This blog is dedicated to all the people who have approached me and asked…
“Should I join the Peace Corps?”
Well, here are my thoughts.
10 Thing to think about before taking the plunge:
1. Am I ok with awkward moments?….(throughout the Peace Corps, I have experienced the most awkward moments of my life…just pull me aside anytime and ask) Looking back, they were somewhat humorous, as most awkward moments tend to become over time.
2. Is a toilet really necessary? (remember, this is 2 years we’re talking!)
3. Am I ok with dogs/snakes/bugs/spiders/scorpions/bats/(this is just the gist) living near me, touching me/my food…..(I don’t know how many bugs I ate in my bowl of oatmeal every morning…by accident of course)
4.Do I feel comfortable being alone? (This goes especially for women) I don’t want to scare anyone, the Peace Corps does inspect sites/living situations and have an incredible safety and security department….however, it’s something to think about. Whether to take that free tai chi class at the YMCA? Perhaps a good idea =) (This coming from a girl who accidentally got mace through airport security and on the plane…oops)
5. Do I like rice?…like…like rice enough to eat it….a lot….like, really like it….or, how long can I eat peanut butter until the fish head looks appealing?
6. Am I willing to learn a new language?
7. Do I like to read? (No xbox in the Peace Corps…not normally)
8. Am I up for an adventure (A two year adventure)
9. Am I willing to miss birthdays, weddings, funerals, reunions, etc.? (but realize birthdays/celebrations/holidays etc. will still happen where you are, just with a (insert assigned country name here) twist…which is a humbling experience. You will make friends with people in your community and other (PCVs)Peace Corps Volunteers*(see footnote)
10. Ask the question…am I running from something? If you have problems in the States..face it, you will have problems in another country. This is not to say if you have problems, don’t join the Peace Corps. This is simply to convey that the Peace Corps will not make your problems go away…however, it will give you a lot of time to think about them!
10 Things to know if you join the Peace Corps
1. Be frank with your advisor. If you are unwilling to poop in a bucket or a stream, if you are not ok with hiking 3 miles with a gas tank in hand, if you are not ok with an island boat access site. “Diga!” or “Speak Up!” Be completely honest with how far you are willing to go…Don’t try and be strong, because realize, this is not a weekend trip, this is a 2 year experience.
2. Patience is key. Life (especially in Latin America) is slowww. For example, if a meeting is planned, expect people to show up anywhere form 2-3 hours later. If in doubt, and the meeting criteria is crucial, advertise and provide food.
3. Don’t expect people to show up. I can’t stress enough…advertise food.
4. Listen. I feel that one of my major roles and contributions as a PCV was simply listening to people and their problems, this is why people will remember you- even if the conversation just states the obvious…”So, you’re eating…” “Yes, I’m eating.” “So, it’s raining” ”Yes, it’s raining” ”So, you’re pretty wet, huh” “Yes, well I have been drier” ”So you’re (insert verb here….) and the list goes on. That said, listening is an incredible tool that will win the heart of anyone.
5. People will not always see it your way, and sometimes, accepting that is the only way to go. Conflicts will arise, be humble, accept the fact you are not getting your way, that perhaps your way isn’t always the right way, and move on.
6. One of the coolest/scariest things about the Peace Corps is the impact you can have on others lives. The big “Peace Corps Boss” is not watching every move you make through a hidden spy camera. So, a Peace Corps experience relies 100% on the volunteer. If you want to sit in a hammock and do sudoku for 2 years, do it, if you want to play soccer and eat fried bananas for 2 years, do it, if you want to teach a 60 year old woman how to read and write, do it… if you want to , yatta yatta yatta, do it! Don’t rely on others (PC office staff, other volunteers, NGO’s) to help you. Sometimes they will…sometimes, it’s all you.
7. …That being said, most times, volunteers are trained for 10 weeks, and after that, adios, see you in 2 years. In the Peace Corps, volunteers do not do projects as “experiments,” on communities. The projects are initiated with the intent of in some way bettering the quality of life in a community. So, anything you do, does have effects, both positive/and or negative. Do your research.
8. Things your mother thinks are inappropriate at the dinner table become regular Peace Corps Volunteer casual conversations:
“Dude…I just ate..”
“Man…I just pooped…” *(see footnote)
“Hey, what’s this thing on my leg?”
“I”M SO ITCHYYYYYYYY x 365 days x 2)
(These become regular conversations for a reason…and if you can’t handle that…keep your day job)
9. If you are lucky enough to have phone signal…even if you HAVE signal, this is a common phrase that comes to mind…the commercial was funny, the reality of it …not so much..
“Can you hear me?(in hut)
Can you hear me now?(on porch with 1000 little kids looking at you funny)
Can you hear me NOW? (after running on top of the highest hill in community)…..
10. I know this is cliche, but it’s true. Wherever you go, this experience will change you and probably mean more to you than anyone else. I don’t mean this in a negative way. Sometimes in doing jobs such as the Peace Corps, one thinks, I want to go change people…sorry, probably won’t happen..but is that even really necessary? At the end of your service you have given people another view of the world (yours) and they give you a bit of theirs (believe me, you will get it whether you want it or not) You have done your job. And you will be changed.
*One of my most memorable/interesting conversations involved me trying to explain Thanksgiving to my community friends. As PCVs, we all meet for Thanksgiving in the mountains for a day or two. During this time we cook a GIANT feast together, throw a football, and celebrate as if we were at home! Sounds great..and it is. However, explaining to my community friends why I would be gone for a few days to celebrate this holiday was a bit of a challenge. I lived in a community of 160 indigenous people.
What was I supposed to say.. “Well…we came over on a boat, met this cool indian princess and her tribe…and…………….Massacred them and gave them diseases…”
I stuck to the disney version.
*After returning from Panama..I later realized I had brought some of Panama with me, a nine and half inch worm. Well you know how the saying goes, you can take the girl out of Panama, but you can’t take Panama out of the…..you get the idea..and the good news is that with medication, you can.
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