A PCV’s rant on one-sided communication.

I know I’ve slacked off in posting on my blog.  Several factors have contributed to the lack of communication.  Besides not keeping a journal anymore (that fizzled out after South Africa and came to a complete halt after Europe), I’m just not motivated to write.  I often think of things I want to write about and/or vent, but then I wonder, “Why bother?”  No one but other PCVs (specifically those in Rwanda) will understand, and very few outside of this country even care to understand.  I can make myself blue in the face going over the details of life here, but actually living it is a whole other story.  Trying to convey the physical but especially emotional difficulties of living here just don’t translate to someone who has never had a similar experience let alone the full-on two year immersion we go through as PCVs.

I will share my main frustration with life in relation to the one I’ve left behind (since I voiced some of my frustrations relating to Rwanda in my last post) which is the one-sided communication.  So you can’t understand what I’m going through here – fine.  But pick up your phone, punch in my number, and let me try to tell you.  Or at the very least e-mail/facebook message me.  If I can do it, so can you – and it’s about a million times easier and faster for you.  First is the issue of cost:  To call everyone – about 10 people, not counting my parents who actually call me – to wish them Merry Christmas for just 15 minutes each, I spend the equivalent of almost $100 USD when you equate it to a percentage of salary.  I may not have extravagant expenses here, but I’m not raking in the cash either.  And those phone calls to you all can mean giving up other things important to me and my happiness and quality of life here; simple things that you all take for granted but make my life less lonely and isolated.  We’re talking peanut butter and oatmeal here, not Western-style splurges like a nice dinner at an expensive restaurant or a trip to the salon/spa.  (Though I do indulge about once a month – not even that often now that I think of it – in a dinner out for something fancier than goat on a stick with a side of grilled potatoes.  And even that grilled goat is a luxury I don’t have very often!)

But it’s not so much the cost that bothers me, it’s the fact that little or no effort is made from the other side of the Atlantic.  And then you have the nerve to ask me why it’s been so long since I’ve called?  No.  How crazy is this: 2 years after living in Africa and calling everyone at least once every month, FINALLY two people ask, “Well, is there anyway to call you?”  Yeah, you just pick up your phone (or even use your speedy internet connection) and you punch in the number that’s been coming up on your screen once or twice a month for the past two years!  And even if you had to ask me for the number, it’s a technological marvel, but we have these new-fangled two-way phones here that not only dial out but also accept calls.  Imagine that!  Whatever, don’t make the effort; just don’t criticize me for not making pains on my end.

Anyway, there have been a few exceptions to my one-sided misery.  I want to sincerely thank LT for her continued communication through the post, Ness for a birthday-Christmas package this year, and Mags for the Starbuck’s VIA.  Also my aunt and uncle for their Christmas package.  Without those efforts, I would have felt completely abandoned.  (That’s not counting my wonderful parents who call me every week and send a few packages a year.  I REALLY appreciate all you’ve done for me since I made the decision to live in Africa for two years and support you’ve shown.)

So now that my service is coming to a close, how will I feel when I return to the States?  Hard to say.  I’ll likely carry back some of the resentment I feel now, but I’ll get over it.  After all, I care enough to schlep across the country and visit you all.  This post was more for me to vent since it likely won’t change anything.  Let it be a testimony to the plight of the volunteer and the frustrations we all share and understand but have a harder time being translated to those back home.


~ by twcstars on January 5, 2012.

3 Responses to “A PCV’s rant on one-sided communication.”

  1. Tiff – I’ve thought about your comments for several days. I’ve enjoyed your posts as they’ve given me a glimpse of life of a PCV in a very different environment. Now I feel a bit like a voyeur, and that I haven’t given you the support you clear needed. I know you to be a very competent, assured person. I wonder if your friends didn’t recognize the quantity or type of support you were looking for? Either way, I’m proud to know you and that you took on this type of vocation for the last two years. I hope you will get in touch when you return as I don’t have your email address. (I asked Alex and he said he didn’t have it.) I would like to hear about your plans and will be more than glad to help in any way I can. Safe travels – and I look forward to hearing from you.

  2. moving off to an island, albeit domestic or foreign, does feel quite lonely at times. much praise to you for your efforts to keep in touch with those you are closest to. i can’t say the same for myself. i think today, through procrastination, and feeling so isolated, i’ve caught a glimpse of some of those people i was once fairly close to (or at least interacted with on a semi-regular basis). the word that came to my mind (before vicariously catching up with you by reading your blog) was and is cauterized. for me, it feels like both the state i am in and how i’ve treated some of those ties that once were close…. and i’m only 11 hours away from ‘home.’ some old roads and bridges just feel too burned, or i still feel the sting and loss of what once was or could be. even when friends try and reach out to mend them, i am after all on an island. at some level it feels wrong but i’ve just let myself become so numb. numb to too many things. it sounds like you’re not at that point. that sounds splendid. i’ve always known you to have a certain quiet wit about you. grace. love. and peace right?

    rest assured, it’s nice to think i can relate to some of your feelings, being away, being anonymous. and also the tugs to stay in a place that you’ve called ‘home’ but is so, so foreign. 2 years is an interesting period of time. i find myself coming back to the thought that is said “home’s where the heart is.” i’m not sure if it’s yours, but i have trouble knowing where my heart is, where it feels welcome, where it feels at home now. i wouldn’t call one of those whose tried to keep in touch, lord knows i haven’t done that with nearly anybody, but i guess what i’m saying is hi. to someone who is out there, coming from someone else who is out there. perhaps the distance is good. at least, for a time still, i don’t have to worry about you stealing my used dinner plate to throw away from across the atlantic.

    be well.

    • Thank you, Southern. It is nice to hear another voice out of the void, and especially one that can relate. It’s been an interesting, exciting, live-changing, and certainly difficult 2 years. I’m glad I did it, but I’ll be gladder when I’m finished at this point. I’d like to think it has more to do with this place and the frustrations that go with it more so than me not quite hacking it. And I think my placement really does have something to do with it. We just got back from a little vacation in Tanzania and my biggest frustration didn’t present itself there as it does in Rwanda: being called the rich white foreigner even though the word is the same in Swahili as Kinyarwanda. I’ve gotten to the “numb” point with some relationships, but it’s not exactly that. WhenI think of numb, I think of a deadened pain. But this is more like not caring; not to be meanor unfeeling, but that’s just what happens. As for the others that prompted the rant, I would be perfectly happy to make the effort to stay in touch with them if I felt they were making the same effort in return. Since they’re not, I feel it’s really unfair of them to complain about not communicating. But here’s something good to know that you very well may have heard already but I’m going to repeat it: life-long friends are often an exception rather than a rule save for a few special cases if you’re lucky. Our friendships are so influenced by our current situations in life which include emotional and logistical factors. You change. Your friends change. Your friendships change. And that’s okay. I think it’s just hard for us to let go of the ideal of growing old with someone from our past. It definitely happens, but it’s not feasible for everyone.

      And thank you for thinking I might have had a “certain quiet” about me. I don’t feel that that’s what I portray to others. I do feel that I’m optimistic and make the most of situations. That’s the basis for my Kinyarwanda name that my host mom gave me during training. As for you, you never seemed to need constant reassurance from your peers. You march to your own beat and don’t seem to care what others think. I wonder if that’s how you see yourself? And it’s sad for me that I can’t throw away your used dinner plate or anyone else’s – I don’t think anyone’s heard of paper plates where I live.

      Imana igumugisha.

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