As we took part in our Mid-Service Conference a little more than a week ago, we had the opportunity to reflect on why we’re here and how we can make the best out of our remaining time (about 10 to 11 months). We were given the Aspiration Statements we had completed way back in 2011, before we had arrived in Jamaica. These were letters written to introduce ourselves to PC Jamaica staff. Below is an excerpt of my statement. Reading back over it has been a good reminder, and I’m also happy to say that I wasn’t too off base.
What I didn’t consider back when I was writing my Aspiration Statement, was how living in Jamaica might affect me in negative ways. If I had to sum up the biggest challenge for second-year volunteers in Jamaica, it would be the struggle to not become jaded. I don’t know if this feeling is unique to certain countries or if it’s experienced across the board in all Peace Corps placements. Our fellow volunteer, Adri, posted a reflection on this topic that I really resonated with, so if you want to understand what I mean, I highly recommend reading her blog post: Aspiration, Pessism, Inspiration- Starting Year Two. At this point in our service, I think many of us are mourning the loss of our optimism while fighting to keep a hold of hope and the passion we brought with us to our Peace Corps service.
From an early age, I have felt the tension of the privilege I have- through no work of my own- in contrast with the great disparity in the world. Life experience and study have taught me that feeling guilty is not necessarily helpful but that those with privilege have a certain responsibility to those without (and that even the rich suffer from various forms of depravity while the poor have their own invaluable gifts to give). I often contemplate how my daily life, my choices as a consumer, and my career could possibly fit harmoniously with the broken world I’ve come to know. I find myself in continual pursuit to open my eyes to the reality of the world outside my American upper/middle class bubble and to grow in wisdom as to how to be and act responsibly within this world. I hope Peace Corps will challenge me and help me grow in all these areas.
My husband and I have intentionally set aside the next couple years of our lives for a cross-cultural experience where our skills and passions can meet a need somewhere. We are seeking an opportunity to share in a challenge together and to learn from a community completely different from our own. We highly value a simple/minimalist lifestyle, sustainability, relationship building, living in community, respect for all, and giving of our time and talents. For all these reasons and more, we found that Peace Corps’s goals and expectations align well with our hopes and abilities. We hope that by participating in the Peace Corps experience early on in our marriage, it will help develop and strengthen the values, habits, and convictions that we will incorporate into the rest of our lives.