Friday, January 31, 2014

Thoughts on Extending... Holla Batch 271!

So all of us extendees were asked to write an email to the PCVs in Batch 271, who will soon have to decide whether they want to extend their service, as we have. Of course, I went to write "a couple paragraphs," and it turned into 7. The email they will get with my pearls of wisdom is going to be edited down, so I figured It might be valuable to post the full version here. Hope it helps!


At the beginning of 2013, talks of COS began to become more frequent among my fellow 270s. Some people couldn't wait to finish their service, others were happy to still be serving but knew that they would be ready to depart in September, and there was a number considering extensions. Honestly I wasn't positive where I stood. I knew it was somewhere between the regular COS date and an extension. Then one day at school one of my favorite students said to me, "Ma'am thank you for being here. I'm so glad you're with us." I hadn't felt very appreciated in a while, and what he said seemed to flip a switch. The work I was doing WAS making a difference to people in my community. Why had I been interpreting a lack of recognition to mean people didn't appreciate me?

Soon after this, I was talking about my thoughts of extending with a certain soon-to-be-PCVL (who shall remain nameless), and he asked: If you went home in September, what would you be doing with your time? I laughed and said that I'd be sitting on the couch at home, unemployed. He asked if I liked what I was doing here, and I admitted that I did love my work and projects. "So wouldn't you rather be having fun doing that while you can?" he said. The next day I began filling out the extension paperwork.

An extension, just as the rest of a Peace Corps service, has its own challenges. For me, as someone who thrives off of personal relationships, being separated from my closest circle of friends has been by far the most difficult part of still being here. For all those times when you step in goat poo or are told "Ma'am you're getting fat!"... and you know JUST who would appreciate that text...when that friend is halfway around the world and you can't get an immediate response, that's hard.

Luckily I have some awesome co-extendees and have made some great friends in your batch and in 272! That has been one of the highlights and benefits of extending for me! I never would have met a lot of you if I hadn't stayed. In addition, during my first two years of

service, I would often feel guilty if I had to leave site to facilitate at a friend's camp or do a project somewhere other than my school. Now my outlook is that this is bonus time for them, and while I am still working on my projects at school, I've taken on outside work in my community and with Peace Corps.

The projects I had already established at my site before extending have continued to flourish since I've still been here. I feel like what I have done is more likely to become sustainable because of the extra time I have had establishing it with my counterparts. I can really see how my hard work is paying off, and I don't think I had seen that as much at this time last year. It's really cool to feel like you've actually accomplished something that will help people once

you're gone. Maybe that's a selfish way to think of it, but isn't our selfless work of volunteering actually self-serving, too? I know that I learn and grow more every day that I'm here. We all have our "aha!" moments in Peace Corps... extending just gives you more of those.

In addition, it seems that I'm getting things done more efficiently now. I know the ropes, I know how to accomplish things in the Philippine work culture, thanks to my first two years of Peace Corps experience. I don't get as confused or struggle as much with work-related things nearly as much anymore. I know what to expect.

Finally, feedback from the already COS-ed 270s... nobody can find jobs, many of them miss the Philippines, and some even wish they extended. Of course there are wonderful things about being home, but I am SO glad that I decided to stay. Feel free to text/call/email me if you want to hear more or bounce your thoughts/ ideas off someone who has been in your shoes before.


Looking forward to 2014! Happy Chinese New Year!


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