So it all started when I had my first conversation on Monday with Placement Officer J about me being a vegetarian. After 15 minutes it was apparent that the Peace Corps does not appreciate vegetarians and that being one during your 27 months service is not a good thing. She kept asking me how I was going to explain why I was a vegetarian to people in my host country, which will be in Africa. I tried to explain myself. She then said that with the language barrier, I would not be able to be understood. I got the feeling that she was basically asking me to eat meat. She then tells me that another Placement Officer, P would call me later this week. And that I should meanwhile think about how I will approach this.
So Placement Officer P calls me and he basically says that "It would be hard to impossible to give you a placement as a math teacher in Africa with the stand that you are taking right now." Meaning it was now to the point of me not doing Peace Corps or at least having to go to a completely different continent. I was shocked. The reason he gives are ok ones......most of the time when a family offers me meat it is a sign of great honor and possibly their children will not be eating dinner because they spent all their money on the meat.......Since I am black they will allow me to enter into more culturally sensitive situations, which almost always include meat......If I say no to the meat completely it will damage/stop my chance of being accepted int the community, and this goes against the whole purpose of Peace Corps. So I mention that I am more than willing to eat fish again. But that doesn't help. He continues to mention that this will change my whole placement process. He tells me that they have a place in mind. Where vegetables and maize are accessible but, meat is still important. He tells me that all the countries in Africa see meat as a symbol of importance/honor etc. Etc. Etc. 20 minutes into the conversation I sell out. Yep, me the vegetarian, the no chicken/turkey/beef/pork since I was 12.....sells out. The Placement Officer and I come to an "agreement" that will allow him to place me.
I agree to taste the meat they offer as a sign of respect for their culture but not eat it as a meal.
And this is a BIG deal for me. I have definitely willingly compromised my beliefs. The only reason I can still respect myself after this is because I am doing it for the greater good which is Peace Corps to me. But I really never thought it would come to this. And I am not sure if I lied to him and if I will be willing to look something that was once alive in the face and put it in my mouth. But true to how easier life is when you sell out, the Placement papers will be arriving at my house Saturday or Monday.