Never let the truth get in the way of a good story
I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging this past week. It’s been hard for me, this releasing my thoughts so freely into the world, wondering how you all, both here and back home, will react or perceive what I’m saying or experiencing. When I was in Peace Corps “for real” in Suriname I didn’t do a blog I just sent a mass email. When I came home I was sometimes surprised and disappointed about how people had interpreted or remembered my stories.
But the truth is it was completely my fault because I more often wrote about the otherness, the hard parts, the misunderstandings, rarely about the beauty or friendships or pleasure I found in Suriname. And obviously I found a lot of that or I wouldn’t have stayed for 2½ years. Those stories are in my memory but I’m not so sure they were in my emails.
I think my Surinamese or even Peace Corps friends would have been hurt or offended by some of the emails. But it was easy to write them because they weren’t reading them. If they had been I might have considered my words or my stories a lot more carefully. Many of them I couldn’t have told (especially if there had been Peace Corps staff reading).
You might have been bored. You might have come to visit.
For me, when I travel I like both the beautiful and the ugly. I like the challenge of not understanding what’s going to happen in two days or even ten minutes, of being a little lost, a little uncomfortable, a little scared. But for some I know that’s not true and my emails might have scared you away from a country like Suriname—the exact opposite of what I would have wanted.
And so this blogging thing, having my stories out in the open is difficult. It makes me think and rethink what I want to write about. Especially with Surinamese, Georgian and Russian friends all reading the blog. Especially when I’ve only been here a month and I don’t really know anything about Georgia yet. When I often get it wrong, whether it’s a misspelling or a complete misreading of a situation or relationship.
Add to that my interpretation of everything changes on an hourly basis. The smoke that bothered me my first week for instance. Did it really offend me or did it just make an interesting title and so I wrote about it. Would I have thought about it all that much if the person I was working with hadn’t been so obsessed with it? If I’d told the truth instead about my real challenge my first month, which had more to do with him than my host family. But he might read it and so I didn’t write about that.
It wasn’t even honest. Anymore than I was probably fully honest in my emails home from Suriname. Because I did take up smoking in Suriname. Not constantly, but fairly regularly— usually while hanging on my porch at night with a glass of rum. I even hung out with the cigarette promoters because they threw fun parties and really a job is a job when you have very few choices and I didn’t blame them. And lonely is extra lonely when you don’t have a TV or internet to fill the long hours.
Are the language barriers with my host family real and difficult? Sure, sometimes. But my instinct is to write about that as opposed to the kindness they’ve shown in taking me in, in refusing to accept any payment from Peace Corps, in arranging everything to suit my desires, my schedule, my strange eating habits, my odd need for solitude.
And so I sometimes feel bad about what I’ve written or worry that they will read it and be hurt or insulted. Misunderstand. Because I know I certainly would if I took someone into my home only to find out they were telling the world about my intimate relationships, my strange cat or drinking and eating habits. I would be hurt, angry.
And so I worry about this blogging thing and I adjust my blog and reinterpret what I’ve written in the past, what I will write about in the future, and apologize to friends for writing about them before telling them about it, or to my host family for putting a picture from their house up for the public to see when they don’t even know it’s there. Yet. And maybe I take out certain parts. Or maybe I don’t. And would I care at all if I knew for sure they’d never see it?