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10.26.2010

RPCV: Ragamuffin Peace Corps Volunteer

Saturday, I volunteered at Boston's Head of the Charles, the biggest regatta in the world. (Or so they claim, though I had a South African fellow-volunteer assure me that the Henley Regatta in England is still the biggest.)

Knowing that I'd be outside, on the water, exposed, for about 10 hours, I dressed carefully.

For the first time since leaving Morocco, I layered on multiple sets of long underwear, and kept layering up.

As I walked towards the subway in the chill predawn, I realized that for the first time since starting my new job (ie since buying work-appropriate clothing), I was dressed completely in clothes that I'd brought back from Morocco.

Two sets of long underwear: check
Thermal jacket: check
Polar fleece: check
Jeans: check
Hiking boots: check
SmartWool socks: check

And moreover, as I'd noticed while dressing, these clothes are RAGGED.

I wore. them. out.

Life in the Peace Corps is hard on clothes. I tended to wear them a lot of times between washings, and then to wash them, I'd soak them overnight (which is hard on the fibers) and then scrub the bejeebers out of them (which is hard on everything). But what damaged even more of my clothes than the heavy wear and tear and washing? Burns. Between sitting too close to my heater, wrapping myself around my heater, carrying my heater from one room to another, and using my sleeves as hot-mitts in the kitchen, I managed to burn virtually every piece of clothing at least once.

I'd forgotten this till I got dressed Saturday morning, and kept finding more damaged bits.

My favorite blue jacket? Hole in the forearm. Bigger than a quarter, smaller than a ChipsAhoy cookie.

My beloved green fleece? Sleeves mostly destroyed with multiple burns from (ab)use as hot mitts.

My trusty jeans? Hole near the hem from sitting too close to the fire. It used to be the size of a nickel, but it's growing.

My stalwart hiking boots? Scuffed and stained and trim-torn-off. Oh, and I'd forgotten that I have the slipperiest laces in all of creation: I have to quadruple-knot them, and they still tend to come untied every few minutes. Square knots, too.

And so on.

As I tromped in my trusty (abused) boots towards the T, I couldn't escape the conclusion that I was one raggedy-looking PCV by the end of my service.

And yet it seemed so normal at the time...

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