© 2011 Daniel 002

And Any Man Who Knows A Thing, Knows He Knows, Not A Damn, Damn Thing At All.

Dear friends…

At three o’ clock in the morning on Monday, I woke up to a sharp pain near my stomach. It would later intensify into the most physically agonizing ninety minutes I’d experienced in recent memory. I lost most of my voice, cursing into my pillow and wetting hot tears.

But it was just a stomach virus, my doctor assured me over the phone. Not appendicitis. Perhaps I had weakened from the cold weather, work stress, and other health condition; My mind whirled along the border to unconsciousness as I struggled to keep my brain alert enough to find what I needed from my medical kit.

Eunice was on webcam; She had called after I told her about the situation. Companionship, even digitized and five thousand miles away, still somehow takes some of the bite out of the pain. I suppose I was a slurring mess of a man. She told me to come home.

It was a line I’d heard before from Dave and Evangeline, too. They’re strong words, coming from close friends whom I trust. My health is important.

But for the foreseeable future, I am staying. And seeing as I’ve just reached the eight month mark into my service, I suppose that now is a good a time as any to share why I decided to join the Peace Corps.

Over a billion people in the world live on less than a dollar a day. Such a person consumes less in his entire life than some of us do in one year at university. We are the winners of the birth lottery, gifted with wealth, knowledge, and the world’s lingua franca. The gap between our world and the world of penny men is a wide one.

However, given the globalization of trade, it is highly unlikely for any economy (or the people operating within that economy) to be undisturbed by either our output or consumption in the first world. If money is debt and twenty dollars from my pocket can lay claim to twenty dollars’ worth of goods, my purchase removes those goods from the market while shifting the demand curve. And if I have been afforded disproportionate earning power due to my education birthright and home country’s international trade clout, every purchase I make deprives a less fortunate individual of a fair claim of goods from labor.

In our world where the goods to which money can lay claim to range from food to computers to the dedicated time of educators, such imbalances help push the ideal of equal opportunity out of the realm of possibility. We are witnessing a global game of king-of-the-hill where those not already near the top find their ascent met with the moneyed boot of history’s greatest consumers.

I firmly believe that that all people deserve some sort of a fair shake at life, regardless of ethnic background. We draw lines between family and neighbors, neighbors and countrymen, countrymen and human beings; But why should geographic divisions, skin color, religion, and culture separate us when we are addressing the provision of decent human living conditions?

Of course, in the context of Bulgaria, development work does not focus on “decent living conditions” as the country is already moderately developed. While parts of the transportation infrastructure are in sore need of maintenance, most aspects of daily life here are workable into first world standards. The problems here include low English literacy, “brain drain”, and unemployment.

So maybe I’m not saving lives firsthand in an impoverished African nation; I nonetheless still feel that my work in Bulgaria is important and worthwhile of my efforts. From where I sit at the top of the economic food chain, Bulgaria is as far as I can reasonably trickle down the gifts I’ve been given. This country is the opportunity I’d been given. And economically, increased productivity in Bulgaria is bound to eventually trickle its way down towards benefiting those who desperately need help. I’d also like to think that the locals’ exposure to me, an Asian American, helps to build the understanding that we’re not so different. Our world would be a more peaceful place if we worked together and discarded the “us” versus “them” mentality.

In addition to theory, I feel bound to my work on a personal level. My experiences – again, a result of my birthright – have given me a unique toolbox of skills that have been valuable for work in Bulgaria. And with these skills, I’ve done work that helps young students pursue opportunities that I’d once taken for granted. There’s a certain satisfaction in working hands-on with people that can’t be found by merely donating money from thousands of miles away. I don’t mean to discredit benefactors, as aid always has to come as a combination of personnel and monetary resources, but I feel more comfortable putting a face to my work. And there’s a certain satisfaction knowing that sacrifices were made to do it.

After all, helping out fellow human beings is not an afterthought or a side project. I don’t want to only donate my spare time; People deserve the best of me and the best of my time. And I know they have given me theirs. Thus, commitment.

I hope everyone had a very happy new year’s.

Daniel

2 Comments

  1. Brittany
    Posted January 13, 2011 at 10:47 pm | #

    Dan,
    What a beautifully written blog! I have to say that your reason for being here is mine as well, only put into words more eloquently than I could have hoped to do. (I may steal it from you…)
    I hope that you are feeling better soon! Please get a hold of me when you get back to your village! I’d love to come visit you, and also to check up on you, and I know Jen and Andrea would like to come check up on you too!
    Take care of yourself, and don’t hesitate to call me if there is anything I can do for you!
    -britt

  2. Evangeline
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 6:01 am | #

    You know that we support you living out your convictions. I’m proud that you’re pushing through. However, when it seems that your health is taking a turn for the worse, of course we’re worried.

    Dan, I just want you to be healthy and happy. If your dreams are God given, then even a slight detour in your plan–to take care of your health, can’t stop you from living them.

    Praying for you.

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