Monday, September 29, 2008

Order of Mission Number 0079

After long, harrowing weeks of training I have officially become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Now that I can speak Bambara, eat with my hands, control my bodily functions in terrains thought to be inhospitable to man, after proving that I can successfully thwart Mali's ubiquitous street beggars, little kids with grimy hands, parasite-laden mangoes and sword-wielding Damasheks, I am ready to finally go out and do some work in water sanitation development.

To mark the transition from Peace Corps Trainee to Peace Corps Volunteer, I along with my stage of 73 new recruits swore in during a big fancy ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Bamako. Broadcast live on Mali's solitary television station after the daily installation of the Brazilian soap opera which dominates the daily lives of the entire nation of Mali, apparently this was a big deal.

I took the following oath of service (cue The Battle Hymn of the Republic):

I, Zachary Mason, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I take this obligation freely, and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps, so help me God.

What makes the Peace Corps undoubtedly the most badass agency in the federal government is that I can carry out such a solemn oath on national television dressed like this:



I, Peace Corps Volunteer Zachary Asher Mason, have been ordered on a mission. I am not kidding. I have in my hands a piece of paper which says that I have been assigned Ordre de Mission Number 0079, which is to work with the Malian Ministry of the Environment and Sanitation on the National Campaign to Control Pollution and Nuisances, working with the Office of the Mayor of the Commune of Sanadougou.

Mission Number 0079 will be a very dangerous mission which is why they have chosen only the hardiest of Volunteers with demonstrable skills in the maintenance of water pumps and sanitation infrastructure, foreign languages and fomenting revolutions of the heart, revolutions of the mind and revolutions of the bowels. In the African Theater of the Global War on Paludisme I can expect to face many evildoers whom I must vanquish wherever they may lurk. And thus I have been trained to defend myself, the Malian people and the Constitution of the United States of America from such foreign enemies as

Cholera

Dysentery

Amebiasis

Schistosomiasis

Oncherocerciasis

Dracontiasis

Ancylostomiasis

and of course Malaria

This mission, which I have chosen to accept, will be a test of physical will and the strength of the spirit. There is no guarantee that my mission will succeed. There is no guarantee that I will make it back in one piece. There will be only instant coffee. But we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

May Allah bless America with many wives and with many cows.

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