FROG had the great pleasure to interview GUY 1 member Patriciafaye Marshall about her experience in Guyana. Here is the second installment of her interview.
Group: GUY 1 Location: Lethem and Bartica Type of Volunteer: Education
What did you learn from your Peace Corps experience?
I really think that just going with the flow and being open to whatever it is that needs to be experienced. I don’t always have a clue what I’m doing but it’s that willingness to be fluid and to go with the flow and to have fun. Having fun is important.
What do you miss most about Guyana?
I miss the adventure. Bill used the word “exotic”, that is very a-pro-pros. We were closer to the natural world, everything was dependent on nature, the animals, rain, flies – I miss that. I miss having to pit myself against nature the parts that can be so cruel and nurturing. It’s not something we can do here unless you really live off the grid. I miss some of food. I try to duplicate it – it would be nice to have a good pepperpot!
What don’t you miss about Guyana?I don’t miss the cabora flies. I had dysentery, giardia, malaria I was sick a lot. I don’t miss that!
What are some of your fondest memory of your time in Guyana?
We were the one married couple in Lethem. When all the Peace Corps Volunteers took vacation, they would go to Lethem. It was fun to show our experience to the other PCVs in more “normal” situations. We would go camping, we would camp in the jungle with hammocks and be totally immersed in that energy. It was also fun when we took vacations – we could fly to any Caribbean island. We went to Trinidad, St. Lucia, Curacao, Barbados, etc.
We went to Boa Vista to Carnival. We lived right on the Takatu River-the border between Guyana and Brazil. There was a floating rum shop across the river from our house on the Brazil side. I could walk down to the river and yell, and a little boy would come across in a dugout and take me across. There I could buy salt fish, eggs, cassava bread, farine, some fresh stuff-not much, always rum.
We celebrated St. Johns Day (June 24th) – I walked on fire! There was huge fire, 30 feet of coals, lots of people, drumming; everyone did it young and old. No one got burned, Bill did it too.
How did your experience in Guyana affect your post-Peace Corps experience?
We came back to Washington, D.C. It was 1968. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King had just been killed. The VietNam war was raging. D.C. had been looted and burned. They couldn’t get teachers for the inner-city schools so The Urban Teacher Corps had been created. They offered returned Peace Corps Volunteers graduate school tuition in exchange for their signing a contract to teach in the inner-city schools for two years. I was pregnant and couldn’t do the program but Bill did. Many opportunities became available to us from there.
We had brought a capuchin monkey named Sammy home with us. It was hard to find an apartment when we had a monkey. We found this little apartment – we had this monkey, I was pregnant, Bill was in grad school. D.C. was really violent at that time a man was murdered in our building. We moved to Alexandria, VA. After we had a 2nd daughter, Bill’s advising professor wanted Bill to run a lab in Puerto Rico. We moved to Puerto Rico and lived there for 3 years. However, it wasn’t working for me. I took the kids and we went back to the states. Over the next few years, the marriage came apart. I got established back in D.C., lived and taught in New Hampshire, Tucson, and eventually moved to the SF Bay Area in 1981. There I worked on staff with one of the world’s most prominent organizations for personal and social transformation.
In 2002 I moved to Oregon to be close to my older daughter and her family.
I currently facilitate a symposium called Awakening the Dreamer-Changing the Dream, a global initiative created by The Pachamama Alliance. This symposium is in answer to a call from the indigenous tribes of Ecuador for the modern world to awaken from the trance of our consumerism, acquisition, industrialization, and greed with no regard for the natural world and one another. The purpose of the symposium is to bring forth an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilled human presence on our planet.
I live in McMinnville Oregon-about an hour southwest of Portland and five minutes from my three grandsons. They are my biggest joy. My younger daughter, Kaki, lives in San Francisco directing a drug treatment center for homeless people. Amanda, the older one, was recently nominated by President Obama to be the U.S. Oregon Attorney.
What was your impression of Peace Corps before you moved to Guyana? What was your impression after you finished your service?
I didn’t know much about the opportunity itself but the money situation (to put a little money away while we served so we didn’t have to worry about not having a little nest egg when we came home) seemed workable. It’s a great opportunity for immersion. I don’t think there are any other programs that are two year stints; I think it’s a fabulous opportunity for anyone. I wouldn’t do it again but I wouldn’t take anything for having done it.
“In my everyday life, I bet 6 times a week, I will say I was PCV in the 1960’s. It sets up a certain tone, respect, regard when I say that, I always feel that I am revealing a huge part of who I am and it makes me really proud.”
I don’t think I knew anything about Peace Corps before. I don’t think I knew much about anything before. I had been very sheltered. I had never really been anywhere outside of Mississippi. It was a big learning curve. The bureaucracy, the hierarchy, how you got things done, how change happens I hated that from the beginning. I hated the rules, that it took so long to get anything accomplished I don’t do well with authority! Peace Corps would tell us that we couldn’t do something. It was hard to contain myself in the structure. I didn’t know anything about the organization. I don’t have much regard now for organizations. I like that the opportunity is available but I don’t like that they meddle with you. There was a ton of paperwork the requirements were so removed from the more natural flow of our day to day lives in our local village.
There’s a certain amount of empowerment that I know I carry from being a PCV. In my everyday life, I bet 6 times a week, I will say I was PCV in the 1960’s. It sets up a certain tone, respect, regard when I say that, I always feel that I am revealing a huge part of who I am and it makes me really proud. I felt like I had no idea who I was when I went down there. I had never asked myself who I was, who we are. There are others of my species who’s way of life if I had run into those people in Mississippi I would have classified them as poor. When I was with them I felt so enriched, empowered by them. They were resource poor, they were not poor people. They were dealing with some real challenges they got everything from the natural world. When I say I was a PCV in the 60s, everyone has some kind of a picture, an idea of what that means it’s always with a lot of regard. What people think about you as a PCV you have guts, you’re courageous, bold, willing to be without some things, encounter things that some won’t take on to do.