My boss recently asked our volunteer group to write a small reflection on our experience to include in the closing report of our program: Rural Community Development. I procrastinated a long time writing this piece largely because of the sometimes painful reflection it forces. I finally got the courage and wrote this:
In closing my service in Fila Pinar, several defining or clarifying moments appear. When I first arrived in town and I began the integration process, I realized that no matter how hard I tried I would always be the gringo, slightly separated from everyone else. Talking to my parents one night, my mom encouraged me to continue and said “You will never be a tico but you can be a respected American.” Throughout my service I have learned that there are advantages and disadvantages to being an outsider but the best I can do is be a respected outsider. One of those advantages is talk about or force reflection about taboo topics such as sexuality. My biggest project achievement was conducting a safe sex and healthy relationships workshop and leadership camp for high schoolers where we briefly removed the veil hiding sexuality and allowed young people to explore and learn about a fundamental component to their humanity. And only an outsider could have conducted a project about sex. In addition to pushing certain topics into the public discourse, Peace Corps Volunteers play an important role of showing community members that the world does not end at the limit of their community. While technology and globalized culture are already allowing people to glimpse international pop-culture, Peace Corps volunteers allow community members to use, enjoy, and grow from technology and globalization instead of feeling isolated and out of touch. I knew I achieved my goal of opening the world to my closest youth friend Asdrubal when he asked me for every Jay-Z song I had, asked me how the Brooklyn Nets were doing, and celebrated scoring goals during the mejenga by singing Brazilian pop songs I taught him. In my service and in every Peace Corps Volunteer’s service, the goal is bringing a small piece of the world to isolated communities, and taking a small piece of the isolated community to the world.