Two Years in the Making

At roughly 1:30pm today Paul and I will know where in Ecuador we will spend our two years of Peace Corps Service, which starts in April. We started the application process to join the Peace Corps just about two years ago, as well. This week also marks the middle of our Training and provides us with an opportunity to look back at all that we have done and learned so far.

If I had to explain to the uninitiated what my main takeaway about the Peace Corps is thus far, I’d have to say that it’s all about people. That may sound rather simple or at least simplified but when it comes down to it, it’s really the most important thing.

When JFK made his famously spontaneous speech at University of Michigan that gave birth to the idea of the Peace Corps {read more about it in this post} he didn’t talk about achieving peace by giving out food or building houses or even by doling out cash. He spoke about the human resources that are necessary – the people who would give up the comforts of the United States and of their families to meet people on a human level.

Not only does Peace Corps Service seem to be all about people and the quiet moments of everyday living side-by-side and working hand-in-hand with locals but Training is all about the people, too. Namely, it’s often about group dynamics and how to work together on group projects (boy does it remind me of my grad school days sometimes!), and more importantly going through Training so far has taught me how to confront those parts of myself that can get in the way of successfully completing projects and integrating into a new community.

Further, I’ve learned that Training is just as much about the Peace Corps Staff as it is about the Peace Corps Trainees. Many Staff members are host country nationals (in other words: locals) as well as people who have roughed the cross-cultural waters themselves and they are not only a wealth of information but a source of inspiration, too.

Each day, no matter the subject: Health, Safety & Security, Technical Skills, Language, or Cross-Cultural Understanding, we are being tested on how well we can first integrate into the culture and community of Peace Corps. This is no easy feat. With the diversity of experiences, backgrounds, personalities, agendas, and expectations of dozens of Trainees and Staff, it can be a challenge to understand your place in this family. Like all families there are ups and downs but at the end of the day these are the only folks in the world who will ever begin to understand what it means to be a Peace Corps Ecuador Volunteer.

As for specific things we have learned in the past six weeks, the lessons have run the gamut from how to mitigate risks to our personal safety and how to conjugate the subjunctive to how to plant a tree nursery and how to wield a machete.

This much I know:

Playing games is one of the most basic forms of communication there is {doesn’t matter what kind}.

My Spanish has improved {as my English has deteriorated}.

I’m almost acclimated to the smog and allergins {but I still get winded playing soccer at this altitude}.

The dogs that live in my compound recognize me and don’t bark at me {but they do at Paul}.

How to win at cuarenta {shout out to Help Me Ronda teammate Dani!}.

Don’t talk politics or religion {if you know what’s good for you}.

Wherever we end up, we’ll be happy {’nuff said}.

Enjoy, Mari

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2 responses to “Two Years in the Making”

  1. mcmeeshi says :

    Great reflection. I am so looking forward to getting to this stage of PC!

    • Mari says :

      Thanks! You will get there, too! We had been waiting for so long and it seemed at times like this time would never come but here it is. Hang in there. Take care, Mari

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