20 Things They Don't Tell You When You Join The Peace Corps
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20 Things They Don't Tell You When You Join The Peace Corps

The truth about Peace Corps life

20 Things They Don't Tell You When You Join The Peace Corps
  • 1.You will be able to go pee in just about anything.
    This one, I am sure, seems a bit nutty, but it’s true. In some countries, your toilet is outside so it is very common either to not be allowed outside after dark or to just not want to go outside because its dark. And your toilet doesn’t have a light so you’ll get a bucket to go to the bathroom instead. Or sometimes you don’t have what is called a night bucket (the bucket you go pee in at night), and you are forced to find whatever is in your room to use to go to the bathroom. Especially when you get stuck in your room and can’t get out. So you pee in a Pringles can, Ziploc bag, just a plastic bag, or anything else you can possibly find in your room. I mean when you have to pee you have to pee.

  • 2.You will get way to use to talking about poop.
    Naturally, after moving to a foreign country, your eating habits change, which means your bowel movements also change. Sometimes you poop way too often other times you only poop once every two or three days. Either way, you're bound to talk to your friends about it because most likely they are also going through similar situations. And your bowel movements change so often that it becomes a common topic among you and your cohort because you want to know how often they go or don’t go.

  • 3.You will read more books than you ever thought you would.
    With the power constantly going out your only source of entertainment eventually becomes books. I mean some people will just put in more work, but you eventually will need a break and you your books will be there to keep you entertained. I know there have been some weeks when I read two or three books in between all of my lesson planning and other Peace Corps responsibilities.

  • 4.You will either love cooking or absolutely hate it.
    When it comes to cooking, it’s very different than it is in America. You cook on a gas stove or a sigiri which is a charcoal stove. Your gas stove doesn’t always work, the sigiri takes forever to light, the gas stove runs out of gas, and sometimes you are forced to cook in the dark. All of those factors make it very easy to hate cooking. However, you are cooking in another country where the foods that you are eating you are not entirely used too, but also you have the same classic food that you are used to. This gives you a lot of time to experiment and figure out how to make new delicious dishes. It’s truly incredible all the foods that you never thought could go together that actually go quite well together. All the experimenting makes you love cooking and become so excited about the creations you are going to make next. Cooking and I have an absolute love-hate relationship.

  • 5. You will spend a lot of time picking ants out of your food.
    Name a food: peanut butter, normal butter, bread, basically any kind of food, and you will most likely find ants in them at some point during your Peace Corps service. At first, you throw the food away because you are so grossed out over the ants. Eventually, you come to two realizations: they are just ants and you are wasting too much food. So you begin to just remove the ants from the food and continue eating. I mean there isn’t really much else you can do because you don’t want to continue throwing away money.

  • 6.You will probably cook the same exact meal for weeks at a time.
    Now Peace Corps life is a lot of hard work. You have a lot of things that you have to get done so meals become the least of your worries. Thus you begin to just make the same thing over and over because that’s what you are used to, you like it, and it’s what you have time to make. By doing this, you can continue on in your abundance of work that is due the next day for your school, NGO, or for the Peace Corps. Don’t worry you get used to the same food day in and day out. You'll even begin to enjoy it.

  • 7.You may never look at rice and beans the same way.
    No matter what country you end up in, beans and rice are usually the easiest food that you will make at home, that your school will make for lunch for you and the other teachers to eat. It's probably the easiest food to buy anywhere in the country. Needless to say, you will eat a lot of beans and rice. Now beans and rice are good, but eating them every day for two years leaves you with a desire to never look at beans and rice again.

  • 8.You will be able to bucket bathe out of anything that can hold water.
    Now for those of you that don’t know what a bucket bath is, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You poor water into a bucket and you splash water on yourself, lather yourself with soap, and then splash on more water to remove the soap; and that’s how you get clean. You bucket bathe one to two times a day, so you become very accustomed to bucket baths, and you obviously get very good at them so when you see a bucket or anything that holds water no matter the size or shape, you just know that they can help you get clean and you can bucket bathe out of that.

  • 9.Your daily workout will be fetching water.
    Depending on where you live fetching water is no easy task. The borehole might be very far away and jerry cans full of water are very heavy so while carrying the water back to your house is quite the work out. And depending on what you have going on that day, doing laundry, washing your hair, and doing lots of dishes, you might have to fetch water more than once a day. Not to mention you are so busy you don’t have much time to do any other form of a work out. So that daily water fetching becomes your workout.

  • 10.You will get used to people shouting Muzungu (or whatever the term for white person is in the local language) at you everywhere you go.
    Now this sounds like a very negative thing but honestly people are just so excited to see a Muzungu and they don’t know what else to call you so they show their excitement while shouting Muzungu. At first this is a shock because you aren’t used to people shouting at you on the street and people being so excited to see you. It really becomes quite endearing.

  • 11.You will realize that no matter how well you think you dance the host country nationals will always dance better.
    Now I am sure that you are a very good dancer, I am by no means saying you aren’t. I mean I have always been told that I am a pretty good dancer but getting to my country of service I couldn’t believe how much better the host country nationals are at dancing than all of us. No matter how often you practice or how many years you have danced previously host country nationals are going to be better dancers, but they will love you if you dance with them and they will teach you all they know. Watching host country nationals dance is one of the most incredible things.

  • 12.You will learn way too many acronyms your brain will hurt.
    Peace Corps is full of acronyms. You’ve got your PSN (Peer Support Network), SPT (School Profile Tool), VRF (Volunteer Reporting Form), SGRI (small group reading intervention), WCRI (whole class reading intervention), PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Office), EGRA (Early Grade Reading Assessment) and so many more. It’s nice to have a shorter way to write things but having all of the acronyms to keep straight is hard and makes your brain hurt often. I think it took all of PST (Pre Service Training) for us then PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) now PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) to remember all the acronyms which was about three months.

  • 13. You will get used to living days without power.
    Your power goes out often sometimes for a few minutes or, an hour or two, or it will be out for anywhere from a day to a week. You never know why it goes out or how long is its going to be out you just know that it is out. You admittedly wonder if your electronics are charged enough, you hope your solar lamp was recently charged, you do your work while it is still light out, and then you pull your book out and you read until the power turns on or you fall asleep.

  • 14.You will learn a new language faster than you ever imagined.
    Every Peace Corps Volunteer learns the local language in order to better integrate into the community. You learn the language during PST which is only three months, and depending on your country of service you might only have three to four weeks to learn the language instead of the three months and by golly you do it and it will surprise you to no end how easy you pick the language up. Your desire to learn the language is so huge and you use it so often that you learn the language well.

  • 15. You will gain a new set of skills that you never thought you needed.
    Some of the skills you will pick up you might not think you need. You will learn how to cross the street while cars and motorcycles are rushing by, you will be able to wash laundry by hand like a pro or you’ll get really good at faking it, you will get really good at talking people into lower prices, and you will be able to navigate public transportation in a foreign country like you’ve lived there for years. However, some of the skills are a bit more professional related you will gain knowledge on teaching, you will learn how to navigate a new culture, you will be able to write grants, you will learn amazing communication skills, and you will be able to organize and put together camps. I know some of the skills are very silly but many of them are things you can put on an application that will help set you apart from other applicants.

  • 16.You will work harder at your job than you could ever imagine.
    There is so much to do when you are in the Peace Corps. The kind of work you do depends on the sector that you are in but every Peace Corps Volunteer does so much for their school, NGO, community, or whatever it is that they are involved in. You write lessons, plant gardens, hold workshops, teach lessons, run camps, whatever it is that you could imagine will be done. Every volunteer wants to do a good job for their community so they do as much work as they possibly can in order to do that.

  • 17.You will have some of the hardest most emotional days but every second will be worth it.
    Now think about it, you are living alone in a foreign country, you are meeting new people every single day, and you are constantly going through cultural shock. You are bound to go through many emotions, some happy, some sad, some confusing, and some overwhelming. You laugh, you cry, you get frustrated, and this is all just one day. But every emotion is honestly worth everything being able to make new friends and do what you love in a country that you love.

  • 18.You gain more family members and friends than you’ll ever truly imagine.
    During language training you live with a host family and they become your family. They take care of you the entire time that you are living in their house and you will surly miss them once you move to your site. You will also gain friends in your community, at your work, and anywhere you go often and they too will become like family. It’s incredible all of the random friends and family that you will gain through this experience.
  • 19.You will more than likely meet the best friends of your life.
    Each Peace Corps sector has a cohort of people that they travel to their country of service with, together they go through training after training, they learn the language together and these people become your best friends. When you go into the Peace Corps you don’t expect to make some of the best friends you’ll ever have in your life but you do. They become the people you call on bad days, on good days, when you have successes, when you fail, and all the times you just need to talk.

  • 20.You will love this job more than you could have ever imagined.
    Despite all the craziness and the hardships that you may encounter the Peace Corps is the best job you will ever have. Waking up each day and being able to live in a beautiful country for two years will be something that you will forever remember and never regret. Peace Corps is a beautiful opportunity that will leave you never wanting to leave your country of service. Once you finally COS (Close of Service), you will never be a former Peace Corps Volunteer but instead a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, because no matter where you head next or what you do next once a PCV always a PCV just with the returned in front, and from then on your heart will always be in two places.
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