Perfectionists Beware the Peace Corps!

Perfectionists beware: applying and accepting an invitation to the Peace Corps may forever change your ability to perfectly complete every bit of work/homework/task assigned to you during your three months of training. There are so many tasks I have to complete and I keep being interrupted by the deeper purpose of what we are sent here to do – building bridges and connecting.

For example, Andrew and I have so much tarea (homework) to complete this weekend. From TEFL assignments, writing our resumes in Spanish, and exercises in our Spanish Grammar book to interviews, writing a “Readiness to Serve” essay, and preparing for our youth groups and teacher taller (workshop) this week…we’re swamped. So what did we do last night? – talk with Andrew’s host dad for an hour and a half. Today we’ve moved to our local haunt, the coffee shop in Andrew’s training town, so we could get some work done. What did we do for two hours this morning? – talk with a couple from Mt. Vernon, IL.

You see what I mean? Pre-service training is all about preparing aspirantes for service, about making sure that we have the technical skills and language ability we need to be successful volunteers. Our weeks are full of language classes, technical trainings, teaching at the local schools, and preparing and running a youth group. To be clear, the Peace Corps staff here in Nicaragua have put together an incredible, intensive, and well-polished training experience for us. But the second and third goal of the Peace Corps, to share in cultural exchange and relationship building with the people of Nicaragua and the people we know and love in the United States keeps creeping into our lives and interactions. It’s as if we enjoy those moments of connection or something. 😉

I have been a perfectionist in many aspects of my life for as long as I can remember, but training may break me. I want to write thoughtful and compelling essays to turn in, but I’d rather make jokes with my host twin sisters. I’d like to take all day today to plow though my homework, but I feel so compelled to write a blog post to share a bit more of the Nicaraguan culture with all of you and how the people here are teaching me to slow down. I want to type up fancy lesson plans proving to PC staff that I am a competent and capable teacher, but I find myself being drawn to time with our youth group and getting to know the students of my small training pueblo.

So perfectionists beware! Peace Corps is slowly stripping me of my ability to study for hours on end by fostering within me a deep desire to sit around drinking coffee and watching telenovelas with family and friends, to set aside my books and flash cards to have real conversations in Spanish even if they are a bit above my current language ability level, to learn Nica sayings and try to make my host families laugh as I butcher them. Yes, I’m still completing the appropriate tasks and assignments, as I can totally see the purpose behind them. However, I’m learning to be ok with “good enough” and striving to bring my desire for perfection and connection into harmony.

Peace Corps is giving me the chance to put relationships and connections above all other work, and I can’t help but take the opportunity.

P.S. – ¡Nosotros vamos a saber nuestro sitio por dos años este míercoles! Lea nuestro blog más tarde a aprender dondé nosotros vamos a vivir. ¡Nosotros estamos muy emocionados!

P.S.S. – I had to make you work for it just a little bit. 😉

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8 thoughts on “Perfectionists Beware the Peace Corps!”

  1. We love reading your posts! So many memories, thoughts and feelings mutually shared. Wish we had had the communication tools as it was so hard to try to recap when we returned. The time with the people just sharing and being together were the pinnacle moments! We especially loved having the children come to color, dance, have popcorn, hangout! You are wonderful volunteers! It shows!

    1. Jerry and Vivian, thanks for sharing! I love hearing stories and thoughts from RPCVs (returned peace coprs volunteers for the rest of our reading audience to know). The sharing together has already been a wonderful part of our service, and we’re still just trainees. We’re excited to get to site and begin creating some of these relationships and moments you speak of here. Please keep in touch and keep sharing your stories too!

  2. Emily,I don’t think anyone or anything will take away your ability for perfectionist. I didn’t know I could write on your blog. Love u all, and take care.
    Love Grandma Louise

    1. Thanks Grandma! There are times in life where being a perfectionist is very helpful, so while Peace Corps may be teaching me to relax a little and refocus, you’re right: part of me will always be a perfectionist. Please write and comment as much as you want – that’s what this space is for! Love you so much.

    1. Thanks Tim. We found out our site placements today and two of our good friends in TEFL64 are headed your way! We’l hopefully visit them at some point in the future. Hope things are well for you.

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