This will not be the most original or non-cliched post, so I'll keep it sorta short. Just a cute lil life analogy, in regards to finishing up with year 1 of my service and going through one full school year -
Yesterday, I ran a 10K race in 100+ heat around the streets of Barranquilla. I have maybe run a total of 120 minutes, combined, since almost a year ago, last January. I do aerobics and things in my sweatbox of a room, pretend to play soccer a couple times a month, and walk 5-20 miles a week. Ya know. Something sort of like exercise. Before the race, I didn't think I'd make it running the whole way.
So there we are, standing in this crush of people, pouring sweat and entering dehydration status before we even start to run. But once we started running, I felt comfortable. When I hit the 5k mark, I realized it had only taken me 30 minutes to get there, and I was still going strong.
Then, in kilometer 7, an incredible runners' high hit. I couldn't stop grinning. After a year of not running (city streets, bad schedule, pollution, security issues), there I was, running, not as unprepared as I thought, and super happy to be doing it. Can't even describe how happy I was. Movement! Exercise! I was miserable from the heat and a tad short of breath, but starting to feel like I could do this thing.
This coming week, myself and two other volunteers are running a girls' camp for some of our 7th graders. It's a leadership camp. It will be all in Spanish. I've had some experience doing this sort of work, but never been in charge. A year ago, I couldn't speak Spanish. Now, my Spanish isn't close to perfect, I don't have all the words right at hand for my workshops, but, I can look them up, use them, and execute. Woohoo.
So to come back to the analogy, we'll say that I'm still at the "5k" mark of my service. Which means, ya know, I'm starting to think I can do this. A year in, I'm feeling more comfortable with things...like, Spanish. And being more assertive about my schedule at school, picking counterparts to focus on, and knowing my students. I'm building on this year's momentum with secondary project plans for next year, and getting a handle on what exactly my overall role is (that's for sure a work in progress), but also constructing relevant, informed ideas on how to approach next year, and making my time and role here more productive and efficient.
What I'm saying, is that coming up on next year, I don't think I'm totally prepared. I'm still not a formal teacher, which means I do a lot on the fly without any formal knowledge base to work with. Still don't know exactly what my 2nd year-long goals are, and I know that as always, flexibility and adaptation will be key. But...I've been moving in the heat. Doing some sorts of related activities. I'm at the '5K', with what might turn out to be adequate preparation to finish the race.
I can only hope I'll hit the 7k point soon...not the distance, necessarily, but the crazy awesome runner's high.
My time at the race wasn't great, something like 11 minute miles. AKA, my worst time in any timed distance event ever. But, considering the circumstances, I'm feeling pretty good about it. 'Cause you know what? The race time only matters in context of what I've done in the past, pre-Colombia, rather than in regards to this year.
So I say, context - shmontext... Both for determining what "success" means in terms of the race, and for my service... because, who says that what I'm doing here is anything like what I've ever done before? (establishing a lifestyle where everything builds logically on itself, well, considering that is something else to ponder entirely).
But for now, this is how I know that I'm a real Peace Corps Volunteer...I've become perfectly fine with redefining success!