Two years of having Peace Corps as my identity, makes me wary of going back to the United States with no identifiers. I love being able to tell any Ni-Van that I’m a Peace Corps and being immediately thought of as kind, as having helped their country and respected their culture. Simply on the basis that I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer, with literally no other knowledge of who I am or what I’ve done.
There are many things I’m afraid of going back to, but for some reason this one had recently been weighing on me. It’s a comforting routine to identify myself as a Peace Corps and I love doing it.
My head was filled with all kinds of these worries getting onto the plane to begin my journey home. I had just checked my baggage (found out I had to pay 100 dollars extra), sent my bags through the scanner (forgot to take out my liquids, got plenty of things confiscated), and then been held up at customs (where I was almost not allowed through because I didn’t have the right passport with me). Needless to say, not only was I stressed about leaving Vanuatu permanently, I was stressed about all of this craziness too.
On the plane I found the flight attendants rude. Looking back I realize that I was actually quite high maintenance during that flight, needing extra space for my baggage and asking a million questions: “Do I have to fill out an immigration card if I’m transiting only?” “Is there any free food on this flight?” “Can I pay in Vatu?” If you couldn’t tell by my line of questioning, I was quite hungry. And there was no free food, no paying in vatu.
Anyway, at the time all I saw was the poor blonde women dealing with my questions as being cold and painfully formal. I always pay attention to the flight attendants, I’m not sure why. I like the culture of their work and watching them deal with annoying passengers, wondering what’s going on in their heads. I noticed that her hair, twisted into a swirled bun, looked awesome, way better than either of the other attendants hair, so the next time she passed through, I told her that her hair looked really cool. She seemed surprised, remarking that she had thought it was really messy, and then thanked me.
Five minutes later she came back with cookies and a candy bar, squatted down next to my chair, and forced the treats into my hands. “These are for you” she said. And then she went on to say that it had been a terrible day, lots of delays and plane issues, and that I had made her day by complimenting her hair. I told her that she had made my day by doing what she had just done. I wasn’t kidding. Obviously this is not the best thing that has ever happened to me in my whole life, but at the time it seriously felt like it. I had had such a shitty time getting onto the plane, I was sad and nervous about leaving, and I was so, so hungry.
I suddenly felt like I was going to be okay without my Peace Corps identifier. I suddenly felt like the outside world wasn’t as terrifying as it seemed like it was going to be.
I know I’ve talked a lot about kindness lately, the cycle of it and the power of it, but I guess I wanted to write about this incident because it so clearly illustrates all of that. That blonde women and I both had our days improved because of the others thoughtfulness. It was a lovely, promising start back into the first world. And I’m thankful she gave it to me.
Speaking of which, my Vanuatu adventure is now officially over. So what now? Where do we go from here? Well, I’m just guessing but I don’t believe my adventures are quite finished. If you’re willing to follow me to the next one, I’m more than willing to take you along for the ride. Possibly lookout in the next couple of weeks for a new tab on my blog called Washington, D.C. This way I can separate my old adventures from the new ones. Please keep on reading and thank you so, so much for your support, it has meant the world to me.