Thursday, January 19, 2012

Posh Corps

Most people don't realize that Peace Corps service is divided into two categories: Peace Corps (Khudoo/Country) and Posh Corps. Khudoo volunteers are the people you'd typically envision. They live in one room huts in Africa, felt tents in Mongolia and mud shacks in where ever else. They're the people going without electricity, running water, and communcation. They walk 2 miles in the snow or burning sun to get to work, 4 hours to get to the nearest telephone, and 8 hours to the nearest village market (I'm exaggerating of course). These are Peace Corps picturesque volunteers, but I'm not really sure they exist anymore.
Posh Corps is the polar opposite of this picture. Posh Corps volunteers live in apartments with power, central heating, and hot running water. They not only have internet access in their cities, but in their homes. Often it's broadband internet, and volunteers can stream their favorite sporting events live, skype with family members at all hours and watch YouTube to their hearts content. They have full kitchens with ovens and sinks which they never use because they also have delicious restaurants serving food from their local country and foreign cuisine. They wash their clothes in washing machines or get them sent out to a laundry service. They live it up. This sounds amazing, but these situations are also few and far between.
In Mongolia at least, the two categories are closer to each other than you might expect. Khudoo and Posh Corps volunteers have cell phones, so no one has to walk through miles of snow for a phone, Both categories typically purchase their own internet and as the country develops more and more soums (villages) are getting access to satellite internet modems. If a village doesn't have that, it's probable that it has an internet cafe (so children can play WoW). The khudoo doesn't have running water, but often the apartments have only very cold or very hot water. So Posh volunteers end up having to heat their sink water before pouring it into a tub to bathe. Apartments have heating, but it's often spotty and usually only works duing the winter months. Until the apartment owner decides to turn on the hot water and the radiators, apartment dwellers have no method of heating thier homes. Khudoo people rely on fire to heat their homes year-round and so are warm as often as they put forth the effort. Having the control outweighs the effort in my book. Ovens and blenders and sinks and other kitchen necessities are few and far between. Volunteers who want them can purchase them in the city or in the country. If an apartment comes with these nice appliances, they might be in perfect condition or they might burn and set fire to anything they touch.
The real deciding factor on Khudoo vs. Posh Corps is the mindset. If a volunteer feels like thier life is full of deprivations and that they are learnign to live the simple life, then they'll classify themselves as Khudoo; if they feel like this life is just the same life, containing different but equivilant challenges, then their probably Posh Corps. I used to consider myself Khudoo, but I just washed all my laundry in a washing machine rather than hand wash them, so I'm altering my status. It's the Posh Corps life for me from now on! Now I'm off to vacation in the city and enjoy showers and restaurants.