I think most Peace Corps volunteers who maintain a weblog eventually write a post explaining why they decided to serve. Putting into words what motivated me to leave everything behind in the United States and live in Indonesia for two years is difficult. I can barely explain to myself why I wanted to join the Peace Corps; so explaining “why” to others is especially difficult—nearly impossible in Indonesian. I may not be able to say exactly why I came to Indonesia but I can say why I didn’t come to Indonesia: I didn’t come here to ‘help.’
Ramadan is a torpid affair. Not much happens. For my cohort and me the vacuous schedules of our various schools gives us very little to do for our first month at our permanent site. All this free time is great for picking up new hobbies, exploring the desa, meeting the community, planning for lessons, or considering secondary projects to take on over the next two years. Unfortunately, I have done practically none of these things.
Pre service training, or PST, is essentially boot camp for Peace Corps volunteers. Traditionally PST is three months, twelve weeks, in length. Peace Corps Indonesia normally has a ten-week long PST; unfortunately for my cohort (ID10, my “class” of fellow volunteers) our departure from the States was postponed for ten days due to a delay in obtaining visas— a fun and telling welcome to the Peace Corps for sure.
This past Wednesday, the first of June, my Peace Corps class concluded pre-service training and was sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs). The start of our two years of service officially began. We received our Peace Corps pins, and most of us said goodbye to Kediri, our first home in Indonesia.
When people think about the Peace Corps they often do so in a somewhat romantic and idealized way. Most of the pictures non-Peace Corps people see are of volunteers in stock photo-esque situations. Leaning over a child and pointing to a new word in a book. Looking at a map with a local and pointing to a remote village that needs clean water. Standing in a field with a farmer pointing off in the distance to the future (I don’t know about you, but I imagine a lot of pointing when I think of stock photography). Perhaps another fitting image that comes to mind is of a volunteer eating an exotic food. But one thought that probably does not occur to people outside of the Peace Corps is the diarrhea that that volunteer will suffer through for eating such an exotic food.