Why the Peace Corps??

I just found my cover letter for my Peace Corps application and I thought it was a nice summary of the infamous question… why did I join?? I’m sure over the next two years there will be days, or months when I can’t remember why I thought service was a good idea. Hopefully letters like this can help keep me motivated.

 

To Whom It May Concern,

 

Many people refer to Liberal Studies as a general degree. However, for me it is very specific because I chose the classes in my program. I began designing my degree in my Junior year of college when I realized my professional goals included completion of a Master’s degree in Public Health (MPH). I worked with my academic advisor to find appropriate classes from political science, history, social work, sociology, psychology and other fields – all focused on health care. I came away with a multidimensional perspective on human wellness and social problems which will launch me towards my goal, a career focused on public health.

 

Now that my official education is coming to a close, I am seeking to continue learning through professional experience before applying to graduate school. The Peace Corps has drawn my attention because of its excellent reputation in the field of public health. I have spoken with many who have served in the Peace Corps and after over a year of careful research and consideration, I have decided that a commitment to service with this program is the right choice for me academically and professionally.

 

On a personal level, I view the Peace Corps as commitment of service. At Grand Valley, I came across an essay by William Cronan called “Only Connect…” and it has influenced the way I think about my personal and professional goals immensely. In this essay, Cronan says, “In the end, it turns out that liberty is not about thinking or saying or doing whatever we want. It is about exercising our freedom in such a way as to make a difference in the world and make a difference for more than just ourselves.” For me, my education is not about making a comfortable living. My education is a wonderful tool to use the knowledge I have gained to help others and to learn from them.

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Healthy Youth

The Peace Corps program I’ll be working with in Lesotho is called Healthy Youth (HeYo). Unfortunately, the life expectancy is relatively low and many children are orphans.

In an attempt to stop the tragic loss of life to health problems such as AIDS, the Peace Corps is targeting the youth of this beautiful country. We hope to educate communities about topics such as sexual health, especially targeting youth. They have a high potential to change habits and beliefs to make a real difference for themselves and their community.

After three months of training, in September 2014, I will be assigned to my permanent site and I will be able to provide more information about the volunteer work I’ll be starting.

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FIVE DAYS

Wow, I am finally making it to the end of the long wait. In less than a week, I will be in Lesotho!!

I am surprisingly calm. So far not one tearful goodbye. It’s just been a great time of wonderful food and amazing people.

I still need to pack…. The plan is to power house through it all tomorrow haha.

Then a trip to Indiana.

Then a final couple days to do a little last minute shopping.

Then I’m off.

It feels so strange knowing I might not be back for a very long time.

I kind of wonder to myself… Is this my last time at this bar…? Is this my last time in this city?

I’m going to miss Michigan for sure. It’s the only place that’s felt like home to me.

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Religious abuse

Today was a big day. I got to look my dad in the eye and say, “You abused me. And you used religion to justify it.”

And it sucked. I hate negative emotions, I hate dragging up the past. But I think it was worth it, I think it was good to be able to say out loud that things weren’t right growing up.

The whole encounter was mediated by counselor. My dad has been seeing him for a few months and invited me to join him for a session since I am leaving soon.

I’m glad I went. And this counselor was extremely helpful. It can be really difficult to get me to talk about any negative emotions or experiences. This guy navigated my sarcasm and evasive humor with ease and he got me to open up.

There’s not exactly a point to this post. Just sharing.

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Gender roles and conservatism

In Lesotho, I can expect to encounter stricter gender roles than is typical in America. Different expectations of chores, behavior, and dress based sex.

I approach this topic as big sister to three young women, and as a woman who grew up in an extremely conservative environment where gender roles were taught as natural and important.

When I went to church growing up, women were not allowed in leadership roles in church. They weren’t even allowed to speak during services. I had to wear a dress and cover my head. I was taught that men have the responsibility of leadership and that women should submit to them. Only in the past few years have I come to understand that women are just as capable of leadership and that gender roles are not natural. They are a social construct.

Now, I find myself facing potentially living in a conservative community where I need to dress modestly and may be encouraged to do certain chores because I am a woman. Certain behaviors like drinking alcohol may be discouraged. Some of my friends have asked me how I plan to deal with being restricted socially based on my sex.

First of all, I don’t believe men and women should be expected to act any differently at all in any society.

Second, let me remind you that in my life in America, I live with gender roles and expectations based on sex.

I cannot walk around topless, revealing my chest. I am expected to cover my breasts because I am female. I am expected to be sensitive to emotions and fond of children. I am expected to wear make up, to spend more on my wardrobe than a man, to style my hair.

These are only a few examples, but gender roles are rampant in my culture. Some may compare American mainstream culture to a conservative community and say that our gender roles are more progressive or more liberal and therefore better. I may not be able to show my chest, but at least I can wear a bikini.

In my mind, the principle of the matter is the same. Because I was born with certain genitals, I have to live my life in a certain way.

Varying degrees of freedom don’t make these gender roles any more bearable, correct, or morally acceptable.

I am packing long shorts, t shirts, and skirts to bring to Lesotho, and it doesn’t bother me that I’m leaving behind my strapless tops or cut off shorts.

Because in my mind, my new home in Lesotho is no more wrong in having expectations of me as a female than America is. In my mind, there are far more important aspects of cultural differences to focus on than how much of my body is socially acceptable to show.

I want to be a good example for my sisters. I want to be a strong woman, and it is my opinion that I can do that in a long skirt. Humans have some funny rules for our communities and I can’t waste time being bothered by them.

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DO THE THINGS THAT SCARE YOU

Look, I’m not an expert at life. I’m young, so you might not think I’m in any place to give advice. But this is my blog and I’ll cry if I want to or something.

I have always hated being afraid of things ever since I was a little kid. And yeah, we all hate fear, right? The anxiety sucks. But my response was a little unorthodox. I sought out the things I was afraid of and faced them. I was afraid of heights, so I climbed the tallest trees. I was afraid of the dark so I would get up in the middle of the night and walk around the house alone. I was afraid of the high dive, so I climbed up it as fast as I could.

Did I fail? Yes. Got stuck in more than one tree, paralyzed in fear. Broke down into tears in the hallways of my home many times. Got down on all fours and crawled back off the diving board. But I stuck with it and tried again until I got past my fear.

As I got older I started tackling even more scary things. Galloping horses, swimming in red flag conditions, giving speeches, etc. I started to love the rush I got from doing scary things, but it also gave me so many cool experiences. I got to travel and meet new people.

As a young adult, bravery has become a solid character trait of mine. I will try almost anything once, within reason. I love sitting on the edge of heights, swimming in dark water, and kissing strangers. I apply for jobs I’m not qualified for, I will approach people who intimidate me, I’ll do whatever it takes to get what I want.

I walked two miles from my apartment to the hospital where I got my first internship in the winter semester (in Michigan). People often say I’m crazy. But I just don’t take no for an answer.

I don’t think I’m invincible. I’ve been rejected and burned. But what do I have to lose? I’m not getting out of life alive. Neither are you. Do the things that scare you.

Going to Lesotho for two years? Hell yes that is scary. I’m worried and anxious and fearful. And I can’t wait. :)

Posted in Mid Twenties, Take Action, Travel | 1 Comment

Sex and “Gender”

I’ve been very irritated by a lot of discussion on twitter about this topic. I need to make this simple for you guys.     There are hormonal influences which will affect human beings differently based on their physiology. This means the type of organs they developed as well as receptors for these hormones and amount of hormone produced.

This physiology is developed into two types: male and female, in normal, healthy circumstances. There are genetic and hormonal influences which may create exceptions. But even these diseases are driven by the basic rules that certain physiology dictates how hormones will affect the body. Also that hormones affect physiology. Parts are described as being masculinized or feminized depending on which tract the developmental process takes.

Ambiguous genitalia or other confusing sexual development occur in abnormal situations. And indeed these cases still exhibit how certain hormonal cocktails will produce one of two results. Sex is indeed binary. Sexual ambiguity only helps prove how the body is developing on one of two tracts or unfortunately two tracts at once.

The main difference between males and females across species is the size and amount of gametes. Meaning sperm and oocytes (eggs). Female gametes are significantly larger than male gametes and females have a limited amount while males typically have billions.

This difference has caused us to develop different mating strategies. In addition, hormonal influences bring more variation in behavior. So a male acts differently than a female.

Making behavioral predictions based on sex is very difficult and there is a lot of variation. But many societies have stereotypes about these behaviors. This is typically at the core of gender and gender identity.

That is actually it.

It’s very simple.

So do whatever you want. Behave however you want. You have a frontal lobe. You get to decide who you want to be.

Posted in Female Reproductive Health, Feminism, My Body, Science | 1 Comment