This will be the last entry to this particular blog. I would like to thank anyone who has had the patience and fortitude to follow along with all of my audacious rambling over the past 2 years. It was an incredible period of personal growth for me, and I hope that upon reading these entries this growth is apparent to those whose opinion I value. Many people have asked me, upon my return, whether I consider my service a success. I have tried my best to develop an elevator speech; here it is...
My service was a personal success in many ways. Most importantly, I found a family all the way across the World. I will forever be a Kasonde, as a Hostetter, and am extremely grateful for all that the Kasondes did to welcome me into their world. Without their patience, understanding, and constant guidance I would not have been as happy these past few years, and would certainly not have experienced such significant growth and cultural understanding. I also feel that I have helped their family, and as a member of it, taught them about my American family, culture, and values. Also, I have helped Ba Kasonde reach a new level of intensive fish farming, which will hopefully allow him to be a successful businessman in Kasama. More importantly, I found the father figure that was missing in my life, and I will always remember Ba Kasonde, his hard work and patience, and strive to be more like him every day.
Outside of my Zambian family, my service had varying success. I learned the language well, and became quite integrated into the Bemba culture. I will never forget the rides in the back of flatbed trucks, discussing anything from food to politics in IciBemba with the relentlessly kind and interested people of Zambia. I also gained a greater understanding of international politics, the role that Western nations play in this complicated and political scheme, and the great beauty of the people and nature that Zambia holds.
Less successful was my endeavor to teach rural farmers how to live in the bush. It must be noted here that the goal of Peace Corps is in some ways fundamentally pompous and hypocritical. What does a kid raised in the suburban United States know about living in Africa? It was ignorant for me to assume I could teach Zambians how to live in their own country, and some of the farmers who I encouraged to fish farm will surely have given up by now. Also, for anyone to come from the United States, the most egregiously wasteful nation on earth, to teach others to 'live sustainably' is in many ways offensive and outrageous. That being said, I do not question that my presence positively impacted those with whom I lived, mostly because of my genuine interest in learning the ways of Zambian culture. Any Volunteers who have a genuine interest in living abroad, and exchanging cultures in the most universal language of all (laughter) are doing well for the World. Unfortunately, not all Peace Corps Volunteers I met along the way were so interested. Everyone has his or her own motives, and it’s not for me to judge.
When asked about Peace Corps, I explain that it is an overwhelming success for those who recognize and utilize its most important purpose: to promote growth, understanding, peace, and friendship among all cultures in the World. With that established, the Peace Corps will always be tainted by the arrogance of the culture from which it was founded. So long as the United States presumes its way of life to be superior, and has the audacity to convince the rest of the World to change their ways in accordance with our desires, it will not be only the Peace Corps that is unable to create a universal understanding. If I learned anything from my experience abroad, it’s this:
"We could go a long way to preserving mother nature, the lives of those she sustains, and even our own individual sanities, by analyzing and changing our way of life, rather than encouraging other cultures to change theirs." (patent pending...)
Thank you all for reading this blog. Thank you US taxpayer for providing me such a wonderful, eye-opening experience. Thank you Zambia for welcoming me, and teaching me what it is to live humbly. I will forever be thankful.