Dear Meredyth,

I know it’s a random topic but I want to tell you what I learned about comparative analysis. I learned the value of comparative analysis in college, it’s the method that helped me get A’s on my research papers and I loved it. I still do, but for its academic value not as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I can’t say I never make comparisons, but I am learning.

If I don’t force myself to remove my comparative lenses then I will not last long here at all. Everything here is so different than what I grew up with, language, customs, values, everything, different cannot mean better or worse though, just different. That’s the key; you can’t attach value to comparative observations. Its impossible to compare Botswana with America, especially for me because I am so incredibly biased. I would become bitter, burned out and bummed if I held onto comparisons in daily life here. I would become that stuck up, bossy American and then I would never make meaningful relationships with the Batswana, which is the only way to be successful at this job.

This “job” is the tricky part, it’s impossible to compare but almost as impossible not to compare my “job” with other PCVs. This is the best way to get good and depressed, just think about all the “good stuff” my friends are doing and accomplishing and I feel like a big ol’ failure. I have to keep in mind that everyone is different, different skills and preferences. Also, in Peace Corps, circumstance dictates what a PVV does more than anything else. When I get jealous that my friends are more “productive” than me, I have to remind myself the combination or luck and preferences shape the job that we each do here.

In America I was constantly comparing things, my grades, my clothes, my job prospects, my intelligence, my wit and my body. Here In Botswana, there is just no one in my village who makes me feel like I need to be more fashionable, or fit or poor. I still try to look nice because it makes me feel good, and because the teachers will scold me for torn or dirty clothes. I still like to run because it gives me peace of mind in the mornings, but I am much more relaxed about diet and exercise. Here in Africa, with so many comparisons gone, I have to realize that I am just me and it’s not exactly who I thought I was.

So really what I am saying is that I am in a perpetual identity crisis, sometimes its effin scary but sometimes it reveals the awesomeness that is me.

All my love,

Julia F. Byrd