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

ubuntu: i am what i am because of who we all are.

November marks 6 months I have been in Namibia.

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The time Maggie, Elainey, Mandeep and I made a friend and rode in luxury from Windhoek back to site.

Roughly, two to four months after moving to site, Peace Corps plans a weeklong workshop to reconnect volunteers with their group, ours is cleverly called Reconnect.

At this point of service, volunteers gather with mixed feelings, emotions, challenges, and ideas from the preceding months in hopes to gain some more direction for the upcoming months leading up to our mid-service training which is scheduled around our one year anniversary at site.

During PST, there is a large emphasis put on working together but also being okay with the small successes. That message is presented in many ways here in Namibia. Namibia’s prosperity plan is appropriately called Harambee which translates to “pull together in the same direction.” This plan calls for unity and encourages Namibians to work towards a common purpose.

If you ask anyone who has ever served in the Peace Corps, most commonly they  will say, “it is the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I believe this is true.

In the US, but even more so in developing countries, seeing is believing. At times, there is a lot of disappointment. Miscommunication is a daily norm. There is a lot of expecting more than you get and sometimes even getting more than you expect. There is daily emotional whiplash- one second you will want to throw a piglet (and maybe you even will) and the next minute you are beaming ear-to-ear because you spoke in the local language and people understood you. You miss friends and family members birthdays and anniversaries and wonder if this is all worth it. Some days you feel completely empowered and others you feel completely deflated.

Peace Corps is tough.

Peace Corps is exhausting.

Peace Corps is emotional.

Peace Corps is all of these things. My load became a little lighter when I learned this Southern African phrase at Reconnect.

Ubuntu: I am what I am because of who we all are.

Ubuntu reminds me that yes, this job is tough, but I am not alone. It reminds me that there is strength in numbers. The burdens of navigating challenges in Namibia, as well as worries back home, become bearable. It reminds me that we are stronger together.

I typically try to keep my personal ramblings and my blog separate but I wanted to share   some thoughts I jotted down a few months back:

Today, I realized that I joined Peace Corps Namibia to do two things: nutrition education and HIV/AIDS prevention education. As of today, I have done both. Not that I set small goals for myself, but the reality is, if I do anything more in these two years, I have already exceeded my expectations of my experience.

So far I have done the following during my service:

  • Had dinner with the Global Peace Corps Director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet
  • Taught LifeSkills
  • Created a girls club
  • Spoke in the local language in front of a group
  • Navigated a foreign country by public transportation
  • Weighed children in a village
  • Conducted nutrition education and assessments in my village
  • Initiated plans for a community garden

Like most things in life, I realize I can’t embrace the distance I’ve traveled by creating a list of pros and cons I have encountered on the way. In Peace Corps especially, it doesn’t work like that. I don’t want to romanticize anything about this journey for myself. I want to remember the good, bad, and the ugly. I want to remember the days where I feel raw to the core and the days I am elated and overjoyed. I know the road ahead of me may have detours and bumps, but I am happy that I have good support of family, friends and newfound friends to go with me. I hear that a lot of this experience is about the change in myself, and I really beginning to believe that more and more each day.

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Seems like ages ago. My Wambo brothers and sisters during PST.

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Peace Corps Namibia Group 43 is my favorite group of strangers. Strangers who I have cried with and laughed with. Strangers who become my sounding board on a day-by-day basis. Strangers that will be the only ones who understand what Peace Corps is about and how to say the right thing when situations don’t seem right.

Ubuntu is the spirit I have with not only my community, but with my new friends who are now my forever Namily.

❤ Krystal

coloradomg

For those of you that follow Juli from PaleOMG, you might find humor in my title choice. If you don’t follow her, you should that chick is hilarious and has tons of great recipes. In honor of being in Denver on vacation, I felt like it was an appropriate title. Juli, if you read my blog, which I’m sure you do, let’s be friends and grab a Paleo lunch together.

Moving Wright Along…

Colorado has been a blast so far. I couldn’t think of a more beautiful place to choose as a vacation spot. I really just have a few pictures to share from my trip to the Rockies yesterday. Enjoy!

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UPDATE: Following the lead of some other great health/wellness bloggers such as Krysten at DarwinianFail.com I decided to take part in the #BodyLove Challenge. Check it out and join us!