Thursday, July 15, 2010


My students like to say this word in order to signal an abrupt end to a speech, followed by scurrying back to their seats. I’m going to borrow it right now to wrap up the past three years and maybe this blog. I’m officially an RPCV now and have been back in the US for almost two weeks so I figured I should end one adventure before another begins tomorrow when I head back to Bolivia for an 8 day vacation with Kelley.

With my COS, I think it’s also time to reflect on my service as a volunteer. Finishing Peace Corps is a big change…coming back to the US and readjusting to life here is a struggle for some, but I think the more significant change is not being a PCV anymore. For the past three years it has been my identity and the reason for why I was where I was and why I was doing what I was doing. It was also a security blanket…interestingly enough, I am transitioning to what many consider a safe haven for not growing up (grad school) but to me there is a lot more stability in being a PCV…your time in a certain place and what you will do there is planned out for you…the stakes are high (making an impact on peoples’ lives) but low (no struggle to get a raise or promoted through excellent performance) at the same time…no worries of health insurance or making those real decisions that adults need to make. So I find that coming back to the US is a bit scary because it means taking that leap again similar to what it felt like to graduate from college…except now your peers are already three years and three steps ahead of you. It’s not that I don’t think the PC experience is valuable, it is and I would do it all again if I had to make the choice again…but in this day and age when we want it all…and when I’m headed into a grad school program focused on career advancement…I am reminded of what I missed out on.

Did PC live up to my expectations? It’s hard now to think back to what I thought PC would be when I left in 2007. I think I expected to have a transformational experience where I would gain clarity about what direction I want to go in life…but I believe the only revelation was that there would be no revelation. I didn’t discover that I want to work in international development forever (there, I said it) and I’m about 50% sure that I will end up in the public or nonprofit sectors. I do know that volunteering will always be a part of my life and what I cherish most about it is making connections with individuals. I probably wasn’t the best PCV because I lacked some of the necessary skills and passion at times but I did change a little and gain a lot (sadly I think I gained much more than I was able to give back to the people that I worked with).

So here we go with some of the ways I think I have changed as a result of my experience…
• Grew to be more environmentally conscious and less wasteful – hard not to when you’re surrounded by tree huggers and their worm bins and see littering and pollution everyday
• Gained more confidence, especially in public speaking – I tried to live “do one thing every day that scares you” and when you stand in front of a class of 40 students everyday you’ll tire yourself out if you get nervous every time you have class
• Recognized one of my flaws in my impatience when it comes to inefficient processes – trying to harness this for my future career while also learning to be more patient with people
• Realized it takes a lot more than joining Peace Corps to make a meaningful impact on someone in the developing world
• Improved my Spanish and Chinese and learned a few choice words of Sichuan dialect and Quechua
• Became more uptight and laid back at the same time when I found I had to be more assertive in order to get things done but in general lived a pretty lazy (napping) lifestyle

A blog entry about finishing PC wouldn’t be complete without a few notes about readjustment so here’s a few notes about my first few weeks back in the US:

• Unexpected anxiety when driving and dealing with all the choices when shopping in Target and the grocery store (why are there so many kinds of cheese???)
• The phenomenon of walking outside and not seeing a single person (Toto, I don’t think we’re in China anymore)
• The beauty and lush greenery of suburban America…endless well-manicured lawns and trees being the only thing I can see from my bedroom window
• Subsisting on non-stir fried foods…bagel sandwiches with turkey and cheddar, yogurt, fruit, cereal with milk, salads of avocado, fresh mozzarella, carrots with blue cheese
• Relearning to crave sweets – I lost 8 pounds in China due to the lack of snacking and absence of sweets from my diet (they just sucked so much in China that I didn’t want to eat any of them) but I did have a huge ice cream craving last night so I’m back in the saddle!

Not sure if this will be my last blog entry, but I have to leave you with some tidbits from some assignments that I had graded earlier in the semester but didn’t have a chance to blog about.

From the second installment of resumes and cover letters of my Business Writing class…

Under “Interests” my students included exciting things such as: making documents, making friends, “my favorite is chemistry experiment,” and “watching” (no, that was not followed by TV or movies…just watching).

Under “Languages”…”Chinese – naive, English – poor.”

As seen in cover letters:
• “In the holiday I worked out, so I have work experience.”
• “I was a best man at a wedding.” (Yes that’s nice, I should give you a job now?)
• “In my first year, prepare to be a Communist partier. In my second year, be a real Communist partier.” (maybe I should get my student this t-shirt
• Scary misspellings of things such as their names and the city that we lived in!

And some confusion that students had (maybe resulting in plagiarism…or a gender identity crisis?)…on the same resume I saw “sex: female” (with a strikethrough) and “gender: male”….and another resume I saw “gender: female” and a sentence that began with “I am a man…”

And finally…ten points to the person who can explain what “Marital Status: Discoverture” means…

I will leave you with a response to a news article that was about the recession: “I hope the global economy will recover as soon as possible so that the Chinese economy will grow more rapidly. Then I can get a good job since I will graduate next year. God bless me, but God maybe is not effective in China.”