Peace Corps Dominican Republic: A Quixotic Way of Life in a Mas o Menos World.
Un cargo para la vida, una busqueda por sentido, un trabajo de voluntad.
A charge for life, a search for meaning, a work of will.
Since my current memoir manuscript is in the hands of my editor until late January, I’ve decided to start working on my next memoir. I discovered my old T-shirt in the back of our guest room closet and took a few pictures. While I was still living in the Dominican Republic (DR), one of the Peace Corps volunteers (I think) drew the artwork and we voted on what we wanted to have printed on the shirts. We didn’t like “Been There, Done That” because it was so cliche at the time and it seemed to trivialize our unique experiences as Peace Corps volunteers in the Dominican Republic. After a second round of voting, we settled on the current picture and title of my new memoir: “A Quixotic Way of Life in a Mas o Menos World.”
Life in the DR was truly quixotic. Quixotic means literally “idealistic; hopeful or romantic in a way that is not practical.” As Peace Corps volunteers living in a tropical, third-world country, we naturally had the desire to help the Dominicans we lived with. Over the two year term of service that most of us served, we often learned more about ourselves and the Dominican people than they learned about what we had to teach. We discovered that helping people living in poverty without running water or electricity was much, much harder than we had ever imagined. We started out hopeful and idealistic, with the determination that we actually could change the world, just by volunteering as a Peace Corps volunteer. What we left with was a much greater understanding of ourselves and our own way of life.
Ask any Dominican how he/she is doing on any day of the week at any time of the day, and he/she will inevitably respond, “Oh, aqui. Mas o menos.” This is a favorite Dominican expression that translates literally as, “Oh, I’m here doing so so,” as if there was never too much going on in their lives that was out of the ordinary, exciting or unusual. For Dominicans, their world can simply be described as “mas o menos,” at least in casual conversation.
The lines along the right side of the t-shirt read: “Un cargo para la vida, una busqueda por sentido, un trabajo de voluntad.” The English translation is as follows, “A charge for life, a search for meaning, a work of will.” The phrase seems to have more meaning in Spanish than it does in English, but nevertheless it aptly describes my Peace Corps experience which has influenced my life, my thoughts, my beliefs and perceptions long after the two years I spent living overseas. I am anxious to get started!