RPCV Highlight – Kristen Hare, GUY 8
1. What have you been up to since you finished Peace Corps? Iâ€™m a journalist, currently writing and producing video stories for the online news site The St. Louis Beacon. Iâ€™m also married, the mother of a 3-year-old boy, with a little girl on the way.
2. What do you miss most about Guyana and your Peace Corps experience? Naps in hammocks and mangos.
3. How did your experience in Guyana affect your post-Peace Corps experience? In many ways I brought Guyana home with me. I married a Guyanese who keeps my home smelling of curry and my ears filled with reggae. Weâ€™ve been back three times and it really does feel like going home when weâ€™re there. More practically, I also think having PC on my resume got me my first newspaper job when I got home. It showed I had life experience, I was told, and boy did I.
4. Describe a challenge you worked to overcome while in PC Guyana? How about just living? It takes time to understand a culture, to get used to what people mean when they say certain things, like how Guyanese will agree with you even if they donâ€™t really. It takes time to read the undercurrents, and then learning to cook, to clean, to wash by hand, that was the hardest, I think. Until then, I felt like a very competent, well-educated young woman. Guyana showed me that I had book smarts, not street smarts. But I learned.
5. In 5 words, describe your Peace Corps experience. The best, hardest, hottest adventure.
6. What is your favorite Peace Corps Guyana memory? I used to sit on my verandah in the morning and drink my coffee, and in the evenings, Iâ€™d walk through the rice fields for exercise. I found out later that my neighbors all thought I was nuts walking every day, but I got in great shape and loved the red dirt under my feet and the green paddy growing all around. It was something I did for myself, and didnâ€™t involve any initiatives or goals or peer education groups. On one of my very last mornings before leaving, I sat on my verandah having coffee and saw a group of women in T-shirts and tennis shoes walking by. I thought it was odd, and mentioned it to one of my students. â€œTheyâ€™re exercising,â€? she told me. â€œJust like you.â€? I think I laughed until it hurt. And it was a great lesson — for all you try and teach, who you are and what you do is just as important. If not more.
7. What was the hardest part of readjusting to post-Peace Corps life? The pace! And winter. Missouri winterâ€™s are not kind.
8. Which lessons from Peace Corps have you applied in your post-Peace Corps jobs/life? Two come to mind: The night I returned, my mom took me out to dinner and told the waitress I was just back from the Peace Corps. The waitress said, â€œOh, how sad their lives must be, theyâ€™re all so poor.â€? I never thought of it before that moment, but the people of Guyana taught me that there are different kinds of poverty. They might not have Wiis or iPhones, but they always have more than enough food, time to spend with anyone who wants it, space and generosity that wealthy Americans rarely show. The second came from being a minority for the first time in my life. In Guyana, I was literally the only white girl for miles. It showed me what it was like to be considered different. Strangers on the minibuses used to touch my skin and my hair because theyâ€™d never met a white person before. It also taught me to to see and appreciate different cultures, both there and here. Thatâ€™s carried over both to my personal life, where Iâ€™m married to someone of a different ethnicity and religion and am the mother to a multiethnic child, and to my work, where I primarily report about race and immigration. I think Guyana helped me develop a perspective that allows me to look around my own experience and see what else is out there.
9. What advice would you give a future or current Peace Corps Volunteer (Guyana or otherwise)? I had a fantastic two years. I loved my school, met the love of my life and made terrific friends, both volunteers and Guyanese. There was a lot to be upset about, from social justice issues to feeling helpless to make real change to the bureaucracy of the PC, but I was happy. I think the truth is, your experience here will probably be your experience there. If your professors or supervisors stand in your way here, they will in Guyana, too. If you have a lot of drama here, you will in Guyana, too. Having said that, I also have no doubt that the experience made me grow up very quickly and stop taking myself so seriously.
10. Would you do Peace Corps again? Where, when and why? Definitely. Travel is amazing, but really living in a place, peeling back the layers, itâ€™s like nothing else. My husband and I would like to return to Guyana with the Peace Corps when we retire (his idea, not mine, but Iâ€™m game.)
Are you a Guyana RPCV who would like to be featured in our RPCV Highlight? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.