When I explain to people that I am joining the Peace Corps, I tend to get one of two responses.
First, there’s the shifty eye movement, that accompanies a furrowed browed and a mumbled, “you be careful out there,” as if I’m delicate prey that needs to be protected. This often happens when I explain that I am moving to Morocco or that I am trying to learn Arabic. Something about imagining me, a young blonde, blue-eyed woman, in a Muslim country makes people very uncomfortable.
However, the other common response that I’ve gotten makes me almost just as uneasy. It’s the accolades from the neighbors and church-goers who act as though my decision makes me a hero. Somehow they’ve gotten the idea that moving to a developing country is a sacrifice, that going to Morocco is a noble mission. Well, I hate to ruin veneer of saintliness, but I did not join the Peace Corps to teach or to inspire. I’m not joining to even help people.
A year ago my World Theatre teacher introduced me to the motto of Aboriginal Rights Advocates and it has influenced me since. It goes like this:
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
I believe that volunteering needs to be more than the transactional act of giving, but instead, a collaboration between equals in order to create a better world for everyone. I am tired of violence, tired of difference causing distance between people. I do hope that I leave an impact on whatever community that I am honored to join, but what I really hope to do is to learn, not only about Moroccan culture and Muslim practices but also about myself and my own culture.
Moving to Morocco will certainly be a challenge, but perhaps the more important challenge will be what I do when I come back armed with a new perspective and passion.
I’ll see you in 27 months, America!