A Third of Service

Today marks one-third of my service. 9 months living and working in the Kyrgyz Republic, doing my best to achieve the goals I have set for myself here, learn from my time here, and be the best volunteer I can be. Challenged in ways I haven’t expected, my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer has had its ups and downs, a collection of hardships and excitement that I don’t think I could have gotten from any other experience.

My friend, Luther – already in his second year of service in a village outside of Kochkor, Naryn – wrote something really incredible about putting the standard Peace Corps hardship into perspective.

Don’t join the Peace Corps.

You heard me. Don’t do it. I’m telling you, it’s going to break your heart.

The Core Expectations for Volunteers states you are expected to “serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship, if necessary…” What it doesn’t state however is just what hardship means.

Right now you’re thinking, “Oh. There’ll be no flush toilets or showers. I can handle that. I might have to squash a few spiders, but for the high calling of changing the world, I think I can put up with those things.”

But the truth is, hardship isn’t the quirky and fun hardship you’re expecting, where each new day brings adventure upon crazy adventure, more wonderful than the next. True hardship is much more sobering.

During your service you might have to bury a neighbor. Or watch helplessly as your host family is torn to pieces by corruption. You might show up to school to learn one of your students was killed by a classmate. Your host sister could be kidnapped and forced to marry a man she’s never met. You might witness abuse, violence and mistreatment. You may see your best student lose to a kid from another school because his bribe was the biggest. Your dog might be fed a needle, just to quiet it down, forever.

And if none of that happens, then something else will. There’s just no knowing how hard it will be or it what way. It could be dealing with other volunteers is your biggest challenge. Or that you can never live up to the expectations of your host organization. Or that the Internet is so accessible you spend your entire day trolling Facebook, jealous of all the lives continuing on back home.

And what about all the things you’ll give up? Your boyfriend might not wait two years for you. You’ll put your career on hold. Your familiar support networks probably won’t be around – there’ll be no gym, no fast food joint, no car to drive, no family to visit. The stress and diet could make you lose thirty pounds—or gain thirty—whichever you don’t want.

The Peace Corps uses phrases like, “Life is calling. How far will you go?” and in a breath you’re ready to sign your name on the line. But two years is a long, long time and in the middle you find the world you wanted to change is a confusing and complex puzzle of which you are just one, tiny piece.

So please, if you’re not ready for the heartbreak in the hardship, don’t join the Peace Corps.

Or do.

Because you might just find that all your blood, sweat and tears are worth it – worth the pain, worth the time and worth the investment in the people for whom your heart breaks. Because you might learn some of the most important lessons of your life – that a broken heart can heal stronger than it was before, that a softened heart has more compassion for the world, and that in between its cracks and fissures is the only place where true beauty and grace can grow.

Luther is an English Teacher and Teacher Trainer working in Naryn, and writes on “What I Learned in the Peace Corps


6 thoughts on “A Third of Service

  1. I was just nominated for service. Departure day June. I read all these blogs but I feel like it is something I want to do myself. I do not know if I will regret it but I do not have doubts.

    • Congratulations on your nomination for Service! This is such an exciting time for you – and its great that you are excited and preparing for your time as a Peace Corps Volunteer!

      Everyone’s service is different, all of Volunteers have unique challenges that they face, but I am so happy with my decision to serve. The thing that I have learned the most in my now nine months as a Volunteer – everyone’s service is unique, you can’t compare yourself to someone else or to their experience.

      Where will you be serving? Please let me know if you have any other questions about service – I’d be happy to talk to you more!


      • Yes I really like your blog! Very informative. I know it will definitely be challenging but I think it is hard to completely understand until I am there. I think it’ll be cool. But great job so far 🙂 Your writing style is very cool. I am not positive on the country yet but possible in China. I am just waiting to be reviewed and the invitation. I have got a long road ahead but I am pretty excited. Keep strong!! You can do it.

      • Thanks for all the kind words about the blog – I am glad you like it and find it helpful! Good luck on the rest of your invitation process – its a long one, but stay strong! I hope to hear from you more on your service!

  2. Pingback: Community Action for Health: On Structures and Thinking in Pictures | i figure wherever i am, that's where the world is

  3. Pingback: One Year Ago… | i figure wherever i am, that's where the world is

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s