Posted by: fullandbye | April 21, 2010

the axis of ambition and the axis of crazy.

News Brief: I’ve gotten approval to pursue a project in Moore Town, Portland Parish in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Moore Town is the major cultural/historical center of the Windward Maroons. There are some nifty articles online if you want to read more about the Windward Maroons, or the Jamaican Maroons in general. I will move in early May most likely but housing in the community still must be indentified. I visited Moore Town a few weeks ago and I absolutely loved it. Cannot wait to get out there and get into the swing.
I am working with the current batch of Peace Corps Trainees (they got here on March 18) to get trained in literacy training techniques because I would love to work with the two schools in Moore Town in addition to the environmental projects I want to pursue. This is pretty much the measure of things at the moment.
I really love spending time with trainees, learning their motivations, their histories, their ambitions. I am not sure exactly what rubrics Peace Corps applies to determine who gets invited to serve, but I am pretty sure that in addition to overall awesomeness (PCVs on the whole are a quality bunch) they look carefully to see how applicants fall on two scales or axes. This brings us to the title of this blog post.
So, I am increasingly convinced that to get into Peace Corps and to be happy in Peace Corps and to keep Peace Corps’ faith in you, you must fall in some “sweet spot” along two crucial axes: The axis of ambition, and the axis of crazy. Let’s discuss.
There is such a thing in Peace Corps as too much ambition. I would be very worried if I were interviewing someone for PC and this someone was convinced that given a plane ticket, a few months of training, and a mosquito net, they could substantially reduce the AIDS rate in Botswana. This person would be way high on the axis. Likewise, I would be pretty nervous about an applicant whose motivation seemed more driven by simple wanderlust than any motivation to serve. It is not unheard of for Vols to get pretty nihilistic and catatonic in Peace Corps. Ultimately on the axis of ambition you need to fall somewhere in the middle.
The axis of crazy is a little harder to think about. Really, you need to be kinda crazy just to fill out the application and get an interview in the first place. The application is long, the essays prompt are vague, and the pre-service medical instructs doctors to stick their fingers in your ass (note: I managed to dodge this bullet for pre-service medical but my number was up when I had to med-check to transfer). So it is already sort of a given that applicants are a little bit nuts, the point is that they cannot be too crazy. You need to be crazy enough to apply for a job without knowing what continent you might get sent to, let alone any real job description. You need to be crazy to willingly subject yourself to isolation, sickness, climatic extremes, and a life without coffee for 2+ years. But you cannot be so crazy that Peace Corps is worried you might turn into some Colonel Kurtz.
Keeping yourself sane and motivated once you get here of course is an entirely different story.
Enough for now.
Current time: 22:30
Current location: Port Royal
Current Temperature: Low 80s, presumably.
Current Music: The Pixies. The riff at the start of “Here Comes Your Man” just kills me every time. “Doolittle” is such an amazing album.
State of the Raz: sleepy, hopeful, excited for next steps.


  1. Hey man, glad to see you're sharing the axis theory with the world. It was great to get your insight here in Stony Hill, if just for a day. Dirty jokes and all.

  2. i'll be back for all the hub sessions. T-Th it makes more sense for me to hang out with the local school though. Less commuting means more time to spend with teachers and kids.

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