- Mission one of Peace Corps: Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need by trained men and women
- Mission two of Peace Corps: Helping promote a better understanding of Americans' on the part of the peoples served.
- Mission three of Peace Corps: Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
I was listening to the radio yesterday on a drive and the dj's were talking about a recent story when passengers on a plane heading from London to San Francisco had to endure a ten hour flight without toilet paper, since the crew forgot to replace some on-board. This was a travesty they reported. How unfair this was to the passengers. Callers then were able to share their stories of when they couldn't find t.p. in their proximity. 'I went to a poker game with a friend once, being that they were all guys they didn't plan to buy toilet paper, and there were only porta-potties. I then made my boyfriend go and buy some for me.' Cry me a river.
Being that I wasn't able to carry out the first two goals as I had originally planned, there was still hope for the third. Now that I've been back to the United States for over two weeks and have traveled in other well-developed parts of the globe since closing my service, I realized that the third Peace Corps goal is in fact the most difficult to achieve. In fact, coming back in general is the most difficult part of Peace Corps. I mean if people in the U.S. think that toilet paper is a human right, that doing one's own laundry is too hard (pushing a button), or that gas prices are too high, really they are lacking outside perspective. I hate to sound so harsh, but I hope to promote honesty here. Serving Mission Three really is the point of this blog after all, to evoke curiosity and discussion. Really I shouldn't be surprised that I've received very little interest regarding my two years in Madagascar as a Peace Corps volunteer.
I tried giving baskets to some people I know that one of my women's microenterprise hand weaved from natural dyes and dried leaves. These came from a village which didn't have running water or a market, where one of these baskets would give the weaver a two day salary. I don't think I pitched a good enough story since the recipients of the presents just left them in the same place on their way out the door. We are inundated with so much stuff in this country. Everything is so worthless to us yet a lot of us feel our self-worth is connected to how much we have and the price tag attached to it.
Whenever the words Peace Corps or Madagascar leave my mouth I feel people quickly close up...even almost physically. They will speedily look away or walk away. Few questions are asked. I once thought that serving two years with Peace Corps would make me interesting to people, in fact its quite the contrary. Perhaps its because my life was difficult to relate to for many, that the things I would like to share about life outside of these golden gates is threatening to others, who are very comfortable knowing what they know, being who they are. I've talked to several other returned Peace Corps volunteers and they had similar reactions from people. But to be honest, why does it matter?
This gives me just another challenge. And if its one thing that PCV's can do its overcoming challenges. This gives us a good opportunity to seek out platforms and individuals who would be receptive to what we have to say, to make new friends, and find creative ways to spread our messages across. And perhaps its good to hold the same mentality that I did during my service, that perhaps I'll just get through to one in ten people but that's ok since its still one and not none.
And the lessons and experiences I've gained from Peace Corps are truly unforgettable and in the end of the day has made me and thousands of others stronger people. I feel now that not much is impossible but also have a better understanding of my own limitations. So really there is an unspoken fourth goal, which really is an inevitable achievement, which is within the individuals who served Peace Corps, of self-improvement and personal growth.
I know that this blog sounds like a combination of scathing and self-glorification, but I don't know how to communicate the value of Peace Corps. It's invaluable, no matter where you serve, what you do. What really matters is your attitude. It's doable as long as you have physically able and a healthy mindset.
Life is calling how far will you go...