Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Some Parting Words

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

For the last few weeks I’ve wished I could just disappear dramatically in puff of smoke or a flourish of a black iridescent cape. But since I can’t do that, I feel I owe those of you who have loved and nurtured me some parting words.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to grow up. I sat in my bedroom before I left remembering how nervous I was the day I graduated high school, and the day I left for college. They seem like nothing now compared with this.

In preparing to leave for Peace Corps, I have also been doing a lot of pondering about why I want to do this. What motivates me to leave the U.S. for two years? I came to the conclusion that I love my country. That’s why I’m so hard on it.

Sometimes I look at my relationship with my country as that of a knowing parent, trying to deal with a young child. I like to think the my country is the stern adult, a dedicated leader steering me in the right direction, but lately though I feel as though I’m the parent struggling, perhaps in vain, to keep my country from acting like a stubborn bratty thirteen year old.

Today at my staging event a returned Peace Corp volunteer trainer mentioned John F. Kennedy speaking about not just being a citizen of the United States, but being a citizen of the world. I started getting a little teary as she described the liberating sense of there being something beyond a country that we could all belong to as humans.

It was thirty years after Kennedy spoke those words she was able to take up the call to service.

I can’t even remember by I wanted to do the Peace Corps. I know I was first introduced to the idea in 5th grade and when I heard about people going away to other countries to volunteer to help I said “I’m going to do that.” I liked the idea even more when I found out Kennedy started it. My 6th grade class talked about Kennedy’s famous line “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” and I really took it to heart.

As I grew and matured my desire to help matured as well. I no longer saw PC as an opportunity to travel while saving the rest of the world from it's problems, but as a way I could make a contribution, potentially, on the world stage; to be the pebble that gets dropped in the pond.

I’m doing this because I love my country because we need to see other people. It’s a corny joke on a bumper sticker but it’s true. I believe in the three goals of the Peace Corps which are: To help the people of interested countries in meeting their needs for trained men and women; to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served; to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans.

I want to do this for you America, because when you strip away all that’s familiar: your humor, your relationships, your cultural expectations; and plunge into the unknown – you find out what’s left at the core of you is who you really are and what you really believe.

I’m leaving America to learn what I love about her. I’m serving her by going abroad to learn how I can better serve her when I return.

In doing this I willingly make a lot of sacrifices. But a language barrier and lack of hot running water are nothing compared to the biggest sacrifice I am going to make – and you, my loved ones are going to make it with me because I’m sacrificing myself. By simply undertaking this journey I know I can not return the person I was – I am now – as I leave. I write this at 2:35 am on what feels like my last night to be myself. Who I will be when I get to Romania has yet to be determined.

Those of you who know and love me will not get the same Laura back that you said goodbye to. But that’s ok, because I’m willing to venture the Laura you get returned to you will be in some way improved. How, I can’t yet say. What I will accomplish, I don’t yet know. But I am willing to make that sacrifice in service to my country - even if it is only by setting a good example for a crabby thirteen year old.

Because I have always believed that true patriotism is doing what is necessary to help improve your country.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Need a reason to flip off your TV?

This is not an attack on "Norbit" which I'm not even going to dignify with a response, nor is it a reason to throw anything within reach at the TV which trailers for "Ghost Rider" have been giving me a good excuse to do lately. This is me, unemployed as I am, with way too much time on my hands - complaining about commercials.

In my own defense I am home alone all day and it doesn't occur to me to turn on the TV until my mom gets home from work because evening television is all she does. And to be honest, with THE COMPLETE SERIES of the West Wing on DVD who needs television (which is - for the record Dead to me since the West Wing was canceled.) Except I watch the evening line ups with my mom (when I can't get her to watch the West Wing all night every night.

Watching TV leads to being exposed to commercials and two commercials lately have gotten under my skin. They're not what you think. The first one, I'm embarrassed to admit is for Epic Movie. Now I could address this simply by saying Epic Movie: You're stupid. But that's obvious. Epic movie is supposed to be stupid. And it was made for stupid people who see stupid parody movies. I, however, have a quarrel with Epic Movie on premise. I would like to argue its misunderstanding of the word "epic." "Epic" means literally "worthy of epic poetry, such as Beowulf or The Odyssey." A traditional hero myth. Epic movie confuses what is "epic" with the entire fantasy/Si-Fi genre.

Almost NONE of the films being spoofed in this film do I consider Epic. Now Lord of the Rings, is an epic, and though I hate to see it lampooned could probably humor the non-ring geeks who put up with so much from the rest of us but LOTR isn't even being made fun of. Maybe the Chronicles of Narnia if we're talking about THE SERIES and not just one installment. X men, I can sort of see it. Epic? Pirates of the Caribbean? Willy Wonka? Nacho Libre? Don't even ask me where they pulled Da Vinci code from!

You want to spoof bad "Epic" movies, here's a list for you Troy, King Arthur, Alexander, Chronicles of Riddick...A better comment would be simply Epic Movie: You Suck.

While I was just going to exercise myself of the suffering caused by cognitive dissonance between the meaning of "epic" and what we're pretending it means, Windows VISTA commercial lit my flame. At first I thought it was going to try to sell me a TV, but it got my attention. Then I find it out it's comparing the experience of Windows VISTA to watching the moon landing or the Berlin wall fall!
Next time I'm just going to stick my head through the TV!