A few days ago was 1 month of being evacuated from Skopje, of being back in the U.S. I saw posts my friends made on social media, and I was tempted to make my own. But every time I sat down to write, I felt like I was flooded with too many thoughts and feelings to even begin to possibly explain. Every time I apply for a job stateside, or look at the idea of what I’ll do next, or have a deeper than surface level conversation about things, it’s like opening a Pandora’s box of all these questions and feelings:
I’m not really going back with Peace Corps, am I? Who’s to say the agency’s even going to recover from this? Will I really be able to keep cultivating these relationships the way I want to? When will I feel like I’m ‘back to normal’? When will it stop feeling like I was ripped away from something? Am I a terrible person for planning for options that may not include coming back with Peace Corps, even though I want to – even if it doesn’t feel realistic or possible?
And it’s hard. Sometimes it feels easier to just keep a lid on the box. Sometimes the seemingly never ending sympathy just feels like salt in the wound. But I take some solace in the words of one of my favorite poets, that even though I’m far away and things feel completely upside down, that this too shall pass, and it isn’t at all the end of things – just a different path.
How does a part of the world leave the world? How does wetness leave water? …what hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle. Your boundaries are your quest. I could explain this, but it will break the glass cover on your heart, and there’s no fixing that.Rumi
I’ve always found solace in the words of Rumi, and this one was a repeated mantra in a book I love, and it speaks to me more so in this uncertainty.
Languages for days –
As you may recall, April 8th was International Roma Day, and while I wasn’t present to share with my friends in Shutka, I decided that I could do something to commemorate the day, and put my language skills to the test. I wrote up a short text, did my best to translate it to Romani, and asked my friend/tutor to correct it. (It was mostly right!) I practiced it a bit, and created the below video (with subtitles). If nothing else, I can at least try to keep up my language skills a bit!
The video isn’t working to embed, but you can view it here!
Personal update –
So, I’m still in New York City — not traveling back to Seattle anytime soon, as even with a mask, I don’t want to risk exposure and potentially exposing my dad to anything, as it rather defeats the purpose of why I came to NYC in the first place – so I’m sticking around.
I’ve been applying to jobs in New York and Washington DC, trying to take advantage of the Non-Competitive Eligibility status that most volunteers have for a year after their service – basically it means a bit of extra access to certain federal jobs. It doesn’t guarantee a job, but it’s a bit more access to government postings. Also, evacuated Peace Corps volunteers recently became eligible for unemployment benefits, thanks to the efforts of Senators Murphy (CT) and Van Hollen (MD). Additionally, Peace Corps HQ recently announced a $1,500 wellness stipend for evacuated volunteers, so that’s a helpful bonus, as well.
Unrelated, but I’m hoping to start working on a video of sorts from my time in N. Macedonia, so stay tuned for developments there! And as always, please see below for some Roma-specific current events.
News links of interest – Romani issues during COVID-19 pandemic
- 9 month pregnant Roma woman dies outside hospital waiting for COVID-19 results | ERRC
- Turkey’s Roma cry for help as coronavirus claims more lives | Al Monitor
- Coronavirus ‘disproportionately impacting’ Ireland’s Roma community | Irish Times
- Coronavirus puts a spotlight on neglected Roma communities | The Spectator
- Coronavirus: Europe’s forgotten Roma at risk | DW
- Roma suffer under EU’s ‘environmental racism’, report concludes | The Guardian
- Coronavirus pandemic deepens despair and danger for Europe’s Roma | Irish Times
- Coronavirus: Slovakia to test Roma community | BBC