Month Six

My six-month anniversary of being in Jamaica is just around the corner. A lot of things are happening at once. But before I break them down for you, it’s imperative that you understand the I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude.

In life, when too many things exist beyond a person’s control, they tend to adopt a sense of apathy toward the situation(s). It’s part of a coping mechanism that allows for small doses of acceptance.

Peace Corps Volunteers understand this well. From the moment we arrive in our host countries, almost every aspect of our lives spirals out of control. We don’t understand the language and customs of our new homes, people stare at us, and our perspective on the life we left behind begins to shift. We feel out of place everywhere we go and in everything we do. Additionally, our daily schedules change, we’re forced to adapt our diets, and slowly but surely, we’ll grow accustomed to living without certain creature comforts. Through all this, we quickly learn that the best way to cope is to say, “I don’t give a shit.”

Our apathy is derived from the concept of picking and choosing our battles. There are some things about this experience that we simply can’t control, and it isn’t worth getting upset over.

If a student at the school can’t remember my name and calls me, Ms. Whitey, it’s a battle that I don’t care enough about to fight anymore.

As the months pass, however, what a volunteer cares or doesn’t care about can frequently change. With the beginning of Month Six just around the corner, I’ve decided to include a short list of some things that I am choosing to care about once more.

  • Eating healthier
    Many minor adjustments were made to my diet when I arrived on island, and as is true with little things, they always add up. My I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude also allowed for an increase of junk comfort food. As a result, I’ve thickened a little around the middle. Month Six, and all other months to follow, will bring about the return of a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Exercising more
    It really doesn’t matter that I’m from Miami; living in Jamaica without A/C is HOT! I never realized until this summer how heavily I relied upon this modern convenience. Without it, I was able to excuse my desire to remain indoors, parked in front of my large, circulating fan. Living in a culture where women are preferred a little thick, and feeling as though I had no one special in my life to impress, made way for my I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude when it came to keeping in shape. However, when school started up again this past Monday, and I struggled to fit into my pants, I abruptly decided that it’s time to resume exercising. If I’m going to be hot and sweaty anyway, I need to stop letting it be an excuse for laziness.
  • Showering regularly
    Okay, okay, I confess; I let my personal hygiene fall to the wayside these past six months.  But in my defense, I loved showering! There was nothing better than to wash the day away with a hot shower. It’s also where did all my best thinking. But without hot water, showering became a tiresome chore that I quickly decided could be cut down to twice a week. Washing my hair? That could be done once. If a PCV is known for being dirty and smelly anyway, did it really matter how often I subjected myself to the torture of a cold shower? But I’m going to be living here for two years, and the thought of going that long and showering that little is beginning to turn me off. I’m sick of feeling grimy. I’m tired of my dirty hair. And if the Jamaicans can keep clean with a cold shower, then goddamn it, so can I.

An empathetic shift isn’t the only thing brought on by Month Six. According to the PC Cycle of Vulnerability, Month Six marks the end of emotional roller coaster, and the beginning of a gradual incline toward continual happiness. The idea is that after the first six months, you’ve had time to adapt, adjust, settle in and integrate. We’ve begun building relationships in our community and have identified projects and assignments we’d like to work on. That period of being stagnant is drawing to a close, and we’re now approaching a period of productivity.

For the Group 84 Education volunteers, Month Six also marks the beginning of the new school year. The summer was long, boring, hot, and in some ways, miserable. Too much time on one’s hands leads to dangerous thinking; thoughts about going home and forsaking one’s service, let’s say. But with the beginning of a new school year, we teachers are back to work, and I for one, feel much happier when I have a reason to get out of bed and dressed each day. Most importantly however, after six months of being on island, I can finally begin what I came here to do.

Lastly, Month Six heralds a milestone for PCV’s known as Early Service Conference. ESC is one of three major conferences held during a volunteer’s service, the other two existing at the middle of our term, and at the end. ESC marks the completion of a volunteer’s first four months at site, which are devoted primarily toward integration. At this conference, we process our time at site, make plans for the remainder of our first year of service, and bring community counterparts so we can begin rolling out the first phase of our secondary projects. And though many of us have kept in touch, ESC is also the first time we’ll return together as Group 84 since our Swearing In Ceremony.

Personally speaking, Month Six has also brought on a very special gift; one that I cherish dearly and certainly DO NOT take for granted. Does everyone remember the rooster? Good news, folks, my neighbor ate him! For three weeks, I’ve enjoyed undisturbed sleep and my earplugs have remained untouched.

It’s been wonderful.