Pauza Magazine Winter & Spring 2006 | Page 3

P a g e 3 P A U 3 A ! THE WAY WE WAS: A Failing Memory Memoir By Jim Carl – PC MAK AO It is often said that “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” Well, I say, what the heck does that mean? Even my grandmother knew that when things changed they were actually different and she definitely wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. This has led me to think about the changes in Peace Corps, thanks to a logical thought process that is so convoluted that it defies description. So, I won’t try. It pains me, or at least my vanity, to think that my Peace Corps service was actually closer in time to the service of the very first Peace Corps Volunteers who stepped off the plane in Ghana than it is to your service here in Macedonia. I completed my two-years of service in Swaziland 25 years ago, COSing in June 1981. And has Peace Corps changed? Quite possibly you have no idea. “Allow me to illuminate youse.” But first, a disclaimer: the following account is based strictly on my own experience and feeble memory. If you were to generalize my Peace Corps experience (Swaziland and Macedonia) to the rest of the world you would say that all PCV service consists of living and working in a small, landlocked country that has recently gained independence and has very attractive money. Rumors have it that this would not be entirely true for say… Mexico or China. Pre-Service Training: PST was not run by Peace Corps, but was sub-contracted in its entirety to a local training institute. They divided our Training Group of 32 into two smaller groups and sent us to two different locations where we never saw or heard from each other again until “swearing-in”, leading to all fashion of grotesque rumors. My group went to the town of Siteki (pronounced Stegi), which was nationally famous for its school for witch doctors. My group was sequestered at The Bamboo Inn, which sounds a lot more exotic than it was. It was a small row of motel-type rooms, plus four or five circular concrete huts constructed in the style of a traditional African hu t. Two of the ten men lived in one small hut along with a male cross-cultural trainer while the rest of us lived in two other huts that were connected by a hallway (my bed was in the hall). All eleven of us shared the same bathroom and shower. The seven women were in two small motel rooms (think: wall-to-wall beds) but each room had a bathroom - so much for gender equity. A third room housed the three female language trainers. And one very lucky married couple had a room of their own. We ate in a small dining room where the food was at best inedible and at worst potentially lethal and always unidentifiable. I remember some of it being the most vivid shades of pink and blue and tasting like it had been cooked in aftershave lotion. However, nothing went to waste in so far as one of the language instructors was constructed like the Taj Mahal and ate anything and everything we left behind. We later found out that this was not Swazi food at all but their dismal attempt to make “American food.” Our walkaround allowance didn’t go very far. To be precise, it went about 100 meters to the bar which was easily the most redeeming feature of The Bamboo Inn. An old British colonial bar with the feel of the 1930’s, it was pretty much the only place to go in Siteki. And the person who went there the most was our crosscultural trainer who spent most of PST in a stupor… not a bad introduction to at least one small part of Swazi culture. We were all just glad he didn’t have to drive to work. He did, however, have the endearing habit of waking up in the middle of the night and forgetting (or possibly ignoring) the fact that his room had no bathroom, with predictably disgusting consequences.