Tunisia

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Peace Corps Was
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Helen Hildebrandt (Tunisia 1966–68, Senegal 1973–75)

Peace Corps Was

by Peg Clement (Tunisia 1975–77) This essay was first published in the November 2003 issue of PeaceCorpsWriters.org, and won Peace Corps Writers’ 2004 Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award. • PEACE CORPS WAS two years of my young life, half my life ago. A time of long blonde braids, still-chubby cheeks, a hardy body withstanding weeks of tummy rumbles, pinkened skin before sunscreen became de rigueur. Quick reflexes, and a back hardened to floor sleeping. Easy laughs. Peace Corps was unexpected, and unplanned for, fun. Many times, it just happened — someone arrives descending feet-first from the louage, at the doorstep, or someone shows up at a beach disco. Instant friends, mix and stir. A prepackaged community, insurance premium against the loneliness of the Sahelian plains. Peace Corps was earnestness. Adults used the word altruistic. We tried to do good, and reached for change, big change — winds of change, . . .

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Helen Hildebrandt (Tunisia 1966–68, Senegal 1973–75)

Monday, November 21 6:18 pm MY NAME IS Helen Hildebrandt. I am from Wheat Ridge and Lakewood, Colorado. I was a kindergarten teacher in Sidi Amor Bou Hadjla, Tunisia and an English teacher in Bizerte, Tunisia from 1966 to 1968, and an English teacher in Ziguinchor, Senegal from 1973 to 1975. I have many vivid memories of my Peace Corps experiences. I can still see the Bizerte children happily playing barefooted at the community water faucet. I remember the frail Tunisian man who carried our two beds on his head all the way across the capital city of Tunis. I recall the 14-year-old Senegalese student who implored me to accept his homework paper in spite of the burnt fringes explaining that his young sister had knocked over the candle while he was studying and he couldn’t spare another sheet of paper. And I reflect on the Senegalese man who walked . . .

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