I met a Peace Corp Volunteer girl by the name of Francesca in Ho, Ghana; we had a small conversation in a small restaurant that serves fried rice with a piece of chicken. I am going soft in my old age; I find myself more open and easy going with these kids, I do not expect much.
Peace Corps Defined:
The Peace Corps is an American volunteer program run by the United States Government, as well as a government agency of the same name. The mission of the Peace Corps includes three goals: providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand U.S. culture, and helping Americans understand the cultures of other countries. Generally, the work is related to social and economic development. Each program participant, (aka Peace Corps Volunteer), is an American citizen, typically with a college degree, who works abroad for a period of twenty four months after three months of training. Volunteers work with governments, schools, non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, and entrepreneurs in education, hunger, business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment.
Peace Corps Wiki PeaceCorps.gov
This is Francesca, if I remember right, she is about 23 and I do not remember what state, she was a pleasant girl, respectful and not too afraid of people, but not a Type A.
Ho, Ghana West Africa --- Sunday, December 19, 2010
The Informal Interview
I walked into the back end of this very small two table restaurant, Francesca was getting fried rice to go, which says something in Africa about the person.
I looked at her and said,
She did not say,
"How do you know?"
"I have a 50 percent chance in Ghana when I meet a young white person they are Peace Corps," because there is almost no tourist in this country or any other black African country.
In my many trips to Africa, I have only met maybe 5-10 people who paid their own money to come to Africa to be a tourist Normally, they are working on a project that pays the plane fare, or they are being a volunteer to make their resume look good.
At the end of our conversation, I thanked Francesca for Volunteering for the USA government, I said to her,
"Thank you, I appreciate as an American Citizen that you volunteered."
I have met many Peace Corps Volunteers, and about three directors of country organizations, they are easy to find, and difficult people to talk with, normally full of political correctness. Except strangely all the volunteers in Ethiopia, an exceptional bunch.
You can normally find Peace Crops Volunteers the most popular bars in any city; this is where they hang out. Francesca was going to meet two or three other Volunteers at the White House Bar here in Ho, Ghana.
I happened to take this Photo of the White House Bar in Ho, Ghana just before I talked to Francesca in the Fried Rice Restaurant, what a coincidence, amor fate.
Coincidence, I also took this photo of these three wide bottom young girls walking away from the White House Bar with a local man. I enjoy taking these type of photos, I more or less think of them as,
"I caught you drinking photos, doing what you do."
I see one or two white people in Ho, maybe every other day, and 90 percent of the time, they are sitting at the White House Bar. Anyone in West Africa is extremely cliché predictable; they are going to be hanging out at a bar, normally recommended by the Lonely Planet Guidebook. They are going to be working for some project of a missionary, NGO’s of sorts.
Francesca asked me,
"What are you doing in Ghana?"
"I have a couple of large travel sites?"
She said something like
"Oh, what do you write about?"
"I take photos of Peace Corps Volunteers and make fun of them on my site."
I truly said that, I am not joking, it did not seem to phase her, this was a good sign for me, and I could sense she was a little more adult, and less full of the American young and full of shit attitude prevalent in the USA. She was not so politically correct, not to the point of lying all the time, she was not just blunt open, but she had sort of a Midwest charm about her.
My Normal Questions of Peace Corp Volunteers
1. How many Peace Corp Volunteers in Ghana?
2. What city are you stationed in?
She said the name of some city about one-hour north of Ho, Ghana.
3. How long have you been there?
I think she said, six months.
Peace Corps Volunteers are supposed to spend the first month or two at their city, and not go visit other Peace Corps volunteers. In reality, the Peace Corps Volunteer seems to spend their whole time touring to other cities to hang out with other volunteers. There are special Hotels where they cluster, and you can search for "Peace Corps Hotel" and you will find them. They tend to stay away from the Home office of the country, so they are not caught.
4. How many Ghana volunteers dropped out?
As best I understand, about 25 percent of the volunteers drop out, she said something like 2 of the 75 in her group, now if she is only six months in, there is another year and a half for these kids to drop out. (I have only met one PC Volunteer over 25 years old in my life, note, the are also paid, and live nice.)
That is about is for Questions
I used to ask them tons of questions about what they were doing, what was their expertise, and I have stopped that, I just get angry. The main requirement in my opinion to volunteer is that you are a college graduate, there are no skills needed, somehow being a college graduate and under 25 makes you qualified to teach "Technical Skills."
Remember the Peace Corp Mission
1. Providing technical assistance
2. Helping people outside the United States to understand U.S. culture.
3. Helping Americans understand the cultures of other countries.
Peace Corps is one of the finest Volunteer Organizations on the planet, and anyone that finishes their two years needs a pat on the back. I do not care if they spend the whole two years drinking with other Volunteers as is normal, I do not care if they ever go or stay in their assigned village, where it would be difficult to find one. What they did is have their butts "in country." They are immerse in Ghana, they are continually trying to make a little USA inside of Ghana as do all tourist, but you cannot deny them, they spend two years "in country."
You cannot spend that much time in a country and not learn something to take home of value, after about one year they have the rose colored glasses removed, and they accept a country for what it is, and not what they read in a book. They start out delusional and return home jaded, about the same as me, I now avoid White people, in Africa, as they cling to other Volunteers.
Mission One of Peace Corps
99 percent of Volunteers do not have enough experience to explain anything to anyone, and are too weak willed to thrive in the Alpha Male and Alpha Female under-developed countries. What the girls do is find a boyfriend and this is their protectors, always on the sly.
If you want to read a truly great fictional true story about Peace Corps, read Paul Theroux "My Secret History," truly and exceptional and insightful book.
Here is a list of books that can help you to understand the life of a world traveler, or help to teach you to be a real traveler, I added Paul Book. Books to Learn to Travel
Again, I will thank any Peace Corps Volunteer, I appreciate that one Volunteer Organization or NGO group actually spend more than one-month in country. I believe it takes one-year inside a country before you even have a clue of the underlying problems, and then two years before you accept you cannot change people.
I applaud the 1-5 percent of Peace Volunteers that are good Ambassadors from the USA and are good examples, this is the way the volunteers could change the world. If you are a good example of how to live your life and somebody you do not know serendipitously is changed.
Francesca has good intentions, and I am safe, she probably will never read this, she never asked the name of my web site, as is normal with white people I meet as I travel the world.
Thanks Francesca, I told her I would write about her, so this is not an ambush.
She is status quo for Peace Corps; she is normal cliché, stereotypical Volunteer. She is gentle and polite more than normal, and I enjoyed meeting her. I always hope I am meeting the one in a 100 Peace Corps Volunteer that truly understands the country. Then goes home and gets a Job working for the USA government setting foreign policy.
You hit just about what I was going to say already:
There seems to be a marked change in Peace Corps between the first and second year and then another right before they complete their term of duty. The first year these kids seem to be like a mob of high schoolers. Then some of them drop out, some are kicked out -- they are weeded, so to speak. The kids in the second year often seemed to have learned something, something that they tend to have difficulty finding other people who can understand: they seemed to have realized that their construction of the world was based on false pretenses and they begin to see things more "as is," that their intentions to save the world are BS.
These people often have something to show me if I let them.
I like meeting these kids who have been into the Peace Corp for a year and a half or so, They seem to be less visible -- less out in the bars, not traveling in a mob. I use Couchsurfing to meet up with them sometimes.
Though I agree that the Peace Corps is probably the best volunteer program there is, for what it is worth.