By Lucy Hamer - Peace Corps Volunteer, Albania (2014 - 2016)
My hand was always raised.
"Teacher, call on me," I pleaded.
"Call on me, teacher, because I know."
I know the answers here, as simple as adding five and five, as advanced as debating the very meaning of life.
I know the answers here and I know that I can always know, because I know that here I am in control.
I know that now is my time to exist, because I know that outside of here, I haven't a place in this society.
Outside of here, my name is daughter, meant only to adhere to the whims of my father.
At home I learn that my mind doesn't matter, destined to submit like that of my mother.
So my hand was always raised.
Then there was no teacher and only one question remained to answer:
"When are you getting married?"
And that question revolved over and over and over again,
until my hand grew so heavy, heavy, heavy that it came to the floor,
joined there by the other to together create Home.
But consider these cracks in my skin, the aches in my joints that make it impossible to raise these arms again,
see these as the exertion of my heart.
For it is with these hands that I have created and maintained my home. But,
I watch now as my own daughter goes to school and her hand is always raised.
And I look down at mine, knowing that one day hers, like mine, will be betrayed.
And I can't help but wonder if there will be a time when we needn't hide our intellect from the eyes of tradition.
A time when we can decide our place in our home.
A time when our hands, our minds and our hearts can be raised as one.
This poem was entered in the Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. The contest received more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.