Sunday, August 15, 2010

Making decisions

It's August, which means I've been in country for 18 months and at site for 16 months. The group of Peace Corps volunteers who arrived in Senegal immediately before we came is about to leave the country, which means we're going to be saying a lot of goodbyes around here. For the last couple months, I've been hearing them talk about their futures -- grad school, boyfriends and girlfriends, jobs, houses. It's like being back in high school or college, watching the seniors prepare to graduate. Knowing my friends and I are next is prompting some serious thought.

For some time now, I've been thinking about extending my service for a third year. I wouldn't stay in the village, though. Instead, I could take a position in Kaolack, the regional capitol, working with all the volunteers around here, or in Dakar. It's an exciting thought in a lot of ways. Another year in Senegal with the Peace Corps would mean another year of work experience in development, the field I'm probably going to choose for a career. That's especially enticing, since my background has nothing to do with the field. By reputation, furthermore, Peace Corps/Senegal seems to be doing pretty well for itself. The program is highly regarded in the Peace Corps community. So I suppose this is an opportunity to continue learning from people who know what they're doing.

On the other hand, I know what I want. I know which graduate schools I'll be applying to and which degree programs are most compelling to me. Maybe I should just go for it.

More importantly, I know what it is that I don't like about the Peace Corps. I know why I'm frustrated in my work here. My thoughts on how development ought to be done, on what I would need to be doing to feel comfortable and happy and fulfilled in my work, are pretty fully formed. In that sense, I might be ready to move on to an academic setting, where I can do some really valuable study and continue to refine my thoughts.

So now I'm soliciting advice. Send me an email or write a comment, whatever you're comfortable with. I could really use some new perspectives on this, even if you and I aren't close friends or whatever. If you read this blog, which it seems you are, then I'm guessing you have an opinion.

If I had to state a preference right now, I'd say that I would like to be convinced to stay on for a third year. But that's the thing. I need to be convinced. What does the Peace Corps do well? I feel like I'm having a hard time seeing it these days, not necessarily because it's not there. It's just been a frustrating few months.

Anyway, I'm headed back to the village, in spite of the fact that my latrine is collapsing. It's Ramadan, too! More on that later, I guess.

Love and guts, and I wanna hear from you.


  1. As much as I'd like to have you back in hanging-out distance, I think what the third year has going for it is what an addition to any complicated experience has. That is, no matter what you end up doing afterward, you're probably never again going to have the opportunity to do The Third Year. You will have invested two-plus years and this is the opportunity that comes out of that time. It's a simplistic view with no real idea of how much you actually want to be there and do what you'd do, but I can't shake the feeling that grad school, boyfriends and girlfriends, jobs, and all that stuff can and will wait.

    On the other hand, it would be great if you came back to the States and ate burritos bigger than your head and spent time with all of us again.

  2. Hi Jessie,

    I've really enjoyed reading your blog over the last couple of years. I agree with Clarke. Particularly if you want to go into development work the more experience the better. As well, it seems that staying for another year and working in a city would provide you different insight and another perspective on the whole experience. Graduate school and stateside life isn't going anywhere while working for another year is something (I don't know for sure, but I assume) if you don't take advantage of now probably won't be something you can easily return to.

    Ultimately though, it is your decision and it's about what you feel comfortable with and what you think would be most valuable.

    Good luck! Get in touch if you're in Northern California in the future.

  3. Hey Jessie,
    Not that my opinion is desired but you did ask so; I know you have frustrations and I'm not sure staying and working in development would enable you to change what frustrates you (which would only compound your frustrations). Since you know what schools and programs are in your future I believe you should go for that now. Good luck with the decision whatever it may be.
    Sue Tenerelli

  4. Hi!
    This is quite random and I apologize! I am a volunteer with a Canadian NGO, and I'm working in the Gambia and Kaolack for 6 months. I creeped on your blog when i found out i'd be in Kaolack, anyway your thoughts are very interesting and I was wondering, if we ever find ourselves in Kaolack at the same time, we could possibly have a chat..? Anyway. My email is locomarg2 at hotmail if you find yourself in Kaolack with nothing to do! I'll be back and forth between my village in Gambia and Kaolack. Good luck with your decisions :)