Life in a Paraguayan Village:
Is boring. I know, I know, everyone hears the words ‘Peace Corps’ and thinks about adventure and seeing the world and helping people and all that jazz. Sure, that’s part of it, I guess, but that part of it has a tendency to get diluted among the monotony of everyday life. Peace Corps is not necessarily a “traveling experience”; instead (and this is the point of Peace Corps), it is agreeing to live for 2 years in another part of the world. You do not become a ‘globe trotter’ but a neighbor. For these 27 months you spend your time surviving as you would if you were back at home in the states, except nobody understands what your saying and thinks that everything you do is strange and foreign. Whereas in the US we might just blend in with the crowd as we go about our daily rituals, here people stare at you constantly and shamelessly even though all you are doing is going for a jog.
When it comes to actually helping people, you know, that whole making-a-difference type-thing, it seems to only get more confusing. One can engage with projects with enthusiasm, zest and a productive mindset but they soon come up against a wall. Things can only move so fast. In these cultures (sorry for the over generalization), the terminal velocity of getting anything done depends on the efficiency of the system you are working within. With a government and a system that is corrupt, poor, disorganized and inefficient on almost every level and in almost every way, it really doesn’t matter how excited you are. Expectations and energy must be properly tempered and reinvested in a way that does not burn out pushing up against the wall of organizational anarchy.
Sometimes, 2 years hardly seems like a long enough time to get anything done in this place. Other times, especially when one reads too much about history, 2 centuries seems to be equally as insufficient. When talking to a friend and RCPV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) from Madagascar, she relayed an amusing and sobering phrase they used to use during her service. Peace Corps motto is, “The hardest job you’ll ever love”, instead they said, “The hardest job you’ll never do”. Unfortunately, this is the reality. The well intended, super-motivated Peace Corps volunteers that we are, at this point at least, are just surviving. That’s half the battle. Sometimes just making it through our service here is enough to constitute ‘making a difference’. That doesn’t seem to cut if for me, a person driven by ideas of progress, fulfillment and changing the world. Then again, idealism always meets it match in realism. From then on it is a short step to pessimism and then ultimately one starts wearing all black, reading Poe and listening to esoteric, poorly-recorded music by underground bands in Seattle or the Midwest or somewhere like that.
My friends, I promise I will never fall into this annoying abyss, but let it be known that staying positive in this place might be the greatest feat of all. I still listen to Blind Melon and Bob Marley most every day, so don’t worry about me quite yet. I will let you all know when I start listening to The Cure more and more, then we will know it is time for me to come home. Until then, I will keep looking for the small victories. Cheers.