Exactly one year ago I became an RPCV and left South Africa. My two years of service culminated after a hectic two months of uncertainty surrounding regional political unrest. At the time I thought those two years were the most incredible, growth-filled years in my life. And they were, until I came to Stanford and started the work of processing. I’ve been processing my service emotionally and academically. Reckoning with what it means to have home half a world away and how to reconcile South Africa me and US me.
I’ve been back for one year. I’ve just wrapped up therapy around some of my deepest PC traumas and I’ve recently returned from a visit back to South Africa. I’ve nearly completed my masters degree and I’m searching for the next step, one more removed from Peace Corps. When I wrapped up my service I felt heartbroken. Heartbroken to leave early despite everything I’d pushed through, heartbroken for the unrest my community was experiencing, heartbroken that the version of me leaving was unrecognizable to the girl I’d started out as.
I’d grown so much I didn’t have the words for it. I also didn’t realize that despite the immense love I received that I was pushing away a lot of painful experiences, aware they had happened but trying with all my strength to pretend they hadn’t. A year later I know those experiences intimately. I’ve made peace with thorny issues I encountered during service and I’ve reconciled that my sense of home will always be sprinkled across the places I’ve known, with an extra large piece in South Africa.
It’s hard to believe that a year ago I came back to the Bay Area and freaked out in a Whole Foods because of the amount of food choices in one place. A year after service I find myself better prepared to see privilege but not be overwhelmed by it.
Just as hard as it is to believe that it’s been one year, it’s hard to believe that I’ve found a sense of home and community stateside. Between family, my cohort, gymnastics, and my friends at the Center for African Studies, I have developed a life where I feel fully present and incredibly loved, just like being by my host mama’s side.