Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Six weeks to go as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador. Was it what I expected? Absolutely not! Was it “worth it”? Indeed – every moment. I will wrap things up with a certain sense of fulfillment and completion – and as well with doubts and second guesses. I think it is safe to say that this is true for the majority of PCV`s who complete their service. How could it be otherwise?
What would I have done differently, you might ask. Everything! I would say. And then I would do it differently time and time and time again, if given the opportunity. The most important thing that I would go back and do over is to have worked harder on my Spanish skills. I speak Spanish, to be sure. Some days I even speak Spanish pretty well – but on the whole my middling level of language proficiency has diminished my overall experience, as well as my effectiveness as a volunteer. I hope with a few more years of work and practice I will become more fluent.

I am finishing up most of my work with individual farmers, and now I am concentrating on the school gardens, working with the directors to plan for their continuation after I leave. This is by far the most difficult part of Peace Corps work – leaving behind a sustainable project. The track record is pretty dismal – once a volunteer leaves his or her project the thing usually falls apart. Peace Corps, in Ecuador, at least, has not quite figured out how to guarantee sustainability, despite almost 50 years of boots on the ground. To be sure, there are successful, sustainable projects, but they are few and far between.
Of course, the offering of technical assistance is only one part of PC`s 3 goals. The other 2 stress cultural exchange and understanding, and in these I think we all succeed. Our impact on our friends and coworkers here, and likewise their impact on us is in my opinion the beauty and reason for being of Peace Corps. Without a doubt, some of my most rewarding days were those in which I did no “work” at all – but rather sat and talked with a small group of friends, old or new, learned about them and their lives, and (if asked) gladly sharing my thoughts about life in the US.
April 20th is my last day, and I will leave Ecuador to travel with my daughter Tia in Peru. We will swing back into Ecuador, then go to Colombia. I will return to the States in late May or early June – to visit friends and family, maybe pick up a little work here or there, and to think a little about the past 27 months, and as well to think a little about what lies ahead. In August or September, I will return to Ecuador. Vamos a ver.

Keeping this blog has been a good experience for me, and it`s the closest I have ever come to “journaling”. If you are reading this, then somehow you have strayed here, and I hope you have found here a bit of diversion or even something useful. If you happen to be close to or over 50 and ready for a change, you might even have been inspired to think about Peace Corps or similar organizations as a bridge into the next part of life. Hell, I did it, so can you.

I will continue to post here during the coming weeks and while Tia and I travel. After that, who knows? Thanks for reading . . .