Monday, August 18, 2014

Say "Yes" to Everything.*

*actually, don't. Here's why.

"Say yes to everything" is a piece of advice we get a lot from volunteers who have been in country longer than we have. I definitely understand the sentiment, and I even agree with it, but there are some times when you should absolutely say no. (To be fair, volunteers have said this, too, but more often, it's "Say yes!" without a qualifier.)

I had two packages at the Peace Corps office, which is in Chișinău, which is a 2.5 hour rutiera ride, so I have only made it once so far after coming to site. But I do have a friend 30 minutes away from me, so she picked up my packages for me (thanks again!) and kept them at her house until I could get them.

I planned to go get them Friday evening after work, so I attempted to ask my host mother when the rutiera left, and eventually she told me it was at 4:10. I knew the return bus came at 9, so I figured I'd have a little time to hang with Kelsey in between all the walking to and from her house after getting off the bus. My host mother happened to be near the bus stop when I was leaving so she saw me off, and away we went. 

Now, I've only been to Ștefan Voda once before, so I'm not 100% sure of the stops, but I know we're getting close when the bus stops and a man gets on. He says, "Cat, Cat!" I don't think he could possibly be talking about me but then he adds, "Americancă!" He wants me to get off the bus. I feel like I recognize him so I think maybe he is related to my friend - that's the only logical explanation in my mind.. How else would anyone know I'm coming? So I "say yes" and get off the bus - which was a mistake. 

I nervously follow him, unsure of where we are, but thinking we must be headed to a car that will take me to my friend's house..? We turn the corner and we're suddenly at a swimming pool and I see the man's wife and my heart sinks because I realize who these people are, and they are not who I came to see. They are friends of my host mother, at the pool celebrating their daughter's birthday, and they want me to stay and hang out with them. 

Naturally, I panicked. Their English-speaking son who doesn't exactly like to talk to me is not with them, so not knowing where I am + language barrier makes me freak out even more. They just tell me to call my friend and tell her I'll see her later, but I don't want to do that because I had a plan! Be flexible, sure. But to be fair, this situation came out of nowhere and I have no idea what to do. 

I tell them I want to go see my friend (or I try to, amid tears) so they call their son and tell him to come over WITH HIS BICYCLE. I don't even think about the fact that if I were to ride a bicycle without a helmet, I would just be sent home to America.. And I call my friend, freaking out. Luckily she's excellent in times of my crisis, AKA she is always quite calm while I am crying, and she tells me her address and says to get them to call me a cab. 

I go back into the pool area and the woman takes me over to some girls who are tanning, because she says one of them speaks English (I think they both did, really). The girl translates for me, saying that she thought we knew each other but then realized we were having trouble communicating so she thought she might be able to help. Which she did; she called a cab for me and waited with me for him to come. She talked to me and was very kind. The cab took me straight to my friend's house and I got to spend the rest of the evening with her before catching the last bus back. 

The only explanation I can think of for this situation is that my host mother called and told them I was coming, so they waited for the bus to come so they could pull me off of it. (This is naturally quite frustrating to me, as the whole thing fills me with anxiety just thinking about it.)

So that's why I don't think you should say yes to everything! I didn't know where I was and 100% should not have gotten off the bus with a man who I only sort of recognized, but weird things happen so often here that I can't yet tell which of them are good and which of them are not so good! The trouble is, I've only been here for a little over 2 months, so I can't yet distinguish between things that make me nervous because they aren't the best idea and things that make me nervous just because they are something new. I've also got no way of knowing if more time will even help me to make that distinction. 

Hopefully I can learn to figure out the difference between things to say yes to (like going to the store with someone, meeting a new person in the village, going to another part of the building to help someone with something) and things not to (if they make me uncomfortable or if I really just need to be alone), and hopefully everyone else can figure this out too. New experiences and situations are a good thing (and can be the best thing!) but sometimes, occasionally.. it's better to stay on the bus. 

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