Among people who know me well, my decision to apply to the Peace Corps, and to accept the invitation to serve in Mongolia, came as no surprise. And everyone else has asked some version of Why? What made you want to do that?
Articulating the answer on command—often in a nonchalant encounter where a clock, somewhere, is ticking—leaves me grasping for the perfect way to summarize not just my motivations, but my identity, inasmuch as this decision was a natural expression of how I see myself. That said, the below paragraph (an excerpt from my “why I want to join the Peace Corps” essay) does a decent job getting across the magnitude of what I’m seeking.
“I have stood in the shadow of the Taj Mahal, but had a stronger reaction to the sight of five people riding on a two-person scooter. I have eaten tapas in Spain, but cannot cook an authentic “ethnic” dish. I am acutely aware that my experiences as a tourist leave me with only a superficial understanding of what living in those cultures is like, and that the photographs I am left with could never capture the sweet smell of Mumbai on a warm evening. My travel stories inevitably are reduced to a comparison between here and there. I am not dissatisfied, but I long for the everyday experiences more so than the tourist check-list variety.”