Friday, February 12, 2010

The toughest job you`ll ever whine about

posted Mon, 01 Aug 2005

Yesterday, another Peace Corps officer came over to Megan and Steve’s. Bob was a volunteer in Cameroon; Steve was in Chad. Megan was in Kenya; I was in Chile. All of us were volunteers before email and cellphones. They were volunteers in the real Peace Corps – I was in Peace Corps Lite, as they were quick to remind me.

“Your stipend was how much?” they gasped. They each got about $100 a month – and couldn’t spend it all.

“$650,” I told them. “But my rent was $150, then I had the phone bill, and electricity…”

“You had a phone?” they laughed. “You had electricity?”

So Megan and Bob were talking about what spoiled brats some of the volunteers are these days. It’s like they don’t know what being in the Peace Corps is supposed to be about.

Bob said one volunteer called him and wanted the Peace Corps to buy her a screen door to replace the metal door on her house.

Why, he asked her.

Because there are scorpions, she told him. And the door doesn’t reach all the way to the ground.

Can’t you just roll up a towel and put in under the door? he asked.

But summer is coming and it’ll be hot, she whined. You don’t know what it’s like out here!

Oh, honey, yes I do know what it’s like, he snapped. When I was a volunteer, I was bit by a scorpion and had to run back to my little shack to read my book to find out what to do about a scorpion bite. It told me there was nothing to do but to put ice on it. And there was no ice within 20 miles of my village. It took two days for the swelling to go down. I suggest you save your pennies from your stipend and buy yourself a screen door if you want one.

Megan said one of her volunteers in Uzbekistan was so upset about something that she had her mother call the country director (who is the highest Peace Corps official in the country – the country director reports to the Peace Corps director, who reports to George Bush).

This would be the equivalent of having your mother call your boss’s boss. So like right now, if I were upset with my boss, it would be like having my mom call his boss. Can you imagine? Megan said if a volunteer had tried that stunt with her, she would have refused to take the call.

When I was in Chile, the group of trainees that came in after my group was difficult. One volunteer – an older guy – told the country director he would only accept a posting in a city where there was a place he could swim laps every day.

When I mentioned that, Megan said, “Those are the people you weed out during training.”


  1. It isn't normal or healthy to deliberately make your life dangerous and poor. So, why would you make yourself more dangerous and more poorer? PC isn't about this.

    Weeding out people who are sane is a mistake, unless they're not wanted by those who aren't.

    I would have taken that call and been happy to do it. Directors make, like 80,000 + a year. I also would have found a lap pool. It's good to want to stay healthy and sane. Because there were no cellphones and laptops doesn't make their experience better for not having tools to do a better job. Making the experience hard makes no sense either.

    Someone wants to be part of the team, so they didn't get weeded out.

  2. You think it's reasonable for a volunteer to demand to be placed in a town with a pool? You think it's reasonable for a volunteer to demand that the Peace Corps pay for a screen door instead of putting a towel at the bottom?

    The Peace Corps tells you that you are going to live at the level of the people you work with. If you can't do this, then don't be in the Peace Corps.

    And no, it is not reasonable for the parents of the volunteers to be calling the country director. If the volunteer cannot handle the job on his own, then he should not be doing it. The volunteer is an adult. Mommy should not be running interference.