It starts with a trip to Nicaragua for Peace Corps. My wife and I were just out of college, and like many college grads, we wanted to save the world.
Before I got to Peace Corps, there was a logical progression starting in high school. I was surrounded by wealth at my high school where it wasn't rare to see a few brand-new SUVs in the student parking lot. High school was easy for me; I was a starter on the baseball team, a captain of the swim team, I partied almost every weekend, and I got straight As. Things began to change when I went to college.
In the beginning of college, you could see me roaming around with a big pack of college freshman, hoping the right girl to guy ratio would get me into one of the fraternity parties. By the end of college, I was walking barefoot with a scraggly beard and a frisbee in my backpack because ultimate frisbee practice was directly after my anthropology seminar.
9/11 happened the September of my first year of college, and it upset me that, as a country, we were trying to save the world's problems by invading countries instead of actually helping them. So as a peace-loving, frisbee-playing, anthropology major, something like Peace Corps was inevitable. When we went through the three months of training, I was sure we were the most gung-*** volunteers out there, diligently practicing our Spanish outside of class, taking our projects seriously, and smiling smugly at the other volunteers who thought the trainings were too tough. When we arrived at our assigned site, we found a small town filled with fields of pineapples and no apparent problems, but Peace Corps knew what they were doing. Surely, we would find the hidden drugs, gangs, and prostitutes that roamed the streets at night. Well, we found a few teenagers who smoked pot, but they also were said to help out the community. They greeted their neighbors from their hangout, and even cut the grass. When we visited our local school, we found out it was one of the best schools in Nicaragua, a Blue Ribbon school. For their newly arrived American volunteers, they were happy to show off their new computer lab, recently hooked up to the internet.
We were relieved to hear there was an indigenous reserve up along the mountains beyond the pineapple fields. Neighbors told us the people living in the reserve were alcoholics, possibly incestuous, and there was no reason for anyone to visit, unless you were looking for someone to save. We came upon a one room, wooden school with children running outside, playing soccer with a plastic bottle, barefoot. If I had taken a photo of it, it would have been on the cover of Peace Corps magazine. They stopped the game and came running to us, curious about white strangers. We told the teacher we were volunteers and asked how we could help. She told us that they didn’t have any books for their school. You mean, no computer lab?! We had found our spot, the perfect Peace Corps village. Peace Corps had made a mistake, and they were going to be impressed with our motivation to find a new, more deserving site. But when we traveled into the capital to tell them the good news, they were not impressed by our travels into the mountains, telling us that we had to stay put and find work to do in the award winning school. So, in defiance, we returned back to the States.
So I had two pretty horrific years of teaching in DC and to process the whole thing, I decided to write it all down. I thought it would be nice to share it with others who might be interested in it. When I went in to teaching, I read as many books as I could find written by teachers, and even the negative ones seemed positive. It seemed like teachers were all successful, even in the extremely difficult schools. When I started failing, I started wondering what was wrong with me as a person, and I felt alone. I would have profited from reading the book I'm trying to write, and I hope there is someone out there who could profit by it now.