Not all Peace Corps Volunteers have the same experiences. The common vision of “mud hut in the middle of nowhere” is essentialist and absolutely inaccurate. PCVs around the world live in anything from yurts to huts to apartments. Some of us have internet access, some of us need to take a trip to reach wifi. Some of us have running water, some of us don’t. Some of us take bucket baths, some of us have showerheads with hot water, some of us go to public bathhouses.
In Morocco, we have more access to “luxuries.” Volunteers from more mskeen countries have dubbed services like ours “The Posh Corps.”
There are some PCVs in “Posh Corps” countries who take offense to this. And to some extent, I understand. It trivializes the hardships we do have. In no way am I saying our work is easier—the core of the hardships are human-to-human connections, and those are difficult everywhere in the world.
However, it is simply a fact that we are able to live “posher” lives. I mean… Right now, I am literally typing this while sipping an avocado milkshake at a lovely cafe with excellent wifi on the beach. My life often feels pretty opulent.
Just last week, we popped over to Marrakech and indulged in an exquisite luxury: sushi! We planned on going to a mid-range restaurant we looked up, but it was about to close when we arrived. Disappointed, we were about to trudge out to find some other on-the-road snack when a teenage girl ran up to us and asked what we were looking for. We told her that we wanted a Japanese restaurant, and she said that the only one open in Marrakech during the afternoon hours was a place on the roof of a five-star restaurant. She and her father insisted we hop into their car, and they drove us all the way there! (Also turns out that she’d been on a volunteer trip with CorpsAfrica before!) …It was GLORIOUS.
We knew that the sushi would be way out of our price range… but on a whim, we decided to treat ourselves. After all, we hadn’t done anything special for our two-year anniversary. We decided that this would be a belated date. Well worth the splurge.
Another wonderful luxury from the big city… frappuccinos from Starbucks. Our friend Gina brought us this amazing treat!
To be fair though, these luxuries are not available in the city we live in. We have to travel to Casablanca or Marrakech or Tangier or Meknes or Rabat to get them. And we feel now, more than ever, how privileged we are in life. We feel now, more than ever, a great appreciation for what we have.
In Seattle, we went to the bar with friends most weekends. We went out for a dressy dinner at least once a month. We regularly ordered fancy coffees at fancy coffeeshops. We had open access to an amazing variety of foods. We shopped at grocery stores where we could find anything we took a fancy to. Feelin’ fondue? Hop on over to Trader Joe’s and grab some emmental and gruyere! Cravin’ tiramisu or cedar-plank salmon or bleu cheese burgers or hazelnut chocolate cheesecake or any of our favorite delicacies? Easy access always.
And the thing is, we didn’t consider of these “luxuries.” They were simply parts of our lives that we took for granted. And now that we have less easy access to these things, we don’t feel more empty—we feel fuller. We don’t feel deprived. We feel lucky. Happiness isn’t luxury. Happiness is understanding and appreciating and gratitude. Hamdullah.