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Friday, 06 February 2009

The Peace Corps' Dark Side - Page 3

Written by Chad Jarrah
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The Peace Corps experience I had, although difficult, was one I wouldn’t trade for the world. I learned a different language, experienced a new culture, made lasting friendships, and, I’d like to think, helped a little in the process. I was posted in the West African nation of Niger, a country known for little more than its Uranium deposits, millet production and overwhelming poverty. I was stationed in a small village that hovered along the Nigerian border. The transition was rough, but I loved every minute of it. But that’s not to say that everything I gained didn’t come at a price. Living in a foreign country, especially a third world country, requires one to adjust both mentally and physically. I felt I was prepared for this, but like a soldier who brashly assumes he’s prepared for war, and cracks under the line of fire, I wasn’t ready for the shame that many of my experiences would leave me with.

 

 

I slowly rose, already noticing the distorted faces made only when one smells a stink beyond description. I waddled out of the cubby room well aware of the comments made by the other volunteers. Harry, the most pretentious and unsympathetic volunteer, stated the obvious: “You stink man.” Olivia, kind and understanding, merely sounded her feelings as she turned from my sorry state to the stained couch cushion: “Awwwww…ewwwww.” The final volunteer to witness the display, Cammy, shook her head in sympathetic concern and whispered to Olivia a statement that would later make more sense: “Look…It’s the walk of shame.”

 

I made my way to the shower amidst the many understanding stares. I washed myself, hoping time would pass quicker under the only amenity left to comfort me. Allowing myself to get lost in thought and self-pity, I relaxed under the warm water.

 

“Why did this have to happen to me?” I reflected sadly, “Wasn’t it bad enough that I had to crap my pants all night? Did I really need to do so in front of my friends? Damn this place and it crappy amoebas.” (No pun intended.)

 

I left the shower cleaner than I had been for days, and sat among the volunteers, returning their glances for the first time. They smiled at me, and surprisingly I smiled back. I took a deep breath prepared to explain myself, but was pre-empted by Cammy’s kind words. She handed me a Coke, and repeated those words that struck me before.

 

“The walk of shame,” she stated with finality, “Now, you’re a true volunteer.” The other volunteers all recounted their poop stories about losing control in their villages, or in front of visiting parents, and for the first time it dawned on me that we had been humbled at one time or another by the attack of the Amoebas. It’s true that misery loves company, because I felt a thousand times better.

 

The Peace Corps’ Dark Side, Peace Corps adventure, Peace Corps service, volunteer Niger, Amoebas, Chad JarrahI felt stronger and days later, I recovered completely. The once horrifying experience became nothing more than a footnote in my Peace Corps service. I made that long walk back to my village, recalling the past weekends’ events and laughed to myself about the amusing circumstances. I thought about the next crop of volunteers, filling out their applications, and romanticizing their Peace Corps adventure. Poor fools; ignorance is bliss.

 

©Chad Jarrah

(Page 3 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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