Brother

I have the world’s most awesome brothers, but I read a quote recently about a different kind of fraternity that resonated with me:

“Our volunteers [do not] go overseas as the salesmen of a particular political theory, or economic system, or religious creed. They go to work with people, not to employ them, use them or advise them. They do what the country they go to wants them to do, not what we think is best. They live among the people, sharing their homes, eating their food, talking their language, living under their laws, not in special compounds with special privileges…

…It is only with this compassion that man can look upon man-through the mask of many colors, through the vestments of many religions, through the dust of poverty, or through the disfigurement of disease — and recognize his brother.”

-Sargent Shriver, first director of the Peace Corps

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You know how you’ve been planning for months to travel halfway around the world

in September, living somewhere in South America doing agribusiness consulting for the next three years, and then suddenly you get a phone call from a woman in D.C. who informs you that there’s been a change of plans and you’ll now be leaving in February and traveling to sub-Saharan Africa to work in fisheries? Yeah, me neither. Until it happened on Wednesday morning.

First reaction: if South America is halfway around the world, then Africa is like halfway around the world twice, so does that mean it’s all the way around the world?

I lied. Actual first reaction: Whaaaa??

I can’t think of another program or job or career that can change in scope and geographic location so dramatically, and so quickly. 20 years ago, I knew the earth was flat. Five years ago, I knew I would never do something crazy like join the Peace Corps. And on Tuesday night, I knew I was going to be living and working somewhere in the Americas for the next couple of years. Imagine what I’ll know a year from now.*

After the initial dumb shock from this sudden news started to wear off a bit (two days later), I started to realize that this is an even better opportunity than helping small farms acquire better business practices in Paraguay. According to my Peace Corps placement officer who rattled off items from the assignment job description, I’ll be assisting with predominantly small-scale subsistence fish farms, teaching harvesting and growing techniques, working with government fisheries programs and initiatives, promoting sustainable aquaculture practices, and assessing the viability of locations for potential projects in the future.

Sounds like the perfect job for someone who grew up on an aquaculture farm, and has spent the past two years gaining experience in business operations in a professional environment and working within a large bureaucracy, and is obsessed with fisheries and fishing.

And if I was excited about my impending move to South America because of how far away it was from California, I now have to wrap my brain around the fact that Africa is even farther. Imagine that.

I leave you with a song:

 

* Paraphrased from an awesome quote by Tommy Lee Jones’ character in Men in Black (1997). Blew my 9-year-old mind: Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.