November 1, 2003 - Industrial Blog: About that time I got it into my head that I wanted to see the world, too, and began the process of applying to the Peace Corps.

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By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-165-54.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.165.54) on Saturday, November 01, 2003 - 1:20 pm: Edit Post

About that time I got it into my head that I wanted to see the world, too, and began the process of applying to the Peace Corps.



About that time I got it into my head that I wanted to see the world, too, and began the process of applying to the Peace Corps.

During the semesters, I had off every Friday,and I'd drive up to Princeton to see a good friend and we'd have lunch and talk about everything under the sun. About that time I got it into my head that I wanted to see the world, too, and began the process of applying to the Peace Corps.

Alas, my wonderful, literary life filled with fantasies of world travel that would ultimately result in a best-selling novel and lots of ... er, fringe benefits, couldn't last. Two years and time was up for IB Bill. I graduated.

So I helped the department secretary move into my friend Brad's place, then later I helped them both pack up their truck and move to Tennessee. They got married and live in Knoxville. My good friend John from the volunteer work went to Gabon as a Peace Corps volunteer. Pretty much the entire creative writing program graduated and left town, including me. I went to Manila, Tonia went to Prague, Aaron to the Canary Islands. Ray and Val got married and moved to Champaign, Illinois. Brad and Nancy to Knoxville. Only two Ivy Leaguers stuck around--and they went to Penn.

As a backup in case the Manila plan didn't work, I'd applied and been accepted to the Ph.D. program, and asked for a continuation of my assistantship. But then the Commonwealth cut the university budget, and the journal assistant positions all of them were eliminated. I applied for teaching but was turned down because of the critical theory thing.

So I went to the Philippines without a backup plan, and that was bad because it turned out I needed one. In retrospect, the Manila episode was an absolutely necessary learning experience for me. But the lesson was painful. The culture shock, both in going and returning, was so great that I have never felt remotely like the same person before I left. That guy the happy, naive dude who wasn't above using half-understood literary ideas as a way to, well, you get the idea was gone. Just gone.

After Manila, I came back not only with just a few friends left in town, I couldn't locate me again. That's how alienated I was. I was walking around and everything was completely different everything. Portions of food seemed obscenely huge. America seemed mind-bogglingly wealthy. And Americans seemed to be unself-aware, whiny, self-absorbed, clueless and full of shit.

Then, a year of under-/unemployment/struggling in the Ph.D. program, at which point I was turned down again for an assistantship. With that, I went to Gabon. If you recall a few paragraphs up, my friend John from the volunteer teaching was already in Gabon. That sounded very cool. I'd be starting out with a friend there. But John turned out to be a quitter and frankly a bit of a punk, and returned to the city only two weeks before I left (basically he quit because he was a big pussy), just enough time to give me an earload of bitterness and anger.

Meanwhile, on the corner of 18th and Spruce, I said good-bye to a good friend who'd helped me in the past 10 months. I left for Africa. The Philippines had put some caution into me (OK, the fear of God), and thus I was careful. The care paid off. I spent two years teaching. An unfortunate motorcycle accident cut the last bit off my tour. It was an odd experience Peace Corps as a whole, not the accident. I experienced for the first time in my life something you might call surface misery. That is, I was often pissed off and irritable, but there was underneath that a deep sense of satisfaction during my service.

When I came back to the U.S. a second time, I was again different. I wasn't the miserable wretch I'd been after Manila, and I was two steps removed from the happy guy in the creative writing program. I was just different. The Manila demons were permanently exorcised.

This time, the culture shock was treated very carefully. Things went better except for one piece of unfortunate news. Yes, the friend from Spruce Street, who'd gone to law school in Nashville, had moved on with her life and had in fact tossed several people out of her life, including, I discovered upon my return, me. I was determined not to be a broken-hearted asshole (paraphrasing Frank Zappa here) even though I was one. I decided to move forward. And it worked. I was much happier than I'd been in years.



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Story Source: Industrial Blog

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Gabon; Humor

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