Peace Corps Blogging: The Perfect Solution.
By my calculations, I’ve been away at college for approximately 260 days now. That’s including breaks of course, some of which I returned home for, but it’s still rather impressive. A Peace Corps volunteer is away in a different country for approximately 730 days. While at college I’m surrounded by new friends, roommates and a boyfriend, a PCV is thrust into a brand new culture with a group of people who are so different from them that it creates a difficulty to relate or feel connected. Also added into the mix is the unavailability of consistent cell service or Internet access to communicate with loved ones back home. Therefore, my 260 days of constant texting and instant Skype accessibility no longer looks impressive.
I do know, however, the feeling of having to describe how I’m doing or how my week at college has been through a single text or a ten-minute Skype call. I have to breeze over details and the little moments and include just the broad, bland picture. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to convey an exciting life in a new country in a limited amount of words or time. The solution? A blog: an online diary in which every word typed is recorded for not only loved ones to keep up to date on, but for the volunteer to look back on years later and remember the details that would otherwise be failed to remember. In addition, both family/friends back home and strangers who happen to stumble across the blog would be receiving a first hand account of an unknown culture and people, educating Americans who may never step foot in a foreign country through information and details that could not be attained through a book or a website. This, in fact, is accomplishing one of the main goals of the Peace Corps.
The Peace Corps mission statement is as follows: 1) to help interested countries meet their needs. 2) to help promote an understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples being served. 3) to help promote an understanding of the peoples being simply by the PCV working in a foreign country. Number three could be more successfully attained through the use of blogging.
The people reading these blogs are Americans who have never experienced extreme poverty, who have never lived in a thatch hut or had to walk miles to retrieve water. Most likely they are harboring extreme cultural bias and are ignorant about what happens in a remote country halfway across the world. Therefore, when they read these beautiful blogs describing the hardships these people face and the details of their culture, their minds are opened to something outside of their previously small worlds. They begin to understand a people whom they have never met. These blogs can touch thousands of people with the simple stories of the volunteers’ journeys. Peace Corps volunteer Dan recounted in his blog about the Ugandan people living in mud huts with satellite TVs, driving crappy cars with touch screen radio consoles (Getting Lost in Africa, http://africandan.wordpress.com/) This conveys an entirely different view of material possessions that is foreign to Americans, displaying that this concept is varied across cultures.
I have wanted to join the Peace Corps for as long as I can remember. I am aware of the fact that I am a spoiled American with little cultural knowledge. To get the opportunity to not only serve people in need in another country but also to get to share the knowledge I learn with others back home would be simply amazing. Would I miss my family and friends? Of course. It’s been only 260 days and I am losing my mind being away from home. However, with the use of a blog it wouldn’t be nearly as hard. Blogs clearly help to maintain a feeling of connectedness even when halfway across the world. Loved ones can instantly be caught up on what is happening in a volunteer’s life, while broadening their insights on the differences in people around the world.
Attaining cultural knowledge while staying in touch? What a beautiful solution. I should start thinking of the name for my blog right now.