Just before departing for Washington D.C. for staging (the 1-day-welcome-to-the-peace-corps-orientation one receives just before flying to country) I told friends and family that I was going to give myself three weeks before really checking in and assessing my progress. When asked why, I tried to explain that I just wanted to create the space to struggle without judging myself, a bad habit I tend to have towards many aspects of my life. I figured if I wasn’t even allowed to judge or assess my own progress for the first three weeks it might help me just experience it. Whenever I would start to worry about my progress, or feeling like a lack thereof, I would repeat poco a poco and remember that I would check in with myself at the end of week three.
And here I am. I just finished my third week of PST, of living with a host family in Nicaragua, of trying to learn Spanish. Time for a real check-in.
At my university, my friends and I would often check in with each other by asking how our PIES were. When we write to each other today, we still sometimes use the acronym to update each other on our Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual health. During PST, I’m hoping to personally check my PIES every three-ish weeks. I thought I’d share my first round with you:
P – Physically, PST is quite an adjustment. I’ve been eating really well, but it’s quite different from what I was accustomed to eating in the states. My diet consists mainly of rice, beans, chicken, and some vegetables and fruits scattered in the mix. As far as food goes, I’m pretty spoiled, as my host mother is a fantastic cook! My tummy is adjusting and I haven’t had any real serious gastrointestinal issues yet. I’m also adjusting to a different sleeping schedule. I wake up early as there’s always some noise going on in Nica. By 6 pm, I’m exhausted. I think my brain is just working overtime in trying to speak, listen, and learn Spanish that by the early evening I have no energy left. Last night I stayed up past 10 pm, and that was quite a feat! Slowly, but surely, my body is adjusting to the new stimuli. Three weeks in, I feel pretty good. I’ve even been working out with my training mates at least once a week.
I – Intellectually I’m doing fantastic! I wish I could explain how much I’ve loved learning the past three weeks. My brain is exploding with new information. It’s way too much to possibly take in and make sense of, but I’m loving the chance to just be a student again. I have class for around 7 hours a day, then homework in Spanish and English, not to mention prepping for classes we’re now teaching at the local school, and running a youth group. I study with my site mates, Andrés, and solo almost daily. There is rarely a moment during the day where I am not studying or learning something new. I’m really proud of my progress thus far. I know so much more than I did three weeks ago! I can’t wait to see what the next three weeks brings.
E – Emotionally has been a bit harder, but overall positive. For the most part I’ve been too busy to be emotional. I’ve waivered between stress and excitement, joy and sadness–the typical ups and downs of living in a new place. I’d be lying if I said I’ve not felt sad, scared, or homesick, but those feelings are rare and a natural part of transitioning. Being separated from my spouse is annoying, but OK. Missing family/friends in the states is a reality for the next 2+ years, but our Nica host families are incredible and we’re beginning to make friendships here that have the potential to be life-long. The majority of the time I’ve been embracing this new experience as the positive, exciting, and tremendous opportunity it is!
S – Spiritually, I’ve been seeking balance and wellbeing in the mornings, before others are up and around. I’ve been taking the time before I start my day to do a little yoga, to journal, pray, meditate, to root myself in love and light. It’s helped me shed any frustration or sadness from the previous day and embrace the new day with all it has to offer. It’s helped me not become overwhelmed with how much there is for me to learn. Instead, I greet each day ready for the opportunity to learn and grow in ways I never knew were possible. These practices have helped my other areas of wellbeing too: managing my emotions, allowing me to enjoy my intellectual challenges, and physical movement though yoga. That hour or two in the mornings I use to take care of myself is incredibly important for not becoming burnt out or overwhelmed.
May I be able to set aside self-judgment and worry for the next three weeks until I check in with myself again. May the next three weeks be physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually growth-oriented. And may you also take the opportunity to check in with yourself and see where you can find more wholeness and light in your own life.
I’d love to hear how you are doing. What are your PIES? Write them in the comments below.