Saturday, August 11, 2012

talking to recently returned peace corps volunteers

they warn you about this as they're trying to prepare you to go home (god bless them, they do try) but talking to people about peace corps who aren't familiar with the program or your life when you get back can be a rather baffling experience. as an RPCV (returned peace corps volunteer) you eventually reach a point where you appreciate most questions and a chance to talk about this huge part of your life. i am more than willing have a frank, open discussion with any given person over the merits/drawbacks of PC as an organization and my time overseas in general. but. but only if the person realizes that i and many of my good friends gave 2 years of my life to serve and that if you wanna tell me your opinion about it you better respect that and be sure to listen mine, too. so if you ever encounter a returned peace corps volunteer (especially a newly returned one) here's some to do's (and some don't do's).

DO ask questions-but only if you're really ready to listen to the answer. and the more specific, the better. i would happily answer the weirdest question you can think of rather than have to try and think of an interesting reply to something you feel like you're expected to say.

DON'T tell them about how you almost did pc "but." we know the "buts," we all considered them when we decided to go. it's not for everybody, and people go at different times in their lives.

DO tell them if you want to do pc (even if it's "someday") and ask them their HONEST opinion on their experience, they can give you better perspective than anyone else.

DO understand that, depending on where they were, they are unaware of what has been going on for the past few years and may only know the big news stories (and have probably missed a bunch of awesome youtube video trends)

DO say thank you, if you want. i never expect it but it is always nice to hear, considering that most days peace corps is the best thing for the U.S.'s international reputation (at least with the poorer communities where they serve). and after spending 2 years away from my family and friends in relative safety, i have a whole new appreciation for our armed forces serving overseas and i try and thank every single one of them i meet. the fact that they sacrificed so much time with their families and possibly even their lives for our country is so much bigger than anything i can imagine. so even if you don't feel inclined to thank those of us waging peace, please, please thank those out there waging war (no matter what your personal politics may be, they're putting their lives on the line for you, regardless).

DON'T bring up the 20/20 story (rape/lack of support) thing unless you know the person really well. its hard to talk about, and hard to explain how much emphasis is put on safety during training, and how sometimes things can go bad anywhere. accidents happen everywhere in the world.

DO feel free to ask about most embarrassing moments of service. almost everyone has a pretty good story.

DON'T hesitate to buy them a beer because they're probably fairly broke and have been missing delicious American craft beers. (ok. this one applies pretty specifically to me but i KNOW there are plenty of RPCVs out there who share my circumstances)

i hope this helps your next encounter with an RPCV go smoothly and pleasantly.

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