Sunday, September 9, 2012

On Peace Corps

(Written August 2012)

If you know anyone seriously considering joining the Peace Corps, tell them to do it.

I realize that I'm in my last month of service and that I'm therefore more than a little sentimental at this point. But I've been thinking lately (well, this morning, as I sit eating my spicy chickpeas and rice with the mamans in front of my house) how lucky I am to be here doing this, and how glad I am I took this chance.

Peace Corps hasn't been everything I thought it would be. I expected to be fluent in a local language, galvanizing an entire village towards gender equality and universal education, all while living in a mud hut and chopping down jungle snakes with my personal machete. My life is less grand and Hollywood-worthy than my Peace Corps fantasy, my achievements smaller, more specific, less likely to change a nation. And yet I'm incredibly proud of what I've done, what my fellow volunteers have done in our two years here. I'm even more amazed at what Peace Corps has done for me: two years and a month after arriving in Benin, I'm far more assertive, more realistic and determined in my goals. I can make a fool of myself in front of a group and join in laughing at the joke. I can give a speech, argue a point, and say no politely but firmly when necessary. Peace Corps, it turns out, gave me a backbone.

If you want to save the world, you shouldn't join the Peace Corps. If, on the other hand, you want to help out a small group of people while making yourself a better, stronger and wiser person, you should think about it. This isn't for everyone, and it's not easy. But given the choice I made two years ago, knowing what I know now about the experience, the challenges, the struggles and little successes, I'd absolutely, totally, 100% positive make the same choice again.

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