Hard Work. Sacrifice. Journey. Self-discovery. Struggle. Accomplishment. Meaning. Blah blah freaking blah, right? These are a few of the many words that pop up in conversation, or in my head, when it comes to this whole Peace Corps experience. It’s so early in my service, but I’m finding myself reflecting on concepts like work, sacrifice, and struggle. I think that despite the fact that these things have their purpose, I need to let go of the idea that doing good things in this world necessarily requires them.
I say this because when I moved in with my host family, I was confronted with the reality that I was going to be living pretty well for these next eight weeks of pre-service training. I have a nice sized room with a comfortable bed, there’s satellite TV, refrigerators, and pretty much all of the modern technologies I’v grown accustomed to in the U.S. What’s the problem with that?, would be a fair question in this scenario. The problem is that it blew my previous story out of the water. I’m in Africa. I’m supposed to be living in a hut, bathing in a bucket, and giving up all I previously knew to help those “less fortunate.” I’m supposed to do this because the sacrifice is what legitimizes my work, right? Anyone can donate money for HIV/AIDS online from their living room, but it takes someone special like me to give it all up and be on the front lines. I hope you’re picking up on my sarcasm.
I still might end up in a hut bathing in a bucket, but if there is something “special” about me that allows for a successful Peace Corps experience it won’t be my ability to overcome the struggle. It will be in my ability to not see my time here as such. It won’t be because I have a stronger desire to help others than anyone else. It will be because I view this as an opportunity to learn about other cultures and experience another way of living. I’m naturally curious, so this unique opportunity for learning doesn’t have to be considered work. I could say I’m sacrificing my technologies, or my luxuries, but what will I be gaining? Although it’s easier to define loss and gain in terms of material things, I’m more excited about gaining those things that can’t be measured. I guess I wouldn’t say I’m sacrificing anything, as much as I am simply letting go. Letting go of some material things, sure, but also letting go of the idea that I come from a place that knows best, that I have to work hard to change people, and that I have to overcome the struggle of life in a developing country.
Will I be challenged? Certainly. Frustrated at times? Without a doubt. Maybe there will even be times when the best words to describe my day are ones like sacrifice, hard work, and struggle. But I’m not sure these will be the words that define my experience, and I challenge people to think about their own lives and ask if these words are playing too much a role. I’m not advocating for laziness and selfishness, but wouldn’t we all have more capacity for helping others if our lives weren’t defined by just how dang hard they are?
Who knows. I’m just in a unique situation and throwing out some thoughts. I hope you all find a couple more things that make you happier. I’m going to jump off here and listen to these dogs howl at the moon.
Thanks for reading.
***These words are my own and don’t reflect the views of the Peace Corps at large…I mean, we all know I’m too independent to speak for anyone but myself, eh.***