2008.02.22: February 22, 2008: Headlines: COS - Cambodia: Blogs - Cambodia: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer "Be the change." writes: I came to Cambodia to save the world. I donít mean that I was actually that naÔve, or that my intentions were so ignorantly starry-eyed and cocky that I expected to achieve this. But what that idea represents was in me

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Cambodia: Peace Corps Cambodia: Peace Corps Cambodia: Newest Stories: 2008.02.22: February 22, 2008: Headlines: COS - Cambodia: Blogs - Cambodia: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer "Be the change." writes: I came to Cambodia to save the world. I donít mean that I was actually that naÔve, or that my intentions were so ignorantly starry-eyed and cocky that I expected to achieve this. But what that idea represents was in me

By Admin1 (admin) (151.196.46.182) on Saturday, February 14, 2009 - 5:22 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer "Be the change." writes: I came to Cambodia to save the world. I donít mean that I was actually that naÔve, or that my intentions were so ignorantly starry-eyed and cocky that I expected to achieve this. But what that idea represents was in me

Peace Corps Volunteer Be the change. writes: I came to Cambodia to save the world. I donít mean that I was actually that naÔve, or that my intentions were so ignorantly starry-eyed and cocky that I expected to achieve this. But what that idea represents was in me

And the truth is that no matter what a Peace Corps Volunteer says to ďplay it coolĒ, there is this drive, this hope of making a difference that exists in them all. We want to teach, to listen, to give what we have to offer and in doing so ďbe the changeĒ as my ridiculously arrogant BLOG title suggests. How it is manifested clearly varies on the person, but helping to be an instrument for change is inherent in all of us. It has to be, or else why would we want to try?

Peace Corps Volunteer "Be the change." writes: I came to Cambodia to save the world. I donít mean that I was actually that naÔve, or that my intentions were so ignorantly starry-eyed and cocky that I expected to achieve this. But what that idea represents was in me

Friday, February 22, 2008

The One Year Mark

So February 2nd, 2008 marked one year since I first arrived in Cambodia for my two years of Peace Corps service. There has been so much that has changed in so many ways for me since I stepped on the plane out of Baltimore last January that to attempt any sort of clichť ďrecapĒ would be laughable. Iíve had 10 minute conversations worthy of many pages of writing, so how could I hope to come close to adequately summing up an entire year?

Nevertheless, such anniversaries do provide an opportunity for reflection, and to this end, I wanted to just try and briefly say how I perceive myself and my goals for service now as they compared a year ago. Truly some of these thoughts took the entirety of the time to develop, so itís an appropriate occasion to air them.

I came to Cambodia to save the world. I donít mean that I was actually that naÔve, or that my intentions were so ignorantly starry-eyed and cocky that I expected to achieve this. But what that idea represents was in me. And the truth is that no matter what a Peace Corps Volunteer says to ďplay it coolĒ, there is this drive, this hope of making a difference that exists in them all. We want to teach, to listen, to give what we have to offer and in doing so ďbe the changeĒ as my ridiculously arrogant BLOG title suggests. How it is manifested clearly varies on the person, but helping to be an instrument for change is inherent in all of us. It has to be, or else why would we want to try?

I can now say confidently that I will never save the world. In my year in Cambodia the realities of poverty, institutional corruption, disease, infrastructural deficits, and gaps in education in the developing world have been shown to me in a way that no book could ever hope to convey. For every bit of motivation there is a challenge to frustrate it, and even the brightest and kindest people will unflinchingly point out devastating setbacks to the best of intentions.

There have been (and will be) days when futility almost overwhelms me. In my frustration I railed against the problems in the system, the fact that funds that should be reaching my school arenít, and the lack of a fair wage to the educators here (as in almost all countries). I vented about co-teachers being late or missing class, the general lack of application for English at my site, and the resulting conclusion that someone in Peace Corps must be getting a good laugh at the joke of me being out here. I even criticized the people that I live with, the constant watching of my every move, and the repetitious social interactions. These are just a few examples, for there are few things that havenít felt my wrath at some point (often muttered to myself, often in the middle of a particularly heinous bike ride). All the bitching actually creates quite a warm little bubble of self-righteousness, in which I sit and pout.

I considered early termination. Itís a thought that passes through everyoneís mind, at least for an instant. I thought about picking up my bubble and other toys and stomping my way back home to stop ďwasting my timeĒ. It was certainly an appealing thought Ė friends, family, American comforts. Most importantly I would have the knowledge that I had left something that mislead me as to what it would truly be. This would give me a glorious shield against the psychology of not setting out to do what I wanted to do. I mean, I did all I could! I was let down by the experience, but you canít help it if you give it your best shot and got screwedÖ right?

Then one day I was watching a neighboring boy stake his cows into the field next to my house to graze. He does this just about every morning, though the position of the cows changes depending on grass growth. And as dusk approaches, he dutifully reemerges to bring the cows back under shelter.

And this is when it hit me. I am a big, pathetic, whiney brat.

I am a healthy, straight, middle-class, white, American male. I come from a loving and supportive family. I have spectacular friends. My life is the kind many people dream ofÖ literally, because Iíve met some of those dreamers here. Frankly, taking a look at my cushy resume, I could do with a little adversity. So I come across the world, and true, I find difficulties and challenges. There are more than enough to make the argument to people that Iím doing my part to fight injustice in the world. And yet along side these ďproblemsĒ I meet some of the kindest, most generous people in the world. People that didnít chose to be here; this place chose them. The difficulties I complain about are parts of their lives. There is no escape except in the slow push of reform and progress. They live their days and make them their own, not as some sort of artistic project of service and self-exploration that will end in two years, but because it is their lot in life. There is no passport, no shield of the most powerful government on the planet protecting them, and no ticket out in April 2009. They push forward because they must make the most of what they have, as we all must

And so itís truly amazing to me that I have the gall to feel put-upon when that boy takes his cows out in the morning and in at night every day for perhaps the rest of his life. I canít do for two years what these unbelievable people do for their entire lives? I would say it is humbling, but it is closer to what Kerry once said to me which is that ď"humbling" is actually a much milder form of the very honest and unflattering perspectiveĒ that I have come to have of myself. It is quite a moment to realize how truly selfish you are.

And yet this is not a retrospective, for here I stand at the halfway point. Have storm clouds broken to show a new and radiant side of my time in Cambodia? Of course not. The artificial construct of human time cannot truly track how things move in our world, and change is a glacial process. But what can evolve is my approach, and it does every day here. I canít fix the educational system, but maybe I can just have a conversation with a student they couldnít otherwise have. I canít alleviate poverty, but I can eat breakfast in a place thatís never had a big, goofy looking white customer. I canít take anyone back to America with me, but I can have a conversation with someone that doesnít want to be ďsavedĒÖ they just want to talk. My time is here for them, and if my company is the best I can offer, then thatís what Iíll do.

I will never change Cambodia the way I had hoped. The delusion of an over-confident boy from the U.S. who landed in this country a year ago is good and dead. But there is not a doubt in my mind that Cambodia is changing me more than I could have ever hoped. It is a debt I can never repay. But I have a year to try.




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: February, 2008; Peace Corps Cambodia; Directory of Cambodia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Cambodia RPCVs; Blogs - Cambodia





When this story was posted in February 2009, this was on the front page of PCOL:




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PCOL's Candidate for Peace Corps Director Date: December 2 2008 No: 1288 PCOL's Candidate for Peace Corps Director
Honduras RPCV Jon Carson, 33, presided over thousands of workers as national field director for the Obama campaign and said the biggest challenge -- and surprise -- was the volume of volunteer help, including more than 15,000 "super volunteers," who were a big part of what made Obama's campaign so successful. PCOL endorses Jon Carson as the man who can revitalize the Peace Corps, bring it into the internet age, and meet Obama's goal of doubling the size of the Peace Corps by 2011.

Director Ron Tschetter:  The PCOL Interview Date: December 9 2008 No: 1296 Director Ron Tschetter: The PCOL Interview
Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter sat down for an in-depth interview to discuss the evacuation from Bolivia, political appointees at Peace Corps headquarters, the five year rule, the Peace Corps Foundation, the internet and the Peace Corps, how the transition is going, and what the prospects are for doubling the size of the Peace Corps by 2011. Read the interview and you are sure to learn something new about the Peace Corps. PCOL previously did an interview with Director Gaddi Vasquez.

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Robert P. Cristo returns to Nigeria 4 Jan
Sarah Holt makes 2,663-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail 5 Jan
Zophia Kneiss is metal sculptor 11 Jan
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Melanie Edwards founds Mobile Metrix 14 Jan
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Lawrence Leamer writes: Obama betrays the Peace Corps? 18 Jan
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Some PCVs return to Bolivia on their own Date: October 23 2008 No: 1279 Some PCVs return to Bolivia on their own
Peace Corps has withdrawn all volunteers from Bolivia because of "growing instability" and the expulsion of US Ambassador Philip Goldberg after Bolivian President Evo Morales accused the American government of inciting violence in the country. This is not the first controversy surrounding Goldberg's tenure as US ambassador to Bolivia. Latest: Some volunteers have returned to Bolivia on their own to complete their projects.

PCVs Evacuated from Georgia Date: August 19 2008 No: 1254 PCVs Evacuated from Georgia
The Peace Corps has announced that all Volunteers and trainees serving in the Republic of Georgia are safe and they have been temporarily relocated to neighboring Armenia. Read the analysis by one RPCV on how Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili believed that he could launch a lightning assault on South Ossetia and reclaim the republic without substantial grief from Moscow and that Saakashvili's statements once the war began demonstrated that he expected real Western help in confronting Russia.



Read the stories and leave your comments.








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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Cambodia; Blogs - Cambodia

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