“To me, one of the best faces America has ever projected is the face of a Peace Corps volunteer. That face symbolizes this country: young, curious, brimming with idealism and hope – and a real, honest compassion.” 

I went to get the paper this morning, but it wasn’t in the front yard. I cursed then I noticed it in my neighbor’s yard. It had been blown by the wind, the mighty wind. All the trees are bending. We have a wind advisory. It is raining.

This morning I flashed back to Saturdays when I was a kid. I found a YouTube channel with black and white science fiction movies from the 50’s. I am watching Invasion of the Saucer Men, little green aliens who arrived in a flash of light in a flying saucer. It has screaming teenage girls, unbelieving police and a moving hand with deadly nails dripping poison. I had Rice Krispies for breakfast, the same breakfast I ate as a kid. The only difference is I am on the couch, not on the floor in front of the TV. I’d never get up again.

When I lived in Ghana, I traveled most school holidays. Usually I went to Accra and from there to Togo, a small country to the west. Before I could leave Ghana, I needed a re-entry permit even though I had a resident’s visa. I also needed a visa from the Togo embassy. On one of my previous visits to the embassy I learned the man giving visas had once lived in Boston. I played on that. Sometimes the man chose not to give visas. He wasn’t in the mood. Volunteers I knew would come out of the office shaking their heads. When I went in, we’d chat. I always mentioned the weather in Boston and what was happening there. I always got a visa. I’d walk out of the office with my passport opened to the visa. The next visit before I left the country was to the government office to get my reentry permit. I always got one there too. The man had pictures on his desk of his family, and on a previous visit I had asked about them. I knew all their names so I’d ask the guy how his family was doing using their names. I always got my re-entry permit.

I wrote an aerogram to one of my friends not long before my end of service. I’m going to quote from that letter.

“Lately I’ve been thinking about going home. Sometimes I worry about being very dissatisfied with what I’ll find. Going into Peace Corps was the best thing I could have done. I’ve learned a lot about Africa, the states and myself. I’ve realized how lucky I have been. This experience has been mind blowing. All of a sudden I’ve been awakened to sounds, colors, sights and feelings that I didn’t know existed before. it is an experience I will never forget because I’ve tried to absorb every part of my life here so memories can be brought back, so my memories will never dim.”

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4 Comments on ““To me, one of the best faces America has ever projected is the face of a Peace Corps volunteer. That face symbolizes this country: young, curious, brimming with idealism and hope – and a real, honest compassion.” ”

  1. Birgit Says:

    What a marvelous letter!

    It’s funny to read that bureaucracy is crazy elsewhere too. Meanwhile it’s a real scourge here, many things don’t work or take years because of excessive bureaucracy and overworked agencies. And no, digital administration is still a mess here.

    • katry Says:

      Thank you!!

      I took a plane to Accra to do all my end of service tasks. I cried the entire flight, quietly with my head down. Leaving was so very difficult. I always knew I left part of my heart there.

      We always used to say Ghana had all the bureaucracy they learned from the British, but none of the efficiency.

  2. Bob Says:

    Hi Kat,

    Today was gorgeous with clear blue skies and a high temperature of 78°. Today we took my daughter to see the musical, “On Your Feet”. It’s the story of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. Great dance music, just okay story.

    The last time I renewed my passport, the woman at the local company we use to get visas told me about a couple who were going to take a cruise departing from Rio de Janeiro. They didn’t realize they needed a visa to transfer from the airport to the ship. She suggested that they go to Academy Sporting Goods store and buy Brazilian national soccer team shirts and hats. Then, they drove to the Brazilian Consulate office in Houston. When they arrived the Brazilian clerk told them it would take a couple of days. They replied that they needed it today and put on their sweat shirts and caps with the Brazilian National team logos and colors. The woman was so impressed, she gave them their visas on the spot. Sometimes you get further with kindness. Also, a bribe doesn’t hurt either.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Bob,
      Come up up here if you’d like to experience an ugly day with a high wind, rain and 38°.

      I haven’t heard of “On Your Feet,” but I am not all that fond of musicals, and I can’t name a Gloria Estefan song.

      I never needed a bribe. Conversation and knowing a little bit about the men I always worked with was pure gold. I used to come out of consular’s office holding my passport with the visa open to tease the people waiting who would not get a visa that day.

      There are companies which will facilitate getting passports quickly, but they don’t work cheaply. I found going to Boston to the office which deals with passports was the fastest way to get one, no extra cash necessary.

      You’re right! Sometimes bribes work.

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