There are numerous challenges Peace Corps Volunteers face, and they vary from person to person, of course. Before starting service, one imagines what their biggest obstacles might be, evaluating if they are surmountable. These include being in remote areas, not having constant access to internet, electricity, water, not speaking a local language, adjusting and limiting your diet, living in extreme climates, not finding enough work. The list goes on and varies from country to country.
Prior to coming, I thought of many potential issues I’d face joining the Peace Corps in Morocco. I predicted that the biggest adjustment for me would be the language and culture. And I wasn’t wrong. I actually underestimated it. I thought I’d be fluent eventually and able to communicate sufficiently. That’s not always the case, and it affects all parts of my life here. I’ve only ever learned language in an academic setting, but learning an unwritten language has proven much more challenging. And I should study more.
But even though the language has been difficult, I expected that. What I didn’t expect was that my introversion would be equally as challenging. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer takes so much social energy! And in my life I have offset using social energy by communicating well and connecting with individuals amongst a group. But the language barrier limits my ability to use these coping mechanisms, and I’m left exhausted by social and work situations.
When I came to Morocco, I’d expected to have a counterpart, a local to work alongside me, but I haven’t found anyone who wants to co-lead any projects with me at the nedi nswi. A counterpart is key to sustainability, in my opinion, and would honestly help with this social pressure I feel running the classes by myself. But alas, I’m the leader who can’t even speak the language.
But I think this challenge is one of the most significant, in more ways than its magnitude. It has been challenging me to take charge and show up consistently in the most draining situations for me. I can’t just give up or not show up for work because I’m shy or feel overwhelmed. I have to go, and a lot of times I even end up having fun dancing Zumba and making jokes in English class. The bar is set low for humor across language barriers, so that works in my favor.
Being an introvert isn’t a negative quality, but I don’t want it to take over, especially reinforced by an individualistic culture back home, and prevent me from interacting with and learning from others. Being alone became a vice for me at one point in my life, almost addictive. I would feel irritable and overwhelmed around others, specifically those I wasn’t close with. But I want to develop a balance between solitude and interaction. Out here just trying to expand my comfort zone, with me always on the edge of it, sometimes stumbling out.