Peace Corps has made me re-assess where I am and what I’m doing more times than anything else ever has. Obviously, there are a lot of variables involved in that, but what jumps out is that this is the first thing I’ve done since I’ve stopped being a student. Kind of like the idea of walking out of the house for the first time, and this is the direction I chose to go. Without going into the hundreds of reasons why this is and isn’t the best place for me to be, I feel that I am in a similar situation to the one I was in weeks before I left for Azerbaijan. My recruiter said, “We have a country in the Caucausus for you to go to, we can’t tell you which one, but if you are going to go, you have to say ‘yes’ in the next 24 hours.”
I was reluctant to accept for a few reasons, but the thing that really got me was the question, “Is this where I want to do the Peace Corps?” I didn’t know it would end up being Azerbaijan, but at the time, you couldn’t tell me a difference between Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan that would have mattered to me. The idea I had in my head was that it would be colder than anything I could imagine, that I would end up in some colorless soveit-style apartment building, and eat nothing but cold soup all day (I wasn’t too far off, but thats not the point). Whatever the reality was, compared to my perception the choice given to me wasn’t the attractive choice that Jordan or Morocco was (where I had been told I was going and where I was sure I was going to go).
I didn’t know if it was what I wanted to do. I told myself, “If I’m going to commit two years, it should be in the right place, so maybe I should put my name back in the drawing bag. At least that’s what I was telling myself.” I called my cousin and told him “Dude, sell me on this, because I don’t know if I want to do it.” He did a good job of telling me why the caucausus are an interesting place to be these days, but what he told me that really stuck was something that very much applies to a situation I’m going through right now, which I will explain soon. He said “What does location have to do with why you are going into the Peace Corps?”
He stopped me dead in my tracks because whatever reasons I had for wanting to do the Peace Corps in an exotic location like Guatemala, Morocco, Cambodia, or Cape Verde, they had nothing to do with why I was volunteering. They helped when I daydreamed about what my life would be like, but ultimately, I joined the Peace Corps because it would give me a chance to create some tangible, noticable change in a community that I could look at after two years and say, “Look, I did that.” It doesn’t need to be tropical at all. In fact, it can be quite soveit too.
If you read that title of the blog, you know I accepted and I’m in Azerbaijan, but a similar dilemma is happening now. We’re all centralized in one place, and in less than a week now, we’ll all find out where we’ll live for the next two years. I requested a town that seems to be a pretty popular spot, that I’m sure a lot of people want to go to, which lessens my chances of actually getting to go there. And of course, there is a sliding scale from there, all the way to a place I could never imagine myself going; some small, desert, conservative town with no other volunteers .
I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but in the end, I can’t help it. I want to go to certain places, and I want nothing to do with others. That’s that. However, I’m at the same crossroads that I was at a few months ago. It doesn’t really matter where I go, no matter how much I tell myself it does. The choice is made for me, therefore wherever it is that they do send me, I need to remember that I’m here because of what there is to do, not because of where it is.
Especially for people applying to the Peace Corps, location is everything, as we tend to romanticize that part of the service. There are so many more variables involved in how much I will like where I am that simply location, I have to get past it. We’ll see what it is on Friday.