Peace Corps & Becoming Soft

Peace Corps has made me a big softy… literally I’ve learned to be soft inside and out… it’s not what I expected to learn here, but here it is.

Soft Steps—When I arrived in Santa Mission, Guyana at the foot of a big ole sandy hill that would become my world, I jammed my feet down into the sand and walked like an American. I stepped with authority like I had since high school, and that’s not how one walks in sand if one wants to keep nice clean pedicured (at home) toes and chigger-free (if you don’t know chiggers, I dare you to google image search it). Luckily Aunty Natalie taught me to walk on top of the sand like cat. It’s amazing how such a little thing improves your life. Also I think there’s some pun or metaphor or something about walking with strong branches to make, but I’ll let you do that…

 

Soft Knees/ Soft Ankles—walking in the hills of Jamaica requires soft legs. By this I mean you can’t strut like you’re on a catwalk, you have to have a slight bend in your knees and be prepared for the slide. You’re going to hit loose dirt and slide and at that moment you have to keep your balance and keep your center of gravity slightly lowered. Plus it’s great for you core, quads and hammies.

 

Soft Mouth—Did you know animals have bones and vegetables have skin and stems? Yup, true story… without American factory-farm culture eating means navigating around bones, unfamiliar textures and new pieces of plants that I’m not accustomed to. I recently noticed how much slower and carefully I chew… in the beginning there were nuff nuff times I finished meals with a swollen tongue or cheeks and mild puncture wounds all around my mouth .

 

Soft Voice—Americans are loud. Not a good or bad thing, just true. We even praise and look up to or at least pay attention to loud mouths… how else can you explain Donald Trump’s candidacy? When you live in a village of 200 nothing you say out loud is private if you have a big voice, or even in Jamaica where I live in a bigger community with more sound blocking walls people can hear me walking down the street and it really makes you consider everything that comes out of your mouth… or at least it does sometimes…

 

Soft Reactions—Cross-cultural misunderstandings happen on the daily. Americans don’t say hello to all the other people walking down the street, people think you’re weird/ crazy / confused if you do, in Jamaica not saying hello to someone is considered an intentional snub. You don’t say hi because you’re too proud and think you’re better than them (no such thing as being shy in Caribbean culture… true story). Anyways the point is that people say and do things that seem one way, but may not be offensive so it’s best to just slow your reaction and not make assumptions. Also if you aren’t reacting logically you cause a lot of problems for yourself… been there done that, working on the soft, open-minded reactions…

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