First off, let me say, not me. Well, not me outside the office. The problem is that I don’t want to be utilized or placed in the office. More on this later in this post.

I’m struggling a bit with tone in these essay posts. My voice is my voice, but it starts to feel a bit repetitive. I want to have something new to say, because completing the first year of service and having MST to mark the occasion felt good and did lead to some interesting reflection. However, when I start to write about my thoughts and feelings, I often end up harping on the same themes. I have rewritten large portions of this a few times to look at things in a new way. I think the other problem is that I feel like I’m leaving so much out. Some of that is self-censorship, some is trying to stay focused in each post, and some is forgetting what I wanted to say. Guess it wasn’t that important if it slipped my mind. With the preamble out of the way, here we go…

The title of this post refers to one of the unfortunate themes of days 1 and 2 of Mid-Service Training. A theme which is not so positive. I thought I was going to put these reflections in the middle of the 3-part series about MST, but then I finished this post first. Also, it is better to become more positive throughout the series, so the next post will be examining my Aspiration Statement from the PC application and the last post will be about our community participation tools day.

the underutilized and misplaced bits...

It has been observed that too many of the Technology Transfer Volunteers have at some point in their service felt underutilized and misplaced in their primary assignments. (Can I write that a little more vaguely? Sometimes I chicken out of total honesty.) I believe that I have fallen into this category myself, but then I wanted to be in the environmental program where the cacti are surely greener. However, it is a tricky situation that we are in. The TT Volunteers are in Mexico through a narrow agreement between the US and Mexican governments. Then, as PC Volunteers, we can end up feeling caught between the obligation of our service and the freedom of it. Also, as a group of “experts” in various fields, we tend to have, shall we say, high expectations of ourselves and of those around us. We want to achieve things, and that is not necessarily what PC service is about – not in the sense that we are used it at least. The clear difference between Early In-Service Training and Mid-Service training, and it is most definitely a positive thing to see, is that almost all the volunteers have carved out some place or plan to achieve satisfaction with their service.

A part of the last day’s activities was a halfway useful activity to think about phrases that described everyone’s mindset. In true PC fashion, little pieces of paper were stuck up on the walls around the room and we had to go stand under whichever phrase represented us. Then we discussed our feelings with the other people at our station, and then with the group at large. These pieces of paper said things like, in no particular order:

This first activity was to pick a phrase that described the first year. I was really in the middle of all of these. At first I was leaning towards “I’m really looking forward to the next year; whatever comes, comes; whatever,” but the final part confused me. It seemed to negate the first half. First half is enthusiastic; second half is “meh”. Now that I think about it again though, maybe it is the best answer since some days are optimistic and some days are filled with anxiety and the best approach to those days is “whatever”. Or, that “whatever” is more of a “Wow, I can’t wait to see any and everything, or whatever comes will be great!” Snort.

sticky (or at least prickly) impact

The second activity was to pick a phrase that described what the opposite of what you were feeling about the first year. After almost succumbing to my standard compulsion to be contrary and not participate, I chose “What a wonder opportunity!” I did this because this phrase makes it seem like the experiences I’m having are an accident. I’m working my butt off to make this opportunity what I want it to be. That sounds a bit selfish, but I hope my project choices make it clear that I care deeply about the work. While I happily acknowledge the wonderful partners that I have in all of my projects, and who have often identified me as a person who can help and pulled me in, I have also spoken a few times on how I have just gone and stuck my nose into other people’s interesting business and insisted on getting involved. These projects all seem to be working out, so I guess I could acknowledge the wonderful opportunity that PC has afforded me to find these projects. However, I like to take some credit. Also, I have to take some fault for not making the most of my primary assignment. Most of my anxiety (besides the occasionally crippling social anxiety) comes from my primary assignment. Without diving into the pool of negativity, I’m not sure that I would have felt correctly placed at any of the primary assignment TT centers. Well, what comes, comes, and I will keep trying to make the most of it.

An example of utilizing all opportunities that surround her, even the misplaced ones.

I’m sure my cat feels underutilized too, since I just refuse to play with her for the approximately 8-14 hours a day she would like. I don’t think she feels too misplaced though. Hopefully not, since she came from the shelter. She has the run of the house, and the only place that I don’t let her go is inside the couch. Damn cat. Damn cute cat.

2 Responses

  1. Karen,

    I really appreciate your thoughful reflections on your Peace Corps experiences. Not only are they a better read than you give yourself credit for, but they are very helpful for me; I am scheduled to begin PST in Mexico this August. I have been mulling over many of the questions that your essays address, including the “what ifs” of being misplaced and/or underutilized. Looking forward to reading your next pieces about MST, and to meeting you in the future!

    -Jessica (Protected Areas Management)

    PS. If you are interested in sharing more of your thoughts, I would love to exchange emails.

  2. Hi,

    Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. I’m glad that I can be helpful and a good read. :)
    The whole experience is interesting, and writing about it is definitely helping me process it.
    Looking forward to meeting you in August. I’ll drop you a line offline and we can talk more.

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