On being back in America, an RPCV


I’ve been back in America for a while now so it seems fair to update you all on what it is like, you know, coming back to America.

To sum it up as fast as I can, no one thinks I’m important or interesting anymore, things often are not where I left them three years ago (I mean both places, like the Spice Terminal in Reading Terminal Market, which I just today discovered is no longer there, and things, like a Joe Sacco comic book and my blender and my French press), more things are automated than I think need to be automated (doors, toilets, sinks, towel dispensers, supermarket checkout lanes), and public transit is unnervingly efficient and consistent in terms of where it goes and when and how much it costs to get there.

So, then. I am happy to be back and to be back in Philly, but every once in a while I find myself wanting to cry because I miss my host family, or embarking on a long-winded story about that time that that thing happened on the kombi (that no one is interested in hearing). I have realized that all the news reports I’d been reading about how hard it is to find a job nowadays were not exaggerations, and have the worrisome suspicion that many potential employers view Peace Corps and Fulbright as a fun three-year vacation I took rather than as three years of me managing projects, writing grants, and collaborating with everyone on any project they could think up, all with me speaking either Macedonian or Albanian. I feel moderately to very abandoned by Peace Corps, and would like to humbly request that they one day consider giving more to their former volunteers than a few thousand bucks, a reusable grocery bag, and a Peace Corps mug. (I mean, like, options to buy healthcare if you have a weird return schedule, not more money.)

I’m going to stop now, because I’m trying not to spend too much time reflecting on how strange it is to be on the other side of this Peace Corps thing. For years it was my only goal, and it never occurred to me that one day I would finish Peace Corps and would have to figure out what would come next. Now I’m almost 27 years old, unemployed, uninsured, and hoping that I work things out soon. Fortunately I can do so while reading my library books, eating Reese’s cups, and drinking all the good beers Philly has dreamed up in my absence.


3 responses »

  1. Aww, I’ve been wondering where you were, you having been absent from all the blogging from so long. I’m sorry that America is stressful and not nearly respectful enough of the Peace Corps and Fulbright – it’s people like you that are protecting our image in the world! (Insert soapbox rant here) I hope things get better for ya! In the meantime, enjoy all the Reese’s.

  2. Hang in there! I remember my reverse culture shock like it was yesterday, and it’s because it took me a long while to get over it. Allow yourself the time to cope. That feeling of wanting to cry? I still get it, but it comes much less frequently now. On est ensemble.

  3. What!?!??! The Spice Terminal is GONE? As in gone gone? No longer in existence!?!?!?
    Some kind of official job assistance program would be the most productive (and probably cost effective) thing they could offer–in my opinion. It’s sort of surprising that they don’t, even unofficially (like a networking thing.) Unsolicited advice can be annoying, so I am trying not to be annoying with my unsolicited advice which is that I find that volunteering is a good way to find a job in this tough market. It gives you something to put on your resume (although I would argue that any employer who thinks the work you did abroad was a vacation is a jerk), it is a networking opportunity, and sometimes volunteering can even turn into a job (which is what happened for me.) And it helps stave off the unemployment-despair that makes it hard to scan the Craigslist want ads yet another day.

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