Recently I have finished a book called "Yes Man" by Danny Wallace. You may have heard of the movie staring Jim Carry(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1068680/). When I first saw the trailers for the movie I thought that it was a pretty neat concept, a person who could only say "yes" to offers or invitations, but I never thought that it was based on a true story. I never actually ended up watching the movie but a friend of mine passed the book along and now, having read it, I notice that the concept fits well into my experience as a Peace Corps volunteer.
For those who have not read the book or seen the movie let me tell you a bit about the story. It starts with a guy who is pretty bummed out about loosing his girlfriend and for months he turns into kind of a loner. Finally one day, a few words spoken to him by a stranger on a bus set in motion several months of his "yes" adventure. He learns that saying "yes" to things that he would normally say "no" begins a chain of events that significantly changes his situation and ultimately, his outlook on life. He has some pretty wild experiences, meets really interesting people, sees things that he would have never seen otherwise, and forms lasting relationships. By only living a few months as a "yes man" his whole world changed. Of course it wasn't at all an easy task for him and evidently he suffered some hardships thanks to "yes".
How does this apply to my experience as a Peace Corps volunteer?
Like Danny, it was only a few simple words that inspired my adventure. I didn't receive those words from a stranger on a bus but from a friend at a bar. Like that stranger, the person who spoke to me has no idea of the impact that their words had. It is amazing that just a few simple words that one says can totally change someones life without the speaker ever knowing. That change can set in motion countless other interactions and changes that have a serious impact a world away.
I wouldn't consider myself a "yes man" but the most important piece of advice that a veteran PC volunteer can give new volunteers in my mind is "don't turn down an invitation". It typically refers to their first three months at site in which they are trying to integrate into their new community, making new contacts, and learn the culture. Saying "yes" worked well for me in that first three months and therefore I have tried to extend the practice throughout my service. It isn't always easy to say yes. Sometimes after a long, tiring day at school, the last thing you want to do is spend all night struggling though language and screwing up cultural norms. Sometimes its not such a great experience, but most of the time you can look back with at least a sense of accomplishment. You struggled though the language and, for the most part, succeeded. You made new contacts and friends that will surely help you in your time at site. Finally, you had fun. Reading this book at this point in service was a good reminder to go back to the first three months and accept more invitations. During the period in which I was reading "Yes Man" I have met new people, and I have done new things that have significantly add to my experience here in Romania.