Arrival in Lesotho (Late June)

Now that I’m in Lesotho, I’m realizing that this will be the make or break for me in regards to my relationship with journalism. During my last four years (in college), I primed myself for a journalism that I imagined must exist, and nearing the end of formal education, I realized that although I love writing and all the exploration journalism affords, I’ve never seriously considered any other skill set in my possession.
I designed my academic focus, but journalism was not a clear-cut choice. I was lucky enough to enjoy my college career every course along the way (except science, and one anthropology class), but I was a waffling perfectionist when it came to stories. Interviewing and researching were one thing, but the closer I came to deadline, the more that fear began to pile. I took writing too seriously, and every article insinuated my potential.
For as long as I’ve wanted to do journalism, I’ve also wanted to do Peace Corps. In fact, even longer—since my junior year of high school. The reasons have changed over time. Initially, simply because it was something good to do. Then because I wanted to do something significant for others and myself. At one point, I figured it would help me decide between the fields of journalism and anthropology. It was also important to know how the majority of the world coped with an unequal distribution of wealth, and not just to read about it but to see it on a regular basis.
PCV personalities run the gamut, from recent college grads to professionals. In our particular class—Community Health & Economic Development 2007—the ages span 21-38. Our reasons for joining vary from needing a professional breather, wanting to make an impact, craving an adventure to initiating a career change. Our fears as trainees range from lack of favorite cuisines, personal safety, ability to communicate, and (in my case), keeping abreast of global clam-digs and, of course, the Iraq War. I’m the second biggest fan right after Rumsfeld. No one in particular is worried about the lack of electricity, taking bucket baths, using pit latrines or sunsets marking curfew. Those have been the easiest things to adjust to. Waking up to roosters crowing every hour after 3 a.m., seeing them have sex on your front porch, &c. seem more like rites of initiation.
Some people are worried about the lack of structure when we get to site, whether there will be something for us to do or if our job descriptions will fall through the thatches. We’ve heard of amazing PCVs who are nearly fluent in Sesotho and work on both the community level—supporting small businesses, youth, doing HIV/AIDS education—and the government level, writing bills and grants. We’ve heard of people being bored, the loneliness during the first three months in lockdown, when we cannot leave site. The way some people feel—that if they were going to do nothing, they could have stayed in the States or that what they’re doing abroad is not worthwhile enough to outweigh being home.
Here’s what I figured: I might or might not make a difference, especially a sustainable difference. I don’t expect to make any significant impact on anyone but myself. If I do, that’s icing on the cake. I don’t expect structure and if in fact I get to site visit in time to see my job description disintegrating, the Western College Program has prepared me well to assess needs, identify key people and support a project. If everything I’ve tried has not panned out, then I play hopscotch with all the various reasons for being in Lesotho: to do something significant, to learn, to see rather than read, to have a cultural experience, to enjoy an adventure. I think that’s what will get me through the next two years: learning the value of flexibility. Basically, I’d like to say that I have no expectations, but that might be because nothing particularly strenuous has happened yet. I’m certain they’ll take a more visible form as they confront me one-by-one.
I also realize that although we’re on a two-year timeline, I need to view what I’m doing as exactly what I want right now, which it is, but in a way that I’m not entertaining my experience a s a stepping stone to something else. Everything else after needs to be put on hold. My life is not on hold so that I can do PC. And for my future, well I’ve figured this: I probably won’t be rich at any point in my life. Right now, the concerns I had as I was setting up for graduation seem so far away. Even if I don’t follow my best case scenario—move to Portland, be a waitress and part-time journalist, go to NYU for Cultural Critique & Reporting—I know that I have enough ingenuity so that whatever steps I take following Peace Corps, at least I will be happy.

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~ by dennetmint on August 5, 2007.

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