the truth about fomo as a peace corps volunteer.

When I was growing up my parents were strict. I jokingly tell people that the pastor’s kids had more freedoms than my older brother and me. My parents had parental locks on MTV, BET, and VH1 (Larry figured out the code, P.S. Don’t use your children’s birthdays, hehe). Sleeping over at friends houses were few and far between and I knew nothing about sex until I was 14 or 15, since I was excused from the “Facts of Life” education at school. So, growing up it’s safe to say, I dealt with a lot of FOMO (failure of missing out) because in many cases I did.

As a college student, I made sure I never missed out on anything. Going to the library parties Wednesday through Saturday night, football games, university events, movies, Spring break trips, you name it, I was probably there. This trend continued through my 20s as my way of making up for lost time.

Then, I joined the Peace Corps.

27 months away from my close family and friends.

27 months of missing out.

Missing out of life events such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other significant milestones.

Besides many trivial things I am missing back stateside during my time in Namibia, these are real things. These are times I can’t get back or recreate. These are times I couldn’t prepare myself for prior to leaving for service, although I did try.

It has become so easy for me, and I am sure for other expats, to dwell on everything we’re missing at home. Recently, my friend, Carrie, challenged me to think of things I would be missing if I chose to not come to Namibia. With a little bit of thought, here I go:

    1. Making Lifelong Friends

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      I mean, I could make lifelong friends anytime or place, but in April of last year, I began a journey with volunteers who will always just “get it” and “get me”. Volunteers from all over the States who will appreciate what it takes to be a PCV. I have made friends who continue to challenge me, support me, and relate to me on a daily basis. In addition, I have gained friends from Namibia- from PC staff, colleagues, host families, and neighbors. Being a volunteer in Namibia means gaining a namily, that’s for sure.

    2. Learning a New Language and about a New Culture

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      Why would I want to re-learn French when I can learn Oshikwanyama? I learned a language I never even knew existed in a country I never knew existed before applying to Peace Corps. Each and every day I learn new things about a culture I would have never known about without taking the leap to travel outside the borders of my own.

    3. Traveling to New Countries

      Before Namibia, the only stamp in my passport was from Mexico (not even sure if that counts if you’re from Texas). I have never been an avid traveler, but by the end of my service, I will have a handful (or two) of stamps added to my collection.

    4. Discovering New Skills and Hobbies

      I taught myself to hand embroider. I’ve practiced more of my calligraphy and doodling (yes, there’s an art to doodling). I made my own sourdough bread and reignited my love of gardening. Yes, the life of a volunteer is hectic, but I also have a lot more downtime than I have ever had (or will ever have again). Watching movies and TV shows get old, so learning something new is never a bad idea.

    5. Strengthening Old Relationships

      Although I am thousands of miles away, there is something about distance that helps strengthen relationships. Not only in romantic relationships (but, those too). Being away from family and friends has allowed me to make more decisions about me, and what makes my life meaningful and fulfilling without other people’s anxieties and emotions influencing them. I have gained a greater sense of independence and realize more of my ability to do things (and do them well) on my own. Distance has made me better at planning communication with people back home while also determining which relationships have been worth sustaining in my time away.

    6. Increasing Knowledge and Skills for Future Endeavors

      Peace Corps, for me, offered an opportunity to change my career path while gaining two years of hands-on experience. I have also had the ability to acquire knowledge and refine skills that may make me more marketable post-Peace Corps. Granted, there is still plenty of time between now and COS (close of service), these are still important things to consider IMO.

    7. Realizing How Much “Grit” I Have and How to Survive on Less 

      Endurance. Passionate. Excellence. Courage. Perseverance.

      I don’t think I truly knew what grit was until I joined the Peace Corps. But, I’m positive that I have had in inter-weaved in my personal makeup my entire life. Many days as PCV are disappointing. Many days I must revisit the drawing board. In all of the unpredictability, these things are predictable. So, why do I do this? Why am I still here? Grit. That’s the only way to explain it. I have the desire and need to achieve and love the feeling of accomplishing a long-term goal. Yes, enduring a variety of hardships in my living and working environments may not be for the faint of spirit, but in a crazy way, having grit breathes life into me.

      Also, no promises that I won’t try to serve lentils 101 ways after Peace Corps, but living minimal really makes you think about what is important in life, and what brings true happiness (the secret is: it’s not things).

So, with all the FOMO, there is a joy to be gained. JOMO, if you will (I didn’t make this up). I’ve found joy in having time to get to know myself absent of fears and anxiety. Even if I am missing milestones back home, there are so many experiences I am gaining here. With more one year of service to go, I continue to look forward to the months ahead.

❤ Krystal

bless our hearts.

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Lowering of the flags in Eenhana, Ohangwena, Namibia.

 

Culture, defined simply, is a total way of life for a particular group of people. Similarities of thinking, speaking and behaving are ways we define ourselves and those like us. Humans are complex beings. It’s amazing that through all of these complexities, there is one thing we all have in common. Humans, by design, notice differences.

Americans, defined simply, generously teach people how to do things the right way. Bless our hearts. Subconsciously and sometimes consciously, we’ve place superiority over other cultures due to this mindset. At times, we look at these differences and instead of accepting them for what they are, we label these differences as right or wrong.

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Heading home from my morning jog.

 

There are numerous cultural differences between back home and my new home in Namibia. Everything from manners, beliefs, knowledge, morals and values, laws, religion, government, food, family dynamics, clothing, the list goes on. But, each day I have to decide to let those differences make me love my host country more while providing myself with the opportunity to learn or leave a sour taste in my mouth while deciding whether these differences are right or wrong.

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Katie and I enjoying kapana, oshifima and oshikundu our taxi driver, Thom, treated us to.

 

For myself, I make a daily effort to not use the words “America” or “American,” while speaking to HCNs. Unless I am responding to specific questions asked or comments made, I don’t use these words. I want to avoid comparing Namibia to America at all cost.

While perusing PC blogs I came across Tim and Lindsey who are Texans (whoop) but also RPCVs from Namibia. I think this hits the nail on the head, Tim writes:

“I believe the most important fundamental about adapting to a new culture is to not constantly compare the new culture to your own…it [comparing] kept me from fully enjoying and embracing the new culture because I was so focused on the differences between the two.”

Similarly, I don’t want only focus on the differences between cultures, that will certainly cloud my experience of living abroad. Being completely submerged in a culture different from my own is not an opportunity many of us get our lifetime.

So, if it means eating with my hands, running barefoot through my village, or even sitting amongst locals and not understanding a word being spoken, I want to fully embrace the culture right in front of me.

This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week three: Cultural Differences.