* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Current Volunteers Tell All

I thought this would be a fun experiment and, thankfully, a good number of my fellow volunteers were willing to help out. The following information comes from a poll I conducted via text messages, thanks to our Closed User Group phone plan which allows us to contact each other for free. I want to thank the 39 volunteers who are participating in this “experiment” for sharing their responses!

When you applied for Peace Corps, what countries or regions were you most hoping for?

region prefs
• As you can see in the chart, most volunteers had the quintessential Peace Corps experience in mind: Africa.
• The next most popular destination was Latin America, including South and Central America.
• Only one volunteer had absolutely no preference for location whatsoever.
• Nearly a third of respondents indicated that they were hoping for a placement based on a specific language preference, be it Spanish, French, or even Swahili.
• Not a single one of us mentioned Jamaica or the Caribbean!

What is the one Patwa phrase you find yourself using most often in your everyday Jamaican life?
The variety of responses to this question show just how diverse the use of Patwa is across the country. The top phrases got just two or three votes each: “No sah!,” “Yeah man,” and “Soon come.”patois

If you weren’t restricted by PC rules or budget, what one thing would you add to your Jamaican life? a) High-speed internet b) A car c) Hot water d) An appliance (washer,dryer,dishwasher) e) Other

As I suspected, the freedom of a car won by a land-slide. Because parts of Jamaica are more developed than other Peace Corps posts, some of us may already have a few of these items- with the exception of a car (due to PC policy).  The purpose of this question was not to argue that any of these amenities should be provided to Volunteers. I posted a while ago on why not having our own transportation allows us to better integrate in our community and is a vital part of our Jamaican experience. But if we ever lived in Jamaica on our own terms, many feel that the simple addition of personal transportation would drastically affect our quality of life.

• There were a number of votes for high-speed internet, as some of us have to travel to an internet cafe or put up with slower-than-dial-up modems at home.
• There was one vote for the much-missed luxury of hot water.
• Three others would really appreciate a laundry machine to give them a break from hand-washing.
• Two people said they would not add anything to their Jamaican experience.
• And the two votes for “other” were: a helicopter and a drum set. I guess I did say “if you weren’t restricted.” 🙂
• My favorite response to this question: “uh, no brainer. I bid 16501 for that brand new car Bob Barker”

How many trips home do you expect to take during your service? How many trips abroad (not to see family/friends in the US)?

one trip

Peace Corps always encourages volunteers to use their vacation days exploring the region where they’re serving. In Jamaica, however, we were surprised to find that island hopping and international airfare are more expensive than we expected. In fact, the cheapest places to go from here are all in the U.S. and Canada. It’s quicker and cheaper for volunteers in Jamaica to go home- or for friends and family to come visit- than it is in many other posts. As one volunteer, responded: “It’s Jamaican, mon. People come see me!”

  • Two of the people who responded are not planning to leave the island at all in these 27 months.
  • Out of the people taking only one trip off the island, six volunteers are using it to go home and four are exploring somewhere new.
  • 1/3 of the people who responded are planning at least one trip abroad.
  • Just over 2/3 are planning at least one trip home. 1/3 are planning two or more trips home.
  • The “frequent flyer” of the group is planning a total of five trips.

I hope you found this somewhat interesting. I plan to continue sending out text poll questions to give some “real life” information to more posts in the future. Feel free to submit suggestions for questions. What do you want know?


4 thoughts on “Current Volunteers Tell All”

  1. I am curious to know how Jamaicans in our communities would respond to question #3. It would be good insight into what they think would improve their quality of life compared to us.

  2. The last question fascinated me. Being a PCV in South Africa, and a flight home being well over $1000 (closer to $2000 much of the time), I doubt anyone would imagine taking 5 trips home! Hardly anyone even takes two….getting family/friends to visit is pretty hard too. 🙂

    1. Yes, being close to the US makes a big difference. Just goes to show how every PC post is different from the next.

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