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Non-project related work

Although I normally describe my job as it relates to projects, it actually goes beyond that.  Peace Corps has three main goals:

  1. To help promote the people of interested countries in meeting their needs through technical assistance.
  2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

The third goal involves dispelling a lot of myths and misconceptions about Americans.  For instance I frequently get asked what state of New York I live in because New York has a high Dominican population.

A more memorable example related to the third goal happened a couple months ago.  My 9-year-old host brother and a couple of local muchachos ran into my house yelling “Jeremy, which one of us is more American?” 

Intrigued by what they thought what made someone American, while hoping they weren’t arguing about skin color, I told them they were obviously Dominican.

Upset I hadn’t taken their bait, they came up with the following criteria based on what they’d seen me do:

  • Who can eat more hot sauce.  I normally add hot sauce to my food to spice it up, so whoever could eat more hot sauce was more American.  On my lunch break, I decided to let them use the weakest bottle I had to determine the winner.  No one won because Dominicans generally don’t like spicy foods.

Where they might have gotten the idea Americans love hot sauce.

  • Who knows more English.  This started as a shouting match of English words and devolved into a shouting match of unintelligible syllables.
  • Who knows more card games.  My host brother won this argument since I play with him all the time.  Curiously, he refers to Uno cards as American cards and a regular deck as Spanish cards.  Confused the heck out of me for the first couple months. 

In the end, their short attention spans saved me from having to pick the winner.  Forced to pick, I choose me.  The conversation made me more aware of how much of an impression of fellow Americans I leave.  The good, the bad, and the weird.  However, I was disappointed that ‘who likes country music more’, did not make the list.  Guess I’ll just keep blasting it until it makes the cut.

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