what are you gonna do now?

the call came at 7:30 in the morning, and i wasn't expecting it at all. yet, somehow, when it rang, i knew immediately what it was. i'd been waiting for this call for months, and it went nothing like i planned. the placement officer asked me some questions. he tried, as other interviewers had done, to dissuade me from the program. he said things like, "even though you've had experience with this kind of work, you're most likely going to be in a very isolated, rural area. are you okay with that?" not really, but i guess i don't have a choice, right? "you're going to face lots of emotional and psychological challenges, how do you deal with stress?" i ball it all up inside, and remember that nothing really matters because one day, i'm just going to be dead.

of course that's not what i told him. i told him the exact opposite of what i was really feeling. and that is that i don't want to be isolated, and i don't want to be emotionally and psychologically challenged in a foreign land. i just want a job that doesn't completely suck, party on the weekends, and be happy somewhere. it doesn't matter where. but i wasn't honest, and i didn't like being badgered at 7:30 in the goddamn morning. so i fed him bullshit. yeah, i'm ready for it. sign me up, buddy. how soon can i leave?

and then he said exactly what i didn't want to hear. africa. i told him no. i told him my family would freak. they were, after all, the ones who wouldn't stop linking me to the 20/20 segment about the girl who was murdered in benin, and articles about the boy who was shot in lesotho. what was i supposed to say to them? no, this won't happen to me. i won't get shot or stabbed because i'm...different? also, aids, genocide and lions. i can't unsee hotel rwanda. of course, these aren't good excuses to refuse a placement. these are reasons people sign up for the program to begin with.

he got aggressive, and i shut down. "is this really about your family, or is this about you?" i didn't know what to say. "do you seriously have to wait for your family's blessing before you can begin service?" umm, no, i guess not. "to me, it doesn't sound like you're even ready for an invitation. at this point, i'm going to need you to convince me that i should even give you an assignment." ok. "this is really disappointing. you've come so far in the process, and now you're telling me this. i'll give you a week to think about it." ok, bye.

i was infuriated. everyone else - my recruiter, the return volunteers i had spoken with - they were all so kind and supportive. and then i get this guy, and he's not even hearing me out. i look him up, and he did his two years in tonga. there are pictures of him sitting on the beach and eating ice cream. there's a girl in a lot of the pictures, too, and i assume he was there with his wife. t'was a legit vacation. and he berates me for refusing an assignment in rural africa. my stomach turns, and i'm fuming all day. do i really want to volunteer two years for an organization that makes me feel like this?

i go for a run. i talk to everyone i can about it. i don't want to live in a hut in the middle of god-knows-where futilely teaching english on a stipend to kids who will never use it. i might as well just move to folsom. do i even like being around kids anymore? why am i even in this line of social justice work? i thought i decided years ago that it was stupid, that non-profits are disorganized, and that they don't actually accomplish anything, ever. the placement officer just gave me a taste of what was to come: being treated like a dumb kid again for the next two years. all i'm asking for in this world is a little fucking respect, some common courtesy.

three days later, i officially withdraw my application. i don't have a backup plan. the placement officer calls again. "what are you gonna do now?" what the fuck do you care?

i book a month-long flight to madrid. because the story has to continue. something has to happen next.


shaista said...

great job

D Gleason said...

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