Thursday, April 12, 2012

The (Peace Corps Volunteer) Extension Decision: prelude

June, 2010; Chisinau, Moldova.

Every post probably has that crazy enthusiastic one; heck, most countries have a lot of them.  Within Moldova, I was put definitively into that category on day two when I turned to my mentor and asked “what’s the deal with extensions? I think I want to do that.”  She took a deep sighing breath.  It was a slow sigh, one commensurate with the blazing sun and groaning under the dissonance thrust upon her by ushering us through a jam packed arrival program in a country where the pace of life is otherwise decidedly slower.  Having spent a year tamping down her pace of life and expectations, all of a sudden she was surrounded by the height of American bustle and can-do optimism.  Without shaking her head, she gave a small smile that shook it for her, “Slow down dude.  You’re not even at your training site yet.”

Laughingly, I backed off, recognizing the apparent ridiculousness of the word coming out of the mouth of a person who had been on the ground for less than 24 hours.  That’s not to say I backed off of the idea; upon landing in Moldova in June 2010 I already had lived abroad longer, spoke more languages, and travelled the region more than many of the second year volunteers.  So I didn’t back off, I just shut my mouth.  (I said apparent ridiculousness, not actual ridiculousness).  Anyway, they had a point.  It was day two.  Of 800.  Plus or minus. 

In the 672 day since then – no plus or minus – there have been ups and downs on my feelings towards extension.  For most of the first nine months or so I was up on extension.  Way up.  So much so that my same mentor eventually decided I wasn’t just shot up on coffee and jet lag that second morning, but truly seem to suffer from an abundance of enthusiasm.

But then sometime last spring the idea lost its appeal as the hard realities of small and incremental contributions set in and the romantic sheen of service lost its luster.  It stayed that way for much of the summer.  Though occasionally punctuated by the enthusiasm of the new volunteers and the ideas gained from working with them, my down on extension was deepened by the palpable excitement of the older volunteers who were leaving, a dread of returning to the classroom, and a travel schedule that reminded me that my world outside Moldova moves very quickly and without regard to my absence. 

The fall fell somewhere in between: summer left me energized and a raft of new activities left me busier than ever at my site.  Meanwhile, one of my partners seemed to have taken on the appetite of Goliath when it came to any collaboration possible.  On the other hand, a sentiment lingered as I talked to friends who were finding increasingly influential posts that I was taking the long route, and reading job descriptions offered new adventures complete with a lustrous sheen still intact.

Ironically, it was just as I was preparing to go interview with Bosch in New York this last January that the pendulum swung back in the other direction.  It was exactly when other offers seemed most tangible that staying in Moldova began looking most attractive.  On the one hand, there were more potential collaborations than ever.  And on the other, it seems to be winter when I finally started coming to terms with the true meaning of incremental change on a deeper level.  This was a nice consolation when Bosch didn’t pan out.  Instead of extension representing settling for second best, it was a choice between a variety of attractive options, with pros and cons on all sides.  But that’s for Part II.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It’s never too early to think about the third goal. Check-out Peace Corps Experience: Write & Publish Your Memoir.