So what exactly is community integration? What does that mean? How do people know when you’re there and gone? Do people miss you and wonder what you’re doing and where you’re at?
In the States community integration is a funny term because we have so much technology available to us that we can stay easily connected. Plus we are an individualistic society to becoming fully integrated into our surroundings is not part of our culture. Also, we have so many large cities and towns that it is impossible to be fully integrated into them. Sure, small groups of people know us and know when we leave and invite us over, but as a whole it doesn’t really happen.
As a PCV one of our tasks is to be integrated into the community. This helps keep us safe and also helps us do our work better. Sometimes this integration can be stressful, everyone knows the two Americans and if anything happens everyone knows. Yet it can also be hard at times because we are constantly hindered by culture. Even know, after almost a year, we are still the honored guests and we are still hindered by language and various other cultural aspects. We often are not allowed to help prepare the food for major events and are still at times treated like guests rather than natives. Also, even though this village is small it is still really hard to become integrated because there are so many areas we can never fully integrate into. We can’t really interact too much with men because of culture and women our age are usually married and don’t want to associate with us. The culture of family here prevents us so much from full integration and also our general distaste for parties also makes it hard.
However, overall though I think the biggest areas of integration have come with our families. We both feel like we’re part of them and are integrated into them. They are our biggest supporters and people that we work with and see the most. They are the ones, I think, will benefit the most and will be the most cherished. Through them we integrate and that’s fine. So we may not be the most “native” in country but I think we’re just fine. Besides integration is no easy task… try it for yourself and see.