My name is Olivia.
I document my adventures in Madagascar as a Peace Corps Volunteer, with the mission to share culture and empower others through my writing.

A Long Distance Holiday: What it's like for a sister of a Peace Corps Volunteer

The following post is a guest entry by Molly Prentzel, sister of PCV Olivia Prentzel

When my sister told me she thought it would be a cool idea for me to write an entry on her blog, I brainstormed with the following opening lines:

Change is the only constant.

Christmas is the worst holiday.

I felt so naked.

The theme of my entry went from abstract to flat-out-weird really quickly. Clearly, I was flopping aimlessly, trying to organize the feelings I meant to express about not having my sister around for the holidays. The (only) redeeming factor in my minor stint of writer’s block was that it eventually helped me make sense of my jumbled thoughts. During a time of year that is hyper focused on spending time with family, I initially presumed that I was supposed to write about the struggles of becoming an only child for the next two years. I wrote my first draft around themes of loss and a feeling of absence. After all, my sister and I are less than a year apart, so we’ve been kicking it together since day one. (I guess technically speaking it would have been her 283rd day, but you get the point.)

Then, in a moment of clarity, I remembered that I have an amusing and profoundly intelligent younger brother to hang out with, so I scratched that idea (just kidding Pepper, I could never forget about you!) Once my fingers and brain began to work in sync and coherent thoughts were finally coming to fruition, I realized that I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth if all I described were how much I missed laughing about bagel flavors together (don’t ask) and driving down the shore in my sister’s convertible VW Beattle, Sallie. If I continued to lament on these negative emotions, I would be glazing over the most important part of her being gone for the holidays. The truth is, while there has never been more physical space between my sister and I, we have never been closer.

Livie’s service in Madagascar has affected me in a way that has been nothing but positive. I won’t lie - I initially resented the fact that she was applying to be a Peace Corps Volunteer when I was the one to originally express my dreams to serve. I’ll admit that I didn’t care about how many colors of socks she needed when she insisted on quadruple checking her packing list with me at midnight on the eve of her departure. And I sure as heck couldn’t hide my tears as we said goodbye for the last time while both of our feet were still firmly planted in American soil. However, as she persistently posts photos of her smiling students, as she continues to accept and be accepted by an unfamiliar culture, and as she perseveres in a life without running water or electricity with an open mind (and some hand sanitizer), I feel nothing but inspired.

I didn’t expect my sister to become one of my biggest role models throughout this process. With the exception of my worldly grandparents, there is no one else that fuels my fire to pursue my ambitions in accomplishing something meaningful in life (even if I don’t know what that is just yet), quite like she does. Quitting her three jobs, leaving her friends, and parting with her weird but wonderful siblings, were all sacrifices she made in order to make the world a little bit of a better place. While she prompts her 10-year-old students to spell the English alphabet with their elbows and hosts Saturday vocabulary lessons on the floor of her tiny home, she exudes everything a good English teacher should. When she publishes articles about an emotional journey in embracing her inner beauty and documents the value in relationships despite major cultural contrasts, she transforms into a teacher of humanity. 

I was encouraged to write an entry about my experience as a sibling of a PCV, with a focus around the holiday season. If you are still reading, you’ll realize I mostly left the tinsel and fruitcake out of this. Again, as much as I will miss hanging out in our pajamas on Christmas morning and making faces at each other as we try to stomach Aunt Jane’s pheasant dinner (sorry, Aunt Jane), I know that it’s worth the time apart. Without her courage, the window to another world would be closed and lessons of humanity may have gone unlearnt. With a clear mind and some tired fingers I tuck away the melancholy feelings about not having my sis around for a little while – after all, I’ll be visiting in July ;) 

Fruits of the road, familiar faces and feelings of family

Fruits of the road, familiar faces and feelings of family

A Celebration of Life: A Look Inside Madagascar’s Atandroy Funeral Customs

A Celebration of Life: A Look Inside Madagascar’s Atandroy Funeral Customs