Dear Mr. Stein,

I would like to thank you for your column.  If you’re bored, allow me to elaborate. If, as I assume, you are not, please skip to the last paragraph.

I’ve been a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural (“rural” meaning accessible by bike or foot, no running water, no iPads) Senegal for the past two years, and a TIME reader for significantly more.  I have to confess though, that it took almost my entire two years here to read your column.

Popular conceptions of the Peace Corps has most Americans viewing us in two camps: 1) as starry-eyed, young, dread-locked and somehow always slightly dirty, Chaco-wearing hippies, who sit in structures made of mud, engulfed in a cloud of ganja with a gaggle of locals, (ok, some of that is true); or 2) ultra-motivated, endlessly selfless depictions of what “young people today” need to be, who bound off into the bowels of the world engorged with the spirit of the American Dream, igniting the fires of freedom amongst the Starbucks-deprived masses, (this, most often, the view held by PCVs’ moms and dads).

I’ll let you in on a secret though: while we do indeed dabble in malaria prevention efforts, work twelve-hour days in orphanages, facilitate the set up of national parks, manage co-ops, and teach high school chemistry classes in local dialects, the a lot of the time we’re bored shitless.  (Lie.  Not shitless, amoebas are a problem.)  Yes, the lives of the starry-eyed in the developing world can be surprisingly monotonous and lonely.

So much so, that we begin acquiring new habits – some unthinkable to us before our Peace Corps lives.  We neurotically complete Sudoku puzzles.  We hand-sew entire outfits.  We read early-90s romance novels.  We become bi-weekendly raging alcoholics.  We listen to the World Report on BBC for eight and a half hours because it’s the only radio station that speaks to us in English.  And 22 months into our service when we think we’ve exhausted all available reading material in our huts, we read Joel Stein’s column.

During my pre-PC era, I religiously speed-read TIME, pausing only to actually read Verbatim, the “your world this week” bit, and other relative (read: current event, political blah blah blah) articles, and completely skipped the second-to-last page.  I mean, it’s the second-to-last page for a reason, right?  Surely nothing that great can be on it…. flip flip flip Blackberry BEEP, onto the next affair in the young twenty-somethings day.

But now!  Having fallen victim to any accessible medium of English-language entertainment (i.e. your column), I have to say, Mr. Stein, you’re freaking hilarious.  No really, I love your column.  I bet I’ll even love it when back in America.  The three I’ve read so far have motivated me to dig through the dusty stacks of spider-ridden care-package periodicals in our regional transit house, just to flip directly the second-to-last page in hopes of seeing “Stein” across the top (no offense “Gibbs”).

So, thank you, Mr. Stein.  Though idle hours may have been the initial motivation, your wit will keep me reading until TIME damns you to name the Uncoolest Person of the Year from the electronic second-to-last pages of a blog.

Regards from your newest enthusiast,
Amanda Wybolt

Re: Fan mail

Thanks so much. I am hugely popular amongst the incredibly bored.

It’s your job to help people who need it. It’s my job to entertain people who help people who need it for 5 minutes every other week. I’m going God’s work.

Joel

Advertisements