FINDING OUR WAY by Steven Gallon (Korea)
In the summer of 1967 a young husband and wife, barely in their twenties, depart home and family in Southern California to embark on a grand adventure. Finding Our Way: A Newlywed Couple’s Peace Corps Odyssey in 1960s Korea chronicles two years of their life together as Peace Corps Volunteers in South Korea. Living with a host Korean family, they discover the patterns and rhythms of everyday life in a country whose culture and customs are unfamiliar. Stationed in Taegu, Korea’s third largest city, they introduce spoken English to Korean middle school students. As guests in a foreign land they face cultural dilemmas, embrace adventures of discovery, experience trying times and build lifelong friendships.
Korea in the late 1960s was emerging from decades of Japanese occupation, and a devastating war with cultural neighbors and political enemies in the North. It was a time of economic hardship for much of the population as the country worked to establish itself in a competitive world. As the author is introduced to local traditions, the couple develops insights into their own lives. When troubling events occur back home, they grapple with their own emotions and struggle to answer difficult questions. And when they encounter puzzling events they learn to accept and understand contrasting values.
Adventure is a constant in their odyssey of discovery. Camping in the mountainous countryside, a summertime trek along the peninsula’s east coast, visits to friends in rural villages, and teaching English to seventh-graders create a mosaic of life as members of the Peace Corps. So much is new: the diet, local markets, family relationships, public transportation, and communal baths. All are part of the experience.
The story that unfolds in this memoir is unique, as is that of every Peace Corps Volunteer, no matter where they serve. Historic events of the late 1960s, in both Korea and the United States, are woven into a story that illustrates the impact of Peace Corps service. The experiences described by the author — some humorous, some joyful, some troubling, and others mysterious — are the stuff of lifetime memories.
Nearly every week during their Peace Corps assignment the author and his wife sent letters home to their parents, letters kept for them until their return. For years they discussed pulling those letters together into a story that would more fully describe their Korean experience. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessity to sequester themselves for months at a time, the opportunity for writing presented itself. During one full year the author toiled almost daily at his laptop, building a story that chronicled highlights of their two-year journey. Then came sharing the copy with friends and suggestions for clarifying and improving the writing, followed by modifications and professional copy-editing. Finally, a book designer helped bring the whole manuscript together in an attractive format. After two years, the book was ready to be shared.
Following his Peace Corps experience, the author leveraged what he learned into a graduate degree in counseling psychology and a forty-year career in clinical service, consulting and training other behavioral health specialists. In the fifty-five years since becoming members of Korea’s third group of PCVs, he and his wife have been active in helping maintain their friendships within the group. For the past thirty years they have attended and helped coordinate reunions of K-III every five years. The couple currently resides in Corvallis, Oregon where they dedicate themselves to keeping their neighbors well stocked with zucchini during the summer months.
Finding Our Way: A Newlywed Couple’s Peace Corps Odyssey
in 1960s Korea
Steven Gallon (Korea 1967-69)
Peace Corps Writers
$12.99 (paperback), $7.99 (Kindle)
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