“All good things must come around and bite you in the rear end.” That is a new maxim I’ve learned. Too many experiences have been going well for me: my site assignment in Cobán, having a cooperative and motivated counterpart agency with lots of work for me to do, being able to rely on volunteers already at my site, etc. So, it is only appropriate that I begin my two-year adventure with embarrassment and disappointment. Continue reading All Good Things…
[Finally, I managed to make posting via email work.]
My site is Cobán, Alta Verapaz. I am ecstatic! How can I even begin?
Well, I’m not. But I am proud to know that it’s one of the best sites
that a volunteer can get. Both the Peace Corps Director and the Mayan
language teacher said I must have a lot of “cuello” with my APCD to have
landed this assignment. The only drawback is that they have high
expectations. My Spanish is barely passable. We’ll see how many of those
expectations I will actually meet.
Mis compañeros consider me to be the best dancer of the group. Never in
my life would I have thought of myself as an adequate enough dancer to be
even worth mentioning. But, my salsa lessons, I suppose, are paying off.
Not that my dancing skills get me any chick’s numbers. I’m just not their
type here. At this point in my life, I realize that to be the
attractive-equivalent of Brad Pitt or David Beckham, I have to either
stroll through the Castro District of S.F. or live in China.
I’ll be running my first marathon this Sunday. Although it’s only 12km,
at least it’ll be my first competitive athletic experience. I never
competed in physical sports. And it took going to a foreign country to
motivate me. My goal is just to survive. I believe I can finish in an
hour and a half, but I don’t have proper running shoes and I’ve been
training on flat ground and via jump rope.
Training is moving along fast. I am amazed to reflect back on my time
here so far: it’s been two months! How long ago Staging seemed. In just
a few more weeks, I will be swearing in as a volunteer.
I am having doubts about my goal to go into commercial property
management. My Peace Corps service just doesn’t fit very well in the
experience path. So many other people obtain their own property
investment business through unrelated jobs. Why not me?
So, I’ve been thinking about a career as a Foreign Service Officer.
Working for the Department of Commerce will fall perfectly in line with my
business background and my Peace Corps experience. My dad advised me that
a career in the government doesn’t have to be permanent. I should look at
it as a stepping stone, a networking opportunity. What better way to get
to know people in the international business than as a FSO, where business
executives come to you for your “cuello”? After some time, a lucrative
offer may come my way and I can go back into the private sector.
I’m at “Mono Loco,” right now. Crazy Monkey. The discoteca opens at
about 10. Got to go meet the crew and dance the night away.
Waking up to a headache and stiff neck was not a good way to begin things. The night before I left for Washington D.C., I had all my little cousins stay over and play Risk while watching “Kung Fu Hustle” on DVD. I was packing. So, their presence was a pleasant diversion.
As I stepped off the plane, I still felt like I didn’t pack enough: a medium-sized hiking pack, a large duffel bag, and a regular-sized roller suitcase. You may think I’m crazy for just packing enough clothes for three days, but my books are very important.
The headache and stiff neck were remedied after a good night’s sleep over at a friend’s place. I think of all the friends I’ve made over the years: all ages, from different walks of life, and living in different states. There really is no proper way to express the sublime feelings from people who care about what you’re doing and where you’re going.
The Staging Event is where Peace Corps provides its new trainees with a basic orientation before going in-country. It was fantastic. If I dozed off at times, it was my fault for not going to bed earlier the night before. Kapila Wewegama, the Staging Director, was enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. There was this cute wooden frog he used to get our attention – it had ridges along its spine where, if you run a stick over them, they create an uncanny frog croak. He provided stories of other PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) that added color to the statement: “You reap what you sow” or “You’ll get as much out of service to others as you put into it.” The frameworks and concepts regarding service & safety were great, but, truly, those stories that he told were what really inspired me. The other Peace Corps staff (I finally got to meet Piers!) all provided great insights to what we can expect and cleared up any confusion as to the logistics of getting there.
And “there” is happening in less than five hours as I write this email! Goodness, it is amazing how I can only feel the excitement, now. There was so much to do beforehand: packing, good-byes, shopping, filing my taxes, finishing up reports for school, etc. One by one, as those tasks were completed, I was able to feel the rush of what was to come… Guatemala.
I will be sharing this new experience with 25 other people. In our group, we have a 50-something-year-old who has an interesting New-Yorker accent. And, there is a grandmother who’ll be serving in Guatemala with us as well. Originally, there were 28, but one never showed up and another left after the first day of Staging. Invitees do leave. It’s a surprise considering all the hurdles a Peace Corps applicant has to go through. Then again, it is a twenty-seven month commitment.
Did you know that the majority of Peace Corps volunteers are between the ages of 20 and 26? That only 15% of all volunteers represent a U.S. minority? That out of 94,000+ inquiries, only 9,000 actually applied, 4,000 received invitations to serve, and only 3,100 ended up being trainees? By the end of the two years of service, only about two-thirds of the original trainees will have completed their service. PCVs are a select group of people. Who’d’ve known?
There are certain things I want to mention about the Staging Event, for those who’ll be leaving for the Peace Corps soon. First, it’s a great transition from whatever our life may have been to what our lives will be. We get to meet all the other volunteers (who’ll be working in different assignments). Staging allows us to prepare ourselves mentally as well as logistically. Second, if the Staging staff gives you an ATM card instead of cash, don’t withdraw your money from an ATM machine. Go to the local supermarket, buy yourself a six-pack for the evening to celebrate with your new colleagues, and go “cash back” on the rest. You’ll avoid the $2.50+ in transaction fees. Next, it’s important that you buy gifts beforehand (i.e., photos, candies, and the like). Lastly, tie up ALL loose ends before you go. This includes emails, financial matters, giving someone Power of Attorney, homework assignments, etc. I think a person can enjoy the excitement of departure more if there’s nothing else getting in the way.
As I get ready to leave for “Guate” (as the locals call it) tomorrow morning at 4:30am, I am both anxious and excited. More excited really. I will miss my friends. Even more so, my family. I wonder how my host family will be like? Will they reject me if I don’t look like the typical American? That happens, you know. There was one story where the host mother went to the Country Director to refuse a PCV because she didn’t “look” like an American. The Director gave the PCV two choices: either she can be reassigned to another host family who’ll be more accepting, or she can treat this as an opportunity to represent America; the United States is not just made up of white, blond, blue-eyed Americans. She chose Number Two. Three weeks later, the host mother wrote a five-page letter, praising how wonderful this PCV is and how much a part of the family that she has become – and to apologize for her earlier behavior. Great story.
My father is a genius. From such a simple phrase – sixteen characters – it has the potential to provide purpose and unity for many generations.
[If I didn’t know any better, it’s as if people thought I was dying or something. I’m only traveling to another country for two years. I’ll be back. Yet, people are treating me as if I’m going to my grave. Am I bitter? No. I think this is a whole lot more ironic than it is an occasion to be bitter. An ex-lover from many years ago wrote an email that has been her most candid, yet. I have always suspected, but this confirms it. If only I could appreciate her sensitivity, maybe I wouldn’t’ve lost her? Sigh… I would never know. Nevertheless, I feel blessed. It is such an honor to be thought of even after all these years. And, I must admit, I still think of her fondly, too.]
I would like to be brave enough to see you before you leave, but you know me… I would also like to tell you about the last five years of my life… so strange…
So perhaps you wouldn’t mind writing me from Guatemala? (let me know if you need a physical address.) You have no idea what an inspiration you continue to be for me. Thank you. This was for you:
“Tempo,” by A Lover from a Long Time Ago (Alasdeluz)
long ago you taught me how
to count along with the seconds,
you closed my eyes to keep with time
but i’d awaken as time would beckon
to find myself ahead or behind
mourning the measured fragments lost
long ago you let me see and
purged this fantasy from me
measured moments counted flee
instants held can never Be
now remnants accumulate beneath and behind,
a wreckage that follows always in mind
enfolding tomorrow with every piece of the past
bled slowly remembered so each one will last
now the sound beneath me fades
like time that slips and slows and braids
that entangles just as it unravels
holding together with whispers and rambles
I flew up to Redding this past weekend to visit Amanda and Shiloe, her fiancé. My time there was beautiful. Had I gone up on the day of their wedding, I wouldn’t have been able to have such quality time with them. So, going up now, worked out pretty well.
Shiloe has a maturity grown from his experiences. Whereas some people can only speak from vicarious learning, he learned directly through his own expriences. It’s not just his maturity, but his patience. He gives Amanda her space, and I sense that he is the steadfast port where Amanda can find safety during a storm. He loves his parents. So much so, that she has to fight for his attention at times. But, that’s not a bad thing to fight against. He really cares for her, and I am so happy that he has turned out to be the one whom Amanda has chosen.
If I didn’t have to leave so early, I could’ve been their photographer during their wedding. What an honor that was! Unfortunately, that honor has to be passed on to someone else.
We went to the Shasta Dam. We visited the Sundial Bridge. We walked around the McConnell Estate. And, I took many landscape pictures. We saw “Sin City” together. And, had a few beers on Saturday evening as we watched “Sideways.” Had Shiloe not woken up in time on Sunday, Amanda and I would have chit-chatted all the way until the last minute, and we’d have had to rush to the airport. As it was, I got to have a nice breakfast one more time (Shiloe cooked). I bid Shiloe farewell and Amanda took me to the airport.
It was awful nice of Shiloe to give Amanda and I the room to say good-bye. Very… noble of him. At the airport, I asked if she has found a partner. Amanda nodded “yes.” And, what I could already see was confirmed by Amanda herself. I gave her a big hug and we said our farewells. It was a bit sad, but I was more happy to see one of the most special women in my life embark on a new stage in her life.
I come back to Monterey to face a blizzard. Figuratively, of course. There is much to do. And just not enough time to do it!
This past weekend, I went to visit an old friend: Mr. Riggs. I haven’t seen him since… oh… since he graduated from Humboldt. That’s about two years ago. How much has changed! He used to be 320+ lbs. and he lost over 120 lbs. to be 205 today. I didn’t even recognize him. About the only thing that was the same were his eyes.
I can see how he lost all that weight. All that hiking. He does it almost every day. In the beginning, he even added treadmill exercises – estimating a daily caloric burn of about 2,000 calories! He was crash-dieting, of course. And, he could’ve seriously injured himself. But, he lost a lot of weight in a short period of time. He says he feels great, and – minus the excess skin – looks great, too.
Damn… another meeting.
This listlessness that I’ve been feeling for these past few days broke down my defenses. I went out and bought my vice. My drug. My addiction. I went out and bought – at retail price – a book for leisure reading. I teetered on shaming myself for my lack of discipline. Then, I realized how much I needed this… how much I continue to need this. This escape, that is.
Is this how immortals feel? Living for centuries and the joie d’vivre suddenly losing its luster, so they turn and immerse themselves in the lives of others? So, it is what I’m doing, I think. These torpid days are now filled with the fantasies of Robin Hobb and The Royal Assassin. Her story adds color to my thoughts more so than the depressing realizations of racial conflict that Iris Chang exposes in The Chinese in America or the repulsive Machiavellianess that undertones Greene’s The Laws of Power. For sure, Hobb is the better alternative. And I am glad for it.
So, no, I do not shame myself. Rather, I am glad I feel more fulfilled. Happy to chase FitzChivalry’s story and be immersed in his world of intrigue and political machinations. Better that than mope around daily, wondering what I should be doing while I wait for the new stage in my life.
I set my screensaver to display my pictures. I chose my “Family” pictures folder as the default and pictures of a wedding that I went to with L. started showing up. To see L. all dressed up nice and pretty, and us hugging and looking happy… man, that screwed with my head. Stupid me.
Now I have it on pictures of the SF Zoo. Much better.
What a weird day… nothing happened really. I woke up, prepared the Eurograin case for Supply Chain, and came back to have lunch before taking a nap. And here I am. I spoke with R. about her date this past weekend. Turns out Clifford the Big Red Dog is anti-gay. But, he’s okay with lesbians — insofar as he’s participating in a threesome, because godforbid lesbians fall in love, want to get married and start a family together. What an asshole. What a hypocrite. Moreover, he doesn’t even plan for their dates. He has R. do all of that. What a loser. And I was encouraging R. to date the guy, too! Well, once I heard he’s anti-gay, he lost all brownie-points and dived into the negative.
Sigh… I was supposed to go watch “Sin City” again today. But, Megan, I guess, figured it would be weird to go with just me. We are barely acquainted and it would do no good to get her boyfriend jealous. So, my afternoon shot, and my ass too lazy to walk over to the gym, I took a long nap.
I should study Spanish more. Or read Iris Chang’s book.
I submitted my updated resume and aspiration statement today. Gosh, what else do I have to do? After my jog today along the beach, I just forget everything that needs to be done.
I should just go home and practice Spanish.