Suffering isn’t mandatory. Bake a cake!


by Troy Schneider (Paraguay 2023-)


Troy Schneider (Paraguay 2023-)

Something that I’ve slowly started to realize about the Peace Corps is that it is not as terrible as some make it sound. From the outside, it seems like the Peace Corps is some kind of monastic tradition, where you leave all attachments, belongings, and comforts behind to live as an ascetic. This is just not true. Sure, a Peace Corps Volunteer goes to where there are far fewer modern comforts, and we definitely live a much humbler lifestyle, but this is not some strict rule. It is just the everyday reality of our service.

For example,

I went on a beach camping trip last weekend! It was for a music festival in the river town of Alberdí. I went with a group of around 6 other volunteers, and we all had a blast. We went out a couple of times, cooked our own food, swam, drank a bit (maybe more than a bit), and danced like crazy. We even got kicked out of the music festival once they (the security) realized a bunch of gringos had snuck into the VIP section. It was a fantastic weekend, and I am truly grateful there are such beautiful souls in my PC cohort. They are all down-to-earth, honest, funny, and fucking wild. We all have an amazing time whenever we get together, even if its just sitting on a dock talking about our experiences.

We’re also planning a group trip to the city of Encarnación in February where they hold a huge festival for Carnaval. I am very excited.

These and several other experiences both in my site and out of my site, have made me realize something I got wrong at the start of my Peace Corps service: you don’t have to suffer.

Again, Peace Corps is hard at times; I know this and I’m only around 4 ½ months in. Yet you don’t have to swear off all modern pleasures and conveniences. I sometimes go out to dinner with my host family and have a delicious bowl of pasta or a bunch of empanadas. Sometimes we catch fish out in the river and make a fantastic soup, other times I’ll get sushi when I’m in one of the bigger cities. And yes, I do bake a cake or a pastry or zucchini bread every once in a while. I think what I’ve really learned so far is to take what comes your way, and to not feel guilty about indulging when possible. We’re here to be a help to our communities and to experience another culture. We can still go out to nightclubs or buy nice things if we so choose.

We’re Peace Corps Volunteers. Not Buddha.


Leave a comment
  • In a sentence, what’s your P.C. assignment? Teaching?
    Looking forward to reading more.
    ..don – Nepal-2, 1963-65.

  • As I recall from way way back in 1962 to 64, living like a monk would never have been applied to my experience! No way! Our headmaster took us on most amazing camping trips, bar none! We were part of an international community that knew how to party, I traveled to Red Sea, saw ancient unbelievable sites that were breathtaking, went to East Africa for the month between school terms where I taught in Ethiopia, this included Zanzibar!
    I believe i lived fully including my teaching in secondary school per assignment plus other efforts I volunteered to do. Yes, it was not all fun and games with many challenges along the way. It was sobering and distressing to be away when president Kennedy was assassinated. He was our hero after all. Even met him before leaving. Some volunteers were really sick. Or suffered other injuries or stress. And we had no communication except letters from home.
    Thanks for sharing your story! I hope it continues to be amazing!!!

  • Troy, yes enjoying your Peace Corps experience is the point. There’s no need to take on additional suffering. Plenty comes from just being in the Peace Corps far from home. But in my case, I was sent as the lone volunteer in an isolated village in Chad where I was the only foreigner. Suffering in that situation might have been an option (rhetorically asking myself: Why am I posted here? Am I being punished?) But rather than dwell on such needless questions, I embraced the villagers and my teaching duties and came to love being able to find moments of light and laughter in a very hard post. Good luck with the rest of your tour, and may you find that even in hardship, some good things surface that you might never have anticipated.

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