Peace Corps Videos

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Peace Corps Experience is 1/2 Over

It’s hard for me to imagine that I have less than 11 months remaining as a Peace Corps volunteer. When I first got here on October 1, 2007, I didn’t expect the time would go by so quickly. Now 15 months later, I've completed three months of training and just over one year of service.

My group just completed its Mid-Service Training or MST and the next time we all get together will be for our Close of Service conference or COS.

I hadn’t thought a lot about reaching this point until I got an e-mail from a reporter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel who was working on a story about the number of Floridians who were joining the Peace Corps. He asked me if I would share my thoughts about being in Peace Corps and explain why I joined. Here is how I replied to him:

I’ve been here for 15 months now and joining the Peace Corps has been an amazing experience. As to why I joined, the easy answer is that is was something that I had always wanted to do, but kept putting off. But there is actually a bit more to it than that. It’s not easy to walk away from a well-paying 23 year career. I loved TV News for most of my career but I found that I was enjoying it less and less. What I always enjoyed the most was being involved in the stories that really impacted people's lives and really helped them. When all of the thank you notes started showing up in the WPEC newsroom after Hurricane Frances hit South Florida that was really rewarding because I knew we had done something that actually meant something and was appreciated.

I think joining Peace Corps was a personal quest to find something that would help people in a positive way.

It was not a quick decision. It took seven months from the time I first filled out my application to the Peace Corps until I finally got the invitation to serve in Tonga.

I have no regrets at all about joining Peace Corps. Are there frustrating days? Of course, but the good days far outweigh the bad ones. I spend my time working with small business owners either helping them start or improve their business. I have one client who had run up a TOP$20,000 (About $10,000 US) overdraft at a local bank and was on the verge of having to close his business. He has now paid that down, his business is doing much better and he is now expanding by adding a taxi cab service. Not all of the people I work with have that much success but even seeing someone taking a small baby step forward is rewarding.

The Tongans are a wonderful people and very friendly. Getting to know them and their culture has been an amazing experience. It has been a bit of a struggle for me to learn the Tongan language, but most people here speak English so I’m able to communicate easily. I also wear a skirt and short sleeve shirt to work every day. That’s the traditional Tongan business attire. Never did I think I would wear a skirt, much less enjoy it. However it is quite comfortable in the heat. And it’s quite different from the coat and tie I used to wear to work at WPEC every day.

The climate here is similar to South Florida, except our seasons are rBread Fruit on a treeeversed. We are in the middle of summer right now and there is a tropical depression over the Kingdom of Tonga right now. Last night I nailed all of my windows shut while my neighbor climbed the breadfruit tree next to my house so the winds didn’t send breadfruit through my windows. (Breadfruit is about the size of a coconut)

It looks like my comments didn’t make his story headlined “Peace Corps says more Floridians joined in 2008”. However, it gave me a good chance to reflect on the past 15 months (and made it easy to write this blog post.).

The tropical depression I mentioned above was basically a lot of rain and wind. It passed over us Tuesday night and by Wednesday morning was on its way south to the main island of Tongatapu.

3 comments:

  1. hey i noticed no one commented, well they should, thanks for the good info, i'm thinking about joining the peace corps and this blog has increased that desire :)

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  2. If you have any questions about Peace Corps, don't hesitate to send me an e-mail. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Very insightful, so glad you're enjoying your experience!

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