Part 1: "Peace Corps is far, far, far, from prison but it's my 27 months to grow!!"

It has been pouring for the last two weeks. I hear howler monkeys in the background, kids screaming in Spanish as they play in the rain. I currently live in a tropical rainforest, I am currently living in a tropical rainforest, where the main form of transport is by small boat in the southern part of Nicaragua. I live in a small community called Boca de Sabalos, Rio San Juan. It’s the days like these, when I am crossing the river that I remember I am here in Nicaragua, and I begin to think how I got here.

I grew up in a small town in Southern Maine. My mother is a school teacher and my father has always worked for a local grocery store food chain. I attended my local public school system and had a great experience during my time there.

While I was in high school I took a few AP Classes (English, literature, chemistry and stats). My parents have always had high expectations for me not just in my classes but in other actives. Classes are important but there are valuable lessons to learn outside the classroom. As I grew up and matured I realized that I needed to be more active and try to gain as much experience as possible. I became a member the honors society, ran indoor and outdoor track, on the school committee council and vice president of our class. Outside of school I was a Boy Scout, and proudly can say I have my Eagle Scout. Then it was time to prepare myself farther and choose a college. I ended up in Worcester, Massachusetts at Assumption College a small liberal arts college.

It was here that I began to find my calling. I started off with an International Business degree, but with time I realized taking the bare minimum classes that were an easy A would be a waste of time. I started taking higher level culture and history classes. If I was going to study international business, I figured, I need to know about the history and culture of the different parts of the world. So, every semester I took at least one class that focused on the history Colonial Latin American history, the art culture and history of the Netherlands, the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, pre-revolutionary Russia and other classes. During my Junior year I began to get more involved, marketing Clubs, doing Market studies for Hershey, Knights of Columbus, Environment Club, Men’s group, Martial Arts club, symphonic  band, business logistics group, volunteering at a local middle school, helping mentor the Boy Scouts and other activates to help the community where I was living. This is where I learned that I wanted to do some sort of social work, to help others and remain active. My last year at Assumption I was finishing up classes and I had two options, take easy A classes, boost my GPA, or, pick up a minor, in which I knew would be difficult, “sacrifice” my senior year and learn and better myself. I took the latter. That one year I took classes that I will never forget, spent countless hours in the library trying to learn these subjects that I struggled with. In the end, it was worth it and helped me get to where I am today and find other interests that I wasn’t aware I had.

During that senior year I applied to the Peace Corps, and since March 2015 I have been serving as a volunteer and teaching Entrepreneurship to seniors here in Nicaragua. It has been the most humbling, eye opening and difficult experience I have ever done.

What drives you? Influences and passions

What influenced me? My father is from Cape Town, South Africa and I grew up listening about its culture and history, specifically Nelson Mandela. In his youth, Nelson Mandela (N.M) fought the apartheid movement with violence, which got him labeled as a terrorist and arrested. N.M. spent 27 years in prison, the majority on Robben Island and it was during those long 27 years N.M. truly changed. With time, he slowly but surely turned to non-violent ways of protest. Civil disobedience. N.M. has said that if he left prison with hatred, he would still be in jail. It was during those 27 years that N.M. grew and became the man that helped shape and free South Africa. So, how does this connect to Peace Corps and social work? A handful of people asked me why am I going to help another country when the USA has so many problems back home, which in light of this election season is so very true, why am I going to leave and help others? Well, I used N.M. as a metaphor. If N.M. never was arrested and spent those 27 years in prison who knows if he would have changed South Africa the way he did. 1 complete Peace Corps service is 27 months. Granted, I know Peace Corps is far, far, far from prison but it’s my 27 months to grow, learn and truly think about who I am. Peace Corps is my 27, much like N.M. 27. One day, when I head back to the States these 27 will be crucial in my rebuilding process to truly help people back in the States.

I not only think of this for Peace Corps, but I think of this as a whole for my influence. Although, I don’t know what lays ahead I still have plans to help others. The world is so interconnected now-a-days that we can’t just stay in our little corners of the world and learn other’s stories, happy or sad. We need to be more interconnected as a planet, united.

Felix AfranieComment