I just learned that this blog has been chosen as a finalist in the Peace Corps “Blog it Home” contest! (Voting to choose the winner will happen on the Peace Corps’ Facebook page, from 1-10 August, so here’s my shameless plug for support. :+)
I must admit, I’m more than a little shocked to be in the final round.
Who woulda thought that a former technophobe would be even a contender amongst the hundreds of amazing Peace Corps blogs out there? Who woulda thought that my ramblings from a mud-brick hut in Mfuba Village would be noticed on a larger scale?
The “Blog it Home” contest is part of the Peace Corps’ Office of Third Goal, whose aim is to promote Americans’ understanding of other nations and cultures.
See, PCVs actually have three goals within their service. Goal One: To help developing countries improve standards of living via sustainable, community-led projects. Goal Two: To teach people of other nations and cultures about American culture. And Goal Three, which brings it all back to the States, via letters, the awesome World Wise Schools Correspondence Match program, visits from friends and family, and, yes, blogging.
In my humble experience, Goal One happens so slowly, so imperceptibly, that it’s tough for most PCVs to know if we’ll have any impact at all in the long run. Goals Two and Three? Now those are the ones that make my service – and the world – go round. They are the spark that keep me going when what I’d normally call “work” seems to be an endless string of fruitless workshops, cancelled meetings, and bumbling mistakes.
Needless to say, I am honored to be a finalist in this contest. I believe wholeheartedly in “Third Goal,” especially considering our often sheltered, insular world view living in one of the world’s most powerful nations. Sharing glimpses of life in Zambia – and in Mfuba in particular – is the reason I keep up with this blog.
I’m also more than a little nervous.
If I win this contest – slim as that possibility might be – I will be flown to Washington, D.C. for a week of publicity and cultural exchange in our nation’s capital. (And I thought returning to Montana in another nine months or so would be scary!)
There is no part of me that looks forward to the immense culture shock of going from rural Zambia to a sprawling American metropolis. And no part of me that wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving my village for so long. But so goes my life. I am caught between two worlds.
I want to spend as much time in Mfuba as I can, while I can, working on Goals One and Two. I have only about nine months left here, and every moment counts.
At the same time, I believe in the importance of sharing our experiences as PCVs in far-flung cultures and nations, of trying our best to celebrate and look with wonder at our differences (even – maybe especially – on the days when those differences drive us nuts!) I believe in the daily act of noticing and highlighting the innate beauty and sameness within all of us, worldwide.
In my day-to-day existence in Mfuba, it’s virtually impossible to see any real “change” or “improvement” in my neighbors’ daily lives. I often wonder what those words even mean on the ground.
What I see, instead, is cultural exchange – meals shared; discussions about faith and belief and race and human rights and the best way to cook vegetables; laughter and smiles; friends made. And for that, I thank my neighbors in Mfuba and the surrounding area. THEY are the ones who make Second and Third goals so fun and rewarding. They are the ones who make this blog come alive.