So why are we all so ashamed to talk about it? The first noticeable change in me during my service thus far is not only my willingness but my desire to discuss my bowel movements. I’m not exaggerating when I say that whenever volunteers get together, or even frequently over the phone, the most common thing to talk about is poop. Where you had to poop, what you had to use instead of TP, the imperfect geometry of aiming in a latrine, how often you went in one day, how long it’s been since your last, analyzing the color spectrum and consistency, even the emergence of the dreaded Princesa (diarrhea). Having the Princesa in a developing country is about as fun as you’re imagining it to be… Which is precisely why talking about it with other people makes you feel abundantly less savage about the things that just happened to you. Whenever she makes her dramatic reappearance, it’s almost mandatory to text somebody to inform them that, “She’s back.” Just when you think your poop story is going to scar you for life, you hear someone else’s that makes you feel lucky that you didn’t have to endure what that guy went through. My 6-year-old host sister asked me once if Americans go poo-poo, and just as I assured her, I will tell you that not only do I poop, but it has become the thing around which my day revolves.
Oh, and remember how it was my birthday recently? Let me tell you all about it:
I’m now one year older (and wiser) and back in Monte Cristi. My birthday celebrations were a blast and I’m convinced that Samaná is the most beautiful place in the country. Nevertheless, the absolute best part of the vacation was meeting up with friends that I hadn’t seen since training, swapping poop stories, and simply relaxing without an agenda. The first day we all just chilled beachside, playing volleyball, eating and enjoying speaking in English. We had heard rumors of a beach not too far away that was supposed to be one of the best in the country (and world!). Thinking we couldn’t pass up the opportunity and being far too stingy to pay for a boat ride or a hiking guide, we decided that we could definitely make the coastal hike ourselves, against the advice of many. If this is sounding like the beginning of a horror movie… Trust me, the thought crossed my mind. The hour hike turned into 2.5 hours of bush whacking, pokey volcanic rock stepping, snake-avoiding, coconut retrieving, cliff scaling (and then unscaling when we realized the trail was NOT up that way), sandal breaking, feet cutting and exhaustion. However, it turns out we really did have it in us to hike all the way there. Without our adventure appearing on the local news or the next Blair Witch franchise, we made it to El Rincón safe and sound. Was the beach as beautiful as I imagined? Not quite. Was the trip and the subsequent aches and pains worth it? Absolutely. After all, when in Peace Corps…
Guess what I brought back with me from vacation? Yep, you guessed it. The Princesa.
The next major step for me is to find my own place to live. If you didn’t know, PCVs are obligated to live with a host family for the first 3 months in site in order to help assimilate into a new area. Now that the time is almost up, I can look forward to having my own personal space for the first time since I arrived in country in March. Now, that’s not to say that I have disliked my host families. They have been wonderfully welcoming. But having lived on my own accord throughout college and in the postgrad world, it seems mildly silly to have to call to say i’ll be late for dinner or to ask permission to leave with friends.
You know you’re in the Peace Corps when seemingly every day you find a new hole, stain or tear in a piece of clothing you’re wearing. It used to really bother me. I would mumble swears under my breath as I donned that formerly white shirt or those unscuffed dress shoes. I’ve come to a new stage in my service, though. One that looks on these things as a new opportunity to become more like my surroundings. One that realizes that clean clothes does nothing to make me a better person or volunteer. The people here don’t care what brand your jeans are, they care about the ideas of the man who’s wearing them. I find it refreshing to think (or to not think) about the status of the various clothing items I brought with me to country. Nevertheless, it’s going to take awhile to attempt to shed my materialistic American mentality… Good thing I have awhile to work on it. Twenty-three more months, to be exact.
Talk to you all soon (si Dios quiere)!!!