Mar 12, 2009

…and for all that Sainte Luce, I am sorry!

‘Decision made to suspend PC Madagascar. Very sad. Process of leaving will be lengthy. Prepare tonight for consolidation and onward as flights are confirmed. STAY IN SITE. For now we must be able to find you!’

I read the text message last night as I was eating one my favorite loaka (side dishes) in Madagascar. As you can imagine my food quickly became tasteless.

As I tossed and turned all night, I continually had to reread the message on my phone…check that I didn’t dream it, make sure I understood it, the ‘reality’ of the situation was slowly creeping in.

I can’t say I have many regrets in my shortly lived life. Maybe I wish I played a particular sport, had the courage to ask out a particular girl, or wish that at times I pursued a particular path. But the decision that was made for me only a few hours ago will haunt me for the unforeseeable future. Here’s why…

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Peace Corps Experience

The Good—I think I do a good job summing up all the ‘good’ under my last post and throughout this blog. The ‘good’ is found in the lives you touch, the smiles you bring, and the relationships you build. It’s an indescribable experience, a bond that is shared with only other PC volunteers who are serving or have served, an experience that could never be captured in just a few words.

The Bad—I have also touched on throughout this blog. It’s the homesickness, the heat, the rain, the mold, the food (or lack of), the rats, the infections and persistent infections, and the leaky roofs. It’s the ‘labels’ you are given, the stereotypes you try desperately to break, and the harassment you endure.

We all know that we need the ‘bad.’ It compliments the ‘good.’ Without the ‘Bad,’ the ‘Good’ would never be as sweet, beautiful, or nearly as rewarding.

The Ugly—the ‘Ugly’ I hate. One joins Peace Corps naively overlooking it. I joined Peace Corps knowing I was in for a marathon. I endured training—pushing my comfort level beyond its limits. I knew this course was going to be hard, uncomfortable, and at times brutally unbearable. But nothing is worse than falling short of an overarching goal—crossing the finish line. To stop in the middle of a race and forced to walk off the course…it’s the feelings of defeat, humiliation, and failure all entwined.

The Bitterness of this Experience
Thoughts of my experience here in Madagascar will forever be sweet—this was a life enriching experience. But that sweetness will also be associated with a sharp bitterness. My community took me in as a ‘student,’ they shared their culture, beliefs, hopes, and fears. We laughed together, grieved together. We experienced the cold and the heat, times of plenty and moments of scarcity. They provided me with so much and in the end I feel I have done little to return the favor. This is a common feeling, so I have been told. Returned PC volunteers would agree— all volunteers get more out of their experience than they could ever have given in return. But my sharp bitterness isn’t just that. It’s rooted in the ‘if only…’ and the ‘what if…’ Because I have been forced off the course prematurely, I will never know my full potential as a Peace Corps Volunteer—it’s been taken. I will never know what obstacles I might have faced or what challenges I may have needed to be overcome. Ultimately, I will also never know the potential of my impact. What I could have built on—the relationships I worked so hard build and the trust I managed to create. All those lives I could have touched.

…and for all that Sainte Luce, I am sorry!


Anonymous said...

I am so, so sorry. I hope somehow you find a way to get the closure that you need.

Anonymous said...

Brendan, I am so sorry. I know how much you wanted to finish out your stay there.

Natalie said...

I'm so sorry you have to leave before you've done everything you feel you can do.

Jann said...

Hi Brendan,
I don't know how I will explain the situation in which you have found yourself to my 4th and 5th graders. They love hearing from you through your bolg - yes, I edit them!!!
We have learned so much from your time in Sainte Luce. Of course kids being kids they just loved the story of you losing part of your thumb - not because you were hurt, but because of the humor by which you shared the story.
I often shared your stories with the teachers at lunch - they did touch us and all agreed that you are an incredible writer and we always felt we were there with you. I am sad that you must leave because I know you and your friends are sad - but as a mother I am relieved you will be safe! You may not have been able to finish your tour, but the memories will be there forever - they will also be there for everyone who read your blog. You opened a new world to us here at Cedar Grove Elementary - students and teachers alike - thank you for that!

Anonymous said...

Brendan, in talking to your mom on a regular basis and reading your blog we know what a difficult decision this is for you. We are all very proud of everything you have done and how you have handled the last year. We know it has not been easy for you yet you have handled it with humor and a very positive outlook. Although you might not realize it now but I truly do believe you have touched more lives there and helped them more than you could ever imagine. Just know your family and friends love you, are proud of you and think you are an incredible young man that is a wonderful example of what is good in this world@! Love Aunt Georgia, Uncle Michael, Michael and Cory@!!!XOXOXO

Helen said...


I am an RPCV from Bolivia. I was evacuated last fall after escalating violence and some diplomatic mud-slinging. It was devastating.

I saw a blurb in the Washington Post this morning about you guys and my heart sank. Memories of the way I felt when I was told that PC/Bolivia was suspended flooded back, and man, I don't have to tell you that those feelings were (are) indescribable.

I left my site late one night for a consolidation, not knowing if I would ever return. I hope you were able to have some sort of closure, however rushed it may have been.

I have you guys (and Madagascar) in my heart.

Welcome to the strange club of PCVE's. That's right. Evacuees. It's an exclusive club, but not one I would say I cared to join...

Best of luck to you as you begin the process of picking up the pieces and figuring out what's next.

Helen Rortvedt

Anonymous said...

Brendan, you know the saying...for every door closed a new one opens. I knew the day you closed the door here (the other "mad adventure" called UWSEPA) and left for your new "adventure" that you would continue to spread hope, cheer, enthusiasm, among many other positives (the list is long) just by knowing you. You may not realize it but you have already "touched the lives" of many throughout the globe...I am honored to know you. This is only the next chapter for you....


Nadirah said...

! Not sure if you remember me but this is Nadirah (aZAFADY oCTOBER 2008 getting my hair braided by candlelight etc)) Louisa posted your blog. So sorry to hear you guys are being pulled. but now that you are out of the marathon you have time to stop and look at how you can touch more lives and try to figure out how you can give as much as you recieve. Good Luck

sleek327 said...

The Warden,

I hope you do find that closure and feel the solace that goes along with finishing something from start to finish. Not finishing a race is the only way I can relate and to me that feeling is one of the worst any individual could have (i did pull myself out of the Steeple after an Asthma attack, and yes i have a very mild case of asthma, lol)

I'm not going to give you a redundant cliche, or a good luck, rather you let me know when you're back in the states and we'll meet up and chat about the past, present, and future.

A lot has happened since you've been gone, a lot goin on now, and more importantly there's a lot more to come.

Holla back,