The time has come to retire the rice cooker. I have officially ended a chapter in my life. I have said goodbye to Peace Corps and China. Deciding to come home 7 months early was almost as hard as deciding between the General Tso’s Chicken or Sweet and Sour Pork! I’m saying, it was a tough decision. By tough I mean the most difficult I’ve made in my life…so far.
Pros: No more crowded streets or Chinese people yelling “Helloooo!” at me. No more spit or feces to avoid stepping in. No more seeing dismembered, handicapped, crippled, neglected people in the streets. No more abused, cruelly treated animals cowering near garbage cans. I’ll never see small children and drunk men pissing anywhere at their convenience. No more hiding in my shitty apartment from the gawking, curious, cold eyes. No more China
Cons: There will be no more students bringing me fruit when I’m sick. No more 4 day weekends because my teaching schedule was awesome. No more free trips to eat, singing all night karaoke, visiting small villages or enjoying banquets in my honor. No more stores within walking distance that sold everything I needed. No more inexpensive…everything! No more leaving my apartment to have everybody stare at the “beautiful foreigner”. No more China
In retrospect, coming home for nearly a month this summer, at my one year (halfway) point was a bad decision. The three months in China after that were the darkest ones. I had more trouble than a monkey eating peas with chopsticks. I had expressed my trouble in various ways. A Peace Corps Volunteer in the group before mine reached out to me. I think it was her advice that helped lead me to my decision. She said that her last months were also difficult and she knew what I was going through. I believe all volunteers experience this to some degree. It was as though her experience was tainted because she stayed past the expiration date. I wanted to be able to look back at my time in China and Peace Corps with fond memories. Therefore, it was time to reevaluate.
Then came Kyle. I was weighing the pros and cons of leaving when I officially met Kyle. He came to my apartment while I was in Hong Kong. Left evidence that he’d moved in and planned to stay. I set up a device to catch him. I thought he was a nighttime kind of guy so I was more than surprised when he came into my room, in daytime, with the computer blaring, while I was there. That was my breaking point. Mice, roaches, spiders, stray animals, no problem. A RAT!!! No, thanks. What’s more, I was told to pour boiling water over him and dispose of him. I didn’t sign up for that.
I signed up to make a difference. In general, I wasn’t feeling like I was helping anybody. The era of performing show monkey was over in the eyes of the students. The novelty of having a foreigner at their school has worn off. Or so it felt. I can only hope I did actually teach somebodya valuable life lesson. Maybe I broke a stereotype that Chinese students have about Americans. They certainly corrected a few of mine. Or maybe even that I inspired somebody to do what they thought wasn’t possible before.
As things usually go in life, this wasn’t what I thought or what I thought I wanted rather. I’ll always have those memories and the fact that I was in the Peace Corps. I don’t regret it, I would do it again. If you’re not happy, you can’t expect to make others happy. I’m not put off from traveling or teaching abroad. I don’t want to complain about all the hardships. Mostly because I don’t want to relive them. I do, however, want to thank all the Peace Corps Volunteers who supported my decision. I wish you luck on the remainder of your journeys. I think about you and miss you all the time.
As of November 24, 2012 I was no longer a Peace Corps China Volunteer. Being home for the holidays again is quite nice, so its more sweet than sour.