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Forgiveness in the Peace Corps

It’s hard to believe that it has already been about 17 months since my arrival in Indonesia in March of 2015 for my Peace Corps (PC) service. Throughout this past year, I have learned a great amount about my host country and have been challenged in every aspect possible: physically, mentally, culturally and spiritually. I have also built some great relationships with my host family, my school and my village, and my fellow volunteers – would not be this far in my service without them – thank you!

The biggest thing I learned about being a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) is: to excel in one’s service, it’s not only about being versatile and passionate, it’s also about one’s ability to forgive. The majority of the time, a PCV is the first foreigner their site will meet and natural curiosity about the person arises. As a result, a PCV often becomes the center of attention wherever they are. We lose the anonymity and freedom that we once had (and took for granted) in the United States. Furthermore, as a female volunteer, our position of respect from the locals becomes subordinate compared to men. Hence, our experiences here is radically different from our male volunteers.

The adjustment every PCV experiences is challenging and dissimilar, and thus forgiveness has become the most important character trait for my PC service.

Forgiving the strangers that stare and laugh at us on the street, forgiving our counterparts for not attending class, forgiving the people who question us about our identity because we don’t look like the Americans they see in the media, forgiving those who ask us uncomfortable questions because they are curious, forgiving our friends for their trespasses, and forgiving ourselves for making a mistake or losing control of our emotions from time to time.

There are enough obstacles as it is in our daily PCV life, and to hold resentment will only make us more bitter toward the country that once inspired us. I have learned that by embracing forgiveness, you will also embrace emotional well-being as well as a healthier outlook that enables you to accomplish more at site (relationship building, leadership camps, co-teaching, and other projects). What makes a PCV successful in Indonesia is a forgiving heart.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. – Mahatma Gandhi.

We can’t change an entire culture or education system in the short time that we are here, and we can’t force our ideologies onto every person we meet in Indonesia. However, we can stimulate our students’ perspective on life and inspire our local community to aspire for more.

With all the challenges this past year, this is still the toughest job I will ever love and will forever be thankful for. Here’s to our second year of PC bliss!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views or opinions of the United States Government or the Peace Corps.

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