In early 2011, I went to an information session about Peace Corps. A panel of five returned volunteers who’d served all over the world talked about everything from first holidays with host families to parasites. That night I decided to apply for Peace Corps and I learned a lot about what that meant for my future.
The most important piece of information passed me by in that moment but came blaring back around a few years later.
“You think saying goodbye to your family and friends here is going to be hard and it will be but it’s nothing compared to the goodbye to your friends and family in your host country. You’ll always came home to the US, but who knows when you’ll get to see your host country again”
Truer words were never spoken.
In honor of my one year anniversary since I got home, I’m talking with some beautiful fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) about what it means to come home.
Meet our friends; Brittany and Dd.
Brittany was an Environment volunteer who served in La Estancia, Lambayeque, Peru. She also looks badass with a shaved head and can quote Broad City like nobody’s business.
Dd was a Youth Development volunteer in La Cria, Lambayeque, Peru. She once turned down on opportunity to brush my teeth for me and has regretted it ever since.
Now let’s get some beer and ask some questions.
How Do I Grown Up: What was saying goodbye to America like?
Brittany: Easy for me, I didn’t really have anything keeping me here. I didn’t really think about wanting to be home or feel homesick at all until year two.
HDIGU: What was saying goodbye to Peru like?
B: Really hard, super bitter sweet. It was definitely harder to leave Peru than America. It felt like moving away from home. It was sad and scary.
D: Harder than I expected. My family gave me a very emotional send off
B: Like something out of a movie…
D: Yeah, ugh.
HDIGU: What have been your biggest challenges since returning home?
B: Oh my god, life. Living. Breathing.
D: How do I life?
B: Right? The day I got home. I was at my grandmas house and I washed my hands and when warm water came out of the faucet, I cried. Because water came out and it was warm…It’s been hard to have nobody understand when all you talk about is Peru. Nobody gets it.
HDIGU: What did you miss most about America?
D: I missed understanding the social norms. In Peru I always felt so socially awkward, I never felt like I totally fit.
B: The ease of everything. Going everywhere and finding what you need. I missed feeling like everything was simple, every little thing wasn’t a struggle.
HDIGU: What were the biggest marks you left on your community?
B: Biggest marks left on my community were the ways that I changed the lives of my family members. At the end of the day and at the end of my service, when my efforts seemed to fall short, when nothing worked out, when everything felt in vain, my family would always come through and demonstrate ways that I had already changed their lives. The empowerment as women that I got to share with my host mom and sister was huge. That alone was enough of a mark to consider my service successful.
D: All the little kids who now say “wieners” all the time.
HDIGU: Wait, really?
D: No. Ummm they probably just remember me as that random white girl who randomly lived in town for a while and did some stuff.
HDIGU: do you feel weird telling people about Peace Corps?
B: Yeah because they ask what it was like and my brain is like *silence.*
D: I did at first but I’ve gotten over it now. The people who love me are interested and if they aren’t then whatever we don’t have to talk about it.
HDIGU: What were the biggest changes in America that happened while you were gone?
D: Reese’s Snack Sticks and Nutella Snack Sticks…those were not a thing…
B: Biggest changes in America were in culture and technology! All 50 states legalized gay marriage, (yaaasss kween!) and there are new devices and our phones are more advanced than ever…It was a huge shock to come home to a culture so intertwined with technology.
HDIGU: What’s next for you?
D: That is a horrible question that I don’t know the answer to and I may drive a shank through my eye the next time someone asks me that.
B: What’s next? I’ve found a job, fallen in love, found more of myself. I’m not sure what is next, but I know I’m down for the ride, whatever it may be and wherever it will take me.
Best of luck!