October 5, 2003 - SVCN: Peace Corps volunteer in Slovakia sees Fourth of July with new eyes

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Slovakia: Peace Corps Slovakia : The Peace Corps in Slovakia: October 5, 2003 - SVCN: Peace Corps volunteer in Slovakia sees Fourth of July with new eyes

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Peace Corps volunteer in Slovakia sees Fourth of July with new eyes

Peace Corps volunteer in Slovakia sees Fourth of July with new eyes

Peace Corps volunteer sees Fourth of July with new eyes


There is that point every morning when you wish it was not morning just yet, and you crave to sleep, or dream, or think or talk to yourself. Sometimes it lasts for just a split second, but other times, it lasts long past that disturbing alarm clock. On July 4, 1995, these were my thoughts.

I was thinking about a good friend who celebrated his birthday that day. Another friend; another birthday; another year. I guess we do grow old. I was thinking about my one-year anniversary of being in Slovakia. A package of mixed emotions in itself, I reflected a little on what I have been doing with my life. I tried to answer the big questions--the what, why, where, when, and how I ended up in Slovakia. Not surprisingly, my questions were not answered that morning. I also was awaiting the arrival of a Peace Corps trainee for a site visit. My place was a mess, and besides, what the hell can we do in Cachtice for five days?

But more importantly, I was thinking about something that I had not thought about too much in my life. At home, the celebration of American Independence Day has simply been just another holiday, an excuse to roll out the rusty old barbecue, drink a few beers, talk with family and friends and relax in the pool. But this year, it took on new meaning for me.

At home, I never thought twice about what the holiday really meant, but being a world away from home, you tend to think about what you cannot have. I thought about my father, who, for as long as I can remember, always hung the American flag above our garage every Fourth of July. I thought about how I would question him, as we were only one of two families out of seven in our court that hung the flag. I did not understand it, why was my father so intent on hanging that flag? But as I lay in my bed, I thought about my father, and dreamed about helping him hang America's colors on her 219th birthday.

I thought about the people that I have met in Slovakia, and how much they would love to be in my shoes. I thought about the violence, and homelessness, and poverty, and drugs, and the fast life, and security, and everything else.

Since being overseas, I have been told that America has no culture, no history. I find that hard to believe. There are more cultures in America than in any other place on this planet. Living in the "melting pot," as it has been referred to, has allowed me to accept other cultures, other ways of life, other people, and not necessarily change them. I have enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life. This constant exchange of culture gradually builds up a tolerance for all people, even if they are different with regards to race, religion, creed, sexuality, etc. (taking into account I am from the most liberal, diverse and progressive state in the union).

I also find it hard to believe that we Americans have no history. Our constitution and government is the longest-lasting ruling government in the world. And it is from this model governmental system that new republics all over the world are seeking assistance. They realize there will never be a system without flaws, and, in turn, look past the turmoil. Our basic freedoms of long ago now are the building blocks for the young republics. They know who and where to turn if they want to make it among the democracies of today.

As I finalized my thoughts for the morning, I arose from my bed with a new understanding. It gave me hope for the future that things will continue to progress on the local level. It gave me motivation as a grassroots ambassador, pushing me along on a journey that I started a year ago. But more importantly, I finally realized why my father took the time and made the effort every year to hang our American flag. The morning rekindled my love for my country's birthday. And on a global level, I realized it is not just an American holiday, but a world celebration for all those who believe in the freedoms of a democratic society.

South Bay resident Michael Moses has been an environmental awareness educator with the Peace Corps in the Slovak Republic for the past two years. He wrote these thoughts to his father, Roy J. Moses, last year.

This article appeared in the Sunnyvale Sun, July 3, 1996.
©1996 Metro Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Story Source: SVCN

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Slovakia; Holidays



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