If you do this, then this. When you do that, then that. I don’t have to join the Peace Corps for my life to be meaningful (My grandma would sure be happier if I didn’t… I mean, there are wars “over there”. I’m not sure where she thinks I’m going. I’m not sure she’s sure. But I’m sure she loves me, and that’s enough… I know all of these people who don’t understand my hippy crap love me, but… it would be cool of they got it). What I am sure of is that Korbel was never an ‘if’, it was a ‘when’. Peace Corps was an ‘if’ once for me, and deciding against it was a solid move at the time. That time is passed, and I feel like I have to go. I want to be a part of the club. The people who go in their dirty clothes to UN seminars, and inappropriately guzzle the champagne and hog the food, because we’ve been experiencing how a majority of the world live- a life so different from our own. Our bodies are tired, our hearts are tired. It’s the good tired, though-like tired from staying up all night to wrap Christmas presents, or having been to the park all day with your best friends on the first sweltering day of summer. But this tired stays with you, as a reminder that peace comes from within. If you let externalities (not the financial kind) determine your fate, you’re done.
Being at Korbel with the Peace Corps Community has been a powerful and unexpected boost of energy to my life source. All of the sudden, I’m understood. My goals don’t seem lofty, just standard. I know there’s only 400 of us (about 200 in each incoming class), but we are the largest Returned Peace Corps Volunteer group in the world, at any institution. My best friends here all come from different PC locations, wiser and more ready to take on the problems of the world. Malawi, Ecuador, Lesotho, Thailand, Panama, just to name a very few.
The Josef Korbel School is special in that it brings diplomats, ambassadors, authors, professionals, and recruiters to our humble building to eat a sandwich and discuss embassy life during a colloquium that always feels like a much smaller deal than it is. My hope is that I’m not the only person at these tables, or the Peace Corps happy hour (when it happens) basking in the value of the scenarios playing out before my very eyes. I felt as if I knew more than the recruit about Peace Corps, and still, these RPCV’s have something I don’t. They share it with the countless Diplomats in Residence, Congressmen and Women, FSO’s, and our very own Dean Hill… they have lived the Peace Corps life, worked hard to integrate into another community in an effort to understand that we don’t have all the answers. We probably have about the same amount of “answers”, in fact, as the average Basotho, or Isan. Definitely less than the average Nepali, in my opinion.
Peace Corps has plenty of glory to tout-a dark side, too. I won’t get into that, but I will say that for all of the war mongering of the corporatocracy, the USA has established a miraculous and consistent organization, with a mission and vision beyond its time; the chance to send US citizens into an experience for 27 months (a drop in the bucket of the avg joe’s 75 years) that will forever mark their character and worldview, and the worldview of those regions who get a Peace Corps volunteer.
Maybe I’ll change my mind after watching my first goat hang from a tree and be hacked by a machete for the celebration of my arrival, or having my first pet die, or the standing by helplessly while situations out of my control push me to the edge of sanity. Or when I experience the gradual change in the way I think about my family, friends, problems,dietgpajobsearchfutureLIFE. Maybe. But the reality that I will be immersed in for a mere 27 months is the reality of an entire people group for the duration of their lives. It may not be as negative as I think, and I may not be as rich (or poor) as I think either. When I join the Peace Corps, I will be a part of a new family. Whoever they are, I can’t wait to meet them. I hope I teach them even a fraction of what I know they’ll teach me.