God, How I Scoffed.

You give Peace Corps two years and three months of your life, and you know what they say they’ll give you in return?  I’ll tell you.

1.  Patience
2.  Flexibility

Their words.

Now this, to me, didn’t seem like too great a deal.  Twenty-seven months of sporadic electricity and water, exposure to dysentery and tuberculosis, and topped off with minimal insulation and mad driving.  And in return, I gain…what?  The tools to handle another twenty-seven months like that?

No, I definitely didn’t join Peace Corps because of that particular offer.

No.  I blame Matthew McConaughey.  Aka my nemesis.

I’d been dabbling with the idea of Peace Corps for years.  At first I felt I didn’t have anything to contribute, and later I just thought again and again on the commitment required.  Two years.  Three months.  But as time passed I realized how fleeting time is.  And (she continued, darkly,) I saw the ads McConaughey was doing for Peace Corps.

I give you exhibit A:

It’s magnificent.  It gives me the shivers even now.

Look, honest as pie, Peace Corps is one of the best things I ever did in my life.  But that doesn’t change the fact that when a woman has gone three months without heat, electricity and water, she finds herself not very favorably disposed toward Matthew McConaughey, particularly if she sees him only in large cologne advertisements plastered around her new capital city.  Looking sleek, washed and utterly, but utterly clean.

But I digress.

So, Peace Corps didn’t capture my heart with their promise to endow me with patience and flexibility.  But today I can tell you something.  They’ve won me since.

It turns out:  Patience and flexibility are worth LOADS more than you’d realize.

Examples of how the fantastic duo have changed my life for the better:

1.   Someone is a jerk to me.  My previous response: Stress.  My current response: Laugh.
2.   Something is late or doesn’t happen, throwing a wrench in everything else.  My previous response: Stare at my watch as if doing this may turn back time.  My current response: Happily make other plans, or better yet, just wander off to follow my heart.
3.  My writing isn’t going smoothly.  My previous response: Stop writing unless things get better.  My current response:  Accept the fact that there is no solidity in writing, and keep on going.

Determination.  Grit.  Commitment.  Resourcefulness.  Adaptability.  Discipline.  Self-confidence.  Peace.


Yeah.  I got my patience and my flexibility, and I’m thankful.  And that’s in addition to all the other wonderful things I got from Peace Corps, like my host family, colleagues and friends, and the chance to live Georgia from the inside in…

So, if adventure calls you, or if you have the urge to experience a complete life change to volunteer somewhere, I recommend that first of all:

You watch any McConaughey movies you haven’t seen yet.

Afterwards, you won’t feel as favorably disposed to the poor fellow, who, I understand, does do his own charitable stuff and ought be respected for it.  Nonetheless, trust me.  Watch him now, especially if you just saw that video.  You WILL hear his voice in your head as you sweat off the ointment they promise will bring down the allergic reactions you’re having to bugs you never knew existed before, and as you run barefoot to a wet outhouse because what needs doing can’t wait, and as your water bottle freezes in bed with you for two winters.

Which is precisely when you won’t want to hear his voice ever again.

Inspired?  View from a Mountaintop, Kvemo Kartli

Inspired? View from a Mountaintop, Kvemo Kartli

In case you didn’t watch the PSA, here’s what McConaughey had to say over a backdrop of gorgeous Peace Corps cinematography:

“How far would you go to help someone?  Would you go to the end of your driveway?  Would you cross the street?  Would you cross an ocean?  To a place 6,000 miles from home… And how long would you go?  Would you go for a week?  A month?  A year?  Would you go for two years?  Would you go if you could use your knowledge to teach someone, and in the process, maybe learn something yourself?  Life is Calling.  How far will you go?  Peace Corps.”


About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. After a decade in international development, democracy work, and inclusivity training for domestic NGOs, I joined Peace Corps, and after a year, experienced my first Russian invasion. I followed that up by volunteering with refugees and youth, and after some vacation time climbing minarets and mountains, I returned to New York City, where today I work on social justice with college students, produce short films, and write.
This entry was posted in advertising, Caucasus, challenges, character development, culture shock, dysentery, first drafts, Georgia, international service, life, Marneuli, Matthew McConaughey, Peace Corps, photos, Republic of Georgia, the unplanned, volunteering, whatnot, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to God, How I Scoffed.

  1. stamperdad says:

    Interesting post. Hope to hear more about your experiences in the Corp. Thanks for sharing this.


    • sputnitsa says:

      Hey Steve! Thanks for coming by. I tend to sporadically tell Peace Corps tales, so if you visit you’re bound to fall into one eventually. 🙂 Plus the topics list on the right features some PC stories, too.

      I really enjoyed your blog post on mailing kids. BRILLIANT. 🙂

  2. Lillian C. says:

    That’s amazing. It sounds like the Peace Corp was really a great thing for you! Especially the writing. It’s difficult to be a writer if you don’t have the discipline to keep writing no matter what…

    This I say from personal experience. I have a history of slackerness when it comes to writing… heh. ^^’

    • sputnitsa says:

      It’s so true, what you’re saying. I feel I really had to reach this point of my life in order to write.

      I didn’t have the patience before to enjoy the grind–the constant learning, the writing when (as Jeff Winbush quoted Steven King in a previous blog post) it feels like you’re just shoveling shit from a sitting position. The patience to take joy in that process. And the discipline to keep going even when I’m not feeling the joy particularly. 🙂

  3. JLC says:

    Great post! Those are the memories that will last a lifetime. What a fulfilling experience!

  4. DD says:

    This is one of my favorite posts to date. I could totally hear your voice in this piece. Perhpas the Peace Corp should hire you for PSAs. McConaughey has nothing on you!

    • sputnitsa says:

      DD, you’re so kind. Further, I like to imagine I’d be tactful enough not to grace glossy international advertisements looking my suave best. My mission would be helped, clearly, by the fact that no-one yet has bought cologne based on my looks or fame. Or anything else, for that matter.

      But seriously, how fun to find out you’re reading my blog! Thanks for coming and perusing, and of course for your kind comment. 🙂 I appreciate it.

  5. hope101 says:

    My software won’t allow me to see your video. 😦 However, I very much enjoyed your blog. Travel of any kind stretches the soul, and that’s even when it’s for oneself. I didn’t have to put up with dysentery or TB, but after six weeks in Japan, I realized I never had appreciated the wide-open sky or solitude before.

    And I’m glad you have recommitted to your writing. It would be a shame if you didn’t.

    • sputnitsa says:

      Thank you! That’s very sweet. Yep, truly I committed for the first time with discipline and acceptance of the work it would entail. No more waiting for the muse to strike. I hit first now. 🙂

      Did you manage to see any of Japan’s nature? Six weeks—wow! 🙂

      ps, if you ever get curious, you can go to Youtube and look up McConaughey Peace Corps. The dastardly video should be viewable there. 🙂 🙂 🙂 But the words he speaks–the blaggart!–I copied beneath the video anyway so you’ve only missed the cinematography and audio. 🙂

  6. Totally loved this post.

    Have you considered writing about any of your experiences while in the Peace Corps? Either a memoir, or a fictionalized tale?

    • sputnitsa says:

      Thank you!

      After the war, I considered it. One of my PC doctors told me I had to. She got a laugh from my crazy adventures. She was a sweetheart. They all were.

      Hm… Maybe I will. 🙂 🙂

  7. Pingback: The 99 Miles of October « Notes of a Scribbler

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