Saturday, June 30, 2012

Apples And Oranges

The King is dead... long live the King! Twenty-two days ago, I officially completed my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Ten days ago, I once again rose my right hand, swearing my allegiance to the United States, and officially started my service as a Peace Corps (Response) Volunteer. After almost two weeks in this new country, with this new assignment, I finally feel ready to reflect a bit on what it is like for me here. Of course, so much is new... but some things are pretty much the same.

The first thing I'll say is that my reign as the Luckiest Man Alive continues, uninterrupted. I had some doubts about the streak continuing when received my travel itinerary... not exactly lucky. In their infinite wisdom—an frugality—Peace Corps routed me from Oakland, California to Seattle Washington, to Miami, Florida to Panama City, Panama, to Barranquilla, Colombia. Did I lose you there? For those of you who are not sure how ridiculous this flight plan is, I have prepared ap map, using a mural painted by a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia. Like I said, some things are the same. This itinerary was eerily similar to my odyssey back home from Cape Verde—also a four-leg, thirty-hour journey.


After the first three legs of my journey, I met two other soon-to-be Response Volunteers at the boarding gate in the Panama City Airport. Jarrett (Massachusetts), and Eric (North Carolina) are also working with Fútbol Con Corazón as Youth Outreach Specialists. I knew my lucky streak was still in effect when I found my seat on the plane... 1A! This time, when we landed, our Country Director and the Director of Programming and Training had cleared security, customs and immigrations and were waiting for us on the catwalk, just on the other side of the plane's door.

Last summer I flew to Cape Verde with twenty-four other Trainees, then spent much of the following nine weeks with them in training before being sworn in as Volunteers. Even after that, I lived in a community within walking distance of six other Volunteers, and worked and lived with one of them (wuddup Rory?!). Last week I arrived with two other Candidates, and after a one-hour meeting with the Country Director, we swore in as Volunteers. After a few days of orientation sessions and administrative nitty gritty, we were installed in our respective communities and I didn't see them (or any other Americans) again until last night (a week later).

I felt another big difference the first time I stepped foot inside Carrefour, a gigantic all-you-can-buy style store with a produce section unlike anything you could scavenge on the ten islands of Cape Verde. Granted, this store is nowhere near my house, and we normally buy our produce from random sellers who walk through town with a bucket full of avocados, or a donkey-pulled cart full of mangos. 

Perhaps the biggest similarity is that once again I have a beautiful host family that has has made me feel like I’ve finally come back home after being away for a long time. Once again, I have a ten year-old sidekick/brother, whose name, ironically, is Jaime*. My host mother, Chabela, is the unofficial Godmother of the town, and serves as an elected member of the Junta Comunal.** We live with her son (Jaime), her nephew, his wife, and their baby, who happens the be one the most tranquilo and bazofo*** infants I have ever met.

Unlike Cape Verde, I will be living with my host-family for the duration of my service in Colombia, as opposed to just during a nine-week training period.**** My new community has more than a few things in common with the first communities where I lived in Assomada, Cape Verde. Twenty-four hour music blasting on the weekends—except now it is Vallenato, Salsa, Reggaeton and Champeta, instead of Funaná, Zouk and Reggae.

Once again, I’ve been blessed with a work environment full of competent folks who love what they do, and who are excited to have me join their team. Once again, I am working with youth... the difference is that in Cape Verde, youth means 18-35 year olds, whereas here, I work with 6-15 year olds.

Perhaps the biggest difference this time around is that I don’t feel like I’m in the Peace Corps, whatever that means. Or, maybe it would be more accurate to say that I rarely think about Peace Corps here. With all due respect to the powers that be, I think this is a good thing. It just means that instead of thinking about paperwork and protocol, I am immersed in my work, and at home in my community. If I close my eyes at work (and pretend that it isn’t a billion degrees Farenheit with 101% humidity), and listen to the sounds of a hundred kids chasing soccer balls and each other around the pitch, then I could easily imagine myself back home. It just feels so much like what I’ve been doing—what I’ve grown to love, and what I’ve become pretty good at. Call it Child Development using soccer as a vehicle for blah-blah-blah... or call it herding cats. Either way, it’s my thing—something that I have no trouble rolling out of bed to do everyday. Which is fortunate, because my workdays here a long, plenty and hot, and the kids don’t cut you any slack.

Pura Vida,


* One of my real brother's name's is Jaime... except, at 6'6" he is a little two big to be my sidekick.

** Community/Town Council

*** Bazofo - Kriolu Kabu-verdianu... meaning well-dressed, fresh-pressed, GQ, so-fresh-and-so-clean, fitted and kitted, etc... observe the mohawk.

**** Did I mention that there was no nine-week training period?! Hah!

***** Map of Colombia by Rubén Barios... Map of the World by Anderson Oliveros, Jean C. Pacheco, Matthew Callagan (RPCV) & Carolina Buitrago (RPCV)


  1. So glad you are having a great start there! What a life-you are blessed:)

  2. I used to go to Carrefour in Shenyang, China when I was with Princeton in Asia.