Thursday, December 01, 2005


The first day I met our new CD, we had a battle of wills.

We got the message that the new CD, Jim Geenan, wanted to meet with all the volunteers. He was coming out to the Berbice area for a Saturday meeting and I was scheduled to be at the end of his time block. Turns out he had missed meeting a couple of others, so when I came for my meeting he asked if I minded driving up the Corentyne with him. No problem. We piled in the Peace Corps Land Rover and off we went.

As we drove, he asked me assorted harmless questions about my schooling, history, and what I was doing in New Amsterdam with Peace Corps. I mentioned that I was in Peace Corps before, in the Eastern Caribbean. He asked how that was, and what the differences were. I told him that one difference is that, at the time, we didn't have anything like a Safety and Security Officer. We were free to do as we pleased. Based on this, he figured out I was the guy who got in trouble for passing through Buxton and being out of site without permission.

"Ahh... that was you!" he said. Apparently I was infamous. "You're lucky I wasn't the CD when that happened. You know what I mean?"

I saw he was fishing for an answer. "Yeah," I said. "You would have sent me home."

"Yes. You know why?"

"Because... you follow the rules?" I thought he might like that one.

"Is that bad?"

"Not necessarily," I said.

This evolved into a discussion about Peace Corps policy, and he described himself as a "policy guy." Which I guess means he enjoys policies, enjoys enforcing them, or something. He kept saying how policies provide a framework which allows us all to get things done. I don't necessarily agree -- I think as often as not policies interfere with our lives, and prevent us from performing well. Not passing through Buxton or being forbidden from going here or there or talking to this person or that person are the kinds of policies that seem to me like needless nannying.

But back to the discussion about rules. "Let me ask you," he said. "Since you were in the Peace Corps before, you must have known that the Peace Corps is an organization with a lot of rules. So, knowing how Peace Corps is, why would you do that to yourself? Why would you come back to an organization that stifles you with all its mandatory rules and regulations?"

I told him how, when I was in Peace Corps before, a lot of these heavy policies were not in plcae. In fact, in the first two weeks of training back then we were sent twice on various scavenger-hunt missions to various places in St. Lucia. Yes, we did the buddy system, but sending us out like that, still green and unaccustomed to island geography, is something Peace Corps Guyana would never have done. And I consider that a bad thing, by the way. Also, on the second week of our training in St. Lucia a whole bunch of us went to a night club called Club Indies, and we stayed out insanely late. Never were we required to seek permission; we just went, had a good time, and took care of ourselves. Like adults do.

"Peace Corps is a conservative organization now," he said. "It's getting more conservative every year. And I don't see that changing. I think wouldn't you be happier out from under it? What keeps you here, anyway? Why do you stay?"

"Because I've put a lot of time, energy, and money into being here. I have a lot invested in it. I've been a quitter too much in my life, and I don't want to just give up simply because it's hard. Peace Corps is always hard. I'm dealing with it."

He replied, "You seem to equate quitting with making the right decision," he said, subtly trying to imply to me that I should ET, and also trying to imply that I felt this way myself, and just didn't know it. A little reverse psychology. He was trying to get me to quit, so he could be free of a loose cannon.

"Or a wrong one," I said.

The rest of the conversation was about the built-up resentments I was forming in my homestay and in New Amsterdam. I was pretty honest with him, and I was hoping at the time he would see that I needed a little more support from admin than Terrence, the APCD, was willing to afford. But instead of taking it as a volunteer who was in a bad way psychologically and worth saving, he made up his mind about me and was already hard at work thinking of ways to rid himself of me.

No comments: