Corps Stories – An “Exotic Existence” – William Marshall, GUY 1


William Marshall

GUY Group: GUY 1
Guyana Site: Lethem & Bartica
Type of Volunteer: Education

1. What have you been up to since you finished Peace Corps?

Since its been over 40 years that I was a PCV…I guess you could say I’ve lived the majority of my life.

2. What do you miss most about Guyana and your Peace Corps experience?

I miss most the sense of an “exotic existence”? (The waking up every day in an environment totally different than 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 of rash 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.  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, and 6 species of reptiles (Including an 8 foot red tailed Boa that lived in the thatched roof).  My favorites were a collared peccary (‘Miss Pig) an aboreal ant eater (“Otto the Orkin Man”) and a  capybaraI (“Otras the Watras”).  If I try hard to remember, I can recall some bad  stuff (like the bed bugs  that  came out  in  blood thirsty hoards in the movie house  as soon as the lights went down).. But, generally I look back with fond memories.  The most dramatic memory I have was being on R&R in Paramaribo Suriname, seeing a T.V. for the first time in 20 months, and watching shots of Washington D.C. burn in the riots after the M.L. King assassination.

3. How did your experience in Guyana affect your post-Peace Corps experience?

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).  It changed the course of my life, opening 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 (  I got into Georgetown based on my status as a RPCV.

4. Describe a challenge you worked to overcome while in PC Guyana.

I had some culture shock and my wife had a fairly heavy case of it about a month after arriving. Several of our fellow PCV’s packed it up and bailed. Including a guy that got the highest peer review.  After adjusting to 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 and communicated with the States by snail mail. Our universe became our local Guyanese friends.

5. In 5 words, describe your Peace Corps experience.


6. What is your favorite Peace Corps Guyana memory?

Earle Van Lange… A giant, part Dutch, part everything else, river man in Bartica.  Always ready for an adventure… with a roaring laugh who was hugely amused by me and my American strangeness.

7. What was the hardest part of readjusting to post-Peace Corps life?

We returned to Miami in the midst of the ’68 Republican Presidential Convention, the middle of the war in Viet Nam, and riots and tear gas.  I went into a KING HELL culture shock!

8. Which lessons from Peace Corps have you applied in your post-Peace Corps jobs/life?

I learned that 2/3’s of life is  to just show up!

9. 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. Would you do Peace Corps again? Where, when and why?

Do it again? HELL NO! Go back for 2 or 3 weeks?  Probably next year.  But 2 years with a pit privy, mosquito nets, no A.C., no electricity, etc.? Done that!  We take 4 or 5 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 in Amsterdam: but going into total immersion in a  alien culture is, for me, something you do only once.

Interview by Jody Knueppel, GUY 16

Interested in participating in Corps Stories? Contact Kati Ringer at today!

Scott was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Georgetown, Guyana from '03-'05 with the World Wildlife Fund. He helped to co-found FROG in 2007.


  1. Kaki
    February 16, 2011

    That was an Amazing Interview!
    Someone remind me to ask my father what the hell Essequibo–Takatu are.
    I was born a few years after his return, you should have heard his idea of bedtime stories. I think the characters were modeled after the marsupials in his thatched hut. Specifically Otto and Otras.
    Cheers Pop!
    K Marshall

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