“The toughest job you’ll ever love.” I’ve seen the phrase everywhere since I first learned about the Peace Corps back in high school. It’s all over the posters, the website and brochures, and these days it hangs out on my wrist, a constant reminder. Sometimes it’s a reminder that I love my job; other times it’s a consolation that it was tough for other people, too. Mostly, it’s a reminder of how fortunate I am to be serving.
We’re wrapping up a weeklong Reconnect conference, the first time my cohort has gathered to train together since training last fall (has it been over 6 months already?!) Statistically, we’re hitting the bottom of the cultural adjustment “u-curve”, or we’re hitting the low point of frustration, issues and misery. I’m definitely one of those who is at the bottom of that graph right now.
For me, this conference has been a perfectly timed chance to commiserate, consolidate and collaborate–aka, time to complain, vent and then realize we’re not alone in our struggles; consolidate the knowledge and information we’ve gained; and finally, brainstorm new strategies and ideas so that we can return to site ready to roll again.
Now that Carnaval is over, I’m going to have more chances to work more closely with my English counterparts, spend some more time planning for classes and curriculum, set a more reliable schedule for English clubs and continue to integrate, one birthday party at a time!
As we’re finishing this week of reinforcement and new plans, the PC office sent around this great article about the Peace Corps from this 1964 National Geographic article by Sargeant Shriver, one of the masterminds behind the create of the Peace Corps. Shriver reiterates the thought process behind the creation of the agency, and its positive impacts all over the world. In 1964, PC was only 3 years old–imagine the stories in the following 50 years! There are no more training camps in New Mexico where they train the volunteers how to butcher chickens; nor do they have training in Hawaii, anymore, unfortunately.
And yet the similiarities between the PC in 1964 and today are more striking. According to the stories in NatGeo, the challenges of poverty are very similar: it’s still cyclical; there is still a shortage of food, education and opportunities; malaria still exists and life as a volunteer is still tough in so many ways.
But the beauty of PC is similar today, too. The goals and dreams of the agency and its enthusiastic corps are the same–we still want to do something useful. We still experience huge cultural changes and learn languages; we still become integrated into loving, welcome communities; we still represent our country in a generally positive light; we still have big hearts.
And that’s why the Peace Corps is still “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”