Cliff Gardner

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sex Ed, Peace Corps Style

During the three months of pre-service training in Ukraine, my training cluster had several visits from the medical office to give us inoculations, supplies and some general health lessons, the most memorable of which was the sexual health lecture. Lasting several hours, it was as explicit and comprehensive a sexual education class as you can imagine, complete with a mandatory rolling of a condom on a rubber penis that we all had to do before we could be officially sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers. The intensity and frankness of this lesson (and the subsequent availability of an unlimited supply of condoms and birth control pills) felt almost a little desperate, leaving us all with the notion that we were important people and our choices actually mattered. After all, the government was investing a lot of time and money in us so we could do a specific and important series of jobs, so this attitude made sense. We were valuable resources and the Peace Corps had a vested interest in protecting us, even from ourselves.

That lesson stuck with me, and I imagine that it had a similar impact on other PCV's because, despite having a very large number of (sexually active) volunteers, the PC-Ukraine program had/has almost no one leave the service for sexually-related issues (STI's, pregnancy, etc). My point is this, though: why on earth shouldn't the same sense of desperation and intensity be applied to every single high school sexual education class in America? The conditions are similar, after all--lots of time/money being invested in the students (tens of thousands), the risks are tremendous since so many are inevitably sexually active anyway, and the correlation between comprehensive sex ed and lower pregnancy and STI rates is clear. It's like we were only worthy of receiving complete and accurate sexual education (and the needed birth control to functionally follow through on those teachings) because we were important Peace Corps Volunteers, which is just silly--every teen in America is just as important and deserves that same treatment.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tough choices

A few weeks ago I was at a restaurant and needed to pee. It had been a while and I had had several beverages, so I was ready to have one of those Austin Powers pees that lasts 3 minutes and involves me putting my hand against the wall. However, when I got into the men's room, there was a problem. See, in the one and only stall someone was having violent, loud, offensively smelly diarrhea (did I mention this was a Mexican restaurant? Does that help explain it? Think a bad reaction to 8 pounds of chips and salsa) and the one and only urinal was apparantly broken and wouldn't flush, though that hadn't stopped what I could only assume were dozens of men from pissing in it anyway. So, I was left with decision--wait out that guy with dysentery or add my contribution to the bright yellow urine pool and probably get spash-back piss on me and my clothes, plus hepatitis.

Life is all about the tough choices.

In the end, I chose to just hold it and wait for the sweet salvation of my home toilet. I made it, though it was a photo-finish. The best bathroom stories always are.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Jessica hadn't ever been to Seattle, so last weekend we decided to go visit our Peace Corps friends Katie and Kelly, who are universally some of the coolest cats you'll ever want to meet. Kelly likes Asian stuff and Katie likes to say the phrase, "or it gets the hose again," so we knew we were in for a good ole' time. Being responsible adults, we took the new(er) car we were driving/being given by my super awesome aunt and uncle to a mechanic for a trip inspection the day before we were planning to leave, and he topped off the fluids and told us that everything was fine.

*cut to creepy behind-the music theme* But then, on our drive up, everything changed.......

We actually made pretty good (OK, average) time up to Seattle considering that it was rush hour on a Friday, but after having driven 175 miles from Portland, the car stopped working about 5 blocks from Katie and Kelly's place. When I tried to drive, the car wouldn't go forward...I put the pedal to the floor and it barely moved, so I swerved off into a parking lot and called AAA. After waiting an hour and a half, a super-nice tow truck driver showed up and he took me (Jess went ahead to our friend's place) to a repair shop about 2 miles away, but not before a mean parking lot attendant showed up and demanded 10 dollars for parking in his lot EVEN THOUGH MY CAR WAS BEING TOWED AWAY BECAUSE IT WASN'T WORKING.

The more concerning problem(s), though, was the fact that I was starting a new job in Portland on Monday morning and I absolutely couldn't miss that first day. After talking with the mechanics on Saturday morning, they said they knew it was a transmission problem but that they couldn't fix it until Monday when the "tranny guy" (hehe) showed up. That meant that I had to leave Jessica in Seattle for a few more days and take the train back Sunday afternoon (which was fantastic--Amtrak is amazing and totally beats the crap out of Ukrainian trains!!!).

The bill came out to be about $900, of which I'm paying $300 and my super nice aunt and uncle are paying $600. We were considering just leaving the car in Washington if the bill was any more expensive than that, but it turns out that it's easier to commit a double murder and get away with it than it is to legally abandon or sell a broken car in Washington. The logic was, "well, we can pay 6oo bucks to dump the car there or pay 300 more and have the car." So, Jessica is road tripping it back to PDX tomorrow norning (in the car) and I'll be glad to have her home. All in all, she will have gotten to see a lot more of Seattle than she had planned, but all things considered, it didn't end as badly as it could have.