Helena and the PCV community

What I’ll miss in Indonesia #60

Peace Corps Volunteers are unbelievably codependent. It’s concerning. We should be studied. There is no privacy whatsoever, gossip is abundant, and group chats are a way of life. (There are group chats for people who love celebrities, for Star Wars fans, for every event that may occur, and for people who hate group chats, it’s absolutely insane.)

And I love it.

Everyone may know everyone else’s business and talk about it as if they are personally invested in the situation one way or the other, but this dysfunctional family has been the biggest support in my life the past two years.

Possibly the strangest part, is that this codependent (gossipy) culture is not limited to the volunteers ourselves, the staff generally knows more than the average PCV. The lines between boss and friend are very blurry. It takes some time to get used to when you come from an American working culture in which bosses are meant to be feared and kept separate from employees.

In Peace Corps (at least, PC Indonesia), our bosses are confidants and friends. It’s weird, but I’ve grown to love it.

I call my manager, Sari, to vent frequently. We talk to often, she knows to just let me talk myself out and then sprinkle some advice and I’m good to go.

I want to grow up to be our stylish, powerful, and fierce Director of Programming and Training, Amy.

And every time I go to the Peace Corps office (infrequently because it’s across the island in Surabaya, but still), I suddenly get the urge to work in an office, because of the fun, friendly atmosphere radiating from all of the staff.

One of my favorite staff members, Helena, is actually the low-key queen of PC Indonesia. I genuinely don’t know her official title anymore because she does everything. She coordinates our conferences, facilitates sessions, and listens to PC complaints, all while managing to raise the most adorable child I have ever seen in my life.

Watching Helena play with her daughter is enough to make me want to run out and buy matching tu-tus for me and my fictional future daughter who I have to have right now. They are always playing and having fun. I’ve never seen them not smiling while together.

While not being mom, Helena lays it down. She is the most real and down-to-Earth person I have met in Indonesia. Because of her time studying abroad, and her family heritage that categorizes her as a minority in Indonesia, she really understands the isolation and challenges PCVs face.

Working with Helena, I always know is going to be fun from the moment I see her to the moment we part, because of her understanding, yet unwillingness to take C%*# from people who whine while not trying. I practice her RBF in the mirror because it’s so nice while leaving the recipient slightly terrified. I’ve received this look from Helena, all it did was make me want to work harder to earn her respect.

She’s the low-key pirate queen on our crazy Peace Corps island, and people sometimes don’t give her the credit deserved. (I love you girl, keep rocking out!)

We have a wonderful and hardworking Peace Corps staff. We have a huge and oftentimes strange community presence in Indonesia, but I like to think we’re dysFUNctional.


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