I spotted this note on the Net earlier today:
Until fairly recently, joining the Peace Corps usually meant living in a remote location and leaving behind family, friends and way of life. But mobile devices and the Internet are changing how volunteers serve — and how they keep in touch with home. This connectivity is helpful for the volunteers, but not always for the Peace Corps staff.
Parents today know their kids never leave home, even when they are off at college, what with texting, emails, and Skype. Whatever happened to separation? Growing up? Out on your own?
Still, there are advances of these strong family connections. I saw that when I was running the New York Recruitment Office. The whole family joins the Peace Corps when a child goes overseas. That’s not a bad thing.
Shriver always said it would be the children of RPCVs who would benefit the most as they would be raised differently because their parents would have a new view of child-rearing based on having lived two years in the Third World.
Also, young people today are more engaged in the world than we were at their age. They have traveled more, been there, done that.
Still, with technology it seems they still haven’t left home. The cord has not been cut. This isn’t good or bad. It is just the way things are. I remember in the early Sixties when it took 4-5 days to get an aerogram from Africa to the Mid-West. We never thought of calling home. And ‘official Peace Corps business’ was done by cables.
Now, of course, the Peace Corps staff doesn’t want ‘mom’ dropping in to make the boy’s bed while the PCV is on the job. But the Peace Corps does let PVCs go home after 12 months overseas.
When I was in Africa, we weren’t allowed to go to Europe, let alone home. I do remember an Ethiopian PCV getting permission from Shriver to meet her mother in Greece because the widowed mother wrote Shriver a hand written letter saying how this was her only child, and her husband had passed away, and she couldn’t bare to live two years without seeing her daughter.
Even Sarge couldn’t deny that request.
In Ethiopia, in the old days, we couldn’t have refrigerators, a car, or use the PX that was around the corner from our house in Addis Ababa. I remember when I was an APCD in Ethiopia and the Empire was being mapped by the US army and driving up the Dessie Road I stopped at Kombolcha, which was about 375 kms north of Addis Ababa. There was a small grassy field airport just beyond the town and set up at the end of the runway, in a grove of eucalyptus, was a US army field camp. I stopped off to say hello to a handful of young GIs, and being friendly, and wanting a chance to talk to another American, they asked me to stay for lunch. We had basically an American picnic of hamburgers and hot-dogs and cold Buds, all from home.
It was a real treat, but I felt slightly guily, not eating off the economy. Where was the injera and wat and the tedj and tela? These soldiers would never know any local food. They hadn’t left America really, regardless of how far they had traveled away from home.