Monday, July 11, 2011

Great Expectations

Yesterday I went to a reception to welcome Guinea's new Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs) - twenty-some twentysomethings who will spend the next two years teaching English, math, or physics in remote villages scattered throughout Guinea's interior.

Most of them didn't know too much about Guinea - as I found out, it's a tough country to research - and were eager for my impressions, but I didn't have much to say. The life I live in Conakry is so different from the experience the PCVs are going to have it's like we'll be living in different countries. I wake up in my air-conditioned house next to the swimming pool, drive to work in my giant SUV and spend most of the day on a computer in my air-conditioned office. They will wake up in a tin- or thatch-roofed hut, walk to work and spend most of the day in a cramped classroom where air conditioning is last on a long list of badly needed supplies.

I thought about joining Peace Corps after college but I wimped out - I wanted to see the world, but in a way that would still let me take hot showers - so I went to grad school instead. And here I am in Conakry where my shower does make it if not quite to hot, at least to the upper reaches of warm. People back home tell me that my life is an adventure, but it's nothing compared to the adventures the PCVs are going to have. I wish them the best of luck.


  1. Thank you for mentioning the Peace Corps. I am curious about the foreign service but I am apprehensive because I got through two months of Peace Corps training(in country) when I decided it was not for me

    1. While Peace Corps and the Foreign Service have many common threads, they are very different experiences. It's possible that whatever you were unhappy with about the PCV experience isn't a factor in the FS. (The amenities in the FS are certainly a bit nicer!) Having never been a PCV I am probably not the best person to give you a full compare/contrast of the two experiences. However, there is a group of former PCVs now working at State who might be helpful - you can email them at