Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Some Light Reading

For those of us who are also in the application process, information can be rare and tantalizing when we receive it. It's like finding a puddle of pure water while crossing the desert. Blogs or online journals written by other Peace Corps volunteers are extremely useful for this reason, letting applicants satisfy their thirst for knowledge. And, in some cases, can serve to allay fears or warn against problems. One of the most important things soon-to-be volunteers need to know, for example, is that they will never be able to predict what their experience will be like, but that they can expect certain things to happen. Look out for homesickness, alienation, feelings of disenchantment, culture shock. Look out for the self-defeating tendencies to crumple under pressure and want to return to comfort and safety. But also look out for instant friendships from the tight-knit volunteer group, experiences so exciting and new that you feel more alive than ever, some of the best sleep of your life, wonderful stories, etc. etc.

Here are some of the blogs and journals I've been reading over the last few months (and some new ones). Every one of them is different, and not just in location and assignment, but in attitude and outcome. Some are from people who have ETed, some are from volunteers who have just arrived, some are from others still waiting for an assignment, some are from RPVCs. All of them tell just a little bit of what all PCVs need to know about the Peace Corps and what your experience will be like. The more you read, the better.

So It Goes. A recently-departed volunteer in Senegal.
Jason Pearce/COS. A site that chronicles the experience of a volunteer given his walking papers for being too truthful in his blog! Important to read for anyone planning to electronically record their PC experience!
Erika in Kyrgyztan. A volunteer who is serving in a place that is radically different from my Pacific/Caribbean experience.
Wanderlustress. A volunteer in Uzbekistan.
Caroline's Peace Corps Site. Caroline just finished her assignment in St. Lucia, where I did my training back in 1998.
Caribbean Blue... a St. Lucia Journal. This was made by David Waters, fellow volunteer from EC 65, back in 1998. If you look through his journal, you'll see a picture of a heavily-illustrated plastic drinking cup... that was my cup from training! (It was very exciting to find that randomly on the internet!)
American Idle. Someone who ETed from an assignment in Samoa.
Kris Rush/Peace Corps Samoa. Another volunteer who ETed from Samoa... (What is it with Samoa?)
Lindsey Wolf's Peace Corps Site. A volunteer currently serving in St. Lucia.
The Palangi Files. Another volunteer from the Pacific.
Paul W. Neville's Tonga Experience. A volunteer from Tonga, obviously.
Mijal's Blog. This one hasn't been updated in a really long time, so I'm curious how she is. Any Tongan readers in the house?
AdventureDivas. Peace Corps. Hard Core. Not a blog, but has good information resources.
Justin and Rebecca in Tonga. A cute couple serving together in Tonga. They should be entering COS soon.
Travels in Bananaland. An RPCV who served in St. Lucia.
Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean. A site by Greg Carlson, who I assume is still in St. Lucia (he hasn't updated in a while either).
Patrick's Blog. Someone who just began the application process.
Following My Heart. Also someone who just began the application process.
The Quiet American. A volunteer who is close to finishing PST in Senegal.
The Peace Corps Site RIng. Many more sites can be found here. I tried not to duplicate, but I think one or two favorites fell through the cracks.
Peace Corps Online Blog List. An extensive list of blogs that I won't try to copy here. Lots of goodies!
Websites About Our Countries. Yet MORE links to scores of pages, these sorted by country. If you haven't found what you're looking for yet, here's your solution.
So You Wanna Join the Peace Corps? Not a blog or online diary, but very useful for people poised on the verge of applying and in need of a final nudge.
Peace Corps Online Information Network. A site chock full of links to stories about service.

I'll add to this list as new stuff comes in. If you are a reader who has a site, or knows of one not listed here, please drop me a line in the comments box or send an e-mail (I love getting e-mail!)



Rik said...

I like your blog,it's interesting to read.
Good job,keep writing :)
[My blog][avatars and funny stuff]

Anonymous said...

Be careful with these Blogs. I am a PCV myself and I find the information in them to be very slanted and many lack perspective. I recommend that you examine the Jason Pearce website carefully as he was in the wrong. He screwed up and many of us are able to have wonderful online sites and never have his troubles.

Your site is good but be sure to add a grain of salt to what you listed.

Good luck with the process. I would do it all again in a moment!


Brian Reeves said...

Thanks, both of you, for your comments and support.

I'm starting to become aware of how much the PC frowns on these kinds of blogs in general, and if they know you are doing one they make sure to monitor it. I see how Jason Pearce posted some stuff he probably shouldn't have, but at the same time I hesitate. I like lots of nitty-gritty details, as long as identities are kept private, and when I read online journals or blogs I look for visceral details. It makes for good reading. And good information, as well. Most people have only the vaguest notion of what daily life in any country outside the US is actually like. Heck, some people think people in Hawai`i, a US *state*, live in grass huts and surf to school. Letting them know details can enrich otherwise sheltered American's view of the rest of the world.

Then again... I understand the Peace Corps is nothing if not a service organization whose number one "product" is perceptions -- those of host country nationals toward Americans and Americans toward host country nationals. Anyone involved with Public Relations will tell you how important it is to focus on positive facts and downplay the negative.

It puts us bloggers in a delicate position: we want to be able to tell the world about our day-to-day experiences, both good and bad, but we don't want to undermine the work the PC is doing around the world to bridge misconceptions. Jason's entries about -- what was it? naked children or something? -- did cross the line because they made the host country nationals look bad. If they look bad, the Peace Corps' mission is in jeopardy.