The experience of a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

March 6, 2015 nehamarogozen

(This post is written in both English and Cebuano.  Read the Cebuano translation below. Cebuano is a language spoken by more than 20 million people in the central Philippines.)
(Nagsulat ko ang kining sulat sa Ingles ug sa Bisaya sad. Pagkita ang hubad sa ubos. Naa’y 20+ milyon tawo nga sulti ang lengguwahe nga Bisaya sa sentral Pilipinas.)

Nehama RogozenHello! My name is Nehama Rogozen, and I am a new I-House Blogger for this semester. When I decided to attend UC Berkeley for grad school, living in I-House seemed like a great opportunity to be immersed in a multinational, multicultural environment.

I am someone who straddles two worlds. I am American, but have spent long periods of time living in other countries, immersed in local culture. I am able to think as an American, but also from the point of view of other cultures I’ve been a part of. This has allowed me to explain typical American behaviors and beliefs to my international friends from a more nuanced perspective, as well as explain certain cultural norms of other regions of the world to my American friends. That doesn’t mean that I am some intercultural guru–after all, it would be impossible to get to know every country’s culture and sub-cultures!

The most transformative experience I have had that taught me how to think as a member of a culture different than my own was the two years I spent as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines. Peace Corps is an independent US government agency that sends volunteers to countries in the developing world to work on projects in areas such as health, economic and community development, and the environment. Volunteers engage in cross-cultural sharing–teaching locals about American culture, but also teaching those back home about their host country’s culture. There are similar programs for non-Americans–you may have heard of volunteers from AusAID, JICA, KOICA, and UN Volunteers.

My Peace Corps experience has affected my I-House experience by making me more open-minded and excited to interact with those from other countries, giving me endless stories to tell, and by being able to interact on a deeper level with the I-House staff and residents who are from the Philippines! I love being able to greet them in the morning with a “Magandang umaga po.”

One example of how my Peace Corps experience has added to my I-House experience has been understanding how time works differently in different cultures. Time is more flexible in some places, and less so in other places, like the US. Also, the time at which certain things, such as meals, take place vary widely across cultures. I ran into that last week when trying to organize dinner plans with two I-House friends, one from Germany and one from Singapore. We planned for an “early” dinner, which for me meant 5 pm, 6 pm for my Singaporean friend, and 7 pm for my German friend! Confusion ensued. Without my Peace Corps and I-House experience teaching me about how different cultures view time, I would have been very frustrated with the situation!

Additionally, my Peace Corps experience solidified my decision to pursue international development as a career. I especially love learning from residents who hail from developing countries, and learning more about their experiences. I hope that over the course of my career, I’ll be able to visit some of them and work in their countries.

Cebuano translation:
Maayong adlaw! Ako si Nehama Rogozen, ug ako ang usa ka bag-ong blogger nga I-House karong semester. Niaging tuig, nihunahuna ko kabahin akong decisyon para mag-tambong UC Berkeley para akong mastoral, nihuna-huna ko nga pag-puyo sa I-House ang usa ka oportunidad para magpuyo uban mga tawo taga lain-laing mga lugar ug mga kultura. 

Ako ang usa ka tawo tali duha ka kalibutan. Amerikana ako, pero nakapasar ko’g dugay abrod, sa gawas sa Amerika. Ako pwede hunahuna isip Amerikana, pero isip ka foreigner sab. Pwede pasabton bahin Amerika sa mga tawu international, ug pwede pasabton bahin mga lain nga kultura sa akong mga amigo taga Amerika pud. Dili ko henyo nga kultura–dili pwede kabalo tanan mga kultura sa tanan mga nasod sa kalibutan!

Ang pinaka-transformative experience nako nga naka-sabot unsaon pag-huna isip usa ka tawu taga laing nga kultura ang duha ka tuig nako isip usa ka Peace Corps Boluntaryo sa Pilipinas. Ang Peace Corps ang organisasyon sa gobiyerno sa USA, nga nagdala mga boluntaryo  sa mga nasod sa developing world para manarbaho sa mga proyecto nga panglawas, kalamboan nga ekonomiko ug komunidad, ug sa kalikasan. Ang mga boluntaryo nagtudlo bahin kultura nga Amerikano, ug nag-tudlo mga tawu taga Amerikano bahin sa kultura sa nasud nga nagtrabaho. Naa pud mga programa para mga foreigner–naa’y AusAID, JICA, KOICA, ug UN Volunteers.

Kay nakaserve ko isip ka Peace Corps Volunteer,  mas abli ang panghunahuna nako ug gusto ko mag-interact uban mga tawu taga laing mga lugar. Naa pud ko daghang mga estorya. Ako sad pwede estorya uban mga Pilipino sa I-House–naa’y mga staff member ug mga resident nga taga Pilipinas. Kada buntag, gusto ko napangumusta ko niya uban “Magdandang umaga po.”

Usa ka ehemplo nako sa akong ekperinsiya sa Peace Corps nga maayo para akong ekperinsiya sa I-House ang kahibalo nga lain ang panahon sa laing mga kultura. Mas matarog ang panahon sa pipila nga lugar, pero dili mas matarog sa pipila nga lugar, sama sa US. Ang panahon para pagkain laing sa mga kultura. Niaging semana, naa ko’y problema kay nag-plan ko’g planos uban duha ka amiga nako sa I-House. Taga usa ka amiga sa Germany ug usa taga Singapore. Nag-plan kami og sayo nga panihapon. Para nako, 5 pm, para amiga taga Singapore, 6 pm, para amiga taga Germany, 7 pm! Naglibog kaayo kami! Kung wala ko ekperinsiya sa Peace Corps ug I-House, wala ko kasabot ngano man lain mga kultura kabahin panahon! 

Tungod sa akong serbisyo sa Peace Corps, masaligon ako sa akong desisyon para trabaho sa ikalamboan internasyonal. Ganahon ko pag-tuon gikan mga residents nga taga mga nasud nga nagpalambo pa ug pagestorya bahin ilang mga ekperinsya. Nahinaot ko nga atol akong trabaho, maka-pwede bisita ko ila ug trabaho sa ilang mga nasod.  

Filed under: Faces of I-House Tagged: Cebuano, I-House Life, Peace Corps, Philippines, RPCV
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