New Peace Corps Experience Memoir/Panama
Anson K. Lihosit recently trudged home after two years’ service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama. An urban planner by trade, he was recruited to teach English.
Before packing again to begin a masters degree program in urban planning at the University of Arizona in Tucson, he wrote and published a book about his Peace Corps experience titled Peace Corps Epiphanies: Panama.
Assigned to a remote village near the famous Darien Gap and 95 miles from the Colombian border, he assisted middle and high school teachers, offered community night classes, and assisted other Volunteers with conferences for indigenous people that offered him the opportunity to visit other parts of the country.
In his book, Lihosit describes Peace Corps Training, and life in the rural Panama. Like all Volunteers, he had difficulty adjusting to a new culture and language as well as dealing with lonliness. In a section about his living quarters, he describes cohabitation with bats, lizards and armies of ants.
He learned how to dodge poisonous snakes, bathe in a river and spearfish to supplement his meager diet. He also learned how to store water for the dry season, and wash his own clothes by hand. But best of all, Lihosit learned that Panamanians love baseball. They have their own professional league that American Major League scouts watch closely. When he learned that eastern Panama was full of community softball teams, as a former Little Leaguer and Babe Ruth baseball player, he eagerly joined a team.
He took a half hour bus ride to another remote village and jogged to the stands where a local asked him, “Who are you rooting for?”
Lihosit unzipped his mud splattered sports bag to reveal an old worn baseball glove, a McDonald’s cap and new cleats. “I want to play.”
The local turned and yelled to a man seated behind him, “The gringo’s with us!”
And so began a baseball odyssey. He describes his adventures traveling to far-off villages and hamlets with ballfields wedged against jungle. The sport became his talisman for encountering friendship. Eric Kiefer, author of The Soft Exile, commented that the book represents the “essence of the Peace Corps Experience.”
He also describes small town party life, using another Volunteer’s going away party as an example. Tony D’Souza, author of Whiteman noted that the book “makes me want to visit Panama.”
Of course, this a Peace Corps Writer’s book. What else?