Government insurance is nice. Let me restate that. Government insurance is really nice.

Now, as Peace Corps Volunteers we don’t receive the same nice salaries as government employees (something about there being “volunteer” in the title), but we do enjoy the benefits of good medical care. During our hub-site medical days we received so many shots we were veritable pincushions. We would take them two at a time – one in each arm – just to save on shot taking time. At first I asked questions, like, “What’s this for?” After a couple weeks it was, “Where’s my juice box?”

During service we are well taken care of too. Multiple volunteers this past year have been flown to Bangkok or Washington, D.C. for treatment that can’t be done in country. Peace Corps will even pay for pregnancies from pre-natal care through six months after the baby is born, including those who become pregnant just before completion of service. (Married couples: start thinking about your timing.) If you’re going to get seriously ill or injured in life, Peace Corps service is the time to do it.

But reality is, we are “out in the field” for a majority of the time, and two years in a developing country does a number on your health. This is something most of us don’t realize until we’re cutting new holes in our belts or swallowing an army of pills to chase out that colony of worms that has settled in our small intestine. We make sacrifices nutritionally, bacterially, with lack of exercise and with increased stress. That’s why taking responsibility for watching our own health is so vitally important.

image A village Volunteer’s medical plan: a book titled Where There Is No Doctor

I’m seeing the dentist next week on one of my trips to the capital, and I know what he’s going to say. It’s the same thing the dentist always says to me: “You need to floss more.” The advice is free, yet I’ve now learned the value of good health care. So much so, that maybe this time, I might just listen.

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