DEAR AMERICAN TAXPAYER:
Please find attached my very first Official Peace Corps Report, which sounded exciting until I sat down to actually do it, when it turned out to be excruciatingly tedious. There was a lot of frowning and squinting at scribbly numbers, I am sorry to say, because I am an impatient adder at the best of times, and when the only pieces of scrap paper I seem to have anymore measure about an inch square maximum, things get much more squishy on the handwriting front, which is never a positive thing for my math skills.
Here are some of the things you have been paying for since January:
- a Spanish dictionary, two grammar books, and a baker’s dozen of technical manuals
- enough training in Spanish that I no longer sound like a three-year-old with a serious vocabulary problem, praise to all the powers that be
- two different kinds of parasite medicine to treat one very stubborn parasite
- a lovely water Filtron to store water when there isn´t any and to filter it when it´s brown
- the opportunity to try lots of different food, mostly made of corn: fresh (corn) tortillas, elotes (corn on the cob), güigüilas (“green” corn tortillas), tamales (corn mashed, wrapped in corn husks, and boiled), nacatamales (corn tamales with meat in the middle), rosquillas (made of corn and cheese), empanadas, enchiladas... (we are in the middle of the first corn harvest. I have been given six elotes and two tamales in the last two days. I may, just perhaps, be currently experiencing a corn overdose.)
- a little less than $200 a month, which provides me with a nice little room in a house with a lovely family and a completely useless softie of a guard dog; trips into the city for internet, groceries and the occasional ice cream; and my bi-weekly splurge on peanut butter
- learning how to wash my sheets over a tiny slab of concrete and not immediately drag them in the dirt
- roughly 29082731829 awkward moments (and counting) of sudden, painful cultural understanding or head-first collisions with the language barrier
- long days sitting in the health center, navel-gazing
- long days sitting in the health center, defining a vision, goals, and objectives for a desperately needed community-based birthing center in order to apply for Peace Corps project funding (courtesy of USAID)
- snacks for a youth group of young health promoters, training to educate their peers about STDs and teen pregnancy and a whole host of other health-related topics
- the opportunity to live in a different country and experience new and exciting types of confusion every day, a fact which mostly makes me a big hit in town because everyone loves a little schadenfreude
- capacity-building for local health workers, health classes in the secondary school, and all the paper, markers, and tape that entails
So thank you, taxpayer, for everything, because even on the navel-gazing days, even on the days I can’t help but stop and wonder if anything I do is actually making any kind of difference, I’m starting to love the work you make it possible for me to do.
Cheers; here’s to twenty more months of sun and rain and good days and bad days and indifferent days, all mixed together until everything balances out.