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

Oh, what an ugly morning! We had a dusting of snow which began around 1:30 as we, the dogs and I, were going to bed. When I woke up, I could hear dripping off the roof. I opened the front door and saw a wet mess. The rain and the snow had merged into slush. I had no choice but to go out for yesterday’s mail and today’s papers. My footprints made a wet trail from the house. My slippers got wet. The road has slushy ruts. I just hope it doesn’t freeze.

My daffodils have buds. They got suckered into growing during the warm spell, but they are hardy. I expect they’ll survive. My father used to say snow this time of year is poor man’s fertilizer, and he was right. The snow, when the ground is frozen, acts like mulch and insulates the plants. It also brings nutrients like nitrogen and sulfur. I have no idea how he knew that.

This is the longest musing I have ever written. I couldn’t make it any shorter. It describes the turning point in my life. The start of my Peace Corps journey.

This is Peace Corps week. On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps. I was in the eighth grade, but I knew even then I would join the Peace Corps. When I was a junior in college, I went to listen to a recruiter on campus. I took a language test. I signed up for an application. In October of my senior year in college, I sent in my completed application. In January I got a special delivery package. It was filled with information about Ghana and had a timetable of what training would be. I figured I was accepted which then became official when my special delivery acceptance letter came the next day. Training would begin in June with staging in Philadelphia. That seemed so far away in time. I started planning.

My mother and I shopped using the suggested packing list. My luggage had to be no more than 80 pounds. I was packing two years of my life into a couple of suitcases and carry-ons.

I remember the day I left. My parents drove me to Logan Airport. My father had bought me a plane ticket. Peace Corps had sent a bus ticket. I can still see in my mind’s eye my parents standing at the gate as I waved and went down the jetway. Their sadness is what I carried with me.

We were in Philadelphia for five or so days for staging. We had lectures, individual appointments with psychologists, visits to dentists and yellow fever shots. I met Bill and Peg the first day. I recognized their kindred spirits. We skipped a few large group sessions and toured the city together.

We were all supposed to make our way to New York to catch our chartered flight to Ghana. Luckily, though, the powers that be realized it made sense for us to leave from Philadelphia. I remember the flight. Herbie, the Love Bug, was the movie. Alcohol free flowed. I remember looking out the window at the Sahara. It was jaw dropping.

Training was all over the country. We had extensive language classes. I was learning Hausa. My group had its live-in, 3 weeks with a Ghanaian family, in Bawku. We visited our schools. Mine was in Bolgatanga. We made our way down country to Koforidua for the rest of training. It felt familiar though it was all new. I had fallen in love with Ghana.

The rest of training included student teaching and more language. I felt brave enough one weekend to hitch to Accra. On the first night, when a few of us were wandering the city to get to know it better, I survived an attempted purse snatching. He got the strap. I got the purse.

Our last week of training was at Legon, the University of Ghana. We mostly had free time except we all had to take a language test. We wandered Accra. We drank real coffee. Our last event was the swearing in. We were no longer trainees. We were Peace Corps volunteers. I felt joyful.

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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. Birgit Says:

    Cold but sunny, still freezing at night. I worked in the garden today, had to cut the last parts of a hedge. Same here with my daffodils, they will survive too. So far I just lost some potted plants this winter.
    Thanks for sharing your Ghana stories!

    • katry Says:

      Training was 12 weeks. We were the first program to train completely in country. Other programs did a half and half, part in the US and part in-country. Now, every program trains completely in-country. I will never forget those amazing weeks. I watched fellow trainees leave throughout training. I never understand why they didn’t give Ghana more time. They missed the most amazing experience of their lives.

  2. Bob Says:

    Hi Kat,

    Today was sunny with a high temperature of 84°. I think the last day of February is teasing us with unseasonably warm temperatures as meteorological winter fades away.

    I always enjoy your reminiscing about your time in the Peace Corps. It was the one foreign policy decision that made sense in the 1960s. The entire nonsense of the domino theory which suckered us into the prolonged Vietnam fiasco was proven wrong. Both John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen were totally mistaken about the threat of communist revolutions in Asia.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Bob,
      February is teasing us but with wintry weather. Luckily, though, it has been above freezing or we’d have been in big trouble as it is still raining.

      My training group was top heavy with guys. There were about 25 women and close to 100 men. Peace Corps was draft deferrable in those days for the two plus years. One guy got a draft notice in Ghana, and Peace Corps Told him they’d take care of it. He was not to leave. They took care of it.

      • Bob Says:

        I didn’t know that Peace Corps offered a draft deferment. I might have thought about joining, except I think of Motel Six as roughing it. 🙂

      • katry Says:

        It was a two year deferment. Peace Corps made sure that any guys called up would get supported. That guy in my program could breathe easily for at least two year.

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