One of my great joys here is mail, both receiving it and sending it. Frequently, I write about my frustrations and I dwell on various shortcomings here. I have to admit one of my motivations for coming to live in an exotic locale was to live with less, and to brag about it.
Granted the difference in material wealth between here and home is great, but I need to remind myself and you of the truth of my situation, lest my portrayal casts me as a 1990's Tarzan.
One of the goals of Peace Corps is to have its volunteers live modestly in their community, and we do, far more so than other ex-patriates and other volunteer organizations. Still, I lead a privileged life here. Through the school, I have access to a truck (though I'm not allowed to drive), to a telephone, to satellite television, to a basketball/tennis court, and to a drum oven. We have three hours of electricity a night, which doesn't sound like much until you spend a few nights crowded around a kerosene lamp.
I have a three-bedroom house all to myself, with a fridge, a gas stove, a porch and two big water tanks that hold more water than I can use. Plus, I have the 80 pounds of luxury items I brought with me from America and access to more by mail.
Lumi District has an estimated population of 23,000 people, which makes it the most populous district in Sandaun Province. Even though most of these things don't work quite as well as we are used to them doing in America, I live in the top one percent materially here, possibly even the top one-tenth of one percent.
In light of these facts, sympathy for my condition here is misplaced. I'll be here two years; others will be here all their lives.
Luckily, happiness doesn't depend on material wealth. In an effort to emphasize the positive, here are some of my favorite things about living here.
(Michael Jacobson was a reporter for the Paynesville Press before joining the Peace Corps.)
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