Stuff Peace Corps Volunteers Like, #5

Inspired by and written in the spirit of the popular blog and book by Christian Landers, Stuff White People Like. No Peace Corps volunteers have been harmed in the making of this post.

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Home, sweet home

5. Bragging about how primitive their sites are

It is hard to spend more than three minutes talking to a Peace Corps volunteer without eventually hearing about the things that he or she does not have or cannot do because he or she is in the Peace Corps living in [your Peace Corps volunteer’s host country].

This is because for a Peace Corps volunteer, the primitiveness of one’s site is considered to be a high badge of honor. The fewer resources or amenities that a Peace Corps volunteer has, the higher up on the pecking order of Peace Corps bragging rights he or she ascends. Volunteers who only have intermittent access to electricity in Paraguay rank higher on the “more primitive site” scale than volunteers who only have intermittent access to internet in Armenia. And Peace Corps volunteers who serve in countries like Zambia scoff at these volunteers from their lofty perch atop the primitiveness rankings, anchored by their proud boasts of having no electricity and no running water.

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Behold my very slow but fully functioning water collection device — works: every time it rains

Even within the same Peace Corps post, volunteers are keenly aware of the differences between provinces and from site to site. The intrepid soul who lives 25 kilometers off the tarmac and five hours from the provincial capital garners instant respect and outward envy from other volunteers, who secretly are glad they don’t have to climb a nearby termite mound and recite a complicated incantation in order to catch a cell phone signal.

However, none of these hardships can top the Peace Corps trump card: having served in the Peace Corps in The Early Days. It is an undeniable fact that life in the Peace Corps was harder, purer, grittier, and more primitive back before you were born. This was a time when volunteers had to ride camels to the school uphill both ways 20 kilometers in the sand, send letters through the bush attached to the scaly legs of dust-hardened Guinea fowl, and never complained about their sites’ primitiveness, ever.

My fancy kitchen with a state-of-the-art water storage system (left), gravity-powered tap (center top), natural fuel stove (right), and automatic food compost disposal system (center, furry)

My fancy kitchen with a state-of-the-art water storage system (left), gravity-powered tap (center top), natural fuel stove (right), and automatic food compost disposal system (center, furry)

Click the Stuff Peace Corps Volunteers Like tag below to read previous entries #1-4.

Stuff Peace Corps Volunteers Like, #4

Inspired by and written in the spirit of the popular blog and book by Christian Landers, Stuff White People Like. No Peace Corps volunteers have been harmed in the making of this post.

4. Wearing bandannas

Bandannas were originally made from leftover scraps of fabric and designed to keep sweat on one’s brow from dripping down into one’s eyes. They were popularized by cowboys with flasks of whiskey in hand who ran multi-day cattle drives under the searing Texan sun.

Bandannas are now made in myriad colors and patterns carefully chosen to evoke the Old West and designed to create the illusion that the wearer does the type of work which generates sweat. They are popularized by Peace Corps volunteers with Nalgene bottles in hand who have multi-day explosive diarrhea under the big spiders in their latrines.

Peace Corps volunteers love these things. You will not find a Peace Corps volunteer leaving his or her house without wearing one bandanna and stowing two more in different colors in his or her dusty backpack in case of emergencies, like copious amounts of sweat or an outfit change. They are the ultimate Peace Corps Chic accessorizing tool.

The reason why bandannas are not omnipresent in America is because it is difficult to convincingly sell the perception that you are doing hard, sweat-inducing labor while brewing overpriced soy lattes made from organic, fair-trade coffee beans grown in [your Peace Corps volunteer’s host country]. Which is what all bandanna-wearing Peace Corps volunteers were doing after they graduated college with their expensive liberal arts degrees.

If a Peace Corps volunteer takes the additional step of fashioning a bandanna out of a local [your Peace Corps volunteer’s host country] fabric, he is serious about his textiles and was probably the type of person to measure the leg openings of his tapered-leg chinos back when he wore chinos.

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Stuff Peace Corps Volunteers Like – #3

Inspired by and written in the spirit of the popular blog and book by Christian Landers, Stuff White People Like. No Peace Corps volunteers have been harmed in the making of this post.

3. Going on vacations

Never mind that being in the Peace Corps is pretty much like a two-year vacation. Peace Corps volunteers love to travel, to see new places, and most importantly, to tell you about all of the cool places they’ve visited by taking a bus/hitch/oxcart from the already cool place where they live.

This can sometimes cause you to feel disillusioned with your 9-5 office job and your 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and your 65-year-old neighbor who sprays grass clippings onto your driveway when he mows his lawn. Peace Corps volunteers don’t mean to do this on purpose. It just happens.

Whatever you do, don’t remind them that they’ll eventually have to get a real job once they get back to America, at which point they’ll be in exactly the same boat as you, minus all of the earnings you have been dutifully depositing into your Roth IRA while they traipsed around [the continent where your Peace Corps volunteer’s host country is located]. Peace Corps volunteers prefer to pretend that real life doesn’t exist.

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I'm not on vacation here, I'm visiting one of my fish farmer's ponds during a brush fire. But it looks like I could be on vacation to some African savannah. So this photo is misleading. Or does it prove my point?

It is much better to make appreciative sounds as they tell you about their vacations and “like” the pictures they upload to Facebook of cute [country adjacent to your Peace Corps volunteer’s host country] children who are almost as cute as [your Peace Corps volunteer’s host country] children. They will love you for this.

Stuff Peace Corps Volunteers Like – #2

Inspired by and written in the spirit of the popular blog and book by Christian Landers, Stuff White People Like. No Peace Corps volunteers have been harmed in the making of this post.

2. Reading

Every Peace Corps volunteer is a pretty impressively well-read individual. But it’s not because he or she is particularly smart or anything. You know that book you keep saying you’ll read when you get the time? A Peace Corps volunteer has read it. Plus the sequel, prequel, and modern adaptation. And the dust jacket. Five times.

He or she will outwardly curse the chick lit that comprises a disproportionately large percentage of the 5GB ebook library found on another volunteer’s external hard drive. However, your Peace Corps volunteer will secretly be grateful for something, anything, to fill the void of free time previously occupied by stalking former high school crushes on Facebook and marathon-ing full seasons of Jersey Shore on Netflix.

Sometimes a Peace Corps volunteer will read a classic like Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary or Jane Austen’s Emma and feel assured that he or she is taking an active role in continuing his or her post-university personal enrichment. But this is uncommon. More often, the Peace Corps volunteer will read Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed or Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire.

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She looks calm and peaceful now, but this morning the bamayos cackled as they watched a muzungu lunge into a thicket after a streaking white cat, screaming, “Hobbes, don’t you dare kill that chicken!”

Stuff Peace Corps Volunteers Like – #1

Inspired by and written in the spirit of the popular blog and book by Christian Landers, Stuff White People Like. No Peace Corps volunteers have been harmed in the making of this post.

1. Taking pictures of kids/trees/sunsets

Every Peace Corps volunteer secretly thinks that the pictures he or she posts on Facebook could be in National Geographic. And every Peace Corps volunteer knows that the kids in his or her village/town/catchment area are more photogenic and better behaved than the kids anywhere else in the world.

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My kids aren't well-behaved. My kids are brats.

If you “like” a Peace Corps volunteer’s pictures of grinning [your Peace Corps volunteer’s host country] children on Facebook, he or she will be pleased. If you comment on a picture of a sunset that your Peace Corps volunteer posts, perhaps something like, “OMG this is sooo gorgeous!! [your Peace Corps volunteer’s name], you are SO lucky!” you are probably good friends with your Peace Corps volunteer and understand the mechanics of proper friendship maintenance.

Peace Corps volunteers firmly believe that a picture tells a thousand words, usually because they are too busy playing with small, photogenic children to write out those thousand words.

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However, many Peace Corps volunteers do make the extra effort to supplement their pictures with words. They call this form of mixed media a “blog.” Every Peace Corps volunteer who has a “blog” secretly believes that he or she could write a bestselling book about his or her Experience In The Peace Corps. Do not tell them the truth! This will only discourage them. Tell them that you love reading their blog. This will make them feel happy and validated.

If you actually do read your Peace Corps volunteer’s blog, you are probably his or her mother or girlfriend or boyfriend, or would like to be.