When planned experiences deviate from the norm, one of the go-to American cliches of comfort is “When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade”. This phase is one of the many plaques of American craft store phrases of positivity, complete with sappy grosgrain ribbons and flowery calligraphy. We are so uncomfortable with acknowledging hard situations that people sloppy attempt to shut down negativity with proverbs associated with fruit. Here is the hard truth: life is messy.
Those lemons that pummel our emotions are not beautiful Meyer Lemons with a shade of yellow that cues “Walking on Sunshine.” No, they are green, unripe, lemons who had no business falling off the tree. There is no amount of sugar that will change the fact that green lemons straight off the tree (or adverse situation in life) are sour and ugly. Eventually with time, the lemon will ripe and can be made into delicious desserts. As you process the situation, there are still bitter moments that are okay to acknowledge as it helps you move into a stage where the lemon is actually worthwhile. There is no right or wrong way to handle a green lemon situation, because it is hard.
The site change was a massive green lemon. Y’all probably know this by now I keep things real, and sometimes knock the rose colored glasses off of others with a force I wish was less harsh. Unfortunately, in a Peace Corps setting (and residing in a backpackers for 6 weeks) it is hard to keep those emotions private. Multiple PCVs have taken the liberty to share their insights about how I am handling the situation. The jury is out of if I have handled this well or poorly, but it probably has not been aesthetically pleasing 24/7 (spoiler alert, nothing in Peace Corps is…even without a site change).
I am not a placid person who quietly takes my lemons and waits for them to ripe with rose colored lenses. Here is an accurate description on how my anxious brain handles lemons in general with this process (no credit for the originality), let alone green lemons.
As much as I dislike cliches, the “making lemonade” part comes once I am at the new site, but without the ingredients (new organization and housing) not much can be done.
So what do you do when the PC lemons are unusable? I reflect, cry, vent to anyone who asks, try to ignore the obnoxious PCV grapevine’s commentary regarding the situation, budget to make the modest stipend last between reimbursement requests, and do my best to remain productive. In other words you deal with it. I do not want to label my behavior as positive or negative, or evaluate my performance on the situation. That just sets up self-judgment. All people need to know is that I am holding up and still working with PCSA as a team on this (but really want to go back to work).
Now that soliloquy is out of the way, where have I been for 7 weeks (yep…reached that marker last Friday)? A good portion is on a couch (in the Backpackers or the PC library) curled up with wifi or a book. Most of the time I have been in Pretoria, with a few opportunities for work related travel. I did help with two tasks at the country office, typing a workshop evaluation and editing a fellow PCV’s grant draft. There have been several regional medical evacuees and these PCVs have taught me about country programs in Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Madagascar, and Uganda. Also through spontaneous circumstances I crashed SA 32’s swearing in ceremony last month!
The PC staff and I are in agreement that extended time in Pretoria without a set end date is bad for mental health. I was encouraged to find opportunities to get back in the field. It took a while to obtain permission but thankfully I knew that there were other PCVs who were once in my shoes. One of the PCVs of SA 29 and I really hit it off during my PST. She happens to live near Pretoria and I spent 3 days with her. The most memorable activity was helping her Zazi (female empowerment and sexual health program for SA) club on an introduction to cancer discussion I co-facilitated. My cancer analogy (weeds in a flower bed) actually turned out semi-well.
A week later, I returned to KZN for a week for my “KZN Potential Sunset Tour”. There I supported the Social Worker, Anthropologist, and the MSW couple during a substance abuse retreat we were planning. We also stayed at the Anthropologist’s organization on the Tugela River. After the retreat I went across the province and visited my dear PCV friend (the Gogo) near the Indian Ocena. I explored a previously unfamiliar portion of the province, examined a potential site, delivered wheelchairs to clients, and celebrated Heritage Day deliciously! We also watched “The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency” to our hearts’ content.
After the “KZN potential Sunset Tour” I left Pretoria one last time for a site visit, but that is worth its own post (coming soon)!
If there is one thing that I have done during this site change, it is make the most of it…with my own style.
Now that is what I am talking about!
All the best,