its own set of challenges, there is also an incredible peace that comes with not have to try to fit in every.single.day.
- A big one that a friend reminded me about is: materialism. Ugh. This was probably my number one reason for joining Peace Corps. I was just so done with the pressure to spend incredible amounts of money on non-essential things. I had co-workers bragging to me how a new wallet had cost more than a month's rent or wearing new shoes they had purchased "on sale" for $500. These purchases didn't tempt me, but there were plenty of things I spent money on, that I thought I needed; only because marketers and our culture told me so. It is an exhausting cycle. Here, we don't even have enough plates to host people for dinner, so we sometimes have to ask our friends to bring their own plates & forks when coming over to eat. Instead of feeling mortified by this, it is completely fine and I love that.
There is a rich simplicity (& creativity) to life that comes with living in the midst of people who have so little. We are absolutely the rich ones here and that fact often helps keep me focused on what's important. It's hard to feel to sorry for myself that we can't afford to buy meat this week when I see a woman & her children emerging from the jungle, balancing bundles of sticks to use as firewood on their heads that they've spent the entire day scavenging for. Reminders of how good we have it are all around me, everyday.
I keep wondering, how (& where) do I fit into a country where (among other things) our annual income barely exceeds the cost of a dress that our First Lady will wear only once? Even though I know this is not even close to how most Americans live, it still feels a little discouraging to be returning to a culture that at first glance is so dominated by status, money and possessions. Especially since (knowing myself) I will probably buy right back into it all :( Perhaps that is the biggest reason why I like living away - it helps keep me in check from my own bad habits/tendencies.