The Peace Corps Community

15 Mar

There are a lot of blog ideas floating around in my head but it never seems like a good time to dedicate a chunk of time to composing one. I thought maybe this one would come relatively easy, so here goes.

Remember when facebook first came out? At first it was like fight club, you didn’t talk about it, but slowly (unlike fight club) it snuck into everyday conversation. It wasn’t long before people stopped apologizing for bringing it up in conversation and there’s relatively little judgment when you admit to friends about fb stalking someone. That’s kind of how I feel about the the online Peace Corps community. Well, except for the part where it’s become a normal part of everyday speech with my peers. Which I don’t see happening anytime soon since no one else I see on a regular basis is a full-blown applicant yet (and I do mean the yet).

So aside from feeling a little bit crazy every time I reference something I read on a volunteer’s blog I have to say that I am so incredibly thankful for the online community(ies?). I can’t even imagine what it was like before the internet made the world so small. Can you imagine showing up to a hotel in some East Coast city waiting to meet a bunch of other strangers and then be shipped off to a developing country with these strangers who are supposed to be your support network for the next 27 months? I read about volunteers texting each other and calling home, skyping etc on a regular basis and I think how isolating the experience must have been before that technology became widespread.

Some may argue that constant access to the internet and ‘outside’ world may inhibit integration. The airlines always tell you to put your oxygen mask on before assisting someone else. I’m of the belief that in order to be a successful at anything, it’s important to be on good footing emotionally, for many that means being in regular contact with loved ones. Sure, technology is used by some volunteers as an escape mechanism from their life at site, but I’m sure if it wasn’t the internet or hard drive full of movies it would be something else. People will find coping mechanisms wherever they can.

So what kind of online communities am I talking about exactly? Well first, there’s facebook where I belong to two, actually three groups. The first is for general people associated with the Peace Corps process, called Future Peace Corps Volunteers. It’s kind of like the sorting hat* of pc groups, people come with general questions, their invitation etc and meet fellow invitees and form their own country specific groups. This is how I found a fellow Rwandan invitee who started our very own group, which is the second fb group I belong to. It’s a mix of six invitees and some current and former Rwandan volunteers. They are awesome and answer silly questions like, ‘what is appropriate pajama attire?” Right now there are only six invitees in our group. We’ve been told that we’ll probably be around a group of 20. So where is everyone else?!

The website that is probably the biggest time suck is Peace Corps Journals. It’s an aggregate of volunteer blogs. You can sort it by country and there’s even a special applicants section. This is where I’ve made some ‘friends’ hahahaha. You kind of fall in a wave of people who are in the same part of the application process as you and maybe get a little invested in their process. Also, there are some people who I am so confused about because their blogs are part of PCJ but they don’t ever talk about being an applicant or return volunteer. Trust me, I’ve snooped. For the sake of not diluting this valuable resource I really want to leave a comment on their blogs asking them to remove their blog. Then I feel silly for being the internet police and try to figure out where these strong feelings about non-pc related blogs come from. Any other PCJers feel the same?

One of the touching things, and what prompted me to write this blog is reading entries from current Rwandan volunteers posting their packing list and packing tips in anticipation of our arrival. The Rwandan PCVs aren’t alone in their awesomeness as I’ve read volunteers from other countries doing the same thing. There’s been a couple entries I’ve read about how new volunteers are greeted in country by current volunteers getting off the plane and a comment from a volunteer about how excited they were for the new group to come in. It’s just so touching how strangers, who are dealing with their own challenges, and by no means an easy life overall can find the energy to make new volunteers feel welcome. It’s humbling and inspiring to know that there are strangers anticipating my arrival and rooting for me before I’ve even started the race.

Then there’s this AWESOME project I’m part of called Snapshots of Service. Basically this awesome lady Kim (who I’ve actually never met) who is leaving for service in Ukraine was out with some PC peeps and came up with the idea of  sending a journal to volunteers around the world and having them make an entry about what was going on at that moment in their service. Since it’s the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps the suggestion of 50 volunteers in 50 countries came up and since it takes a LONG time for mail to get to the places volunteers live we settled for 4 volumes of the journal so that every volunteer can see it twice (hopefully) during their service. People (strangers) stepped up and made a fb group, blog, and took the responsibility of coordinating the travel of the different volumes. Not to mention it was a group effort to recruit all 50 volunteers. Team work among strangers that came so easily. How cool is that? I’m so excited to be the representative for Rwanda because I am nerdy like that.

So there you have it, just like all you xbox and WoWing people I’m part of a community of people who I really only know online. And I am so thankful.

*Harry Potter is extremely popular with future volunteers and probably why I chose that analogy since I’m not a particularly huge fan.

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4 Responses to “The Peace Corps Community”

  1. ashley March 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    OHMYGOODNESS. Okay, I stopped reading mid-way because I had to leave this comment. It makes me so upset that there are non-PC blogs on PCJ and think about leaving comments too. You’re not alone!

    *finish reading* I found your blog through Snapshots because I am the creepiest of all creepers and I also love internet PC friends. Part of me is almost more excited for the journal than the whole teaching English thing. oh well

    • Heidi March 17, 2011 at 7:53 am #

      Thanks Ashley! We are very fortunate. Can you imagine showing up at staging and not having ANY idea who else would be there?

  2. Mike March 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    First, thank you for supporting PCJ! I help run the site, along a few other volunteers, and we’re always happy to see applicants and PCVs telling how much they enjoy using the site and reading fellow PCVs/applicants stories.

    If there are any non-PCV blogs on PCJ you are welcome to e-mail the admins with a list of the links. We will then verify the links, and if they are not PCVs or applicants we will take them off the directory. The e-mail address for admin. support is listed on the right hand side of PCJ.

    Hope that helps!

    -MIke
    RPCV / The Gambia (03-05)

    • Heidi March 17, 2011 at 7:52 am #

      Hey Mike!

      You are certainly welcome for the kudos. Thanks also for the feedback on what to do with the seemingly non-pc related blogs. I know that you guys are all volunteers so I hesitate to raise too much of a stink if it was an opinion that only I had. I will follow-up. Thanks again.

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