29 August 2008b
‘What are you doing?’
‘I’m planting a haycorn, Pooh, so that it can grow up into an oak-tree, and have lots of haycorns just outside the front door instead of having to walk miles and miles, do you see, Pooh?’
from Positively Pooh: A book for Expotitions and New Adventures
Two years is a long time, but it’s not long-term, not really. One of the common themes of conversation among even the stagiares, those of us who were still in the first few months of training is ‘what are you doing after...?’
A current volunteer in my region chatted to me a bit about the ‘future’ conversations phenomenon. She told me that she realized that in order to make it through the two years in Peace Corps, a volunteer has to have a selfish reason for being here (in addition to the altruistic ‘help people’ and ‘change the world’ sentiments we all carry with us). Two years is a long time to separate yourself from your support network and move into a world where time crawls by and visible change almost certainly will not happen during your service. You will see obstacles all around you and not be able to tangibly realize the results of your efforts.
Two years is a long time to be purely altruistic.
So, for me. Career advancement is a big ‘selfish’ reason. I had two fantastic jobs in Edinburgh working for amazing organizations. But I had very little change of moving up in the tiny world of non-profit Edinburgh. I looked around for international non-governmental organizations and found that almost universally, every job I was interested in required two years of experience in a developing country. I was otherwise perfectly qualified, but missing that key locational and experiential aspect of my résumé.
I’d though about going into the Peace Corps ever since high school – I’m pretty sure I described a career path of college -> Peace Corps -> politics in a couple of my college application essays. This was the perfect timing: my visa expiring in the UK, necessitating a move to somewhere else and a desire to continue moving around the world living in different countries.
Coming into the Peace Corps and doing my best to improve the lives of the people I live with here is perfectly fitted into my career path. Of course, I have no clear idea at the moment of where that path will lead after the two years. But I’ve started making branching list of options:
Stay in Togo
3rd year as PCV in Mission Tové
3rd year as PCV with PSI or other project
Get a job with an NGO here
Stay in PC
Stay in Togo (see Opt 1 A&B)
Go to another country
another French-speaking country elsewhere?
Move back to States
Move to CA find job
Move to DC find job
with Peace Corps?
Go back to University
Get MBA in International Business Management
Get MA in Foreign Affairs
Go crazy and try for a law degree
Move to Europe
Find a job at EU in Brussels
Find a job in Scotland
Find a job in France/Belgium/Luxembourg?
Move to another developing country
Find a job with UN
Find a job with an NGO
etc. etc. etc.