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Barbecue and Peace Corps Love

May 12, 2011

Last weekend the Central Missouri Returned Peace Corps Volunteers organized a barbecue for the area’s nominees and invitees.  I attended with my parents and it was the pep rally I needed.  Everyone was well-travelled, interesting, and so excited for me.  (I was the only invitee there–no one else had a date yet.)  These felt like my kind of people and I was ready to join the “family.” 

I met a woman who spent several months in Liberia during the 1960s, working in a hospital with her husband, and I connected with former volunteers who had served throughout Africa (and the world), some in the early years and some very recently.  With all the news about Peace Corps swirling around the media, their enthusiasm and confidence provided a much-needed boost.  The overwhelming amount of paperwork, packing, and goodbye-saying has, admittedly, been taking a toll.

Their advice?

Don’t take a lot of stuff!  Instead, bring flexibility, realistic expectations, and a sense of humor.  Exercise good judgment and force yourself to slow down.  Learn about the community, they said, before launching in to a big project that may or may not have local support.  Maybe no one cares about your community garden because you didn’t ask the chief for permission before planting it.  Better, faster, more, more, more isn’t necessarily what anyone needs and certainly won’t make for a more effective Peace Corps Volunteer.  Ground yourself, then move forward with care: always good advice.

Thankfully, none of these things will take up valuable luggage space, cause problems at customs, or attract petty thieves!  More on packing (or not!) later.

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