A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Saturday, February 26, 2011


When I first came in as a PCV I was given a paper titled, “Critical Periods In The Life Of A Peace Corps Volunteer.” It is a chart breaking up the different months and periods of our service with the corresponding feelings and behaviors we will/would experience. I have looked at this chart at various times over the last 2 years and always found myself right on mark. As I have been cleaning out my house I stumbled upon it once more and was encouraged to read that my feelings and reactions are normal for months 23 – 27.

According to the chart this is what I’m dealing with:
-trauma of departure
-concerns about social re-entry
-bridging Uganda with US / former identity
-re-definition of “career”
-closer or re-definition of Uganda based on relationships

And this is what I should be feeling:
-obsession with planning and scheduling

Now, I don’t fit every description – giddiness and impatience not so much but the rest YES THAT’S ME! This chart was created by COSing volunteers in Senegal in the mid-1980’s. It sure is incredible how applicable it is 20 years later. It just shows human behavior doesn’t change that much.

There is a basket on the top of my bookshelf where I have kept all the cards, letters, wedding invitations, and baby announcements I have received from dear friends and family. These have come from places all around the world and have brought me so much encouragement, inspiration and love over the last 2 years. I re-read them the other day and laughed, smiled and cried. I spread them out across my floor and felt my heart over-flowing with thankfulness for the love and support I have from all you people in my life. I sincerely would not have made it through these 27 months of Peace Corps service without all you have given me.

So, Thank You from the bottom of my heart for:

The memories to remind me how special our relationships are:
• “Starbucks, matching outfits, road trips and laughter.”
• “The ‘camping trip’ down at the crick with Treva and Heidi and ‘floating’ down the crick in tire tubes from the tractor. Oh the days!”
• “When you are lonely, remember our trip to Alaska and what nerds we were – me who never showered and wore the same clothes day after day and always stole your overalls and you with your eye mask and plaid flannel shirts.”
• “Chocolate chip pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse that your mom used to make for us.”
• “What are you doing for your birthday? Let me describe the birthday fun we would have if you were here (it’s all small memories we’ve done being put together). I would suggest we spend the day at the beach after a lazy breakfast and sipping coffee on a porch. At the beach we would read great books, eat humus, chips, cheese and fruit, we would go for walks and share what we were thinking and struggling through. Then after we were a bit more tan, we would go home, take a nap and get ready for a fun night in the city. We would dress up and go dancing with all your friends.”

Making me laugh:
• “I hope that the flight went smoothly and that you still have all of your underwear!”
• “I’m writing this in the service. We just got done praying for you – that’s cool. Right now it is the offering so I’m not writing during the sermon or anything important. Oops, here comes the scripture reading. O.k. I’m back, but now I have to hurry because the sermon is starting. Have a great day!”
• “Amanda, please figure out the best way not to get worms. It would be nice if Treva and I didn’t get any if we come to visit. Plus, I hope you enjoy your African experience.”
• “I don’t know when you will open this, but it is probably hot there and cold here. You sweat – I shiver, and both of us think the other one has it better! (I’m right!)”
• “I am sending you 2 packages today. One of them has an interesting dress in it that somehow looked sooooo Ugandan! I doubt you’d wear it anywhere else!”

Knowing the days I’d have:
• “A day when you wonder, ‘Why am I doing this?’”
• “On the worst day you couldn’t possibly imagine.”
• “A day when you could just use a friend.”
• “For a ‘I miss my friends, my home, good coffee, and I feel like this isn’t going to end and I could use a hug right now,’ kind of day.”
• “The ‘sun is shining and I’m so happy’ day.”
• “On a ‘I need a martini’ day.”

Your sound advice:
• “Go running among the goats and beautiful children.”
• “Eat a lot of fruit.”
• “Feel free to cry more than you feel like you should.”
• “Find people who will celebrate life with you – people that know how wonderful you are and share your values and your dreams. People that love you almost as much as your family and friends back home.”
• “Stay away from the bats.”
• “Take lots of pictures – the dancing evening sounded hilarious! Hope you are capturing some of this on film.”

And all the Love a girl could read:
• “Dear Amanda, I miss you so so so so much. Happy Valentine’s Day. Have fun in Africa. Love, Corinna”
• “I LOVE YOU! I’m picturing you riding a bicycle in Africa from village to village. A lady’s bike, basket and all! Picture me riding along with you, hey maybe it’ll happen:)”
• I wish I could squeeze myself into your luggage and go along with you – but I know you are only allowed a certain amount of weight, and I alone probably exceed it! I love you Amanda and I miss you so much.”
• “I love you so much and am so blessed to have you as my sister. I’m proud of you for stepping out and doing what you believe is right. Thanks for being one of my heroes!”
• “Amanda, I am so proud of you, wherever you are. I pray only that you continue to love and continue to give. I think the ability we have to choose love, the ability to tell our stories, share ourselves, express, create beauty, heal, redeem, humble ourselves etc. etc. is what makes us most human and most like God. It also helps us reverse the suffering somehow. This is why I am so excited about your life and what you’ve chosen to do. Keep loving. You are loved here.”