The Best Gift a Returning Peace Corps Volunteer Can Give:

Circa late October 2013

I had just worked out at the embassy gym, showered-up, bought some rice-n-beans and sought refuge from the heat in the volunteer lounge at the Peace Corps Headquarters in Santo Domingo.

I looked across the lounge and there was Tristan savoring his final moments as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It was emotional. You could tell that he was ready to carry-on with life in the United States, but it was bitter-sweet. He already missed his friends from the village. He returned his Peace Corps issued phone and there would be no last minute calls; for many of his fellow volunteers had done the same.

He fought back tears and watched the clock as it drew closer to his departure. We made nervous chatter. He would leave the Dominican Republic with the same two bags that he brought and they undoubtedly exposed two years of struggle, periodic loneliness, waterborne illness and battle. In this moment the success, personal growth and determination that comes from two years of service isn’t apparent but it will never leave him.

The clothes that he brought have been long tattered and don’t fit anymore. Change of diet, walking, heat, diarrhea and stress have caused his body to change. He has lived in poverty.

Things change.

A volunteer might bring a flashlight and end up relying on candles. They arrive prepared for the jungle and leave wearing business casual because going to the market is special. They rejoice at the opportunity to collect rain water. They arrive timid and leave with a certain air of tigüeraje (street smarts, intuition, assurance).

Tristan and I hug it out. He turns back from the door and says, “Here take this,” and is gone.

In my hand is a white plastic bag that appears to have been dropped in the mud.

Behold the contents, a perfect gift to a fellow volunteer who will muster and carry-on:

  • 2/3 of a bottle of rum from the night before, Brugal Añejo
  • One dirty sock (the other may have served as toilet paper, the beauty is that we are left to speculate, very Peace Corps)
  • Various seasoning packets
  • 1 bag of potato chips
  • 1 scratched, pirated cd with popular Dominican songs
  • 1 smashed chocolate candy bar
  • 2 used (one broken) thong sandals that could have only come from a street vendor
  • 1 water damaged, but readable book
  • Basil seeds
  • 1 dirty bandana with bleach stains
  • 1.5 limes
  • 1 Santo Domingo Metro Card (worth RD$50, USD$1.25)
  • 3 small candles
  • 2.5 bouillon cubes

I look down at my new treasures and silently say a prayer for RPCV Tristan. I am thankful for his service and sad to see him go.

I don my pirated Ray Ban sunglasses, turn towards the sun and step get on a bus that has more people than seats. 

Peace Corps Fundraiser Lunch

Peace Corps Fundraiser Lunch

I did it finally, I took the leap. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I was planing on getting more involved in the RPCV community around where I live and this past Saturday, I took the next step. This past weekend I went to the Spring Fundraiser lunch hosted by the Milwaukee Peace Corps Association. It was fantastic and I fell silly for worry about meeting people and trying to fit in.


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New York City Pride 2015

Greater New York City Peace Corps Volunteers – both recently returned & preparing to depart for service – came out in full force to march in NYC Pride this year.

Peace Corps Volunteers took to the streets for NYC Pride 2015 to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community – especially same sex couples & other LGBTQ Volunteers who serve in Peace Corps.

Peace Corps Volunteers from NYC stood tall with the Empire State Building while representing their countries of service. 

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers spoke to NYC Pride marchers & spectators about their Peace Corps experience at NYC Pride Fest.   

Corps to Career: From corporate rights to human rights

Corps to Career: From corporate rights to human rights

From orchestrating a youth athletics program and teaching English lessons, to assisting with community flood relief, RPCV China Dickerson left no stones unturned during her service in El Salvador from 2007 to 2009.

Before Peace Corps, Dickerson aspired to a career in corporate law, but her work with under-served communities shifted her priorities. We asked some questions of the RPCV to learn…

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Day 874

Day 874 as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Today I worked out, swam for 40 minutes with out stopping in the Atlantic Ocean, gave my mom remote computer support and had a friend from my new organization over for soup. A good Sunday.

On day 873, I went snorkeling with current Peace Corps Volunteer Leader Sabine. We swam for an hour on a reef. For dinner we invited Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Rebecca (who served in Ukraine). Rebecca works at my new partner organization. We made pasta, talked about all the hard times and how no one posts pictures of themselves crying alone at night or suffering from explosive diarrhea. Those days do exist and the best thing to remember is that situations are temporary.

All I can say is if you are making etch marks in the wall… don’t worry too much about day 536. Even if 537 isn’t better, you will find a way to make the bad days less frequent. Think of it in terms of stretching. If you are just starting cold or you are a yogi… we all arrive to a certain point and feel the same burning/stretching sensation. This is true even if our positions are different.

Eventually Sabine mentioned that the normal Peace Corps Dominican Republic volunteer service is 799 days. Our service will be ~40 months and ~1,201 days. 

No etch necessary. 


Milwaukee Peace Corps Association

Milwaukee Peace Corps Association

Ever since I’ve gotten back from the Peace Corps, I wanted to do more with my life. I wanted more than a job and an apartment and a car to get between the two. There was this need to be doing something that helped the community, no matter how small or large. It was a feeling of fulfillment in what I was doing with my life, a feeling I had come to love while in Ukraine. I struggled with the get up…

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Aragonite by Macroscopic Solutions on Flickr.

You can download or view Macroscopic Solutions’ images in more detail by selecting any image and clicking the downward facing arrow in the lower-right corner of the image display screen.

Three individuals of Macroscopic Solutions, LLC captured the images in this database collaboratively.

Contact information:

Mark Smith M.S. Geoscientist

Daniel Saftner B.S. Geoscientist and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

Annette Evans Ph.D. Student at the University of Connecticut