Life After Peace Corps
Posted on October 29th, 2008 by Aaron.
So now it’s come to this: I have to find a job.
I had hoped to do some tech work for non-profits, but there’s really not that much out there. And what’s out there is either maintaining/setting-up computer systems or, at best, doing some kind of simple web page work. Not really very challenging, technically. I’m tired of being overqualified for what I’m doing.
Ironically, being “overqualified” is not really a problem in corporate-land. I’ve been out of the tech world for two years (sometimes it seems like I’ve traveled into the future– everyone has these “iphones” now!). Some recruiters look at this absence with suspicion.
“So, Peace Corps. Hmm. Yeah.”
And then there’s all the bad economic news. Even though the listings on CareerBuilder, monster, and craigslist all seem to have lots of tech jobs, it’s unnerving to see “the sky is falling!” every day in the paper.
” ‘Well,’ said Sam, ‘I’m back.’ ”
I returned to the States in August, but I’ve been a little remiss in my blogging.
Being back is still weird. The money looks strange (there’s so many new states’ quarters! and what about those funny 10s and 5s?). Driving was stressing me out at first, although I’m used to it by now.
When I went down to Louisiana to visit my family, I was just in time for Hurricane Gustav to trash Baton Rouge. We were out of power for four or five days (which was just like being in Peace Corps, really). My apologies to anyone I didn’t get to see– the hurricane made everything complicated.
Next I went on the Great American Road Trip to Colorado, which is where I’m relocating to. Being out of my country for so long made me realize that I hadn’t seen all that much of the States, so it was really a tour of iconic americana. We went through Carlsbad Caverns (ginormous caves!), Roswell (no aliens), El Morro (ancient graffitti!), the Petrified Forest (huge numbers of trees turned to stone!), Meteor Crater (also no aliens), the Grand Canyon (“what a grand canyon”), Four Corners (four states at once!), Mesa Verde (ancient cliffside cities), and the Great Sand Dunes (in Colorado? wtf?).
And now I’m in Denver. Even though its October, it’s pretty cold here, for a Southerner who spent the last two years in a tropical country.
A couple months ago, in one of those pass-by-email fads, you may have seen Filipino inmates dancing to Thriller (it’s on YouTube here). Of course, it’s hilarious and strange, but it’s not that strange. Really, other than it’s scale, and maybe that its using prisoners, the strangest thing is that it made it to YouTube in the first place. (Even the guy dressed up as the woman isn’t all that odd.)
You see, Filipinos love dance numbers. They spend a lot of time on it in MAPEH class in school, it’s all over TV, and you bet if there’s any kind of community event (fiesta, holiday, centennial, etc) there will be more than one dance number. More than a few. Several, even.
Case in point: Negros Navigation, one of the two ferry services to my island (not the one that left me stranded at sea). Upon arrival in Manila, their porters do a dance number while you wait for the ship to dock. They’ve been doing this for a year, at least. I finally had the presence of mind to record it:
Getting around on my island is always a challenge.
On Sundays, there’s no bus, so you have to take a transport truck. The back of the truck is covered and has two long benches facing each other, packed with people. In between the benches is crammed rice sacks, eggs, cement bags, cokes, bread, tanduay, pasalubong, luggage bags, and sleeping kids. When it rains they cover up the open sides of the truck with clear plastic tarps, which is alright as long as we’re moving, but becomes a steam-room as soon as we stop.
So you can understand why I had to get out of there when the truck broke down for two hours. It was raining (of course, its tag-ulan), but I fortunately had my umbrella with me.
When I realized we’d be there for a while (a back wheel had broken, and a motorcycle had been flagged down and asked to fetch a lugnut from Coron), I just started walking to see what there was to see.
There wasn’t much. We were a good hour’s walk from even from the closest Barangay– this was farm country. So I hung out at a nearby bridge, watching the swollen river and the occasional truck, chatting maybe with another equally-bored passenger.
After a while, out of the sheets of rain, emerged a bit of Old-School Philippines– a farmer and his son and their rides, two Carabou. The Carabou were each towing a little wooden/bamboo sled. The farmer and his son (couldn’t have been more than 9) were each sitting in a sled, “driving” the Carabou with ropes. One of the ropes was nominally a whip- but all they had to do was toss the rope at their rides’ backside to motivate them. (Carabou are very docile, very strong, and very, very dumb.)
The farmer got out of his sled when they reached the bridge, so as to coax the Carabou across (bridges freak them out). I opened my mouth to say “magandang hapon” when he waved to me and said, in Tagalog, “Aaron! How are you?”
Hold on, I’m stranded in the rain on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, and here’s this Carabou-sled farmer and he knows me…
I chatted with him a bit and found out he’s the son of the lady that used to run the place I stay at in Coron. I could immediately see the resemblance, though I don’t remember ever meeting him!
After the two Carabou plodded across the bridge, he got back into his sled and threw the rope at his Carabou to get it moving and off they went. As it was harvest time, they were heading back to the farm. The kid eyed me suspiciously as he slid by.
And then I stood in the rain for another hour, waiting for that lugnut.
So I started co-teaching this week. My second day in English IV, the textbook had some example essays for the students to read for comprehension and analysis.
I wanted to hide when we got to this one:
Dear Tita Dulce,
I am 16, Catholic, and very confused about God and His ways. It seems to me that God always favors the whites. His Chosen People, the Israelites, were whites. Jesus and Mary were born in the Middle East, so they were probably whites as all movies on them project.
The two most recognizable people on earth, Clinton and John Paul II, are whites. So are all the other popes and biblical characters. Most of the industrialized nations are white nations, and most of the Guinness record-holders are whites! Why are they all white?
It seems that God lets the whites be the examples and leaders of this world. These things make me think God made the earth only for the whites to enjoy. Is our God the God only of the whites?
Please, help me clear my mind, and I’m sure there are also other nonwhites out there who want to ask this question.
Tita Dulce’s reply:
Hijo, let me assure you that all of us have been created equal. God has no favorites. All you have to do is to be good and to pray for continued blessings.
We now have on Filipino canonized saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz. And it is not the color of our skin that matters, it is what is in our hearts and minds.
Christianity came to our shores when Magellan landed in Mactan. God made sure we would get to know Him also.
May I remind you that the Philippines is the only Christian country in Asia. We should all thank Him for that honor and privilege.
You might retort that the foregn missionaries who came to our shores were white– the Spaniards. Here we see also the workings of time. Today, we have the Mission Society of the Philippines. MSP members are Filipino priests who volunteer to go to other countries to preach the Gospel. God bless you, hijo.
- Excerpted from Tita Dulce’s “Live and Let Live” column, Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 27, 1996
- quoted from Functional English for Today IV, 2000
Whoa that’s some pretty heavy stuff for English class! Or, maybe it was just me being self-conscious, since I already have problems being the “white person who knows all”, being part of a kind of pseudo-imperialism, etc… (Last year during a Buwan ng Wika (language month) presentation, one of the teachers went off about needing to drop the “colonial mentality”– I was like, right on!)
Of course, the West isn’t just “the whites” anymore– we’re multiethnic and multicultural. But I don’t think its a coincidence that most Peace Corps volunteers tend to be white suburban types. The West is still, mostly, white.
At any rate, I made a point of siding with Tita Dulce’s reply. “I’m not special or better than any of you”, I said.
I didn’t answer the unspoken corollary– then why am I here in the first place? Why are there tons of white-people meddling in the third world? Is it because we really do think we’re better? Because we think we’re trying to fix what we broke through colonialism? Because we feel guilty for our affluence? Because, maybe, we just want to help?
I don’t have an answer to it.