Corps Stories – An “Exotic Existence” – William Marshall, GUY 1
GUY Group: GUY 1
Guyana Site: Lethem & Bartica
Type of Volunteer: EducationÂ
Â 1.Â Â Â Â Â What have you been up to since you finished Peace Corps?
Since itâ€™s been over 40 years that I was a PCV…I guess you could say I’ve lived the majority of my life.
Â 2.Â Â Â Â Â What do you miss most about Guyana and your Peace Corps experience?Â
I miss most theÂ sense of an “exotic existenceâ€? (The waking up every day in an environmentÂ totally different thanÂ anything I had previously experienced or would experience after.) There is a type of person that tends to remember the good stuff and forget the bad. I’m that type of person. Though I had some sort ofÂ rashÂ through most of the rainy seasons, I could stand in the front yard of my thatch -roofed adobe outside of Lethem and see and hear the Moca Moca creek waterfalls cascading down the nearby mountains.Â My house in Bartica had a huge Jamoon tree that attracted flocks of toucans when it had fruit. At one time I had 5 species of birds, 7 species of mammals, andÂ 6 species of reptiles (Including an 8 foot red tailed Boa that lived in the thatched roof).Â My favorites were a collared peccary (‘Miss Pig)Â an aboreal ant eater (“Otto the Orkin Man”) and aÂ capybaraI (“Otras the Watras”).Â If I try hard to remember, I can recall some badÂ stuff (like the bed bugsÂ thatÂ came out Â inÂ blood thirsty hoards in the movie houseÂ as soon as the lights went down).. But, generally I look back with fond memories.Â The mostÂ dramatic memory I have was being on R&R in Paramaribo Suriname, seeing a T.V.Â for the first time in 20 months, and watching shots of Washington D.C. burn in the riots after the M.L. King assassination.
Â 3.Â Â Â Â Â How did your experience in Guyana affect your post-Peace Corps experience?Â
Â During my last 6 months in Guyana, I spent a lot of time applying for stuff to do when I got back. I got accepted into a program along with 11 other returning PCV’s from all over to Grad school in the Dept. of Biology at Georgetown with a full ride PLUS AN $8,000 annual stipend (a princely sum in those days). Â It changed the course of my life, openingÂ doors time after time, eventually allowing my wife and me to retire from our corporate careers at the age of 50 to a mountain top in TN and become artists (www.silverridgepottery.com).Â I got into GeorgetownÂ based onÂ my status as a RPCV.
Â 4.Â Â Â Â Â Describe a challenge you worked to overcome while in PC Guyana.Â
I had some culture shock and my wife had a fairly heavy case of it about a month after arriving. Several ofÂ our fellow PCV’s packed it up and bailed â€“Including a guy that got the highest peer review.Â After adjusting toÂ the culture I remember the biggest challenge was the sense of being “Out Of It”. This was pre Internet…we came in to Georgetown twice a year andÂ communicated with the States byÂ snail mail. Our universe became our local Guyanese friends.
Â 5.Â Â Â Â Â In 5 words, describe your Peace Corps experience.Â
Â 6.Â Â Â Â Â What is your favorite Peace Corps Guyana memory?Â Â
Earle Van Lange… A giant, part Dutch, part everything else, river man in Bartica. Â Always ready for an adventure… with a roaring laughÂ who was hugely amused by me and my American strangeness.
7.Â Â Â Â Â What was the hardest part of readjusting to post-Peace Corps life?
We returned to Miami in the midst ofÂ the ’68 Republican Presidental Convention, the middle of the war in Viet Nam, and riots and tear gas. Â I went into a KING HELLÂ culture shock!
8.Â Â Â Â Â Which lessons from Peace Corps have you applied in your post-Peace Corps jobs/life?
I learned thatÂ 2/3 ‘ s of life isÂ to just show up!
9.Â Â Â Â Â What advice would you give a future or current Peace Corps Volunteer (Guyana or otherwise)?
When things are not so good…remember..”THIS TOO WILL PASS”.
10.Â Â Â Would you do Peace Corps again? Where, when and why?Â
Do it again? HELL NO! Go back for 2 or 3 weeks? Â Probably next year. Â But 2 years with a pit privy, mosquito nets, no A.C., no electricity, etc.? Done that!Â We take 4 or 5Â vacations a year (Frequently tied to my part time consulting,), have been to over 50 countries, and put our toes in the local scene from Capodoca, Turkey, to the coffee houses in the red light district inÂ Amsterdam: but going into total immersion in aÂ alien culture is, for me, something you do only once.Â
Interview by Jody Knueppel, GUY 16
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