Individualism vs. Collectivism, or, Why they are both the same.

Today my group and another group visited a real live Peace Corps Volunteer (we’re all considered “trainees” right now) to see where she lives, what she does, what she eats, who she knows, and how she interacts with the townspeople. In all honesty, she seems like a person that I would just not get along with. We learned a lot of great stuff and she did give us some really helpful tidbits of information, but there were so many things about here that I thought, if I had to be around her five days a week, I wouldn’t be able to stand it. No big deal. I’m usually that way with females. It was a little hard to be the only person in the group a little disappointed at the whole “visit a Volunteer” experience, as everybody else seemed to be having a great time. I missed having my family cook lunch for me. Today we ate at this restaurant that was the favorite of this girl, however, all of the food was either fried, American white-washed, or tasteless. Our technical trainer David asked me how I liked the food, as he was sitting next to me at lunch. I replied that it honestly didn’t do much for me. I couldn’t tell how he took my reaction. But it was the truth so there’s not much else I could have said.

I also learned today that I’m going to have more say on my two year site and assignment than I previously thought. We have at least three personal one-on-one meetings with various Peace Corps staff between now and that assignment, and I have already submitted a two-page resume and another two page aspiration statement. Those things along with the meetings and the talk time I’m getting in during training I believe will help them match my personality and skills well with a town and a project. I just have to keep thinking that it’s in their best interests to put me somewhere where I’ll be happy and give me a job that I’m interested in and qualified to do. They have invested so much time and money in me as a worker so far that it really behooves them to do their best to keep me (and everyone else) from dropping out early, and they’ll do that by making sure I’m a good fit with my site and project.

Tomorrow I’m going to the market in Antigua, tourist metropolitan center of the area, to look for a guitar. There are two trainees in my neighboring town with guitars who jam all the time and I want to be included. I also want something besides reading and writing these journal entries to occupy my free time. During the night time my family members just sit around watching telenovelas on TV, which I can do for about 10 minutes, but since I can’t really understand them anyway and the acting is just so wretched, I usually excuse myself around 9/9:30 to go to my room and read or do homework.

Today’s homework consisted of a quiz to see where on the spectrum of “individualism” and “collectivism” one falls. Basically they wanted to know if you are the type of person who does things for the good of yourself or for the good of the group or community. I’m an expert on this subject. I think about it all the time and have an incredibly logical, and incredibly wordy, reason for answering exactly as I did. Out of ten questions, 9 answers were individualistic and 1 was collectivist, and that one question I was on the fence about. I was then asked to write about why I fell where I did on the spectrum. It’s the whole altruism vs. selfishness debacle all over again.

In short, I believe that everyone does what they do for themselves. It’s evolution; it’s Darwinism. But often, either consciously or subconsciously, what’s good for the self is often good for others too, and this is nearly always true when we think of others people’s ability to remember. Doing something nice for someone in your community is bound to come back to you. I believe people do good things for each other because they expect it to be reciprocated, and often this is not a conscious decision. I was actually unable to answer the question because, as they define collectivist in the book, I am 100% collectivist. But as I scored on the test, I’m 90%-100% individualist. I don’t really care to be categorized and I’m okay with being a little confused and annoyed by the dumb quiz because I know exactly what I believe, I’m open minded to changing that based on new input, and I am nice to and help out the people around me.

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