During holiday at home in America, I was asked to visit the Dallas Peace Corps office so that I could be interviewed about my service. So, the day of my departure from the Lone Star State, I swung by. I was able to see my recruiter, meet some of the staff working there, and answer some questions about my projects and time in Uganda.
While there, I might, or might not, have very politely made a stink that I hadn’t received a single piece of Peace Corps paraphernalia, and that until receiving the proper accoutrement, the questions that they had would go unanswered. Unanswered! Again, I was very polite and was half joking. My demand was for 1 Peace Corps sticker that I could ever so proudly slap on my Nalgene water bottle for the whole world to see. An acceptable request, yes?
After a few laughs about this ridiculous, yet half serious, demand, I was handed a tote bag. Contained by this bag of wonders was more Peace Corps gear than a measly $200/month volunteer like myself could ever imagine. Inside the tote bag was another tote bag (seriously), there were more patches than I could ever hope to iron on my North Face backpack, window decals for the car I don’t have, a wall calendar, a file folder, a water bottle (and not one of those crummy plastic ones!) to replace the one I’ll most likely lose, a keychain, and stickers. More stickers than the eye could fathom. There were about 50 sheets, 12 per sheet, of stickers. If my math serves me correctly, this comes to a total of exactly 3 million stickers.
Seeing this made my heart skip a beat. I thought this had to be a mistake…that they didn’t realize that their entire annual supply of stickers was now in my new tote bag within my other new tote bag. I said nothing…but merely nodded my acceptance of the contents, trying to stay calm and to regain control of my sweating. “Be cool”, I told myself…and we proceeded with the interview.
When I arrived back in Uganda, I felt that with this power comes a certain responsibility. I had to share the wealth of these stickers with other volunteers. I handed out a sheet to each volunteer I saw. It was majestic. I now had a purpose in Uganda, and my goal 2 was coming along quite nicely. With all of this advertising, I felt like I should get paid. Perhaps an extra $2.00 a month in my bank account? Yes, that would do nicely.
I made it slowly, but surely, back to my little village in the South Western region of Uganda. I unpacked my bags from Christmas break, arranged all of my things, and placed the remaining stickers on my bookshelf. Each day, they were just sitting there staring at me, judging, as if saddened by their being shelved. So, each day, without giving it any thought, I would put a sticker on something. The longer this went on, the more ridiculous places I would find that “needed” a sticker. I began to search for places to put a sticker. It became a habit; and not a good habit, but one that causes your friends and family to hold an intervention. I was expecting my neighbors to be gathered in my house one day when I arrived back from the market, all holding letters they had written to me in the local language about how my change in behavior has affected their lives. I wouldn’t have been able to understand them, but the point remains. I had a problem. I have since stopped putting stickers on everything, mostly because I'm running out of places. I have found, however, that if neighbor kids prove bothersome, slap a sticker on them and they become quite pleasant.