Donald, who is currently serving in the Peace Corps, asked to return to do another guest post! So, I am very excited to share his post with you! The jokes will make a lot more sense to you if you have seen the movie, “Zombieland”.
Sitting on a log, staring off into the distance as night falls, a man is alone. He is most often alone these days. Rice begins to boil over and the water hisses as it hits the cook fire, his thoughts distracting him. The battered pot, like most of his things, was functional and in a state of disrepair. It hadn’t been long ago that he had been surrounded by luxuries; running water, electricity, and all the conveniences one could want. It was the food he missed most, steak and salad, or a cheeseburger and milkshake. His food now was far more utilitarian. Rice and beans kept for months and provided necessary nutrients and energy.
His life had changed so much, and sometimes wondered if anyone from his old life could’ve recognized him now. It probably didn’t help that he’d not seen the inside of a shower in months.
Occasionally he’d see others like him, taken out of comfortable lives and forced to survive. Those infrequent gatherings gave much needed laughter, relief from the constant stressors everyone dealt with. It was a chance to let their guard down, share stories and good food.
He’d seen one of his friends get bitten, in one of those relaxed moments. Although they had quickly dispatched the attacker with no more emotion than one might have when killing a bug, they could do nothing for their friend but try to ease his pain. Eventually the friend closed his eyes.
The rice had burned. Damn.
Zombieland told the story of an unlikely survivor and his list of rules. Although he formed the rules facing the collapse of civilization, surviving Peace Corps has a surprising number of parallels. So whether you’ve stepped off a plane a long way from home, or constantly receive unwelcome attention from the mouths of those around you, keep these rules in mind.
#1 Cardio: Staying fit and healthy is a challenge, but doing so will remind you to improve your diet, give you much-needed endorphins, and relieve stress.
#2 Double Tap: Follow through so you don’t get bit in the ass- especially when dealing with the Peace Corps office. Sent in a vacation request or reimbursement form? Fire off a text for confirmation. Now is not the time to get stingy with your phone units.
#3 Beware of Bathrooms: I can’t stress this one enough. Not only do you have worries of finding bats flying out of the hole you’re trying to use (which incidentally are surprisingly soft), but also keep an eye out for collapsing floors, flooding, and highly venomous snakes. Read Melissa’s post for more on snakes and chims ( http://melissainmalawi.blogspot.com/2012/10/ssssssssss.html?m=1)
There is the occasional cholera outbreak too, so wash your hands.
#4 Buckle Up: There aren’t always seat belts available, but use them whenever possible. Don’t listen to anyone telling you not to bother, cause nearly every vehicle on the road will have poor to non-existent brakes, worn tires, and drunk drivers. The roads aren’t in get best conditions, cows, goats, dogs, and people carelessly wander into your path, and as Columbus says, “it’s going to be a bumpy ride. “
#7 Travel Light: You can never be sure what a travel day will bring, so be prepared to carry all your stuff for 12 hours. The less stuff you have, the easier it is to keep your eye on it (reducing risk of theft). Mobility is also an important consideration. If fights break out, the door of your minibus gets chained shut, and your driver starts off erratically before jumping out to join the fight- you want to be ready to jump out the back as soon as the bus stops. One lightweight bag makes quick escapes possible.
#17 Don’t be a hero: Peace Corps isn’t about you, it’s about what your community can do after you leave. Don’t expect to show up and save the day, first you have to learn. Learn about the culture, learn about your community, and learn from the people.
#18 Limber Up: You’ll have to be flexible if you want to survive 27 months of service. You’ll be stretched far past your comfort zone every day. Be open to the new culture you’re immersed in, and know how to set boundaries for your own protection. You don’t want to pull a muscle! The best advice I received for staying limber – try not to have any expectations.
#22 When in doubt, know your way out: Trust yourself and trust your instincts. If you get in a situation that doesn’t feel right, get out of it. Be willing to change your plans and don’t be afraid of being rude.
#31 Check the Backseat: Don’t wait to find out if that rotting smell is a combination of fish and poor hygiene, or a mostly dead fellow who is feeling particularly bitey…
#32 Enjoy the Little Things: It’s the little things that get you through that next hour, day, and week. Getting a surprisingly cold coke after a long miserable day of travel makes all the difference. A friend surprising you with a beer before a long bus ride, escaping into a good book on a homesick day, or listening to some of your favorite songs will make you extraordinarily happy.
(Crossed through “don’t”) Be a Hero: Stand up for your fellow volunteer. Whether it is one ant too many or some asshole on the street, don’t let your friend face it alone.
While Peace Corps volunteers have spent hours contemplating plans in case of zombie attacks, no one has been bitten yet. In the story above, my friend was stung by a scorpion while a group of us were watching a movie, and after taking pain killers tried to get some sleep. He was fine within a couple days.
That’ll do, pig.