I have been in Georgia now for fifteen months and it feels a whole lot longer than that. Exactly how much longer I cannot say; but, time is sure not flying by. I've been thinking about this topic for some time now and am convinced that my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer has considerably slowed down the passing of time for me.
Now, sometimes when people talk about the slowing down of time it is thought of as a negative. For example, time goes so slowly when you are doing something that you don't want to do -- going to the dentist is an example that is widely used. And the flip side to that is time goes faster when you are doing stuff that you like; for example, being with friends or doing something that you really like so that the day or whatever seems to just speed by. So, my question to myself has been why has the time I've spent here in Georgia feel and occurring for me at a slower pace?
I believe there is a couple of reasons, the first being that this experience is so unique I don't really have much history to compare it to. You see, I have never lived abroad. I have traveled quite a bit and visited, at last count, thirty-two countries, but as we all know living and visiting are two different things. Every day of my living experience here in Georgia provides an element of surprise for me. I am not really sure what I will discover in this new culture when I wake up. Learning the language is one part of that; as for example, maybe yesterday I could not understand what people were talking about and today I can. I am often invited and find myself in places that I have never been to and get to meet all kinds of people that often are different from one day to the next. This is not the same-old-same-old experience. My life is not "same stuff-different day" I can assure you of that. The unpredictability of it initially threw me off balance. But, over the course of time I have grown to know that, if nothing else, it will not be dull or routine.
Maybe this unpredictability is a result of all the new first things in the first year of service; but I fully anticipate that the second year will be filled with as many new adventures just as the first year. I don't believe I have really scratched the surface of what is available here. I still don't understand many of the traditions and I sure don't understand the people.
I can also tell you that the slowing down of time has not been a negative. I don't say "when will this day ever end?" I just marvel much of the time as to how much has been compacted into a day or a week. If it was not for my days of the week on my vitamin containers I honestly would not know what day it was.
The second reason is that I have become more "awake" or "present" to the world around me and what my being here in Georgia represents. As a Peace Corps volunteer and a representative of the United States I am very proud of my role here in Georgia. I know that in my past life I was on auto-pilot a lot of the time. So much of my life was predictable that most times I knew what was going to happen before it did (or at least had a sense of what was to happen -- sound familiar anyone?). I had a great life but it was set up for ease and comfort and that didn't allow for things changing too much. I know you are saying, those were my choices; and yes, that is true, but the downside for me was that my days, weeks and years were just flying by. It is my belief that because life here is so different, difficult and unpredictable I really need to pay close/closer attention to the every day events and that in and of itself has filled my mind and expanded time.
I often spend some time before I go to sleep thinking about all the happenings of the day and sometimes thinking how could so much have happened since I woke up? I asked: "Is today still Monday?" There are nights when I am just so excited about something new I discovered or anticipating something that will happen in the coming days/weeks that I just cannot fall asleep. Maybe the slowing of time has resulted because life for me is difficult, unfamiliar and unpredictable here in Georgia and all of this is so welcomed. As an older woman (and volunteer) I have already lived more of my life years than I yet have to live and anything that slows down the aging process and time to enjoy it is very welcome. My Peace Corps experience has done just that!