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Author Topic: Integration back into the US is harder  (Read 4925 times)

Offline the boss

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Integration back into the US is harder
« on: January 01, 2014, 02:52:09 PM »
I was talking with another RPCV the other day and we both agree that coming home is harder than going to your country of service.

It seems that when you go to your country of service, even though you deal with the cultural and language differences which are huge; you are not doing it alone.  You have all the other Volunteers plus Peace Corps staff behind you -- training you, advising you, supporting you in EVERY possible way.

When you return to the USA you land at the airport and from that point on you are on your own.  You may have your family nearby, but you have lost your Peace Corps family of fellow volunteers.  You make every decision on your own.  All of the little things Peace Corps may have taken care of for you (rent, utilities, health care), is now on you.  Your sense of purpose is gone, and unless you have the next part of your life planned out, you are flailing around to figure what to do next. 

So for me coming back was not hard because of US culture, rather it was because of losing the care and support of Peace Corps; and losing the structure and purpose I had in my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Thoughts?

Offline Marion

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Re: Integration back into the US is harder
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2014, 03:07:33 PM »
I would agree with that.  When I first arrived back in the states I thought all those stores of it being harder coming back were silly -- but after time I see that it is not silly at all, but for different reasons than I expected.

I think the immediate cultural re-integration issues were probably more an issues with the earlier volunteers who were more isolated than current Volunteers are.
Marion
RPCV, Botswana (2011-2013)

Offline Charles

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Re: Integration back into the US is harder
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2014, 04:02:57 AM »
Life was different returning back in the USA; I had just retired and entered Peace Corps and did not plan beyond daily life back in the USA.  The old purpose of going to and from work was not there.  And many people don't know anything about Peace Corps unless they were on a college campus.  And many retired people think PC was for recent College graduates.  And too, the community has changed in which many businesses closed from the economic collapse of 2008.  Smart phones are in use widely now.  Many places don't accept checks any longer. In 2008, checks were readily acceptable and smart phones were new.  When one retires, one friends change, there are issues with medicine not thought about a few years ago.  The new shape one has on the world from experiencing Peace Corps is not the perception most people have of the world.  Many people of retired age in America are angry because of watching too many political talk shows on TV and don't seem to enjoy geography, history or political science but want to take sides and fight an issue.  People are not interested in Peace Corps 3rd goal as there are only two goals for Americans and that is to advance the causes of President Obama or to get Obama impeached.  Americans are in a civil and cultural war among one another.  And from experiencing another culture, it politics and its people and daily life, there seems to be a strange din in the air in America and it isn't a happy country unless it is a holiday, a sports game but outside of these Americans seem despondent.  We don't like the other side in our political system, we don't like foreigners, we don't like our educational system, we think another is getting over, and we seems to argue for the sake of confrontation and not to have a conversation and American definitions are correct and to be forced upon all people in the world.  Few people want to learn the experiences of PC Volunteers because the message is not the message coming from the media or is it the message from the state house or the White House.  The message from Peace Corps is a conversation about people who are different from us getting along with each other.  It is learning another's language, stepping into their shoes, playing and working together, talking not screaming, inviting not aliening, drawing out the best in people not finding fault, people just being friends.  The American experience is not the Peace Corps model.  People don't come up to you here in the USA and say, "Can I be your friend."  You got to join 'A Meet Up Group' and that may not guarantee a friend.  And isn't it all about relationships?!
China 14 2008-2010

Offline Amelia.Plant

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Re: Integration back into the US is harder
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2014, 08:37:37 AM »
Charles,

I understand what you are coming from.  Although I am not an older PCV, I still feel a bit out of place in the states, for a lot of the reasons that you mentioned.  I still feel a part of my family and going home for the holidays was wonderful.  Yet, the jury is still out on whether I want to live in the US permanently.  I do feel like things are very polarized.  I am sure it is like that in other countries, but when you are a ex-pat, you don't have to fully deal with the politics of your home country or the country you are living in.  I like it a lot.

Once you live somewhere else, it is easier to both appreciate attributes about your home country and be more critical of its faults.  The perspective PC gave us is one that others, even those who have spent time traveling in other countries, don't have.  And for that, I will be eternally grateful to PC.  That made PC worth it, in my eyes.
Amelia
RPCV, Botswana 2011-2013

Offline Joyce Emery

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Re: Integration back into the US is harder
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2014, 04:38:45 PM »
I came back to the US from the Philippines in September of 1967.
-- Watts had happened -- the headlines in Nepal were -- LA Burning
-- Bobby Keneddy, Martin Luther King had been assassinated.
-- the hippies were a big movement -- I learned about marijuana

I got a job teaching ESL to Portuguese kids in New Bedfored, MA -- most of the teachers were RPCVs so I have someone to talk with
-- lived in a house with an oil stove in the living room -- no other heat
-- didn't use the telephone for 6 months
-- internet was still a dream
-- didn't travel outside the city for a few months

BUT, I wouldn't have changed anything...
JEJ

Offline Philip Deutschle

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Re: Integration back into the US is harder
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2014, 01:26:27 PM »
It seems that the transition back to life in the US can be depressing.  One of the reasons can be a type of postpartum depression--we've just been involved in a wonderful experience, and now it's over.  Friends and family have a hard time relating to our experiences.  Some even refuted the pictures I showed them, saying, "Yeah, but life in Nepal isn't like that now."  They asked superficial questions:  "How did you like it?" "Was it fun?"  They really just wanted to talk about the crazy things their cat did yesterday.  But the worst part is probably that the Peace Corps experience changes us in a way that home no longer feels like home.  Feeling alienated from your own home, after dreaming for two years about the joys of going home is devastating.  It can also be hard to go back to your PC village after years away.  I've made a documentary about this: http://kck.st/1iEuth2  but I won't give the ending away...

Offline PeaceCorps1

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Re: Integration back into the US is harder
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2014, 03:07:00 AM »
I am heavily into the RPCV in my home city. They get me. When I need to reboot, I attend one of the monthly gatherings.

Coming back home did not depress me. I have lived overseas before working for similar grassroots agencies. It was easier with Peace Corps because of resettlement funds and the larger, supportive community.
"If it were not for the reporters, I'd tell you the truth"', President Chester A. Arthur