Exciting news! Yesterday I received a phone call from Jolie, a friendly placement officer for Africa. She was about to select my country for my 27 month Peace Corps term, but she was reviewing my application and had two concerns to talk with me about.
The first concern was that on my application, I wrote that I only wanted to volunteer in a community where its people spoke a world language like French, Spanish, or Arabic. “If learning French is the driving factor behind you doing the Peace Corps,” Jolie said, “I would suggest that the Peace Corps is not for you.” I immediately retorted that volunteering and community service was the driving factor for my joining the Peace Corps and that speaking and learning French was just a side benefit for my service. She said, “The reality is that you may only be speaking French sometimes, like in the capital of your host country, and you may be speaking tribal or local languages on a more regular basis.”
To this I said that was alright, and she said, “You’re being considered for a country where French may be spoken in the capital, but outside the capital, you’ll be speaking a language that is growing in use and becoming more widespread.” Again, I said OK.
Second, Jolie was concerned about my family’s support in my ambition to join the Peace Corps. I said except for my mother and grandfather, my family supported my endeavor. These two dissenters believe in the inevitability of my dying by coup d’états, diseases, popular revolt—and, because it’s Africa, ferocious zebras, stampeding elephants, and murderous Tarzans. I appreciate their concern, though, because their worrying shows that they love me and want me to be safe. I am, after all, their son and grandson.
On a scale from 0 to 10, I told Jolie that I ranked my family’s overall support as a 9. She seemed relieved at my 9 because she said family support for volunteers is very important, and a lack of it could easily make volunteers prematurely quit their terms and return to the United States.
Now onto the juicy parts of my placement. To torment the souls of potential Peace Corps volunteers nationwide, Satan devised the bureaucratic policy that Peace Corps placement officers aren’t allowed to disclose the volunteer’s country over the phone. Jolie could only give me hints of my future home.
Here’s what Jolie the Reluctant Clairvoyant revealed about my life for June 2008 to September 2010:
- I leave June 9, 2008.
- I will be teaching English and HIV/AIDS education to secondary education students.
- My country is “exciting.” (Note: When I asked Jolie if she said all countries were exciting to all her potential volunteers, she said, “No, this country is really exciting. We just sent a group of agriculture volunteers there, and the general consensus among them was that they had won the Peace Corps lottery with their country.”)
- My country is not Morocco.
The answer to this frustrating game of “20 Questions” is now in the mail and will arrive in Reno in little less than a week. Considering that I thought my invitation letter would arrive in April, this is happy news.
Until then, gumshoes, where is this Carmen Sandiego going? What country is like winning the Peace Corps lottery? I excitedly looked through the Peace Corps web site with Jolie’s clues and have four guesses for my country: Lesotho (prized perhaps for its remarkable landscapes), Cape Verde (prized perhaps for its tropical islands), Madagascar (prized perhaps for its exoticism and tropical climate), and Morocco (prized perhaps for “Casablanca” and hashish).
Of these four, I think the most likely is Madagascar. French is a growing language there while in the outskirts, people speak Malagasy and other local languages. Volunteers in Madagascar teach English and HIV/AIDS education (and agriculture, too, which plays into Jolie’s lottery anecdote).
Cape Verde is a close second in my guessing. While French is not spoken in the capital, its main language is Portuguese, a somewhat widespread language. Volunteers there also teach English and HIV/AIDS education, and it is probably like winning the lottery because of its tropical climate and not-horrible economic conditions.
Arabic, a widespread language, is spoken alongside French in Morocco. This prediction comes with the assumption that Jolie’s a world champion leg puller. As for Lesotho, some French is spoken there, but its outskirts host regional languages like Zulu and Xhosa, languages I doubt the Rosetta Stone will be soon offering for their growing popularity.
For the fact that I’ve “won the Peace Corps lottery,” I’m no longer ambivalent about my impending invitation letter. Now I’m more giddy than a child on Christmas morning. What present will Santa drop into my mailbox next week?