Tomorrow will be May 1, 2011. It was about two years ago today that I said to Susan, "Are we ever going to join the Peace Corps?" It turned out that we were. We depart on July 5.
We had talked about joining the Peace Corps for years. A friend of Susan's father and his wife had joined when they retired. We had said then that joining the PC was something we could do after retiring. After our initial discussion Susan assigned me the task of finding out how to join. After a little investigation, we read about the PC on the PC website, we went to recruiting sessions, and we talked to friends who were in the PC in the early days. Finally in December of 2009, we began to fill out the online application. We laughed when we read that most people complete the process in about three weeks. Then we took four weeks to complete our applications. I had been retired for four years and my bosses had also retired. I had to find them (some were on vacation) and get permission to use them as references.We had to find various documents and we had to write two essays one about why we would like to join the Peace Corps. Here is part of that essay:
I wanted to be a peace corps volunteer in the 60's when the Peace Corps was created. My father's businesses had gone bankrupt in 1959. I graduated from high school in 1962, from college in 1965, married and went to graduate school in 1966, finished graduate school in 1970 with two children and then had a third. There was also the Vietnamese war to consider. So, family, finances, and education never seemed to be right for joining the Peace Corps. In retirement, I have the time, the health, and a spouse who is also eager to join. Why? First answer is that it just seems like something I have always wanted to do. I feel that I have been very fortunate in life and this is an opportunity to give something to the U.S and to the world. Those two are the major reasons. I could add that it will be an adventure, that I like to see other cultures, but those are my secondary reasons. It is something I have wanted to do for so long that it doesn't seem to need justification.
A set of experiences that makes me want to join the Peace Corps is grounded in my early teenage years. The draft was still ongoing in the 50's. I saw many older teenagers get drafted and go into one of the services. I would see them again in a few months and it was always impressive. They went off sloppy and came back strong and straight. I always thought I would go into one of the services, but it was the midst of the Vietnam War when I graduated from college in August of 1965. On July 4th of that year I took my Turkish roommate home with me and my parents had a July 4th cookout with several families as guests. Three men who had been in WW II each said, “This [Vietnam] is something different. It's not the same as when we went. If you can avoid it, don't go.“ Those were veterans saying that. One had a purple heart. I ended up teaching which was draft exempt. Student deferments, three children and, ultimately, a high number in the draft lottery kept me out of the service. I have always felt that I have an obligation to my country and the Peace Corps is one way to fulfill it.
Since I am retired, there is no problem preparing my professional life for the 27 months of Peace Corps service. As for my personal life, we have a home that we will lease for that time. Two friends who were Peace Corps volunteers in the 1960's have offered to oversee any maintenance and leasing problems (Our friends are excited and happy for our volunteering.) Bills, services, subscriptions, etc will be arranged before we leave. There should be little to nothing left to attend to after we leave. The most difficult thing will be leaving our grandsons, John, 8, and Peter, 5. My wife's grandmother traveled when my wife was young. Her travel was an inspiration for my wife. Perhaps our Peace Corps time will be an inspiration to our grandchildren. We will correspond with them and keep them aware of what we are doing.
I believe I could be most useful teaching, however I will be happy to do any assignment. I have 40 years of teaching experience. There is an old question among educators, “Do you have 40 years experience or one year 40 times?” I suspect that there are some overlapping years in my experience, but I taught at three universities and one school system. I worked with teachers and other professionals from dozens of school systems. I think my experiences can be valuable and I want to contribute. If it is some area other than teaching, I will be happy there as well.
We now have a third grandchild, Rosemary, 7 months, so that part is even harder. We are still eager to go.