Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Crazy Ghana Me

They warn you that the Peace Corps will be stressful, that it will be challenging; they even manage to slip in a few stories about a few mental breakdowns. These things are expected, in the very least they are ingrained. What isn't expected is the fact that these 'little breakdowns' occur daily, from moment to moment, that they will catch you off-guard and have the potential to derail an entire day.

It's not often I get to meet Crazy Me and Ghana Crazy Me is an anomaly all her own. CGM (the Peace Corps loves its acronyms) is prone to random fits of tears, completely unprovoked; CGM rides a roller coaster of giddy highs and sleepy, drowsy lows; CGM is prone to narcoleptic fits because she likes to think too much and when she does think, she revisits ridiculous, long-dead memories that seem to tap on the door at night. CGM is not over the things I thought I was over. I'm pretty sure she never got over them and has been holding onto them, hoping to have pity parties (table for one) at the most inconvenient times. I do not like CGM.

It's unbelievable how something small, like having moving cell-phone reception (it, quite literally, moves about the room in varying degrees) or broken zipper, can make CGM crash and burn. It's like having a dramatic roommate who uses your pillow as a tissue every time something goes remotely wrong (which just so happens to be all the time). CGM affects everything (or, rather, everything seems to affect her) and in the same twelve-minute span, I can feel exuberant about Ghana and my role here, excited about all of the possibilities, and quite suddenly fall into a terrible anxiety about existing alone, with an entirely different culture/language/existence than anything I've ever known. 

In addition to constant mental and emotional challenges, an under-estimation of how strongly this experience can affect morale, means that any PCV is prone to unprovoked, intense reactions to the smallest things. Turns out, the Peace Corps involves an inordinate amount of introspection (and the opportunity for intense conversations with the self about those deep, inner conflicts). It's like taking a particularly rainy day  and splashing in the puddles until it's fun again.

Now, it should be clarified that I'm not entirely sure I'm ready to sucker-punch any of my demons just yet. It should be clarified that these random fits catch me completely unaware and make it quite uncomfortable to be around myself. But this is Ghana - and not just any Ghana, it's Peace Corps Ghana. If the statistics are right, and the shock of being a PCV is equivalent to 3x the death of a spouse, 4x the loss of a job, or 5x the jailing of a family member, then I am in for one hell of a ride ... and CGM has full reign of the vehicle.

I guess I'd better find a pillow and break out the popcorn for what might be the most entertaining drama I've ever seen. I'm sure you've heard of it. It's the one starring me, and you've got front row seats.