PCV Spotlight: Zach on What Peace Corps Means to Me

This is a guest post by Zach in our PCV Spotlight Series:

If I were a gecko on the wall I would bark all day. I’d be the most talkative gecko there is. The Nicaraguans use the verb “bark” with geckos. The actual sound they make is a far cry from a dog’s bark, but somehow I think the verb is appropriate. Barking geckos. That sounds like a good name for a band. Zach and the barking geckos. I’m currently staring at a gecko on my wall (if you haven’t figured that out yet), and realizing how much I’m going to miss these reptilian companions when I leave Nicaragua. They eat the mosquitos and all kinds of other irksome insects that hang out in my house. People have asked me in the past how often I stop, look around, and think about how different and crazy my reality is now than what it was in Akron, Ohio during the year out of college I spent applying to the Peace Corps. As I start to argue that my reality hasn’t changed all that much, a small cream-colored poo from my gecko friend drops from the ceiling onto my forearm. My mind wanders. My name is Zach Moore, and I’m a TEFL volunteer from northeast Ohio, currently living life in the hot, flat and dry northwest region of Nicaragua.

Doña Maria sits on her rocking chair on the front porch from around 5pm until somewhere between 7 and 8pm. She is visited by passing neighbors, family members, extended family members and other pinoleros that share her culture. The culture of placticar-ing (chatting); a culture driven by the common gift of gab shared by all. Even the geckos have it. They’ve been barking all night. Sure the youth are as absorbed by phones, internet and technology as the average American, but what I have fallen in love with here is the importance the Nicaraguans place on relationships.

Peace Corps in Spanish is “Cuerpo de Paz,” which means body of peace. A few words come to my mind when I think about peace. Tolerance, acceptance, patience and understanding are some of the first to jump out at me. How can I understand, tolerate, accept and be patient with individuals from a different country and culture than I? Therein lies the rub. I would argue the answer isn’t so complicated, and yet can be so obvious that it’s not obvious. The Nicaraguans seem to already have it figured out. May I suggest that peace is relationships.

How do you do your job? How do you serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a city of 150,000 Nicaraguans that don’t entirely understand you or your culture? How do you coordinate a group of 60 adult Nicaraguan English teachers through a 5-level English course over the course of two years? You get to know them. You spend time with them. You visit Doña Maria on her porch and pull up a rocking chair next to her. You chat with English teachers during their breaks and lunch. You text them, answer their calls, listen to them, laugh with them, sympathize, appreciate and care about them.

It’s incredible how welcoming and inviting the Nicas are to foreigners. I feel like they have opened up their lives to me. What’s important is that I open up my life and my mind to them. They truly care about me, despite having spent only a year and some change getting to know me. The most rewarding part about my service has been caring back. Nicaragua has become my home. I’m not in Ohio anymore, and that’s fine – that’s why I’m here. I guess I’m just lucky to have made strong enough relationships that I don’t always notice the difference.

Zach mostly emails and calls family instead of blogging, so if you want to get in touch with him, feel free to do so in the comments below.


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