“The Peace Corps is guilty of enthusiasm and a crusading spirit. But we’re not apologetic about it.”

Last night it rained. When I went to bed at an ungodly hour, closer to morning than night, it was still raining. Right now it is just wet, no rain but it will return. The weather report is a high of 48˚ and a low of 14˚. No, that is not a typo.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of traveling around the world. I made a scrapbook of all the places I wanted to go. I got brochures from Logan Airport and a local travel agency. My scrapbook filled me with a longing which fed my dreams. Every year I took geography, and the rest of the world felt closer and closer. I knew more about Europe than any other place. It was history and the Eiffel Tower and on and on. South America grew coffee, bananas and pineapples, a fruit I had never seen except in pictures or cans. I never thought about Asia. It just seemed too far way. When my family went to Niagara Falls, we went across to Canada which became the first country on my already seen list.

Today is Peace Corp’s birthday. It turns 60. Having served in the Peace Corps has defined my life. To say it broadened my horizons is to reduce my experience to a cliche. Back then, Peace Corps PSA’s were on TV and in magazines. In the eighth grade, I was hooked. Eight years later, my senior year in college, I was still hooked. I took a language test and filled out my application. It was mailed in October of 1968. In January I got a packet from Peace Corps all about Ghana. The acceptance letter came a day later, special delivery. My training would begin in June 1969. I walked to North Andover Square and called to accept the invitation. The task of telling my father was designated to my mother. I knew what his reaction would be. He didn’t disappoint. He was furious. He told me Africans smell bad. I wanted to know how many he’d met knowing none would be the answer. He refused to answer. It took until April or May before he begrudgingly said I could go, as if I needed his permission, but I let him have his moment.

In the past 60 years, 240,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in 142 countries. Ghana was the first.

My memories of Ghana have always been vivid. I knew I would go back some day. That was a given. When Iived in Ghana, I loved my school, my town and, most especially, the Ghanaians. I learned to haggle in the market. I traveled on bone shakers, mammy lorries. I ate foods I hadn’t ever heard of before, and I saw my first real pineapple out of the can. Training took close to 3 months in Ghana. We trainees, Peace Corps jargon for not yet a volunteer, became close in the shared experience. Most of us managed to finish training and be sworn in as volunteers.

The next two years were amazing. I loved teaching, and I loved my town. I especially adored my students. I never tired of the different sounds of Ghana, its languages, roosters at day break, and aunties trying to get my attention to buy from them. The colors of cloth were amazing, and I bought several yards for all the dresses I had a seamster make. When it came time to leave, I etched everything into my memory drawers so I’d never forget.

Ghana has always had my heart. It took me 40 years to get back, but I have been back three times, and, if Covid and my non-existent bank account, allow it, I would like to go back one more time with Bill and Peg. I can’t imagine being there without them.

I hope and prayer that Peace Corps rebounds quickly and volunteers are again allowed to give service. I remember hearing that Peace Corps is the best bang for a buck, that the value of the experience far out ways the cost. I found that out when 40 years later when I was recognized by former students and serenaded with Leaving on a Jet Plane, Miss Ryan’s song.

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10 Comments on ““The Peace Corps is guilty of enthusiasm and a crusading spirit. But we’re not apologetic about it.””

  1. Bob Says:

    Hi Kat,

    Happy Birthday to the Peace Corps. It’s one of the few United States government sponsored programs for international cooperation and development that have been successful. You and all the other volunteers over the years have removed the word “Ugly” that used to proceed the word “American” while traveling abroad. The only other program that I can think of that was somewhat successful we’re the United States Information Agency Jazz tours in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Those racially mixed bands along with Radio Free Europe’s jazz programs advanced American culture more than all the money spent by the State Department for anything else. Other programs have always been designed to further some American business enterprise’s coffers or to support and enrich some tinhorn dictator.

    This morning I awoke to more rain and cooler temperatures. Our idiot Republican Governor, Gregg Abbot, announced yesterday that he’s meeting with his State medical advisors to lift the statewide mask and other preventive measures. He thinks that the number of Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations has fallen and it’s time to go back to the old normal. He didn’t learn his lesson last May when he opened up the Texas economy too early and saw a spike in deaths and cases in June. Why wouldn’t he ask the CDC? The reason is that he believes that the CDC is filled with socialist Democrats. Last April was when our not so brilliant Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick said on national TV, “Old people should sacrifice themselves to give their grandchildren an economy”. Here’s a guy who calls himself a “Right to Lifer”. I guess it only applies to unborn life. 🙂 once here he doesn’t care what happens. It sounds like something Abbot would say after blaming the power outages during the cold snap were due to the disabled wind generators. Abbot never saw a gas or coal fired power plant he didn’t love. Nor a green energy plan he didn’t hate.

    He and most of the Republican Party are climate change deniers. They believe that Adam and Eve frolicked in the Garden of Eaden along with the Dinosaurs. 🙂

    • katry Says:

      Hi Bob,
      In Ghana, we lived as our Ghanaian counterparts did. Little did I know how important this was until a former student I saw on one of my return trips told me Ghanaians loved Peace Corps. I asked why. She told me that Ghanaians would never teach in Bolga because of the heat and how primitive it was compared to Southern Ghana. She said only Peace Corps would come.

      During training, people left; at the first half year point more left and more again at the end of the first year. We who were left loved Ghana and were, for the most part, dedicated to doing the best we could for Ghana.

      I couldn’t stand watching Trump yesterday. He had unlimited time and an idiot audience clapping at his every lie.

      Republicans don’t seem to learn any lessons no matter what happens. Gregg Abbott is among the worst. He will keep making the same mistakes over and oven hoping to maintain popularity in his party, Trump’s base.

      The proof of science has made no impact on what silliness Republicans believe. I wonder how many are rushing to get vaccine.

  2. William Sandford Says:

    From one Ghanaian Returned Peace Corps Volunteer to another: Happy Birthday!

    Ain’t it odd that Trump took only 55% of the poll at the Cpac, full of rabid supporters. I guess some had second thoughts…
    Why are we still talking about him??

    • katry Says:

      We should have cake!!

      For some reason I thought it was 65% which would also be bad, but he’ll not see that. He’ll say I have the best support anyone has ever had.

  3. lilydark Says:

    Happy Birthday Peace Corps.

    Some of this reminds me of the song Judy sang about her father promising to take her to France.. I don’t know why. I hope someday we can all leave on a jet plane. Not sure where I would go. Why are most republicans so damn stupid. Don’t answer that! I hope rump finally goes to prison. I don’t understand why he isn’t there now.

    Not frolicking in the Garden of Eden along with the Dinosaurs.

    Take Care,
    Lori and Ms. Cookie is is democat

    • katry Says:

      Hi Lori,
      I don’t have an answer as to why republicans are so dumb. Maybe, part of it might be fear at a changing world over which they have no control. Trump speaks to them about taking their world back. They unquestionably follow him and even made a golden idol of him. As for the senate and the house and mealy mouth republicans like Graham and O’Connell, they are afraid of him. Crossing him makes them a target. In this CPAC speech, he called out all the republicans who had voted against him and told the crowd to vote them out.

  4. Rowen Says:

    Wonderful post. What did you do about your skin in the African sun? I would’ve fried.

    • katry Says:

      Thanks, Rowen

      I wore dresses which had my arms exposed and sometimes part of my shoulders, and I never got a sunburn until one Easter Sunday. My friends and I went to the beach for the day, and I fried!! It was unexpected as I hadn’t burned at all.

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