Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On Looking Back

During the first week of September I attended a Close of Service Conference in Rabat with the forty some PCVs still here from the sixty-three of us who began two Septembers ago. It was a nice time and I particularly enjoyed the reminiscing. In the sprit of looking back, here is the aspiration statement that I wrote when I applied to Peace Corps all those years ago, and yes some of it is incredibly soppy:

I plan to be patient, flexible and positive in attitude in order to be a catalyst for the development of the youth community. I hope to see, be shown, and show a hundred people that I have yet to meet, that we are all one people who are all playing on the same team rather then being on a thousand different teams playing against each other. Of course I think I will have, in some respect, ‘the peace corps experience’. I think that I will peal back the layers of myself, like an onion and get to know myself much better then I do now. And I am also worried that the self-knowledge that I gain from the experience is something I will lose when I return to America.

From the amount of information I currently have it is still early to start formulating strategy. However from what I have read and heard, the first year of service is all about re-becoming a person. It is a time spent learning the language, teaching your own language, drinking tea in cafes, accepting invitations to lunch and doing a dozen other things that all slowly turn you into a member of the community. Only after this year can you truly start discussing expressed needs, developing a project and developing a strategy, and communicating the entire process in the relevant directions.

I plan to listen to music. I plan to drink tea. I plan to walk. I plan to wander. I plan to imitate what I see. What everyone else wears I want to wear. I think it will be longer until I learn how to cook what everyone else eats. I hope in many ways to achieve cultural conversion, however I am not distinctly sure how to leave behind the value judgments of my own culture. The paperwork sent to me from Washington that I have read thus far seemed to indicate it was something adjusted to on a case-by-case basis. While I anticipate some difficulties adapting my own personal values to work within the values of my community, I don’t think they will be too significant and will be slowly resolved, little by little over time.

I want to learn the language, how to deal with cultural stress, and how to incorporate the Peace Corps’ development philosophy and approach without feeling like a tool of globalization and an opponent of a slower, more natural, prelapsarian world. Also, I would like to learn how to be more self-motivated and pro active on a daily basis.

Professionally, I sincerely believe that Peace Corps service will make me a much more attractive applicant to the diplomatic corps and any business school that I may choose to apply to. I think that the practical experience of Arabic, though I am aware that Moroccan Arabic is different from Standard Arabic, will be very useful after my service ends, or at least I truly hope it will.  Personally, I think that having volunteered in the Peace Corps, I will be able to look back at that fact and feel proud of myself and pleased at the person I have become as a result.

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