As a Peace Corps volunteer we often deal with differences, both regarding the local culture, people, language, food, etc but within our own community itself. The Peace Corps experience causes one to get close to people they may not normally get close to. This is due to volunteer proximity, and just the basic fact that there are so few Americans in this area. So you develop unlikely friendships and begin to cross lines that you may not have existed. I have seen this during my service here. I have developed friendships with people that I am normally drawn to but also others that are very different from who I am, so different that I probably would never have developed a friendship in the states. They are people from all types of backgrounds, states, beliefs and experiences. We have similarities and many, many differences. Yet, I’ve realized that in order to be successful, to be fulfilled, you need to be able to deal with people no matter how alike or similar they are to you and to willing to lift preconceived judgments and beliefs about people.
For instance, three friendships that have blossomed for me here have developed long after my preconceived notions about them were lifted. They are very different from what I originally thought, and I to them. Its sad how often we left first impressions guide us. We need to be more willing to look deeper, to truly explore the person and not just what they show on the surface. As my experience has shown me here, everyone holds stuff back and never fully show themselves. I do it, we all do and only when the layers begin to be peeled back can the true light begin to show. We must be willing to take a leap of faith, to become vulnerable, to trust, to open up. I recently told a good friend of mine here that I am a very different person than I was before I came. I have developed friendships with many people different from me and it’s made me a much better person; a person better able to handle differences and to accept them.
Recently I met some of the new volunteers in country with a fellow volunteer. This volunteer has become a good friend of mine, but only after I was willing to remove some preconceived notions I had and willing to take a jump. Now she’s someone I can always count on and whenever I’m in her area always visit. We are from very different backgrounds in the states and very different places. So different that we probably would never have really interacted much in the states. However we were together when we met some new volunteers and after spending about 3 hours with them we left. They later told her that they just couldn’t fathom us hanging out together in the states because we seemed so different. It fathomed us both because we couldn’t imagine not. We couldn’t understand what it was they were talking about and/or observing. To us it was natural, as it is to many volunteers who have been in country a while. This experience changes you in ways we ourselves never see but to outsiders it’s noticeable. We become accustomed to differences in all forms and learn how to interact, accept and handle them. We embrace them and they help us to grow into more fully developed individuals. I for one am so thankful for this and know that I have benefited in so many amazing ways from everyones’ differences. As my service is nearing an end I continue to look for them and hope to become even more changed. Will you do the same?