What I want you to know about serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post was submitted by Mary.
Photo by: Benjamin Comb

I've always wanted to be a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). As a child, high-schooler, university student I daydreamed about living in a rustic hut with a dirt floor, waking up and watching the sun rise over a foggy mountain through my mosquito net. Obviously, I knew it would be hard: I hate the heat, I hate big bugs, and I'd miss my friends and family. Peace Corps and PCVs always warn against having expectations... but I was sure I could handle anything. Pooping in a hole? No problem. Walking ten miles a day? NBD. No peanut butter? I'll survive.

I was so confident that I'd be able to make the best of any situation. That I would love the language I'd learn (or, rather, get to perfect my Spanish after ten years of study). That I'd love the culture, the people, the change...wherever I ended up.

Everything I was so confident about? JK LOL.

In reality, I hate the country I'm living in. The language is difficult. I love learning languages and actually am pretty good at the local one...but it's ugly. The food is boring and unhealthy. The music makes me want to stab my eardrums with pencils. The people are very nice - but too nice. My co-worker calls me at least ten times a day and must be touching me at all times. The majority of men here are misogynist narcissists who think women exist solely for their objectification and to support the patriarchy. There is no beauty in the landscape, there is no art, and, to rub salt in the wound, I'm in the only city in the country without historic buildings or churches or ruins.

And I can't complain about it. I can't blog about it, and run the risk of a local reading it. I can't insult the country as a representative of the United States. And I certainly can't back out of my commitment here, because I'd lose all self-respect.

There are things I like. The fruits and vegetables and coffee. The old men in fedoras on bicycles. The nightly walks everyone takes around the city. I'll eventually get something finished here, and my overbearing coworker at least has a heart for work.

But it is so demoralizing. I'm depressed, lonely, and bored. I had a wonderful life and friends back in the States, so why did I throw it all away?

I remind myself that these two years will be good for me, time to heal from past trauma; good for my family and for my little sister to become more independent; good for my new city, if I can actually make a difference. I know in the future I'll look back on this exam-free, independent, self-defining time fondly.

But right now? It sucks. I want to go home. And I have two more years to go.



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