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

The morning is dark and damp. It was spitting rain earlier. The forecast is for a partly cloudy day, but the sun hasn’t yet made an appearance. I closed the windows. The house felt chilly. I can see the leaves being blown up and down on the oak trees, quietly, gently blown. It is a day to stay close to hearth and home.

I made a list of everything I want to do in the next few days. Most are inside chores. I didn’t put a schedule on the list. It will be completed in time.

When I was twenty-one, I went to Ghana. It was a bit scary. I didn’t know anyone, and I knew almost nothing about Ghana. It didn’t seem real at first, but when I stepped off the plane, I knew I was somewhere different, somewhere special, somewhere exotic.

The beginning of Peace Corps training is staging in this country, a time for checking in, meeting each other, getting materials and learning a bit about the country. We also had a dental check-up, a conversation with a psychologist and a yellow fever shot. We were in Philadelphia. I had been given a bus ticket from Boston to Philadelphia, but my father said he didn’t want me on a bus for so long so he bought me a plane ticket. I had bags of carry-on. When I sat down in the plane, my seat-mate wanted to know if I was running away from home. When I said I was going into the Peace Corps, he bought me a couple of drinks. I didn’t know if it was guilt from his question or amazement that I was headed to Africa. I just took the drinks.

In the line for check-in at the hotel, I met a few people who became friends. Bill and Peg were two of them. They were and are kindred spirits. They went with me to tour the city. Nobody noticed we were missing. We saw it all: the historical spots, the top of the William Penn building and the art museum, the much later Rocky steps museum.

Back then we could bring eighty pounds of luggage. We had a list of what we should bring. It included sheets and towels. Dresses were the custom for women so my mother and I did some clothes shopping. I remember a really ugly after shower cover-all. It had black and white designs. It lasted through two years of nightly showers. Within a few months, I was buying Ghanaian cloth and having dresses made. The men had shirts made or wore fugus, smocks from Northern Ghana.

Training in Ghana took most of the summer. It ended with a week at Legon, the university of Ghana. I remember having brewed coffee every day as part of breakfast. I remember going to Accra and wandering the city. I remember the swearing-in when I became a Peace Corps volunteer, all of us in a room, the ambassador in the front and me crowded in the middle. We recited after him. We clapped and cheered at the end.

During training, I traveled all over Ghana, sometimes by myself. I fell in love with Ghana. I turned twenty-two at the near end of the summer. I was so much older than I had been.

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

  1. William Says:

    And what’s the name of that river again?

  2. Bob Says:

    Hi Kat,

    You were much more adventurous at twenty one than I was. Your writing about your service in the Peace Corps is educational and is fascinating reading. I salute you and all your peers who did more to spread good around the world than almost anything else and cemented good will for our country.

    The rain has disappeared and the mid 90s heat has returned. Summer is not through with us yet. Yesterday the high temperature in Sacramento California was 113°. The highest temperature in Dallas Texas ever recorded was only 109°. How can right wing Republicans still deny the truth of global warming? One of my coworkers said to me last week, “The libs don’t get it that God created the world and man can’t change what God created”. I replied, “You can believe anything that you want, but what you just said is a fairy tale”. I then left the room before I said something else I that I might regret. 🙂

    • katry Says:

      Hi Bob,
      Thank you!! I’m glad you love my Peace Corps stories. They are dear to my heart. We all, current and returned volunteers, hope we have made a difference. It doesn’t have to be a big difference. The fact I was willing to teach in the Upper East where Ghanaians didn’t want to work because of the heat and the poverty was huge to them. I would never have thought of that.

      Right now it is 65°. The day never got any warmer than the mid 70’s, perfect fall weather, but the heat will return here as well. Your coworker is an idiot, but you already know that. I guess you could argue with him that AC’s, among other inventions, have changed the world.

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