Change is a significant part of life. Sometimes it’s involuntarily, and other times we initiate it. Regardless, it takes courage to adapt to new circumstances.
I found out a couple of months ago my friend, Bonnie, had joined the Peace Corps. Yes- I was extremely proud, who wouldn’t be? Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder how on Earth you adjust to something like that. I’d studied abroad several times, but that was different. If you needed cough medicine or tampons, you'd just run down the street to the grocery store or pharmacy. It wasn’t going to be that easy for her in a tiny village located in a developing country.
Naturally, I went directly to Bonnie to hear her candid perspective. Here's what she had to say:
Tell us a bit about why you’re joining the Peace Corps, how long you’ll be there, and what you’ll be doing.
"I have always wanted to volunteer for the Peace Corps. From a young age, service has been a big part of my life. This is due, in large part, to my Dad who instilled strong values of community, kindness, and giving in me on a daily basis. My passion for service has dictated my entire career path and I think it's just as important to serve internationally as it is nationally. I am going to serve in Guatemala for two years with my primary focus being Youth Development."
Do you have any concerns about adjusting to the lifestyle in Guatemala?
"My primary concerns are being accepted by my community and properly integrating into it. Guatemalan culture encourages strong interpersonal relationships between family and friends. Therefore, as a result of cultural and linguistic barriers, my integration into the community may be prolonged. Other secondary concerns include: adjusting to a new diet and cold showers. Since my diet here includes lots of sweets, I'm worried I might go through a major sugar withdrawal. Also- I have never taken a cold shower in my life."
Have you thought about any challenges you may face in accessing birth control or period products?
"In regards to birth control, I will have to try to get a two-year long supply of the Pill before I leave. When I was first accepted to serve, I scheduled an appointment to get an IUD. I did a lot of research and settled on the Skyla IUD because it is small and designed for women who have not been pregnant before. It also provided protection for 3-5 years which was perfect for my amount of service. However, on the day of the appointment I backed out last minute and got a prescription for the Pill.
Realistically, I should reschedule the appointment soon and have it inserted once and for all so that if I do experience negative side effects (my initial fear), I’ll experience them before I go away. But, at this point in time, I am going to stick with the Pill.
In regards to feminine hygiene products, I no longer get my period on the Pill so I don’t have to worry about them."
How have you been preparing to face any of these obstacles?
"I have mostly been doing a lot of research. There are hundreds of Peace Corps Volunteer blogs to read that are rich with information about preparing to face these challenges. As I continue to weigh the pros and cons of the Pill vs IUDs, I will be sure to look to what other volunteers said was best for them."
Do you think women's health is important to the Guatemalan community?
"Since I have not yet gone to Guatemala and lived within the community, I can't personally speak about the state of women's health in Guatemala. However, as with many developing countries, I am willing to bet there is a general lack of education regarding women's health, and even health in general. In addition to Youth Development, another position for Peace Corps volunteers is Health Education. I imagine a strong emphasis is placed on women's health since women's primary role in the Guatemalan community is within the home and with the family."
*This interview was conducted by email. Names have been changed for privacy purposes.