Before I joined Peace Corps, when I was reading everything I could about it, I kept coming across the topic of loneliness. It seemed to be one of the most difficult issues volunteers faced during their service. Most blogs and vlogs I read and watched talked about how lonely it got at times. Even the Peace Corps recruiter asked me about loneliness in my interview.
I have never been a person who gets lonely. I am an introvert and I love being left alone to read, write, listen to podcasts, build websites, or one of the many other weird things I enjoy. When I heard about loneliness in the Peace Corps I knew it would not affect me. I thought being alone would be my favorite part of the job. It turns out I was wrong.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer I have learned that there is a difference between loneliness at home and loneliness in a foreign country. Here in Fiji, I sometimes experience a feeling of loneliness deeper than I ever thought possible. During these periods of loneliness I have often thought of why I feel differently here than when I am in America and I have come up with a few possible reasons.
First, I do not have a single true friend or family member here. I have my adopted Fijian family and my Peace Corps friends, sure. But they have only known me for a maximum of two years and I hardly ever see the other volunteers because my village is so remote. Sometimes, after a crappy day, all I want is to call someone I have known since elementary school and go get a beer with them, or invite them over to play billiards like I used to. But all I can do is lie in bed alone, or go out and hang out with my village friends who do not know me very well.
Also, I do not have a single person near me who understands my culture or speaks my language the way an American would. This is obvious, and one of the reasons I joined Peace Corps, but it is difficult. I have always loved the mornings. Everyone says good morning to each other and looks happy to be alive another day. Here, I miss that. Sometimes I just want people to walk by me and say “Good Morning,” instead of “Yadra”.
Lastly, I miss the things I used to do with people. Here in Tawake, when I want to socialize, that means sit around on benches talking to people or drink kava at night. Often times I do not want to do either of those things, so I end up staying in my house and reading a book. I love a good book, but sometimes I just wish I could go play put-put golf with a friend.
Ultimately, I think this loneliness is good for me. It has not torn me apart or made me go crazy. I am extending my service for a third year, afterall. Being lonely has given me time to learn more about myself, improved my work ethic, and when I go back to the States I will appreciate the time spent with friends and family more than I ever did before.