A couple weeks ago my mom mentioned people were really enjoying my blog stories, but that some, especially those who have known me for many years, have commented on how she must also see a very different side of my experience. With that, it occurred to me that my mom’s impression of my service as a Peace Corps volunteer will be something no one else will truly understand. So, as a Mother’s Day tribute, I thought I’d try to explain a little bit of the Peace Corps journey my mom unknowingly embarked on when I boarded that plane in January.
It’s been almost exactly a year since I hit “submit” on my Peace Corps application. My parents knew I was planning to apply before anything was official, but I’m not sure either of them knew what we were about to embark on together. Thanks to technology, I’m able to text and talk to my parents whenever I want to, time change permitting. Technology has become both a blessing and a curse for many reasons, but in terms of staying connected to my two biggest fans, it’s certainly a blessing.
Contrary to what most of my blog and social media posts may indicate, there is good, bad and ugly of Peace Corps service, and my mom has gotten it all in the last 4.5 months. She’s celebrated my victories, counseled my frustrations, and consoled my heartaches. She’s been my cheerleader, my confidant, my nurse, my source of laughter, and my friend. It takes a truly special woman to wear so many hats, especially when communicating almost exclusively through What’s App text messages.
The victories come big and small. Mama KJ was the one who got the “I’m doing laundry in a machine with a rinse cycle for the first time in Thailand!” text message. She was also the one I texted when my Thai language skills helped me conquer disrupted travel plans. Her response, “Good for you! You go girl!!!” made the victory even better. I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to include her on the good things because I think it’s too easy to only turn to loved ones when we feel we need them for support. I often remind myself that she’s cheering for me to enjoy the ups just as much as she’s encouraging me to get through the downs.
The last couple of months have brought frustrations unlike anything I’ve experienced before. There have been feelings of doubt and uncertainty and, goodness knows, there have been lots and lots of tears. Many of these instances lead to texts like, “Mom, I just have to vent…” or “Mom, I don’t know what to do anymore.” She always seems to know exactly what to say, even if it’s the simple, ever-reassuring, “Hang in there kiddo. You can do this.”
After reading Eleanor H. Porter’s Pollyanna as a child, we nicknamed a climbing tree in our backyard “The Pollyanna Tree”. Not only did the book (and movie, too) prove to be encouragement for tree climbing, but Pollyanna’s positive attitude and outlook were a common theme in our house. My mom’s carried the trend to my Peace Corps service and constantly reminds me to “put my Pollyanna on” during the tough time. Through the encouragement and counseling, she manages to intertwine logic and sense, even when it might not be what my emotional, irrational self wants to hear. Without a doubt, her “now is where I channel my inner Pollyanna…” messages are always followed with exactly the advice I need.
My mom has been there when I’ve felt my loneliest, my most lost, and my most confused. When homesickness hits the heartstrings, she comes through with things like “Don’t be sad, just feel loved!” Her reassuring nature and words of encouragement are sometimes the only things that get me through the tough days, even if it comes in the form of bad mom humor like her “Hello? Is this the number to order Thai food? Bah ha ha, I am so funny!”
“Not all heroes wear capes.” I’m thankful these words are true because I’m not sure I’d like to be seen in public with my mom if she were constantly sporting a cape. My mom is my hero and I think, as with many times in life, Peace Corps moms are unsung heroes. Their Peace Corps journey is unlike that of friends, relatives, siblings, or even their volunteer’s journey. I’ll never be able to truly express my feelings of gratitude and gratefulness for my mom and her support as I embark and continue on yet another one of life’s great adventures.
I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!