It’s officially been a year since I started this blog and I’ll have been in Madagascar for a year on March 1st. With this benchmark fast approaching I’ve been trying to take some time to refocus myself personally and “professionally”.
Yesterday morning I felt the need to switch up my coffee time reading materials and I took a look at the Dec 22, 2012 edition of The Economist I’d been saving. This edition was great because it reviewed the important world events of 2012. (I know, i know! Only 2 months behind!) After reading the article “The World This Year” I reflected on a few things.
During the first year of Peace Corps service it seems like one should disconnect from the world entirely and focus on culturally integrating into the community. That strategy is legitimate and worthwhile, my fellow PCVs span the spectrum of integration after only a year. A few have 100% adopted the Malagasy way of life and haven’t looked back. Many have found a way of life that includes a happy balance of Malagasy and American culture, and a some cling to American culture and continue to get frustrated by the oddities of the Malagasy way of life. I think I’ve found a nice balance where I can live like an American but I work and interact within Malagasy cultural standards. My situation is thus because I have a PCV site mate, Malagasy counterparts who have been to the states, and the organization I work with sells their products to Americans, so everyone I’m around is pretty tolerant of American culture.
While I have kept my American ways I have increasingly isolated myself from the rest of the world. I no longer hear about or read of the new events in politics, pop-culture, or international affairs. Sometimes it can seem like PCVs compete with each other on how disconnected or how “weird” they have become since moving abroad. This happens naturally when you don’t have regular communication with the western world and when I do hear of some big news story it’s just easier to ignore it rather than to catch up. However, after reading the article in The Economist I realized I didn’t know much at all about the events it described. How pathetic!
What good will it do me to be completely ignorant of the events between 2012-2013? Sure, bragging to other PCVs that I have no idea what is going on in the world may prove I’m tamana (settled) at site and that I’m focused and productive, but can’t I be both?! I understand that not all PCVs were news junkies before they left and I’m sure some don’t care to know the political effects of the events in the Arab world or the possibilities of new international trade agreements, but I was a news junkie and I should care!
Now that I’m about midway through my Peace Corps service I’m starting to prepare for possibilities post PC. My continued interest in economics and international affairs leads me to look at graduate schools. I’ll look into jobs when the time gets closer and consider all the options that will be available to me, but all of these possibilities would not accept a two year gap in world knowledge. I know I want to work abroad or with international organizations in the distant future and my Peace Corps service will & has already prepared me for such a future. So, with all that in mind it seems I need to shrug off the perceived PCV competitions and work a little harder at staying in touch with the world.
Living in the moment and focusing on the day-to-day life here in Mada is vital. Trying to make every day count and staying aware of what is going on in the world takes much more planning & effort. It’s that balance between making an impact and staying aware of what’s going on elsewhere that I need to find, much like finding the balance between American & Malagasy culture.
So, here’s to another productive year in Madagascar and to my continuing education and observation of the world.