I am trying to fall in love with myself again.

I hated my last year abroad. Until I realized I had to fall in love again. With myself.

I have decided to live in Africa and I regretted that decision immediately. Mostly because how unprepared you can be in this state. After my service, I was incredibly lucky.

Carlos in Bus

I got a job immediately. With incredible pay and experience. I had no interest in returning back to America. I just watched the wrong person become President and it only cemented my dreams of living aboard. I have incredible international friends that would last over distances compared to friends in the US who became preoccupied with life.

I wasn’t angry at them. Africa didn’t excite them and WiFi/Netflix filled their lives. I was nothing but cool for the moment. A likable Facebook post that you pass on your feed.

I didn’t mind. I wanted to live in a foreign country. I wanted my children to have citizenship in an another country. I wanted to find someone who enjoyed the life I had made for myself. To meet me in my path and join their path with mine. I was living my dream.

I learned many things in my last year here. I forgot the village and my dog so easily. I wanted to continue work in nonprofit and public service work. I still wanted to write and produce novels that spoke of the era I lived in. I was on my way.

I learned that many things you plan for, don’t happen. I think of this of my senior year. I did not accomplish much. But it was okay I didn’t because I knew that this was leading towards my future. I wanted to continue living and doing whatever I wanted. How many times do I have to repeat that I was independent?

How many times do I have to tell myself that this last year was worth it? I will remake the money I have lost. I will grow in a person continuously.

Traveling alone is the most frightening part of this journey. Figuring everything out with your own American perspective without anyone else to talk to is frightening. Incredibly frightening. I am scared every day. I am so scared when RPCV’s judge my choices. Current PCVs are so proud of me. But they don’t understand this struggle. So much of the international world cannot be experienced without money. And outside of Peace Corps, you have to work a nine to five job with less than two weeks of personal days for vacation. Life sucks after Peace Corps.

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It sucked for a year. Loneliness was the largest burden. I had to constantly remind myself that I was okay. I am okay. You are okay. I will be okay. But I wasn’t.

I became sad. Depression kicked in quickly. Management at my new place sucked out any creative and happy energy. I didn’t care anymore. I wanted to write again but I lost my voice.

I became a survivor. Survive this last year. Survive this last year. Run back to you mother and let her keep you in her strong arms and regroup. Regroup then. Regroup then. Survive. Survive. Survive with a smile.

I lost friends again. It was frightening again. It is the universe, I kept thinking, saying I deserved loneliness. Friends walked in and out. I still survived. I lived in an incredible place and wanted nothing. I had food and a roof. I was warm. I was comfortable.

But I was only surviving. Depression was my nighttime, unhappiness was my morning ritual, and loneliness was my daily friend.

I couldn’t cry anymore and I couldn’t express my feelings. The writing was lost to me. It was the hardest heartbreak to ever happen in my life. I lost the love of my life.

Now you may be wondering why I am writing now. I had to fall back in love with the most important and incredible thing to happen to me. When I learned to write and write passionately, I also dreamed. Dreamed in scenes. Epics and tragedies occurred all in one night. In great detail, I would remember everything and would inspire me to write more. My dreams were filled with worlds and my hands were desperate. Desperate to write words and type them. Otherwise, my mind would explode with voices unheard.

I fell back in love. I am still depressed, trust me. That shit doesn’t go away. But I had to fall to rock bottom. The first thing I lost was trust. I no longer trust anyone. Emotions were investments and I no longer gave it away for free. I cannot call myself a giver when I expected a return. I thought daily that I deserved trust and love. I realized I may be alone forever. I had to be okay with that.

I am still not okay with it.

I had to fall to the bottom and rise back again.

A phoenix. Except there was no Dumbledore waking me up from the fragile ugly chick I am. I was burning first.

I am still slowly fall in love. I do not know this beautiful thing anymore. She has changed. So have I. But I know she is magical. And I want to deserve her again. To write is my life.

But I am still trying to survive and not live. It will take time before I am back. Or maybe fully understand who I am now. Who she is now.

 

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BROKEN.

I found out that I pick horrible men. Interrogated at the reasons to why I chose this man. I found out a man cheated and never told me.

He told his ex though. His reasoning was that he wanted to protect me and punish her so she would leave his life.

Yet, he still flirted with her and talked to her. He commented on a picture she sent him by complimenting how her beautiful eyes compliment his dark skin tone.

It was odd. I have been heartbroken before. Countless times. I have tried to not let my hurt blame myself. I tried hard. I did everything in my power to be true to him and myself. I did not get oral from another person three days before he came to see me. Nor did I not be honest. He felt hurt thinking I may be cheating when all along, he was insecure because he has already cheated. Emotionally and physically.

I missed him. I will be truthful. It is painful to tell a man that you have been hurt before and to ask him to be true to you. Then for him to finally let me gain my trust and love and then this bombshell… It destroyed me.

It also made me realize what a shit person he was. Because he never apologized for getting a blowjob from someone else and not being safe with me. He risked my health and didn’t care for my hurt feelings.

I am broken. Because of him, he cracked my fundamentals and confidence till my core held a crack.

And now I need to fix myself up again.

 

Brokenness. How do you fix yourself when your core has been shaken?

Her life changed when she learned the monsters were protecting her.

Her life changed.

She breathed fire and scales grew on her back.

Where the tail waved, it extended further,

breaking off into talons, and the skin flared.

Burning as spindles pushed through delicate skin

Holes formed where skin burned into leather

Talons ripped through the nails and bled down her skin

It itched at her as it dripped down her face.

She struck out her tongue, deviled with raw red blood

but when she tasted her own, she spit out

seeing a distant spirit

yet the itching flaked as dandruff on her back

As she shook, her skin fell

she looked to her hands who are now paws

and to the wall around her,

others standing in their scales

her life changed

when she learned the monsters were protecting her.

 

The Wolf would run.

If she was in the woods

with a wolf,

the wolf would run

Her cape would be the blade,

Swift and quiet but sharp till the hilt

It craned over a field of crescent flowers,

cutting off their buds

And when she walked, she cleared the hill

of all their heads.

Her smile chased the wolf and her hair

scalped his fur and burned his paws.

The wolf ran that day when her red

cloak blew his way.

The wolf ran from her howl in the night

While she slept soundly nice and tight.

Peace Corps Ruined Me.

I am sitting here, staring at a screen for almost four hours and my feet numb and tingling with reawakening. The tabs are open and many blog posts are there for my eyes to scan.

Top 3 Places to visit for the end of 2016

Places to Backpack Right Now

Africa and It’s Beautiful Cities

And it goes on and on and sometimes I just bookmark them because the images are too painful to look at.

I am on a travel site, clicking the drop downs and putting down my airport in Lusaka and how far away I could go. And then the dates are the daunting feeling that I couldn’t shake off. How many vacation days can I have? How many moments can I have? Ho wmany places can I visit in the small amount of time I have?

Why is this so fucking stressful. Because Peace Corps Ruined ME!

I was given an incredible chance to live in a village. Yes, true.

I was given a chance to live in another country in a rural setting for two whole years gaining skills in international development, international relations, public administration, program managemnet and unforgettable memories. Yes, true.

I was given a job where travel was a given. It was encouraged and promoted within Zambia and all around  Africa. I have visited most of Sub Saharan Africa and I am so dazzled and amazed at how much I have seen already that it makes me wish to see all of it.

But Peace Corps ruined me. I want to talk to locals and walk in local streets, have a flair for local language learning and negotiations and working alongside the new friends I would make. Making real connections and working hard to learn the culture and adapt. One month at least is what I put in for my departure and arrival dates. One month is what I need to really experience it. But no one has 24 days of leave when you work a nine to five.

And Peace Corps ruined me so much that i now need to work on my own to even have a schedule like that every again.

Don’t do Peace Corps. You will fall in love with the world and never have a chance to experience it all after you’re done. Or maybe you will. Maybe you will fall in love with the world and never choose to leave the traveling spirit ever again. Maybe you will dance in crowds and walk through a different street every day and maybe you won’t say Peace Corps ruined you but woke you up.

Peace Corps woke me up to the world and I am not giving up on it any time soon. I am in love with this world and I will search for it and connect with it as much as I can possibly do.

Even if it means I will be broke.

Okay, no. That’s why the nine to five happens. So I won’t be broke doing this. But I will always be a traveler and learner of culture and I am not gonna settle for less like a 3 day weekend to Cabo. I dream big. Give me a road, great people, and good food and I will see you in thirty days!

I’m an International Hobo with a Journey to Joy.

Do you know the chilling fact that happens most of the time?

The crystallization of memory as if you left one person, one place, all swept up and clean and you hope to return to it one day without one piece of dust changed.

The crystallization is a brilliant process. It the pure freezing of time that we seek in our lives. Because that is what Peace Corps does. Gives you a slice of a world that never needed you, that existed on its own, and then it makes you love, live, and believe in the entire world. Then it ends and you hope you were part of something. You hope you could return to bliss.

But this is also the reason we remember our past romances and the reason we remember our childhood as our peaceful blissful years.

Even me, a child of domestic abuse with a parent who drank money away, I still could see the beauty in my childhood. The simplicity of the age and the fact that everything was simple. No decisions were made. Everything was made for us.

During my two years, my decisions were made for me. It was an ease I could quickly get used to because it was something I had to do. Nothing would work if I pushed for it. I was used to going with the flow as that was the cultural climate.

Then I was rushed back into the real world. And I thought I could use my skills to further my career. But everyone and I mean everyone did not care. They did not care how much I have gone through or how much I have learned because it didn’t help them or guide them. It may have tortured them with the guilt of lack of self-sacrifice or aggravated them that I couldn’t let go of my past.

My past will always be my present. Those two years have made me different. And yet, to the world, my experience is not worthwhile because even though I have experienced this, it is not good to dwell on the past. I have to move on and be better in a different environment just like I have adapted to the environment I was put in as a Peace Corps volunteer.

But now is the time to move on. To forget the past into rose colored filtered memories but to take what we have learned and grow from this. To remember it is our past and not for everyone to relive so that we have an optimal working space. Forgiveness is not our game. Forgive me, I am so used to other things.

What happened to my adaptability, I wondered?

What happened to my free-form style? Why am I so used to doing nothing? No drive behind my goals and dreams.

It wasn’t the lack of drive but the feeling of responsibility. I felt responsible for the lack of development I encountered in the village. I felt responsible for all the world’s problems that could be solved just because I got a taste of reality that made me feel like an international development believer. But instead, a dose of reality came after the reality check. That I am alone and one person in this field and that there are millions of strings and loops you have to take to get to where you want which is a developed country.

I also was ready for my easy career that was a perfect fit tailored to me. And that is the true problem. Struggle was part of these last two years.

Struggle. I was still a college graduate who had an entire path ahead where anything came come together from the lessons learned through Peace Corps. But the years have ended and I am closer to 26 than I ever was before.

 

Do I continue in development work? Do I go for public policy work to really change lives? Do I still write and become the writer that my ten year old self dearly wished to be?

And then another question came up to play: why wasn’t there enough time to conquer all these endeavors?

And the scariest thought of all:: Money.

I am here to say that this blog has always centered around travel and Peace Corps. But I am changing this. I am morphing this blog to represent me, Meghan Mathew.

I am an aspirational person and my dream was always to change the world either through the written word or the policies or organizations I start or work in that really make a calculatable impact.

 

I want to socially change the world through my actions and it may include all the goals I go for or may be through one. But you will see it unfold here. On my journey to joy.

A Namibian Desert Awaits

I usually am late when it comes to posting about adventures that has happened whilst I take this journey into self awakening and manifestation.

One of the lands I have dreamed about growing up thinking of the vast continent of Africa as a little girl were the coastal countries influenced by colonialism that plagued their history and their independence and finally the local charisma and culture that still thrives into its future.

Namibia was one of those countries that caught my eye that survived with a third of Zambia’s population in a desert location that is also coastal with incredible game parks and safaris. Animals here are the animals you think of when you think of Africa, coasting desert skylines, bare watering holes that have a  season of its own, and sleeping under bushes and trees to escape the heat and sun.

It was an adventure seeing it for ourselves as we walked around Windhoek for the first few days. As Volunteers, we have more confidence as travelers hoping for local culture and exposure, not really wanting any luxury or tourist locations unless we have a craving for treat yo self kind of mentality. So we searched out local  talent and music shows that is present in this capital city. I was expecting a lot more nightlife but this city turned quiet and unsafe as soon as the sun went down. We expected more from this city but the great finds we encountered were a surprise.

Singers of the area sang of freedom, representation, and the beauty that surrounds them. It was powerful being surrounded by people of color from all areas of the world listening to lyrics that show the strength of people still trying to recognize their own voice and their own beauty.

Driving was the next challenge. Driving around in a small car was not smart, i agree but for two people who decides to rent out lodges or camp spaces on a cheap way. We stocked up on food and meat as well as snacks for hours of driving on sandy roads and gravel while we played music.

Traveling up north we passed Omaruru where we spent time at wood carvings and souvenirs. We slept at Uis and then drove the wrong way for an hour, delaying our whole day. We went to the petrified forest and saw mica, iron oxide, and silicone replace every living cell in fallen trees making them last over thousands of years. Later that evening, we got a flat tire causing us to be strong and realize we may be stranded with low gas in the heat with no strength. Luckily, immediately a car came by and saved us. We had it in the bag with just time but hey, they did it due time. We race to Twlfyontein and we were late but with some rushing and begging, we joined the last tour guide. In some beautiful landscapes, we saw incredible engravings with deep symbolic meaning to the people of the area.

The heat of the entire day soaked in. I was sick for four days already and nothing in my body told me I was truly enjoying everything. Except the beauty that surrounded us all day. Except the chance to breathe in an air that was different even though it is a neighbor to Zambia.

Come to Africa, because in one breathless week, Namibia has taken away my words. Wonder what the entire continent would do for you?

 

Close of Service

As the final weeks come down to days, nothing scares me more than a ticking time clock counting down to an end of a chapter.

Pressure of change is the fearful moment in my life. Every time life had come in and started to change something, it was always a surprising moment defined to prove myself and take a step higher but always since the view is the same or feels no different, I don’t truly believe nothing has changed.

Until the end. Until when the hours are changing and I realize the woman who started this journey, who was at the beginning of this chapter and wrote this chapter, no longer is the same.

Pressure of change. Pressure of life knocking on your door and waking you up to the reality that good things eventually end is a frightening shock. My heart was on alarmingly high amount of stress. It beat fast and it was dangerous how it was normal that high every day. Migraines plagued my mornings and I was about to crack every time people asked me what was wrong.

What was wrong?

The most incredible thing I have ever done in my entire life. The life changing thing I chose to do and people were proud of me for, was about to end. Families and friends and lives have changed because I realized I didn’t belong to one country.

Close of service had many programs. First, signing off on district reports and final site reports to the program manager of your specific program. Then, a final language proficiency exam only done at Peace Corps Zambia. Meetings with a few administrators lead to canceling and closing accounts, and finalizing any last accounts that we have through Peace Corps and finally a meeting with the country director for final remarks, and information about future RPCV status.

And finally there I was, at the bell, in the courtyard of the Peace Corps compound and I rang out of service on August 19, 2016 at 9:30. Tears, joy, and still a heart pounding close to an almost heart attack, I couldn’t believe that after two years, I felt unchanged but of course, none of that is true. I was a different woman because of this experience and I would never take it away. i wish I could live in this bliss forever of working in a warm place and network of people who only could understand this experience compared to a population back home. I was and always will be Peace Corps and Zambia took my heart.

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One Last Sunrise

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A mud house with two rooms, thatch roof, and filled with memories

I have a home here in this country. It is less than five hundred meters from my parents’ house. When I travel from my house to places around and abroad, I miss the feel of tossing my bags in the corner of my house and sitting at my porch watching my family live their lives in front of me in my yard.

And my home isn’t in New York. In an apartment overlooking a yard with data and network.

My home is here in Sub Saharan Africa.

How can I leave this place after sinking my feet deep into its soil and planting the thread like fibers into its earth two years ago?

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where I cook my food and dry my dishes

I have extended the two room house that Peace Corps had recommended for the village to build for me. The house had a tall ceiling, built by my host father who is a hardworking carpenter and builder. I painted my walls bright blue, with yellow, gold, and green accents. My floors are waxed and citenge fabric are framed and hung on the wall.

When I first came to this country, people wondered how I could live in another country for two years. How you can adjust to the place that is so isolating and live on your own in a home that is so different from an apartment?

I made a decision: to not expect a home but to make it a home. To do everything in my power to make it a home. To paint it mine, to build it mine, to create a space where I can escape to even in the village.

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the sun meets me in the morning

So once everything had its place that I enjoy returning to, I realized that my house was mine. My hammer had its own space and my books had its own shelf. It is stupid to find your home just because you put up a shelf. But what life was present during that moment is the important part. My host mother helped me paint my walls because I really wanted to show how talented women were. My host father helped me hang shelves because I didn’t know how to put nails into a mud brick walls without it falling down because of the weight. And my host father joked about the amount of books I brought. He told me that reading must be the greatest escape in this quiet village.

He was wrong. My escape wasn’t my book but my family. They listened to my complaints and understood my problems. They let go of their worries on me and it doesn’t burden me.

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My first roommates

I made my home with my family. And laying here on the ground because I still don’t have furniture, allows me to see outside my door to the family that has taken me in. I hear English words that I have used and even Malayalam words I taught my family from my Indian heritage as the children rush around with my dog.

Cultural integration is my goal. My first goal in my service was to have a family here in this part of the world but what I didn’t realize was how hard it was going to be when I wake up and it is important to my goal as a future ambassador from my country to the country I serve to continue making peaceful connections and incredible relationships with the host nationals. It is important to teach your families and friends about your home family, your home town, your home state, and your home country but also about how different it was for you especially. How it was that you arrived in their world and what decision and choices your parents and friends and variables led you there. So when I worked hard for relationship with my village, I kept thinking of the future volunteers and how effective my service has been.

It was on my mind that I’d leave one day. Every sunrise and sunset, I would think about how I would deal with this and the truth is, I can’t deal with it. It will always be my home. It will always be where my feet settle and my heart lingered and instead of thinking of uprooting, I think of seedlings and cuttings where a part of my life will continue living without me. In their hearts, in their memories, and in their future, I was there and I will continue to live there.

But it doesn’t matter if the walls are sky blue, if the paint chips away, or if the lines of pencil that show how tall the children have grown fade away because I grew here, I lived here, and no matter how many sun rises happen without me, my last sunrise wouldn’t be the saddest one. Because I had too many days of life compared to one last day. So if nothing happens it means that an every day, normal daily life routine happened and that is just one fine to me.

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one day, I’ll have one last sunrise here

This is a place where I don’t feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home.
And now, it’s time to leave and turn to dust………..
Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the color of green
Ground had arose and passed its knees
By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top
I climbed the tree to see the world

“To Build A Home”
The Cinematic Orchestra

Time is There.

As I begin to explain the greatness of this country, the beauty of its resources and its grace, and as I begin to call this place a home, a resting place for my head, with a bed and almost over hundreds books read, a family, a nest, a treasure of love, great food, and routine, time woke me up and I saw that my time is coming to a close.

It hurts as 2016 started and I realized my Christmas with them would be my last Christmas with my host family. That after two birthdays, the next one would not be celebrated with an entire village singing my name. I see my close as my host mom cries seeing my house and thinking how any one else could live where I, Megha lives. How could she call someone’s name and not see my face, she says to me.

Its the brilliance of this program that the success is not in the tangible physical evidences but in the connections, the small glimpses of change and the brilliance radiates out because of our choice to give our time.

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I remind people who have given their time up to help me that they are valued, loved, and are the change that Zambia needs. They are the nameless plenty who strive to work hard and wish to be recognized but will never be accepted. They are the ones who give me their time and instead of staring at the oddity of the foreigner, extends their hand and greets me. They are the brilliance that radiates out. The connection that would hold me to the end of my service and the flecks of light that will shine when I dust off the memory of my time here.

Time is that resource that is constantly available and coming towards us but always rushing away and swept out. It is constant as is change. And the beautiful thing is, giving my time to this community is the gift that we Peace Corp volunteers and any volunteers of any organization and any country give for our peers and friends of our community. Our community, the world.

 

Time is plentiful. It will. Even if it runs out for you, it is constantly there and giving up that phrase, “I don’t have time,” is the first step. Because taking that time, and making connections with people that transcend distance, space, and income is important. It is important because it is one more person who is on your side. Who could make a difference because you made a difference for them.

 

Because you said hello. Because you were patient with their flaws and thought them your own. Because you decided to come to a country and try your best, they will see that trying the best is beneficial. I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted. And it makes me regret a lot. But never do I regret my choices to try and work my hardest, no matter what had happened in the last year.

 

Because I have gained love from people who are not related to me. I am loved by people who see me as their own. They don’t need me to save them, or do their programs. They made a friend and I made some friends and we worked together to make a difference where we could. And that’s more than I could ever ask for.

 

Take time. You have a lot of it. Don’t say you do don’t because maybe it’s not really important to you. It’s there if you just try. It’s there, that brilliant radiance of humans capable of love and connection that goes beyond lines, borders, countries, and blood.

 

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