I talked with my friend who is in Peace Corps Paradise the other day. By Paradise, I mean it’s a place where I would take a lavish vacation and come home raving about. At least that’s what I thought.
For those that aren’t so familiar with the Peace Corps processes, we don’t get to choose where we go. There can be suggestions, or a regional preference, but PC is pretty adamant about not being a travel agency. I think they over play this card a little bit, but in the end it’s about the mission, not the position, so where we end up shouldn’t matter.
Still, some places are going to have a draw, and others aren’t. Think about it: Uzbekistan or Fiji? I don’t know about everyone else, but Fiji is much higher up on my destination list.
With Azerbaijan being chosen for me, I didn’t feel like I could fall back on “well, this is where I chose to be,” when I got frustrated with cultural differences or extreme weather. It happened a lot in the beginning of service, but I would think, “If I was just in a different PC program, none of this would be happening to me. I’d be a lot happier.”
As I was going over this with a friend of mine, he said something like “Are you still bitter that you weren’t born into a rich family?” It was a great metaphor, because even though you can romanticize another kind of lifestyle and how a few changes in details could make all your problems go away, ultimately, that will do you no good. You must play with the hand you are dealt. That is the attitude I’ve taken here since that conversation.
Fast forward through the past year to a couple days ago to my conversation with the fellow PCV in PC Paradise. All of the issues she was having as a volunteer (she’s at a much earlier stage in her service) were the same ones I went through. This makes sense, as the roller coaster of PC life is a well documented process, but a lot of the issues that she was having with paradise itself sounded like the same complaints PCVs have about this place. While trying to remain sympathetic, it was a great thing for me to hear. I think it really cemented in the idea that Peace Corps is Peace Corps, and where you are is simply a detail.