I wrote this post a while ago but never got around to posting it. After a successful end to my last big project, I felt it was time.
Originally titled, “Here’s What You Don’t Understand…”
I was granted the privilege to live in another nation for two years. That is not to say I want to leave America (more importantly, Louisiana). Not at all. I completely love my state. I am from Louisiana and I will proudly say that for the rest of my life. Make it my epitaph, “I am from Louisiana.” The outline of the state is tattooed on my chest. I love my state. Yes, it has its problems, many of them. Sometimes these problems can be embarrassing, but I know what they are and I want to help fix them. When I say I was ‘granted the privilege,’ I don’t mean I was happy to get out of there. I mean I was able to take part in something that so few have.
I joined the Peace Corps. It has been difficult. From weekly intestinal problems to lazy students, it has often been a tough time. The idea for PC is to work ourselves out of a job. Think of it as an organization that would love to not have to exist. If the world is void of social, ecological, educational and other adjective issues, what is the need for a development organization? Working from a base or the ground up through resource development is the best way to accomplish the goal. (Side note: PC does not actually hold the view to ‘destroy’ or ‘cease to exist,’…I’m just paraphrasing ‘work yourself out of a job.) It is also the most difficult and slowest way.
PC Cambodia is finishing its sixth year. What have we done? I hate that damn question. Was it worth it? I hate that question more. Am I, one person, going to influence 500 kids in a small village? Are these kids so inspired that they learned English over night and now are off to university? Are 500 families now financially secure because 500 students finished university the next day and now have excellent jobs? That is what I hear with the question ‘was it worth it.’ Did I completely change everyone’s life in my short time here? HA! I stink at sports. I’m not a genius. I’m incredibly good-looking. I don’t have any special talents. I see what is real and I’m OK with it.
You have to look beyond the work you did and didn’t do. There are a few families here that legitimately and genuinely care for and love me. I have 50+ government issued friends (and credit for that clever term goes to one of them) who I will never forget. Only they understand what it was like. I met someone special. Someone I love absolutely. I am connected to this place no matter what. There. I made it ‘worth it.’
Let’s look at what I did or didn’t do. I taught (am teaching) English. Over two years, even after just a few short months, I can tell some students have improved in reading and speaking English. In two years, the teacher’s have improved. Not enough, but they’ve improved. I didn’t have a great club on this topic or that. I tried but it didn’t work out (but the newest one might). I did continue another PCV’s project. I was scared shitless that it would fail or I wouldn’t receive funding, but I did. Maybe, just maybe, one kid will take what he or she learned from their PCV, use that confidence they gained from writing or winning and do…something. Even if it is as simple as the kid not shitting their pants when they have to write or speak English, I will be happy.
I didn’t build a basketball court. Damn it, though, I had it. I had it! You know what happened? ”This is too small for us. We like to build big buildings.” Yeah, I was livid. I almost lost (emotional) control in front of the school director. What could I do though? It doesn’t change anything. I did it. I got the court and I would’ve watched with pride when students played on it for the first time. I didn’t fail, they failed me. Why wouldn’t it still be worth it?
I made it worth it for me.
It will be worth it for Cambodia. I did not save the world nor will any other individual. Give us several more groups. Let me come back to Cambodia after 2, 3 or more PCVs have worked at the same school as me. I will then show you the result of nearly a decade of work done in this small village. I will tell you how it was when I first arrived and you will see the improvement that has occurred.
I will never regret serving with the Peace Corps. I have and will miss weddings in America. I miss my nephews growing up. I miss my family and friends. I miss my dogs. I miss my dog…
I still wouldn’t change it.
That’s all I had. I wrote it right after I found out my lovely pup, Rooney, had died. It happened when I am so close to visiting home again. It is less than two weeks now before our visit and I can’t wait to see my Murphy.
I will post again at the end of the month with a special introduction post.