Emily Maginnis, TESS 131
Yes, you read correctly. No, Paw Aw, they were not flies. No, host mother, they were not over sized moths will a strangely organized system of government.
I was swiftly jogging back to my house, running late for dinner with my host family. Change out of your uniform, go pee, grab the bike, and go. I pull open my heavy rusted garage door and run inside, only to be greeted by a noise. A low whirring noise. I walk to the bathroom, open the door, and see the wall completely covered black.
Yes, world. By bees.
In the six hours I had been away from home, bees flew in through the air slats in my bathroom and created a nest that attracted at least 500 bees.
Now my response to this horrific scene is proof that I have been a PCV for 13 months. Old Emily would have screamed or fainted or called her mother to fix it. This Emily said – in fact, I think her exact words were – “OOF!”
I called my landlord, and together (or sort of together, I mainly just watched in amazement) we took out the hive. This took roughly an hour and a half. When there were about thirty left, he looked at me and said “Okay I’m going home now.” In other words: This extermination deal is only valid for 470 bees. Best of luck. I swatted, I sprayed, I cursed, and eventually, the whirring stopped. It was completely silent in my house.
For the rest of the evening, my reflections on this occurrence had two overall themes: dark humor and flat out bitterness. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t stressed. I was simply that emoji of the girl who shrugs her shoulders and holds up her hands (does she look like a Cathy to anyone else, by the way? With a C, not a K. Cathy’s love doing that.) . Another bizarre and annoying experience in the books, I guess.
This isn’t the first time I have been this emoji, this Cathy-with-a-C. In fact, I would argue that for the past month I have been smacked in the back of the legs by small yet powerful waves of irritation and negativity. Any anxiety or stress I felt in year one is now coming in forms of procrastination and reluctance. More meetings with counterparts are getting cancelled, more excuses are being made about why I shouldn’t grab dinner with staff. Students that I consider my heart and soul are starting to just feel like work.
It is too early to be feeling this way, I keep repeating in my head. But the bad vibes keep coming.
It is at this point where I would like to compare the average Peace Corps volunteer to that of a Pokemon. I know, I know, just stay with me. A first level Pokemon, much like a first year PCV, is filled with this incredible energy. It has different skills, powerful skills, it is willing to offer, but maybe hasn’t fully honed those skills yet. And it can shoot fire out of its eyes and rear end. That last one is only true in a certain context, but you get what I’m saying.
With time, new talents are discovered, obstacles are faced and conquered, and a skill set is refined. That’s when it evolves into the next level. For some reason, second level Pokemon all seem to be drawn similarly. They always have a little more muscle tone, a little more fire or water in the background. But most notably, they always have a slightly more serious look to them. Have you noticed that? They have a more planted stance, their brows slightly furrowed, and they seem on the defensive rather than the playful.
Obviously, I am a very new second level Pokemon, but from what I can tell from the COS-ing 130’s and my fellow 131’s, year 2 has a different energy to it. Things are familiar now, between us and our communities, and between us and ourselves. That familiarity can come in handy (knowing enough Thai to carry a conversation at lunch, inside jokes with your students, warm smiles from your neighbors), and can also be a giant headache (students are not as interested in class as when you first arrived, teachers forget to invite you to things because they just thought you would know to come). Serious discussions we thought we would only have once we have several more times, lessons are still not getting through to classes. Suddenly, you feel your own brows lower and and your own stance locking into place.
However, I will say this: Just like a second level Pokemon, we are stronger and we are bolder. We have impacted our communities in ways that maybe we expected and maybe we didn’t. We feel more comfortable speaking our minds and taking on big projects. We can bike to town without needing breaks. We can hear a conversation in the market and know what the heck they’re talking about. We can see a hive of bees in our bathroom and just go “OOF!!”
What was a new life is now simply life, and that’s not a bad thing.
I have decided not to regret my moments of frustration, of shrugging my shoulders, as this job is not perfect and as a human I will get upset. What I have challenged myself to do, however, is to unfurrow my brows a bit, and turn it into a look of determination. Instead of dragging my feet, I will dig them in deep and get to work on this upcoming year. And, most importantly, I will remember that joy I felt in my first year. I will look at that school again, look at that kid’s smile again, look at the stray dog wagging her tail at me again, look at that sunset again. Taking a second look, I think, will remind me why I love this place so much.
You are no match for me, year 2.
Unless you bring more bees. Please don’t bring more bees.
Read Emily’s previous articles and contributions.