“Are you here for the blog tour too?” I awkwardly asked the young woman standing in my hotel’s lobby, a Peace Corps tote back slung over her shoulder. “Yup! I’m Bonnie, I’m just waiting for my husband, Brent.”
20 minutes and an overstimulating 5 minute walk later, all 9 of us were seated in a big conference room at Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington DC. We were warmly welcomed by lots of food and friendly faces. I was lucky to be the only one who wasn’t jet lagged and suffering over a crazy time difference.
The 3rd Annual Blog It Home Tour was a whirlwind. It was one of the most action-packed, productive, beneficial, and refreshing weeks of my life. I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants the whole time we were there!
The Peace Corps Office of the Third Goal brought 9 bloggers from 7 countries together for a week of presentations, workshops, discussions, professional storytelling and enjoying everything that DC has to offer. We presented at the White House, met with executives at the Voice of America studio, met with Congress representatives from our home districts, shared our host countries’ cultures with DC-area elementary schools, participated in a celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child, had lunch with Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, led a recruiting event at George Washington University, went on a White House tour, met with the White House’s Social Engagement Team, met with National Geographic Museum’s social media specialist and gave a report out at HQ. Whew, I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
I shared lots of stories from my experience here in Jamaica, especially ones about my host family. I loved hearing everyone else’s stories – they took me on a journey to far away lands where PCVs serve in a different, but inherently similar situation to my own.
There are many ways to tell a story. A storyteller must know her audience and consider that audience.
When I write something, I know it’s pretty likely that my 12-year-old host sister will probably read it because she’s been googling my name again (hi Ari!), that my host mom will probably read it via the Facebook link, that my fellow PCVs in Jamaica and around the world will read it, and that my family and friends at home in the US (my OG audience) will also read it.
Telling my stories for live audiences in DC during the Blog it Home tour was an incredible experience because my audience was able to ask questions, be emotionally expressive and engage with my story in a unique way.
I’m putting together a video of my time spent in DC to share with my students. I captured simple things, like the fountain at the WWII Memorial, squirrels running across the path, the view as an escalator took me into the metro station, and the metro train as it pulled into the station. I want to share the trip with them. After all, they’re the reason I’m here and their stories are what brought me to DC.
As Peace Corps Volunteers, we are given such a special look at other cultures. We’re not backpackers who pass through, we’re not here for a two-week mission trip; we’re here living it. I was so happy to share some of my favorite things about Jamaica and felt a prideful responsibility to talk about the issues still present here.
When I return to the US after I close out my service, I’ll have my lifetime to share stories of Peace Corps and my time spent living in the West Indies. But for now, I am here in Jamaica. I have the opportunity to share stories from my home, from my country, with Jamaicans. I get to be the one who says things like, “Yes, white people can get sick in the rain just the same way black people can because we’re all human beings” and, “No, freckles are not caused by a worm or mosquito.” I get to be that person!
But for now, I’ll be here in Jamaica. I’ll complain about the rising food prices with the ladies who sell in the market, I’ll stay late after school with my teachers to work on a project for our students, I’ll make up silly songs with my host sisters, I’ll teach children to read (perhaps long after they’ve stopped believing in themselves), I will serve. Oh, and I’ll tell stories the best way I know how.
Thank you again to everyone who voted for me. Thank you to everyone who reads my blog. Thank you to the Office of the Third Goal for providing us with such an unforgettable experience. And thank you to Jamaica for always giving me something to write about.
Have you spent time in a country that people know little about or do not understand fully? Which stories would you share with the rest of the world?