submission for Toucan Times, february 24, 2004
Life after Peace Corps
There is life after Peace Corps. It’s confusing for the first couple of months, but life does move on. As a PCV, I wondered how all the RPCVs could leave beautiful Belize and forget about all the current PCVs, the pikni and all the needy projects going on. But now as an RPCV, I’ve realized the true impact of culture shock. It does happen, this is not just a myth!! What kind of shock did I experience, you ask? Let me tell you, I was mostly OVERWHELMED! Mainly by all the frickin choices everywhere. Always you are asked to make a choice…for gas, for banks, for food… At the sandwich shop you have to choose what kind of bread (from a list of like thirty), cheese, meat (or no meat), veggies, mustard, special sauces..etc and we haven’t even made it to beverages, much less the different flavors of potato chips. Don’t go to Walmart unless you’ve prepped yourself by first venturing into a Walgreen’s or other mid-sized, manageable, buy-whatever-you-could-possibly-want type of store. America is an amazing place. I marveled for days at the endless, flawless sidewalks, at the hard working construction guys filling in those annoying potholes. I delighted in hot water FROM ALL THE TAPS! I took long leisurely hot showers and threw my clothes in a machine that made them all fresh smelling and warm. MMMMMMM. Boy that’s a little slice of heaven right there! I left food unwrapped and GUESS WHAT?!!! Ants haven’t flocked to it after i’ve left it ‘just for a minute’! Amazing. After the novelty of home starts to slowly fade away, you’re apt to be pretty damn sick of the phrases, “i just got back from Peace Corps” “I was in Belize” and tired of answering “did you like it?” or “what was it like?”. (However, a good way to spice up the game of trying to describe your entire living experience in a country they’ve never heard of, is to say the first word that pops into your head when asked, “how was it” “hot” “crazy” “full of drunks”….etc) What I was slow to realize is that the question that followed was always the worst, “what are you doing now?” I think, wildly “Ah, shit!, I am still just being a bum. I need time! I need to adjust! Where in the hell is my settling in allowance, anyway?!! And what am I going to tell this sweet old person that doesn’t have a clue about how I dream of living my life” My standard answer was always, “I’m applying to graduate school.” Well, I did apply to graduate school and 45 dollars later I’ve realized that there is no way I can handle the Masters in Academic Teaching program right now. However, in the usual way that things happen to me, I ended up being sworn in to Americorps. I had filled out the application online while still PCV-ing in Belize. With the fear of Bush’s infamous budget cuts, I hesitated about joining until I could be sure of getting paid…(I may be a volunteer, but I need to eat!) In that meantime, I visited New York City, Deleware, and Oregon. I ended up interviewing over the phone for a position in Tucson, Arizona with the Youth Volunteer Corps, got hired and here I am.
Let me tell you, Americorps isn’t so different from Peace Corps… I’m still poor, I am helping the local community, I’m adjusting to a new culture (Tucson is culturally fascinating! What a vibrant place!) and though I’m shopping in big beautiful supermarkets with food stamps, I bring those groceries home in the basket of my beach cruiser. But I tell you what was the indicator of Americorps being just as much of a trip as Peace Corps, it was on a monday morning, just drinking my Seattle’s Best coffee on my front porch (sin hamaca) when from around the corner two chickens come pecking into my front yard. They stayed long enough for me to gather odd looks, comments like, “how cute!” and “I don’t recognize those chickens” [said the mailman, who, YES, was delivering my mail RIGHT TO MY FRONT DOOR!]. I sat there, watching those cute chickens and thought back fondly of the many chickens and roosters I used to watch on my hill in Cristo Rey Village. I miss that hammock and view, man! I kind of miss all that free time, but like I said before, Americorps isn’t so different from Peace Corps. I still have the time to just sit and watch the chickens!
by: Alanna Randall, RPCV Belize 2001-3 Cayo District