Tuesday, December 26, 2006

How'd I get here?

I just reviewed my Cross-Cultural and Motivation statements from my original Peace Corps application, as I have to provide an updated "Aspiration Statement" to my host country. I thought they were interesting, so I'm posting them here.

Cross-Cultural Statement

While studying abroad in Spain, I volunteered to clean oil from the beaches of Galicia for a week. I was attending a school for foreigners, and wanted to get away from the other americans and really immerse myself in Spanish culture. For a week, I lived with roughly 100 other souls in a gymnasium. There were only two or three English speakers out of all of them.
Despite the 17-hour bus ride each way, punishing late-February Gallegan weather, a horrible chest cold, and seven near-sleepless nights, I had the best week of my life. My half-forgotten Spanish returned to me in leaps and bounds, and I found myself having complex conversations with fascinating people from all over Spain (and other parts of the world) about everything from politics to sports to the latest hollywood movies that had been dubbed and released locally. I bonded with one woman over teaching each other swear words and slang from our respective languages. That week I made several lifelong friends.
This experience, while never matched in emotional weight, is not atypical for me. Throughout grade school I was always in the minority (caucasians made up less than 15% of the population of my elementary, middle and high schools). The effect was compounded by the fact that from first through eighth grade I was in a bilingual education program. Those years, no less (and often more) than half my day was taught in Spanish, a language not spoken at my home.
Homogeneous, familiar environments start to feel stuffy and uninteresting to me after a period of time. I very much enjoy the “disadvantage” of not being linguistically or culturally fluent, because I will immediately strive for both. I am at my most humble, curious and energetic when I am immersed in a new and different culture and cut off from my own familial, cultural and institutional support networks.

Motivation Statement

Why do I want to be a peace corps volunteer?

I don’t want to live a normal middle-class american life. I don’t want to settle down. I don’t want to be stifled in comfort. I don’t want to be a tourist. I don’t want a 9 to 5 job. I don’t want a life full of cheap, landfill-clogging trinkets. I don’t want learn from little talking heads in little glowing boxes. I don’t want to look back with regret.

How are these related to past experiences...

At age 24, I have already checked off a couple big items from the ‘Be A Successful American’ checklist. I’m a college graduate. Check. I have a highly paid job with a successful dotcom that promises a comfortable, perhaps even luxurious future. Check. All that’s left is a wife and 2.5 kids. God, just writing this makes me feel as if the walls of my room are closing in on me. I am not happy with the status quo. I am not content to live out some plastic, pastel-colored ideal of “success”. And I will never, ever, be happy working a desk job.

...and my life goals?

I want to travel. I want to meet new people. I want to speak new languages. I want to have my perspectives changed. I want my beliefs challenged. I want to work hard. I want to face new and challenging situations. I want to roam off the beaten path. I want to do the uncommon. I want to have stories to tell my kids. I want to stop my mid-life crisis before it starts.


nicole said...

Hi, I am leaving for Honduras in February to be a PCV, I came across your website and am curious.. when do you leave and what program are you going to be a part of? email me it would be fun to get to know another future volunteer.


Maureen said...

Hey there, ditto on what Nicole said, I'll be leaving in Feb. as a Business/IT Volunteer. Congrats on the invite!

My email's mconeill@gmail.com, if you want to get in touch. See you in 6 weeks!!