Monday, May 23, 2011

A look in

Lately, there has been a lot of coversation over the effectiveness of Peace Corps. The onset of the 50th anniversary most likely has Peace Corps under the microscope. Or it could be the outrage of the murder case in Benin. Either way, I have been debating this since my first CD asked the question, "Should PC still be in the Eastern Caribbean?". Truth is, originally I wanted to scream out "NO!". After being here for a third year, my answer has changed.

It's been three years of arguing with people about these 3 things:
1. No, I am not a tourist. (locals)
2. No, I am not just on a two year vacation sitting and drinking margaritas on the beach. (Americans)
3. Yes, I do have a REAL job. (both)

After three years, I just learn to laugh at all three. What surprised me the most before was that no matter what you tell people, they just continue to say it. People listen, yes, but have a hard time understanding.

I have said that before, and I will be saying it for the rest of my life: you can say all you want, but the only person that understands Peace Corps is Peace Corps.

On to the next....

I was recently asked by my new CD why is it I chose to extend? And what contributed to me wanting to stay? My answer was surprising. I said, "Even though there are ups and downs in service, I have learned how to have balance...and this balance is what makes me love the island." Of course, there was a little more to it than that, but that was the jist.

At the same time I was saying this my new CD has sent out a letter written by a PCV in Mali from 20 years ago. His entire letter was about the importance of creating a balance in your service. You truly are the person that decides what your service is going to be. Even 20 years ago in Mali, there was a huge expat community and plenty of opportunity to spend time with other PCVs. It is up to you if you use the time to spend with locals. It is up to you to choose how much effort you put into a project. It is up to you to gain something from the experience.

This does not mean that Peace Corps has lost its significance. If anything, it has gained some. Nowadays, people have so much to do and so little time, they forget about the importance of everything they do. This is an opportunity to remember. People have gotten so wrapped up in how much money they make and what kind of car they drive. This is an opportunity to push that aside. People lose the face to face contact with others and work behind a computer. This is an opportunity to get back into the community. People think development work means to build something, bring in new technology or introduce ways to make money. This is an opportunity to know more.

There are plenty of areas in which the PC can improve in. But let's talk about the areas that PC does well in. While they have gotten a little too big, PC has allowed more volunteers to experience whatever they choose to experience. This is where I feel the PC is not the one that is disappointing like most articles will contribute to. It is up to the individual to take what they have and make something out of it. Yes, we could use a little more training prior. However, it is impossible for development work to be traced out 100% prior to the experience.

To be continued....