I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to make one of those “10 things I learned in the Peace Corps” lists, but this is the closest I’ve come so far:
I’ve been back in the US for about a month, and it’s one of the hardest facts to understand. It’s wonderful to be home, and I miss my Namibian life as well – but trying to compare the two is pretty much an apples and oranges situation. Sometimes it even seems hard to remember how day-to-day life was in Namibia; but then, sometimes it seems hard to comprehend why things are as they are here in America.
Being back with family is one of the best parts!
This obsession with perfection is one of the things I have always found hardest about American culture. It is so easily to slide into that routine of expecting 150% (from everyone, about everything, always), and it’s something I’ve been guilty of my whole life. It’s also something that exactly opposes most cultures of the developing world. While I’m working at a summer composed of kids who fly across oceans to learn algebra for a few weeks, my learners in Namibia are just trying to maintain the 40% necessary to pass their classes. They’re preparing for a beauty pageant and, you know, most of the time they seem pretty ok with things. Although I would love for them to be pushed a bit harder in school (for the career opportunities if nothing else), even after 3 years I find it difficult to understand why we seem to be trying so hard to make them American kids. I was stressed as heck during high school, and I definitely did more than I needed to—and I can’t necessarily say that overbooking myself to the point of exhaustion really did anything for me in the long run.
I guess I can’t say which is better. I really miss the pace of life in Namibia, and the way you are really able to stop and enjoy whatever it is you are doing. Then again, it’s hard to miss some of the sexism and extreme conservatism that showed up on a daily basis. In the same way, the liberal society and amenities in the US are great, but I’m not so convinced about our personal belief systems. In the end, I have to say I think the most value came from having the amazing opportunity to experience both, and to learn from mentors and friends versed in both cultures.