I broke down, largely thanks to the personal writing of our friend Gebeily, and reactivated my WordPress account. Now I really am a Peace Corps Volunteer. My paperwork was in, my vaccinations done, all that was left was to start typing into the ether. Not exactly yet, though. My process, longhand to digital, has always been a little absurd, and it has recently gotten more(or less?) so. The first draft of this post was put together on a typewriter; there is no good reason for me to own one, but I do, and it looks like I’ll be trying to cart it down to Querétaro and beyond. If I really do end up in the sticks, there’s a chance it might come in handy, but I’d probably be fine with pen and paper. Either way, I’m trying to acclimate. I’m typing this shirtless on my porch in DC, letting July in the city sink all the way in. There’s at least one advantage of the Olympia no glare on your screen. That and the machine is way over 100 degrees, and there’s no worry about overheats.
At this point, the blog is writing for the sake of writing. There were a few moments in June when I thought I had become unspeakably behind on my medical paperwork (and I had), but those are over now, and all that’s left is to buy my plane tickets, condense my life into a packpack, and wait for staging in DC on the 26th. Which at time of writing is 41 days away. Lent plus one.
I’m getting to be more excited about the trip. Those of you who know me, which is ostensibly all of you, know that my PC app happened on a bit of a whim, and that it was initially a match of convenience more than anything. But being placed in Latin America was a plus, especially since Mexican is an accent I’m familiar with. And the Mexico program has the option to stay with a host family for the whole term of service. Without exaggeration, my second host family was probably the best part of my stay in Spain, and I hope I’m lucky enough to get a group of people as loving on site.
For all that, it is weird to think that after next month, it will be more than 810 days before I can expect the convenience of a ready drink, and easy pack, or an available English voice. The first two will hit first, but I know that the last will be the hardest. I never quite got homesick in Spain, because I haven’t quite got a home, but the nearest I ever came was during a showing of The Artist (which is ridiculous, because nobody was speaking), when all that I wanted in the world was to heard somebody talking the mother tongue. Even the mild relief of my fellow students won’t be around in Mexico, although I imagine my colleagues on site will be industrious enough to pick up a little English, unlike my monolingual Spanish friends (Raúl Almendroval excepted).
On the subject of language, I’ve mentioned to a few people that I never felt more like learning a language than when my brain was already toasted from navigating in Spanish on a full-time schedule. Traveling through Italy and Germany after staying in Spain netted me more of those languages, temporarily, than I probably could have gotten from weeks of basic instruction, and I’m hoping to parley that feeling into use while I’m away. Bear with me now. I’ve never been that interested in Latin America. I dig Mexico because of my chicano friends, and I’m passionate about Cuba because God knows why, but the rest of the place is lost on my before 1900 or so. I’m a history guy, and I can’t stay focused on a region unless its past is as compelling as its present. I picked up Robert Fisk’s Pity the Nation from Second Story Books a few weeks ago because my Absolute and erstwhile Arab had recently left for Beyrut in the Lebnen and I had time to kill before the G2 made its always-dubious appearance at 20th and P.
I had never considered the Middle East at Georgetown; everyone was already so invested, and I already knew a bit of Spanish, and that was enough to keep me out. But Fisk reminded me of what I should already have been aware. Middle Eastern history is all me. From 3000 or so before Christ, it’s all the real interesting Cradle of Life shit, from 300BC it’s greco-roman, then it’s the rise of Islam, the ascendance of the Persian against the Byzantine, the Mussulman takeover of the Iberian, the Crusades and the Reconquista, the Ottomans and the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Ottoman crumbling, European intrigue, the Crimean, the wars and the inter-war, and independence for the Arab states. The only part of the region’s past that I haven’t been interested in is from the foundation of Israel (or the theft of Palestine) on, and there’s a fine argument to be made that the only bit of the history that I’ve missed is the ‘best’ part. I’m trying to make up for lost ground this summer, and, tying it all back together, I’m going to see if I can’t pick up some Arabic on site. I’ve been told to abandon hope of speaking a single word through independent study but that I might make fair strides on the grammar and be able to tackle one or who headlines after 27 months at the books. At present, the plan is to go back to school after I make landfall in the contiguous again, and unless Cuba opens up or I fall in love with modern Mexican politics, I don’t think that el mundo hispanohablante will be my area of study anymore. The worst I could do is make a little headway if in the end I feel like Arabian nights are in the offing (why Arabian if Scheherazade is Persian?) Is this all because I had a crush on a girl? I’ll get back to you in a few years.
Forgive the length of the inaugural post—I’m trying to get it all out so I have to write something new instead of just rehashing everything I’ve been drunk telling everyone unfortunate enough to be around me for the last two months. On the subject of influenced holding forth, there will be at least one PC restriction that I’m sure my closest will appreciate: writing publicly in the Corps requires the approval of my betters, and radical politics are unlikely to fly. So either I’ll mellow out or the second American REvolution will be starting a bit farther south of the Mason Dixon than I’d been prophesying. Though it might do me good to spend some time in a political system where the explicit goal isn’t the exploitation of the poor for the benefit of the wealthy. Mileage on the ground may vary.