Three Goals

Hello internet! I don't actually know who is reading, so hello in general.
I know that people outside of the Peace Corps process don't generally know a lot about it, so today I'm going to talk about the three goals of the Peace Corps, which have been unchanged since the program's inception in 1961. All PCVs know and live out these goals as their mission.

Goal 1: Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.

Since many countries where PCVs serve do not have comparable infrastructure to train teachers, community organizers, health educators, etc., the PC provides those men and women with skills to integrate into communities across the country. It is most definitely and assuredly a collaboration between the country's government and the US government, which is what I love so much about it. So much aid/charity does not take into account what the country needs or wants, or attempts to give aid to the country unasked. Specifically I'm focusing on the interested countries part of the goal, in that PC does not set up shop in a country uninvited.

And to those who may say that it would be better to train in-country nationals to do the jobs PCVs are doing, I agree, and that is what we are doing. As one of my fellow PCVs in Morocco once said, the best job a Volunteer can do is make themselves unneeded.

Goal 2: Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.

I take for granted the idea that America is all sorts of things and has all sorts of people. But around the world, other countries have a limited amount of media to base their opinions on, much like America has limited amounts of media to base our opinions of other countries on (elaborated in the third goal). And so part of being a PCV is being an ambassador of sorts, in that my background and experiences put another piece in the puzzle to help others understand the many different types of people who call themselves American.

Goal 3: Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Much like the second goal, but continues for much longer after a PCV returns. There is even an office with the PC called The Office of Third Goal and Returned Volunteer Services (OTGRVS). I will become a permanent primary source of information about my country to my family, friends, and everyone I meet. Sometimes it is hard for people in the USA to imagine other countries as they imagine their own: families trying to get by, sending their kids to school, hanging out with friends, working towards careers and the like. But I maintain that we are more alike than different.

I imagine I will have to break a lot of stereotypes on both sides, and I hope that will be refreshing. I always strive to learn who people really are, despite who I've learned them to be.

If you'd like to learn more about the Peace Corps as a program, please visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/about/.


A New Name for Everything

 A place for everything and everything in its place. A common slogan for habitual cleaner-uppers. Right now I have no places. Or at least no familiar ones. I can't put my belongings in the places they used to go because that room is not mine anymore. I can't walk to or drive to the places I'm used to, and even though I grew up in this area, after 5 years in Kalamazoo, Lansing seems foreign. Like a vacation destination you may have been to many times when you were younger.

I came out of a store with my mother and was struck by how immediately nothing looked familiar. Then I thought how most likely I will have that thought everyday overseas. Nothing will be familiar, and I think I'd argue that's one of the best parts.



I struggle with the idea that realistically, nothing will prepare me for my new life. All my life I have been overprepared, with many of my friends remarking that I always overpack for trips and have to have everything just right, just in case. Much of this comes from my mother, as she well knows, but I don't resent this trait. If anything it's helped me in life to always have what I think I need.

But from the very first part of this journey, packing, I'll be out of my element. We are allowed 85 pounds of luggage, which still has to fit TSA and PC dimension requirements. Immediately I already know I will not be able to take all the things I want to. Asking around in my Facebook group of current/future Uganda PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers), everyone has their own opinion on what is essential and what is not. It seems to vary from person to person so as much as they are attempting to help, it's just a lot of contradictions.

I've always been able to do my research and figure out what was needed for a situation or a trip, but in this case, the best thing to do is pack a little of what I think I need and wait until I'm posted to figure out what else I would like. It goes against everything I've done before, and that's the terrifyingly awesome thing about it. I haven't even left the country yet and I'm being challenged to change my habits.

Something I have actively been doing to prepare is volunteering at the Kalamazoo Math and Science Center (KAMSC), which during the school year is a magnet school for STEM subjects.
In the summer time they run camps for kids up through 7th or 8th grade (can't remember which). For the most part I just feel like I'm auditing the class, because the teachers are being paid to teach a specific curriculum, and the other TAs are all previous/current KAMSC students who sometimes seem like they're smarter than me. It feels strange, but having an ME degree places all these expectations on me. I feel like I should be a master teacher, but being taught and receiving a degree in a subject does NOT make you a great teacher or let you be able to explain difficult concepts to people.

I guess that's why I wanted to observe/volunteer at KAMSC, to observe how veteran teachers explain their concepts to younger kids, or just older kids that haven't heard the subject matter before (i.e., the TAs). Given I've only worked with two teachers, but so far they have different teaching styles and I think I've learned things from both. One major thing is that experience is one of the best teachers. I know a lot of concepts but haven't applied many of them, and so explaining them theoretically is difficult. These guys are old school tinkerers who could probably fix your car and build you a microwave in the same afternoon. It's nice to see their enthusiasm not just for the students, but the subject matter as well. It sort of pumps you up to be excited about things, whereas coming off the most stressful semester of my ME degree (senior design), I sort of felt deflated and worn out. But I think that's natural.

I just have this week left at KAMSC, as I am moving back to my mom's house in Lansing on Saturday, and I can't even be there for Friday as I've got some of my immunizations scheduled. Health preparations are numerous and tedious but I'm not going to elaborate too much on those here as they are mostly uninteresting and somewhat private.

Next thing I hope to tackle on the this blog is setting up a schedule for myself for the three months I have left in country, so that I mostly don't just sit around and become restless. We'll see how that goes. Also trying to integrate photos/videos so these don't become giant blocks of text... so maybe video blogging will be mixed in with this?


Moving Home

Right. So. Blogging.

I've tried to put this off for a long time, not because I think I'm bad at writing, just really good at procrastination. But I think having a blog while I've overseas will really help me. Starting it while I'm at home I think will help me get in the habit. So, home. May as well talk about the title of my blog post.

Leaving Kalamazoo to live back in Lansing for three months gives me a lot of mixed feelings. On one hand, I'll be spending way less money (in fact I'm almost losing money staying here even though I have a job). But my friends are here, and basically for the last 5 years (4 if you count that I moved back home after freshman year), this city is my home.  I joked to one of my roommates that if I could just have my Kalamazoo room in my Lansing house, things would be perfect. But things never are.

I'll have to come up with a new normal for this transitional life, much as I have been told I will have to come up with a new normal when I arrive in Uganda for training, and then again after I finish training and am assigned to a post. So I guess it's good to get practice.

I've been told that when living alone or living without any immediate responsibilities it's good to have structure. Have a routine so that the days melt together less often. Here it's been volunteering in the mornings and working in the afternoons. I hope to continue volunteering when I get home, and possible make some money on the side with tutoring gigs. But in terms of socializing I am so very terrifically bad at making plans. It's not that I mind being alone; anyone who's met me can tell you that. But when I do feel like hanging out with someone sometimes I get an anxiety about it, like, is this the right way to ask someone to hang out? Am I doing this right? Do they see me as strange? But no matter what it's like here I imagine it will be very different in Africa. So maybe it's for the best that I have no current fallback.

In preparation for moving of course comes packing, and in packing finding all those things you've acquired over the years and slightly forgotten about. Sometimes they're just old things you forgot to throw away, or that you meant to do something with but never got around to. But I'm finding things that I have kept because they were given to me, and in that process remembering all the great things I've experienced in The Zoo.

Have to run to work now (1 week left!) so I'll leave you to read this rambling craziness of a first post and reflect on it. Later.