13 July 2011

Peace Corps 50th Anniversary

On the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, I was asked to submit a story of my experiences to the Monterey Institute of International Studies where I had done a graduate degree upon my return from the PC.

I served in the Peace Corps at a time that no longer exists. In the late 70’s, there was no internet, no CNN. Telephones were not standard apartment equipment and overseas calls, made from an office at the phone company, were prohibitively expensive. If friends or family did write, it could take months for a letter to arrive. International and US news was limited to the weekly Time magazines that were delivered to the Peace Corps offices. Often they did not turn up, or had pages blacked out by the censors. For all these little things that I could now not live without, I am eternally grateful they were not around when I was a volunteer in Brazil.

Those of us who served before modern technology arrived learned what it was to be completely immersed in a new culture where almost no one spoke English. We learned the language and customs of our host nations. We forged friendships with colleagues and neighbors. We grew accustomed to the lack of supermarkets and department stores and got along perfectly well with very limited consumer goods.

Serving in Brazil meant that I became an ardent fan of The Beautiful Game: football/soccer. I learned how to samba and make Carnaval attire. I dove into the magnificent rhythms and melodies of Brazilian music which I still consider to be some of the best in the world.

Although I entered the graduate program of education at MIIS the year before an MA in TESOL became a degree program I, nevertheless, fell into that field. I have been a TESOL/TEFL educator in many countries around the world as well as in public education in California. And now, after over thirty years as an educator, I have left the profession to devote my time to writing.

I write stories about the places I have lived and the people I have met. I write fiction that takes place in foreign lands.

The Peace Corps and Brazil will always remain as an incredibly important part of my life. I came away from my time as a volunteer with much more than I ever gave. I believe that the lessons learned in relation to communication, understanding, and life in a different culture, have greatly enriched my life. Further, it sent me on an insatiable quest for knowledge of other lands and people. It is my hope that this, in some way, has helped  me to become a better person and perhaps to have been able to pass on some of what I have learned.

PCV Brazil 77-79