Last year while I was still a volunteer for The U.S. Peace Corps in Rwanda the coordinator in charge of media asked volunteers to submit stories. I asked him if there were particular topics that were underrepresented. His response came in a bullet-pointed list of stock ideas, and I lost interest. My disinterest was more my fault than his. See, I already had an idea in mind, and I probably would have done better to be open about that. I guess I assumed that Peace Corps was unlikely to publish my writing. Since I made that assumption and imposed that limit on myself, we may never know. However, I have decided to publish my original idea here.
Service in The Peace Corps is like a soft-boiled egg.
Until now, most of the stories I’ve shared belong to people I’ve met in places like Vermont, Chicago, and Southern Africa. I recognize that I have neglected stories which belong to the place I called home for the longest time, and to the people I called neighbors then. There are many worth sharing, especially now that political pundits reduce swathes of the United States into ‘voting blocs.’ Those who were once people are now percentage points in a preference poll. Moreover, one of the major candidates this year is a man who claims to have all the answers for those people I called neighbors for 18 years. Liberals worry that my neighbors will ‘turn Pennsylvania red’ if they vote for that man. They are called rednecks, hicks, and stupid. Let me tell you about one of these people reduced to .01%, hick, and stupid. Let me tell you about my neighbors.
The impact that foreigners, especially Germans and Apartheid-era South Africans, had on Namibia is still very present. It is tangible not only by the architecture of inns, biergartens, or barbed-wired watchtowers, but also by the living memories and oral histories that parents share with their children. It can also be felt whenever I meet a new friend, host family, or even teacher. If the first question is not about my possible identity as Boer, then it is as follows:
After a few days of being at the training site and shaking off the fog of jetlag, we’ve been able to communicate like real human beings again. Recently, some volunteers and I ate lunch with two of the Namibian trainers. My plate overflowed with game meat, butternut squash, and potatoes. We also drank some mango juice, and this prompted one of the trainers–a self-described “mixed chakalaka” who represents all of Namibia’s vast diversity in one person–to admit something to us.
Soon, I am going to travel to Zanzibar and a few months after, Namibia. As a born-and-raised American, I had to update some vaccines so my body doesn’t freak out (as severely) when I eat unwashed fruit. C’mon, body, pick your battles. Anyway, in this day and age I did this by asking Google Maps where the closest travel clinic was…and there, I went.
I made an appointment with my Google-recommended destination, and got some preliminary blood work done back in early April. I was grateful for the doctor who usually works about an hour away. He stopped by the Loop office just for my one appointment. Don’t get me wrong, my gratitude lives on. However, my respect for the doctor quickly died.
This patriotic scene was spotted between a bone-chilling walk and Daal Gosht, in Little Italy, Chicago, Illinois.