What is the returned Volunteer to do ? It helps, of course, to know that readjustment is coming ; you may still be thrown by the experience, but you’ll get up quicker. It can also help to know how it evolves. For most Volunteers, readjustment unfolds in three distinct stages.
The first stage is a period of great excitement and joy, when you’re thrilled to see everyone and they’re thrilled to see you. Typically, you spend this period traveling around visiting relatives and friends, being welcomed enthusiastically wherever you go. For the moment you are a kind of hero, and because you don’t stay too long in any one place, no one tires of your tales.
This period is followed, a month or so later, by the second stage. This is when people really do have to get on with their lives and, no offense, but shouldn’t you be doing the same? This is the stage the average returned Volunteer isn’t ready for. During this period, you will run up huge phone bills calling other RPCVs, spend many waking hours hating and refusing to adjust to America and scheming madly to get back overseas. You will actively resist adjustment, fearful that it will somehow cheapen and diminish all that has happened to you. An RPCV from Costa Rica observes:
I’m afraid I may be becoming readjusted. Readjusted would take me back to what i was before. I think of it as being back in the mainstream grind. I want life to be slower paced. It helps me remember what I lived like overseas. I don’t think I’ll ever totally readjust. I hope I don’t.
In the third stage, you beging to make your peace with being at home. You find work or go back to school or continue with your retirement activities. You meet interest, decent people, who oddly enough, were never in the Peace Corps. You identify as much with the present and the future as with the past. You’re even starting to become a bit more objective – about America and about your overseas country. You see that carving out a new life for yourself back home doesn’t have to mean that the Peace Corps never happened.