June 14, 2004: Headlines: COS - Benin: PCVs in the Field - Benin: Blogs - Benin: Personal Web Site: Cristy in Benin

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Cristy in Benin

Cristy in Benin

Cristy in Benin

Wed Jun 16, 2004
April 2003

04-18-03: It finally hit me today - I'll be living in West Africa in less than two months. Holy shit. Ever since I got my invitation, I've been living in a state of denial. I've been acting as if it's completely normal for people to pack up and move to Africa to live in a mud hut without electricity or running water for two years. I've accepted the challenge as lightly as that of getting myself out of bed every morning, as if it were a simple step- merely a matter of course.

Now I must ask myself: "What have I done?" Failure is, for the first time in my life, a viable threat. Failure at any level can be upsetting, whether it's something as small as bombing that stupid stats quiz or something as big as bombing the interview for that dream job. I think I can safely say that I have never truly failed at anything I've ever done. And even if I did, that failure didn't have a large impact on my life, and it certainly affected nobody other than myself. Now I face the possibility of real failure. I have posed myself this challenge to push myself beyond my comfort zone, to get to know my own limits, my own self. I now realize that this challenge is no longer solely about me. My success or failure will impact an entire fragile community of people hanging on by a thread, with little reason to believe that there is still some hope left in the world. For the first time in my life, I'll be doing real work, important work that doesn't just affect me, that doesn't just affect some corporate investment, that doesn't just affect some insignificant statistic. I'll be doing work that will affect real lives...REAL LIVES...and my failure will also affect real lives. At least I can say that I feel ready to take this challenge, I just hope that I am strong enough to not let them down. For me, the scariest part is not knowing. Not knowing what challenges I will face, not knowing my own courage, my own will, my own strength. All of this not knowing, after 18 years of education....makes that college degree look a little silly, doesn't it?

04-04-03: I have spent a good chunk of time over the past month or so researching life in the Peace Corps. I'm remarkably like a small child, eager for any scrap of information that might throw some light on how and where I might be living abroad. Today, my thoughts turned away from my prospective volunteer experience itself, to the effect it might have on me when I return home. I changed so much as a result of my stay in Switzerland, that I can't even begin to imagine how living in a third-world country will affect me. I put together a little sketch of what I envision for my future. I'm posting it here so that I can read it when I get back and laugh at how silly and naive I once was...

I will be one inch shorter, as my body mass will have shriveled a little under the harsh sub-saharan sun and shrink due to the hard diet of rice, rice and rice. Maybe I will be legally considered a dwarf. I will no longer be afraid of spiders or cockroaches. In fact, I will return home with a family of bugs. I will name them, love them and whisper softly to them in the lonely hours of the night. They will ignore me until I give them food, take my unconditional love for granted (it's impossible to love something that creepy if it's not unconditional) and might even try to escape. I will come home loving America more than I ever thought possible. I will come home hating America, too. I will be more understanding of cultural differences and more sensitive to human suffering. Except of course, when it comes to my own children. They will just have to "deal with it", because they don't know what suffering is until they've seen what I've seen. I won't mind being dirty, and won't even notice being dirty until my little cockroach family councils me on the virtues of good hygiene. As one person recently said, I'll be SO much cooler than anyone else I know. I will gain fluency in a language that few have even heard of and will lose fluency in my native language. I might consider setting up a cultural exchange between the grizzly bear population of Montana and the wild camel population of the Sahara - both being equally misunderstood. I will read German literature in francophone west Africa and I will discuss Middle-Eastern politics with an English ex-patriate in French. My body will be weakend with exotic parasites, except for my neck, which will be brawny from balancing water buckets on my head. I will be a little on the bohemian side, "letting myself go" for the sake of simplicity. I will be ugly on the outside, beautiful but torn on the inside. I will have broken nails, frizzy hair, dry skin and dirty feet. I won't care. I will be completely different, but my name will not change. My country will not have changed, my family and friends will be much the same. I will come home and no longer recognize my own culture, my own home, myself. Then I will build my world again, as a new person with an old rusty name.

When this story was posted in February 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

The Peace Corps Library Date: February 7 2005 No: 438 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in over 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related reference material in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can use the Main Index to find hundreds of stories about RPCVs who have your same interests, who served in your Country of Service, or who serve in your state.

Make a call for the Peace Corps Date: February 19 2005 No: 453 Make a call for the Peace Corps
PCOL is a strong supporter of the NPCA's National Day of Action and encourages every RPCV to spend ten minutes on Tuesday, March 1 making a call to your Representatives and ask them to support President Bush's budget proposal of $345 Million to expand the Peace Corps. Take our Poll: Click here to take our poll. We'll send out a reminder and have more details early next week.
Peace Corps Calendar:Tempest in a Teapot? Date: February 17 2005 No: 445 Peace Corps Calendar:Tempest in a Teapot?
Bulgarian writer Ognyan Georgiev has written a story which has made the front page of the newspaper "Telegraf" criticizing the photo selection for his country in the 2005 "Peace Corps Calendar" published by RPCVs of Madison, Wisconsin. RPCV Betsy Sergeant Snow, who submitted the photograph for the calendar, has published her reply. Read the stories and leave your comments.

February 19, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: February 19 2005 No: 449 February 19, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
NPCA Board positions are open for nomination 17 Feb
Mike Tidwell on trial for climate action protest 17 Feb
Katie Dyer is co-owner of Cadeaux du Monde 16 Feb
Cyclone misses Tonga and Samoa PCVs 16 Feb
Phil Hardberger in debate for Mayor of San Antonio 16 Feb
Edmund Hull is Princeton Diplomat-In-Residence 16 Feb
Bruce Greenlee is longtime friend of Latino community 15 Feb
Mike Honda new vice chairman at DNC 15 Feb
Jospeh Opala documents slave crossing from Sierra Leone 14 Feb
Dear Dr. Brothers: Aren't PCVs Hippies? 14 Feb
Joseph Lanning founded the World Education Fund 14 Feb
Stanley Levine draws Marine and Peace Corps similarities 14 Feb
Speaking Out: JFK envisioned millions of RPCVs 13 Feb
Chris Aquino visits mother's homeland of Vietnam 12 Feb
Is PCOL blocking users from posting messages? 12 Feb
JFK Library opens Sargent Shriver Collection 1 Feb
RPCV responds to Bulgaria Calendar concerns 28 Jan

WWII participants became RPCVs Date: February 13 2005 No: 442 WWII participants became RPCVs
Read about two RPCVs who participated in World War II in very different ways long before there was a Peace Corps. Retired Rear Adm. Francis J. Thomas (RPCV Fiji), a decorated hero of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, died Friday, Jan. 21, 2005 at 100. Mary Smeltzer (RPCV Botswana), 89, followed her Japanese students into WWII internment camps. We honor both RPCVs for their service.
Bush's FY06 Budget for the Peace Corps Date: February 7 2005 No: 436 Bush's FY06 Budget for the Peace Corps
The White House is proposing $345 Million for the Peace Corps for FY06 - a $27.7 Million (8.7%) increase that would allow at least two new posts and maintain the existing number of volunteers at approximately 7,700. Bush's 2002 proposal to double the Peace Corps to 14,000 volunteers appears to have been forgotten. The proposed budget still needs to be approved by Congress.
RPCVs mobilize support for Countries of Service Date: January 30 2005 No: 405 RPCVs mobilize support for Countries of Service
RPCV Groups mobilize to support their Countries of Service. Over 200 RPCVS have already applied to the Crisis Corps to provide Tsunami Recovery aid, RPCVs have written a letter urging President Bush and Congress to aid Democracy in Ukraine, and RPCVs are writing NBC about a recent episode of the "West Wing" and asking them to get their facts right about Turkey.
RPCVs contend for Academy Awards  Date: January 31 2005 No: 416 RPCVs contend for Academy Awards
Bolivia RPCV Taylor Hackford's film "Ray" is up for awards in six categories including best picture, best actor and best director. "Autism Is a World" co-produced by Sierra Leone RPCV Douglas Biklen and nominated for best Documentary Short Subject, seeks to increase awareness of developmental disabilities. Colombian film "El Rey," previously in the running for the foreign-language award, includes the urban legend that PCVs teamed up with El Rey to bring cocaine to U.S. soil.
Ask Not Date: January 18 2005 No: 388 Ask Not
As our country prepares for the inauguration of a President, we remember one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century and how his words inspired us. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Benin; PCVs in the Field - Benin; Blogs - Benin



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