Happy Peace Corps Day

I bet you didn’t even know there was such a thing, did you? I didn’t, at least not until I was actually a PCV.

The beginnings

On this day, 60 years ago, John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps. All over the world  Peace Corps staff and Volunteers celebrate March 1st as Peace Corps Day.

My official start day with Peace Corps was June 4, 2018. The question I get the most is –What is Peace Corps’ Life like? 

To be honest, some days dragon forever. I’m convinced that I’m living life in a time warp where time moves in reverse. But surprisingly, the weeks move rather quickly. Often when I’m bogged down in a day, I think to myself ‘just get through the day and it’s one step closer to COS’. Then it’s Friday, and I’m amazed at how quickly the week has passed.

Being a PCV is [was] but a chapter in life, and as I have found out, the world of policy development is not where I belong. I enjoy ‘doing’ much more than ‘talking about’ or ‘planning’. I truly can’t wait until I start the next chapter of life. Becoming an Emergency Nurse Practitioner has a lot of doing involved.

As it turns out, despite the fact that I have a lot of skills, even life-saving skills, these are not necessarily the skills the Peace Corps’ wants nor are they the skills my community wants. Peace Corps’ or at least Peace Corps’ Rwanda is transitioning from the ‘strong backs’ building projects to the PC buzz ward of  ‘capacity building.’ However, in a community that has had previous volunteers [at least one since PC returned to Rwanda] build things, many can’t get past the fact that I’m not going to be participating in any building projects [which is somewhat ironic considering I spent my time at home ‘building things’]

She is certainly ‘doing’.

I applied to Peace Corps because I wanted to be a PCV. If that seems simple, it’s because it is. PCVs are a special breed of people. There is no other organization that does what we do and lives how we live. It’s challenging, and it’s awesome, but sometimes it sucks. I’m awesome for enduring the ‘sucky’ parts when I know I have a complete life waiting for me in America.

Reflections

I’d be more modest, but it’s Peace Corps Day and I’m a PCV even if I am not actively serving. So let me reflect on my life as a  Volunteer.

Little by little, I learned another language and spoke it on a daily basis [a language that I’ll most likely never speak again, but still]. I brought new ideas into a rural community. I taught basic first aid to school children and their teachers. I’ve helped combat childhood malnutrition, and a host of other childhood diseases. I made amazing friends.

On a more introspective note, I learned to be more patient and to think critically when things did not go as planned [and things rarely go as planned]. I integrated into a new culture, took on new customs, and ate food I never knew existed. In the Peace Corps, I lived a completely different life, and how many people can say they’ve done that? I’m a new person, really. I even changed my name to fit in. It was so damn hard in the beginning, but the Peace Corps wouldn’t be the Peace Corps if it was comfortable or easy.

Next Steps

Oh, and did I mention that I applied for grad school while in the Peace Corps?  Because I did. It’s not easy to study for the GRE from underneath a mosquito net while mentally blocking out the screeching of the roosters or the moo-ing of cows, and  with the electricity cutting in and out. Or prepare oneself for said program by learning all the ‘common’ medical things I’ve forgotten while I’m here. But I did it. One day at a time. 

And even more exciting is that I got accepted to a graduate program in a field I am truly interested in.

To be honest, I haven’t done much to celebrate today. After all, I don’t feel much like a PCV these days. Today  I woke up late with the kitties snuggled by my side. I did a load of laundry in the machine. I went out for pizza with American friends. We drove around the city in my car. I spoke exclusively in English. 

Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is something that I wanted to do for a long time. I am glad I did it, but I’m also glad it’s over.

Finally Peace Corps Volunteers at last. My best PC friend and me–at our swearing in ceremony in August.photo credit Kerong Kelly

The Peace Corps hasn’t always been held in positive regard. Frank Zappa wrote Who Needs the Peace Corps way back in the day.

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