Scared shitless Peace Corps isn’t gonna be a good way to spend two years


17 November 2001
Mierna’s House

Today I feel genuinely doubtful about my career as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

  1. These people in the bateyes are like slaves but only poorer. What can I do about such oppression, exactly?
  2. I don’t see how it is that I can integrate into such a poor community when I want a house to myself– a house with a loveseat, a comfortable bed, perhaps a music system
  3. There ain’t much beautiful about a batey, just flat, no trees, hot in winter, hotter in summer.
  4. The people are not native Spanish speakers. I’ll be surprised if they understand even a word I say.
  5. What is it about us weird white people/imperialists that makes us think that somehow we can provide for the people we’ve fucked over for years any sort of genuine help? Who exactly died and made us God?
  6. For that matter, who let these fucking sugar companies off the hook? Aren’t they at least supposed to pay a decent wage?
  7. If I can’t get along with my own fellow US people, isn’t it ridiculous to imagine I could get along or befriend someone from another culture entirely?
  8. Why don’t I have any buddies out of all the Peace Corps Volunteers? Can I really survive two years all by myself if not a single one of them are genuinely interested in developing a relationship with me?
  9. I thought Peace Corps would attract smart, progressive, practical sorts of people. But the folks I meet seem actually quite conservative, at least culturally. Blergh.
  10. People are supposed to integrate into their community by introduction of a community leader. By contrast, I am to be thrust into a community by an outside organization, perhaps even kicking someone out of his or her housing in the process. Who even said that the community wanted me?

So I think I’m scared shitless that this really might not be the best way to spend two years.

On the balance, though, I don’t have anything else to do, so it’s pretty useless even considering quitting. I’m pretty much stuck. The risks of quitting are much greater than the risks of staying, or at best a toss up.

Today I woke up at 7AM. Ate toast with salami. For a long time, sat around the house reading All The King’s Men  and feeling bored. Eventually, Mierna set Julio to show me around town, which he did. I called my parents and wrote some email from the Codatel office. The prices were ripoffs given the slow Internet connection and the noise that made talking on the phone quite difficult.

Julio talked of playing in a mountain of granulated sugar. He showed me the sugar factory, which he believes is owned by a Mexican firm. Lunch was arroz, runny habichuela that was not cooked enough, salad, and steak. I skipped the salad and steak and tried to make up an excuse.

In the afternoon, Julio to a motorconcho ride with me over to C’s house. C has the built up accumulation of several generations of Consuelo-based volunteers.

E was there as well. We conversed about a wide variety of things. E strongly rebuked me for being self-deprecative about my language skills, reminding me how wearing it is to listen to someone with a poor opinion of his or herself. She also reminded me how hard it is to give me a compliment when I don’t accept them. Both are points well-taken.

When I think about it now, I’m not so sure that E enjoys my company, and there’s a lot of things she does that set me on edge. Somehow or another, I don’t really meet her face to face. There’s people I converse with, and there’s a genuine understanding. Sometimes, when I speak to E, though, I feel like I am speaking a different language. Her level of incredulity and mistrust puts me on edge. She’s not a soft, welcoming person, but a guarded castle. I just have to be patient and try to gain her trust. I hope I don’t say anything awfully offensive to her before in the meanwhile.

I returned to Mierna’s house by moto. Inside, a conspiracy was brewing. Mirielli wanted to go meet her beau at the basketball game, but needed me to cover her by saying I would pay. In fact, beau was going to pay. They didn’t let her go.

An article explaining some of the context to this entry is available.

This is a review of my personal journal from my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic in 2001-2003. Even if I feel differently now or found out later that I what I wrote was factually incorrect, I haven’t changed what I wrote then. Part of the joy of reading old journals is seeing a story arc where I’ve learned new things.

Names have been shortened to initials to provide some privacy. Even though those who were there may be able to use these initials to figure out who it is I wrote about, please remember that my journaling is not about other people or their experience.