I was in the Peace Corps once.
For those who don’t live in the United States and may not be familiar with the organization, it’s a government-created entity that sends volunteers to other countries for two years to work with underserved communities to empower them.
It doesn’t always work out this way, but I like to think of it as showing communities the knowledge they already have–and then helping those communities use that knowledge to build capacity for themselves.
It didn’t quite work out that way in my case, but the community wasn’t the problem. It was my boss.
He had a name that sounded very similar to a Mario Brothers video game character, hence the name of this section.
What it came down to is that Peace Corps sent me into a Mayan village in Guatemala that didn’t speak Spanish. Sounds OK, right?
Well, Peace Corps didn’t follow their own guidelines and even teach me how to converse at all in the primary language of this village, a Mayan dialect. They also didn’t ensure that the home I was living in checked off the basic necessities like a place to even wash myself or the ability to cleanly cook my food.
So I bathed in the middle of a yard while the village watched me. And I was given sometimes one egg or a little bit of beans for my meals while struggling to communicate that I was sick and starving. All I could do was look at the feces-covered dirt floor in the open kitchen and watch as the many little children in the hunt were constantly sick. One even vomited up worms. It was horrifying.
When I called my boss, he said, “I don’t want complainers. I want people who get work done.” My Spanish was excellent at that point, but it was still no match for this boss’ rapid-fire combative nature.
He refused to ensure the placement I was living met the minimum standards established by Peace Corps itself, the organization that was paying him.
He accused me of having mental problems and told me that he was NOT going to consider a site change for me, even all signs pointed to the fact that he did not even do his due diligence to visit this community before he approved it to be a Peace Corps site. (I was the first volunteer who ever worked there, and I later learned they weren’t exactly informed of what was going to happen. Another Peace Corps Volunteer thought it would be helpful to foist a volunteer on them without letting them have a say, another Peace Corps policy that wasn’t followed).
Why am I sharing all of this about my mean boss? It probably sounds like I’m just complaining for the sake of it, and you would be right under certain circumstances.
But I learned some very important lessons while torturing myself in a situation that wasn’t the right one for me.
I pushed my body to the breaking point, losing 30 pounds and having my skin turn yellow.
I eventually left Peace Corps early. I’m glad I did because this was a little under two years before I would find out that my heart was failing and I would need open-heart surgery.
Now I now, without a doubt, that mean people must be dealt with in a very methodical way.