Peace Corps Volunteer Does 180 After Living in Africa: ‘Trump Was Right”


Thanks to the ‘heads up’ from Bob Arias (Colombia 1964-66)

I emailed Karen for her comments but have not heard back from her.

Peace Corps Volunteer Does 180 After Living in Africa: ‘Trump Was Right’

JANUARY 19, 2018 AT 3:25AM


We’re just a little over halfway through the month of January, but I think we’ve pretty much established what the “covfefe” of 2018 is going to be: “s***hole countries.”

It’s not even clear whether or not the president actually said those words, mind you, but it’s sparked a debate about the diversity lottery and other forms of visas for individuals from nations that wouldn’t ordinarily qualify for migration to the United States.

Oh, and it’s also given the left an opportunity to vehemently declare the president a flaming racist, but they’ve also utilized taco salads for that selfsame purpose. (Seriously.)

There have been plenty of people who have come to Trump’s defense over this matter, including the usual immigration hawks. One unusual defender of the president, however, is a former Peace Corps volunteer who says her time in Africa has convinced her that Trump is right on merit-based integration.

In a piece for the American Thinker published this week, Karen McQuillan (Senagal 1971-72) argued that her experience in Senegal after college exposed systemic problems in that country’s culture which couldn’t necessarily be changed simply by offering American visas to those who wish to emigrate.

“Three weeks after college, I flew to Senegal, West Africa, to run a community center in a rural town. Life was placid, with no danger, except to your health. That danger was considerable, because it was, in the words of the Peace Corps doctor, ‘a fecalized environment,’” McQuillan wrote.

“In plain English: s— is everywhere. People defecate on the open ground, and the feces is blown with the dust – onto you, your clothes, your food, the water. He warned us the first day of training: do not even touch water. Human feces carries parasites that bore through your skin and cause organ failure.”

The problem didn’t just involve the sanitary conditions, either. McQuillan noted cultural differences that could make integration into American society difficult.

“We hear a lot about the kleptocratic elites of Africa. The kleptocracy extends through the whole society. My town had a medical clinic donated by international agencies. The medicine was stolen by the medical workers and sold to the local store. If you were sick and didn’t have money, drop dead. That was normal,” McQuillan wrote.

“In Senegal, corruption ruled, from top to bottom. Go to the post office, and the clerk would name an outrageous price for a stamp. After paying the bribe, you still didn’t know it if it would be mailed or thrown out. That was normal,” she continued.

“One of my most vivid memories was from the clinic. One day, as the wait grew hotter in the 110-degree heat, an old woman two feet from the medical aides — who were chatting in the shade of a mango tree instead of working – collapsed to the ground. They turned their heads so as not to see her and kept talking. She lay there in the dirt. Callousness to the sick was normal.”

And while one feels for those stuck in such an environment, McQuillan argued that the issue wouldn’t be solved by reflexively giving visas to individuals from a culture where integration into American society could prove exceptionally difficult difficult.

“The more I worked there and visited government officials doing absolutely nothing, the more I realized that no one in Senegal had the idea that a job means work,” McQuillan wrote. “A job is something given to you by a relative.  It provides the place where you steal everything to give back to your family.

“I couldn’t wait to get home.  So why would I want to bring Africa here?  Non-Westerners do not magically become American by arriving on our shores with a visa.”

Indeed, McQuillan said her time in the Peace Corps gave her perspective in terms of how to fix problems in failed or failing republics.

“African problems are made worse by our aid efforts. Senegal is full of smart, capable people. They will eventually solve their own country’s problems. They will do it on their terms, not ours. The solution is not to bring Africans here,” she wrote.

“For the rest of my life, I enjoyed the greatest gift of the Peace Corps: I love and treasure America more than ever. I take seriously my responsibility to defend our culture and our country and pass on the American heritage to the next generation.

“We are lectured by Democrats that we must privilege third-world immigration by the hundred million with chain migration. They tell us we must end America as a white, Western, Judeo-Christian, capitalist nation – to prove we are not racist. I don’t need to prove a thing. Leftists want open borders because they resent whites, resent Western achievements, and hate America. They want to destroy America as we know it.

“As President Trump asked, why would we do that?” McQuillan concluded. “We have the right to choose what kind of country to live in. I was happy to donate a year of my life as a young woman to help the poor Senegalese. I am not willing to donate my country.”

What do you think about what this former Peace Corps volunteer wrote? Scroll down read some of the comments below!

Bruce Lerner

While I wouldn’t have used the “Sh**Hole” term, it quite accurately describes what I experienced in Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, and much of China. For its faults, Western culture has its benefits.

Like · Reply · 19 · 6h

Web Buenavista ·

The University of Hard Knocks

Bruce don’t be politically correct, call it like it is. What’s the difference between a benjo ditch from what they accuse the president of having said? Truth is not served by using euphemisms.

Like · Reply · 2 · 56m

Chris Byers

What people need to ask are two questions: Why do the people living in these countries do little to nothing to improve conditions in their home country? What good does it do to import these people into our country, while nothing is being done to improve conditions in their home country?
It is not humane or appropriate to bring them into the United States while nothing is being done to improve their home country!! It only brings our country down to the same level as they left over time! 🙁

Like · Reply · 8 · 2h

Cal Waldhart ·

Retired at Frito-Lay

They do little or nothing to improve conditions because those conditions are what they consider “normal”. They’ve been living in squalor for generations and know nothing else. Given the opportunity to improve conditions, they don’t understand why. The way they live has been working for them so why do anything else. The adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind. And, it does no good to import these people because all they’ll do is try to make our country just like the one they left, and we have enough people doing that already.

Like · Reply · 1m · Edited

Jo Nash ·

Yuba College

WOW! I know that is not true everywhere in Africa, but, WOW!

Like · Reply · 2 · 2h

Bruce Lerner

You know this how? Where have you traveled outside the US/Canada?

Like · Reply · 2 · 2h

Margaret Erickson ·

Wheeling Jesuit University

Bruce Lerner You can know by conversing with people from other places. Once they know and trust you, they will be honest about the conditions in their countries.

Like · Reply · 1h

Boyd Louviere

Bruce Lerner most of it.

Like · Reply · 1 · 43m

Show 1 more reply in this thread

Jake Masoc ·

London, United Kingdom

Having worked extensively in Africa and Asia Shi*hole is a gross understatement by Trump! The real word is far too politically incorrect to use on this forum!~

Like · Reply · 14 · 5h

P Blake Brown ·

South Alexandria, New Hampshire

Very well said by someone who was ACTUALLY there!

Like · Reply · 11 · 7h

Patrick Thomas ·

Arizona State University

Smart girl. Too bad her experince in Senegal was so awful. But hey it’s Africa what do you expect. They still have cannibales there.

Like · Reply · 1 · 41m

Seamus Keith Cameron ·

Saginaw, Michigan

I notice a similarity in areas of the third world with areas of the US that have high third world immigrant populations: Garbage. Garbage strewn everywhere.

Like · Reply · 3 · 4h

Lisa Edelmann Rees ·

Columbia College

So glad I took the time to read this.

Like · Reply · 10 · 7h

Tom Davidson ·

Retired at Retired

Everybody complains that the word ‘shithole’ is crude, but nobody is disputing its accuracy.

Like · Reply · 3 · 54m

Boyd Louviere

I have been there and it is a shithole😀!!!

Like · Reply · 2 · 44m

Betty Salsbury ·

Belleville, Illinois

So have I and sh*thole doesn’t begin to discribe the conditions!

Reply · 1m

Risa Wilson ·

Barton College

wont see this on CNN

Like · Reply · 3 · 5h


Check out:



Leave a comment
  • Is this “fake news” or what? My first reaction to this piece was to doubt that Karen McQuillan had actually been a Peace Corps Volunteer. Can somebody check? I thought her opening line about going to Africa “three weeks after college” gave it away. Did anyone in the early 1970s arrive in country after just three weeks of orientation and/or training? But then the comments following her piece were even cruder and more insensitive than the original report. Looks to me like all this is made up by the Conservative Tribune, a right-wing pro-Trump website.

    • David,

      In the late 60s and the early 70s, Peace Corps moved to do most of its training in the host country. Today, most trainees meet for a “staging” and are only stateside for about three days before moving overseas. So, her comment about leaving for Senegal three weeks after her graduation is possible. In John Coyne’s posting, she describes her Peace Corps experience far more positively,

      It makes me so angry that a RPCV would use her Peace Corps experience to denigrade her host country of service for political purposes. This woman served 46 years ago, and for whatever reason, apparently did not stay for the full 27 months, arriving in 1971 and leaving in 1972.

    • Are you just determined to remain a child all your life… Geeze .. grow the hell up and know some facts about vultures that are different than America..

      • Are you commenting on what I said? I am not sure I understood your comment. Any explanation would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • In the same way you can’t generalize an entire race, religion or ethnicity by the actions and characteristics of a few individuals, you can’t generalize an entire continent because of sewage problems within one or two nations.

    While living on Staten Island, NY, our sewers backed up one day. Had we had a visitor from an African country that day, following the same logic, they could easily have concluded that Staten Island was a shithole. It’s infantile and arrogant to believe that any one person’s experience can define an entire culture, country or continent.

    It’s the old “global warming is a myth because it’s freezing outside” syndrome.

  • Karen McQuillan is listed in the 2006 NPCA Directory. As is her email address. No address. She says she was a PCV in Senegal from 1971 to 1972.

    • John: It’s hard to believe that the Karen McQullan who wrote four — what appear to be thoughtful — books on Africa is that same person who supposedly posted those hateful comments in the Conservative Tribune. I am suspicious that that the shithole comments were fabricated. You might try pinging her email address to see if she will own up to the diatribe. David

  • McQuillan wrote some mystery novels set in Africa, I think. I have a dim memory of having reviewed one. I don’t remember any of her writing being so fearful and mean. Something happened, but I have no idea what.

  • This is an emotion-charged question. My own opinion is that PCVs were expected, whilst working as needed skilled manpower, to understand host county peoples and conditions, and convey that understanding to America.

    I don’t recall any suggestion that things that WE western-culture people perceived as problems, should be remedied by emptying out the host country, particularly of their educated people, many of which PCV teachers had educated, and sending them to W Europe or N America, and leaving everybody else to their own fate. Emptying out African host countries, particularly of it’s educated people, was never a part of the Peace Corps mission, nor the understood “Three Goals”.

    Besides that, I think the demographic math is pretty clear, and that’s that some one BILLION of the world’s 7.5 BILLION population is already, or potentially or hopefully, economic emigrants, wishing to leave their native country. If the science of carrying capacity means anything, there is NO WAY that that many hopeful immigrants can be accommodated in Western Europe and N America. This, regardless of what a person might FEEL, emotionally. John Turnbull Ghana-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment, 1963, -64, -65,

    • You are so right, John. If all those pesky immigrants, like my grandmother, had just stayed in their home country and worked to make things better, this country would be much better. It would be ecologically sound. The Great Plains would be fertile and the buffalo would roam. It is not clear if Indians who came to this contingent in search of a better live would have remained in North America, what with blizzards in the winter and locusts and tornados in the summer. Our North America would be probably free of human inhabitants, those pesky people seeking peace, freedom, land, food, and the “American Way”. 🙂

  • McQuillan left Senegal some 46 years ago. How convenient to be able to pull up all that angry”crap” at such an appropriate time in our nation’s history. How professional to presume that nothing has changed in those 46 years and her observations are still valid and important to share, and perhaps definitive on how we should conduct our immigration policy.

  • Per Joanne’s sarcasm, I have to say, again, that emotion is a very different thing than fact, it generates very different “solutions”, and often as many new problems as solutions to the old. I emphatically do not equate the situation, level of human knowledge, expectations of people, and possible solutions to needs, in the beginning of the 21st Century, to those that existed in the middle 19th Century.

    And as a descendant of immigrants myself, and the first generation to be entirely English-speaking, I’m certainly not opposed to immigration. I am opposed to mindless, heedless, factless no-limits emigration. I do know that some cultures are far easier to assimilate than others, and levy a much smaller cost on the resident populations, which isn’t to be ignored, as we are finding today.

    And so, for Grandma, “Bon Jour”. And also for Grandpa, who donated three acres of his farmland so the rural familes, mostly German and Irish, and didn’t speak his language, could have a new school. A far cry from the Somali woman, left to her own devices when her six-month Fed stipend ran out, whose opinion was “Living here is like Hell on earth.” If my memory serves me, her son chose to return to Somalia. Was immigration serving these individuals, or was there a better recourse ? John Turnbull

  • My grandparents came here at the beginning of the 20th Century. They settled in a Slovak community in Upstate New York and never learned English and for that reason never became US citizens. They raised five sons who fought in WWII, (only three l could be in a combat zone at the same time) Now, we are a proud family spread all over this country. Oddly enough, we all share the same politcal ideals.

    I do not believe in unlimited migration. I believe it is very complicated to devise an immigration policy fair to US citizens and residents and also to people who want to come here from other countries as well as political refugees. I wish that 60 Minutes would show again the documentary of American citizens in the California University System’s IT departments who were being deplaced by newly arrived technical immigrants who would work for less. The US citizens were being told they had to train their replalcements or they would lose their severance pay and benefits. The US citizens were making over $100,000 and the newly arrived “desirable” workers would get almost half that. This is not fair.

    Creating a fair imigration policy is going to take a lot of work and cooperation and not everyone will be satisfied. It makes me very angry to see one example cited and used to denigrate all the people from a country or a continent.

    In my extended family, we have a relative who came with his family as political refugees from a country in Africa. Today, they are all citizens and he is a highly respected medical professional. He is in great demand and is not displacing anyone. We are all afraid of the incredible prejudice that is being championed from the White House. To know that a child, a US Citizen, born in this country, scared because of hate spewing forth and targeting his family because of their race. their country of origin, their religion or their language enrages me. I lived in the South in the 50s and the SouthWest in the 60s and I thought that all that crap was behind us.

    My high school was Nurnberg American High School in Germany. I will not be silent.

  • I believe nobody will be silenced on PCWW. I also hope that we can agree that an entire country (much less a whole continent) should never be judged by one PCV’s bad experience at one site. The original posting is copied from one of those right-wing sites where your ideas are only printed if you preach to the choir.

    My own experience as a PCV in El Salvador in the mid1970s is that a number of PCVs got sent to sites that had been insufficiently vetted by PC staff, and the local organization requesting the volunteer was not willing to commit resources to make them successful. This contributed to a very high rate of early terminations. But I’d be inclined to blame PC staff and Salvadoran agencies they worked with for bringing PCVs into bad situations, not the country or region in general!

    • D.W.,

      I should have been more explicit. My reference was to Nazi Germany, certainly not this website, where we all are free to express our opinions as these comments illustrate. I went to high school in Nuremberg during the 50s. I am an Army Brat. We studied the rise of Nazi Germany and one of the factors was the silence of Germans to the racial rhetoric of Hitler and his Nazi. I will not be silent in the face of the racial hatred represented by comments from the White House as well as the denigrating rant of RPCV Karin McQuillin, 46 years after she left Senegal.

      That is what I meant. I thank Jane for understanding.

      Please do not dismiss McQuillen’s article because it originally was posted on a right wing website. She has been writing for that website for years. Her article is being bounced all around the Internet. On facebook, if you key in peace corps, a list of posting appear, chief among them is her article reposted on other media platforms.

      I appreciate your comments about your Peace Corps experience.

      • The next book on my “to read” stack is Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” That’s where the term “the banality of evil” comes from. Growing up in Nuremberg must have been a life defining experience, Joanne. It’s all relevant.

  • There are cracks in the crust. They suggest structural and go deeper. Have become an opportunity for clarity, correction, redrawing the system in an even-handed revision rather than some clabbered-together foolishness. Thanks for your comments. This has been helpful to me.

  • And who (in time) knows whither we may vent
    The treasure of our tongue? To what strange shores
    This gain of our best glory shall be sent
    T’ enrich unknowing nations with our stores?
    What worlds in the yet unformed Occident
    May come refin’d with th’ accents that are ours?

    Samuel Daniel
    — Musophilus (1599), Stanza 163, reported in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: “Westward the course of empire takes its way”, George Berkeley, On the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America. (captured from the internet) —

  • Could we get back to the point of the matter? Which is that our elected leader of the free world has shocked and humiliated us yet again with his gutter language and abysmal ignorance, even of Norway!

    Leita Kaldi Davis

  • Several people here have remarked at the inconsistency between this particular piece, and other more thoughtful things written by Ms McQuillen. I didn’t want to leave this discussion without advising that what we first read was the publisher’s conservatively-oriented EXTRACT of what Ms McQuillen had written. Reading the writer’s original, does add some of the empathy we RPCVs might have expected. Joanne R has provided the link.

    I think, too, that our PC second goal was basically understanding. Not necessarily agreement, or rationalizing, or condoning.

    The BASIC point of Ms McQuillen’s essay is not to bad-mouth Senegal, but to point out the inconsistencies between what she saw, and understood in Senegal, contrasted with those values existing in the USA, and how compatible or incompatible the two are.. It’s her honest opinion, and honesty shouldn’t be disparaged. At least in my mind. I would point out that much of what she wrote also was the studied opinion of the assigned PC medical doctor in Senegal.

    Is Ms McQuillen a conservative aberration amongst RPCVs for believing as she does ? After some 20 years of involvement with many RPCVs locally and a long-standing RPCV association, my estimate is that such negative conclusions and opinions may not be so unusual. Amongst the returned volunteers in our area (New Mexico, S Colorado, parts of W Texas) approximately a third (upon return) specifically do NOT want to be involved in Third Goal activities, nor even wish to stay in touch (cost-free) with other RPCVs via a free ListServ network. This tells me that for a lot of volunteers, their experience may have been less than meaningful or positive, and that was that. In addition, I would point to the rate of early terminations, many of which certainly reflect negative conclusions of some sort.

    I don’t see any betrayal of principle or expectation in an RPCV honestly expressing his/her opinion. After all, it was understanding that was asked of us, not fantasy or distortion. I hope everybody will read Ms McQuillen’s original essay. John Turnbull

  • I think it important to note that there are currently 263 Peace Corps Volunteers in Senegal. There are Volunteers in 25 countries in all of Africa. As of September 30, 2017, there were 7,376 Volunteers and Trainees in the whole world. The current occupant of the White House signed continuing resolutions to fund those Volunteers working all over the world in fulfillment of the mission of the Peace Corps:

    To promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:
    To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
    To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
    To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

    Tonight, I am thinking of those Volunteers, the people they serve and all the people in countries who have welcomed Volunteers for five and half decades. I hope they all know there is tremendous support in the United States for all of them and all that they do.

  • I think, in the spirit of constructive dialogue, it would be useful if John C could:

    1. Ask a recent PC doctor assigned to Senegal what sanitary conditions are today. Find out if the PC has been involved in control of fecal-borne diseases, and if so, what results. If NOT, then why overlook something this important, which has been a tropical medicine priority since long before the PC existed.

    2. See if we can find a Senegalese public health person, to likewise comment.

    3. Ask Ms McQuillan to write something to us, as RPCVs, maybe addressing the benefits she got from her PC service, and the age-old question: under the same circumstances would she do it again. And if she imagines any acceptable ground between her political philosophy, and that of the ultra-Left Wingers she detests.

    Again, once more, the focus of Ms McQuillan’s essay was immigration, and assimilation. Not whether the Senegalese are nice people. John Turnbull

  • It’s a situation as complicated as human life, itself. During my first few years in Mali in the 1980’s I, too, was alarmed at the lack of sanitation and healthcare, the crushing poverty everywhere, the avaricious politicians, the general chaos of extended family life and social life, the prevalence of sex outside of marriage, the lack of romance in love relationships, etc, etc. At one point I thought I would crack. I cried, and longed for normalcy in my life. But this was ultimately counterbalanced by the obvious humanity of the people, their humility, their love of relationships, and life, more generally, and their sheer exuberance at being part of the gift of life, which I felt had been mostly missing my life up to then. I doubt I’d have been as shocked by the whole scene if I’d been sent to Kenya, or most East African countries. West Africa is always a challenge. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time in her life, and doesn’t seem to have gained any perspective on what she experienced in the four decades since she left, in a hurry. But I am still puzzled at the lack of concern for progress and social welfare among Africa’s politicians. I am distressed at the plight of most women in Africa. But I see things getting better, mainly through the growth of private sector and alternatives to a life dominated by the state.

    • I served in India, 1967-1969, and in my first months there, I thought I was going to lose my mind. I was sick, not bad sick, but host to what the doc called “chronic amoebiasis” (diagnosed in my first two weeks in country!), my Hindi was awful, no one in the Applied Nutrition program we were supposed to be part of understood exactly what it was we were supposed to do, we had no running water and only intermittent electricity. I think more than anything else, my site mate Maggie and I were just too stubborn to leave. What got me through that first six months was reading folk tales, then the epics, then modern philosophy. Slowly slowly, where I lived began to make sense. We still got our water from the town well, boiled it and cooled it in a clay pot, the electricity still worked intermittently, I still had chronic amoebiasis, but we were OK. And so was our group, the living members of which showed up for our 50th year reunion this past fall. It was good to see that we all had turned out pretty well. I think India marked us. All this prelude is to get me to my India rule: go for 2 weeks or 6 months. After 2 weeks, you start to see all the hard parts: the poverty, the packs of dogs in the streets, the strain that a big population puts on everything. After 6 months, the “otherness” of the place has made itself known on its own terms. I returned to India this last December (my 4th trip back) for 2+ weeks in the South. Sure enough. At 2 weeks, my eyes began to adjust and made my brain wonder if India will be able to endure the toxic fumes of its new prosperity and the weight of a population that has more than doubled since I was there 50 years ago. Luckily all that clear-eyed awareness had the benefit of being accompanied by a familiar kindness and hospitality and delicious food that I expected to find and did.

  • I sense, in so many of these excellent comments, a gulf or distance, between the PCVs and host country nationals. I wish I had the space to relate some of the rollicking good times I, and my geology field crew had with villagers, buying rounds of beer on a Friday night, with everybody competing to deliver inebriated lectures on social affairs and world happenings.

    And arriving in remote villages in Nyasaland Protectorate, still a British colony, shaking hands all ’round. All the village widows (and there always were some) and other unattached young ladies, putting on their best clothes to impress all these very eligible young men, from Zomba, who had real jobs with salaries.

    There was a war going on next door in Mocambique, and I think with us around, esp me, a “European”, villagers trusted that nothing bad would happen; and if the “Portogee Mahn” and soldiers appeared, the “European” would speak to them, and no bad would happen. I still marvel at the trust that everybody had in me and my crew.

    And as we organized to do our field prospecting, looking for evidence of mineral deposits, as we would be leaving the village for the bush, behind us came half the village children, in single file, let off school by the village “schoolmahsta”, so they could accompany these “Beeg Mahn” and see what they were finding.

    When we all marched back to the village to our Land Rovers, I would deliberately dawdle around, speaking to the elders, and the widows, providing plenty of time for acquiantances to be made. And there always was interest in any conversation about sickness in the village, and why I thought it was happening. I had gone to Africa simply as a volunteer geologist. It was Africa itself that made me into a “Beeg Mahn” – one who listened – and who had answers. Some marvelous memories !

    Back in the early days the PC Administration worried about PCVs in positions of authority, supervising Africans, and that they wouldn’t be doing enough when it came to the PC Goal of mutual understanding. It depended, i think, so much on the individual volunteer. I’ve often mused that if Sargent Shriver were with us on some of these adventures, being the gregarious person he was, they would never get him back to Washington. I sense, reading what Ms McQuillan wrote, that she never had any such interactions with local folks. John Turnbull Ghana-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment. 1963, -64, -65.

    • More stories from the field, please!

      As the child of a geologist (who did a lot of his work in Egypt), I can testify that rollicking good times with field crews (including ample rounds of beer) were common in his experience and the tales he told. Geologists just know how to have fun. It may also be true that the social experiences that male PCVs had were quite different from what we women were able to enjoy.

      Our female boss in the Applied Nutrition program in Madhya Pradesh, India, was Sushila Gupta, LSEO (Lady Social Extension Officer) . She was in charge of 5 women (gram sevikas) who were each in charge of five villages of the 25 that were in our Block (Karera Block), Shivpuri District. Sushila Gupta was married with grown children. She spoke no English (didn’t need it before us), and her education was modest. In the scheme of rural extension, she had some status. The women under her had little. In fact, women (like gram sevikas) who worked out of the home, touring around in villages not their own and working among men not in their families, were considered to be women of easy virtue. Some of that stuck to us as we learned our way around.

      That was part of the social gulf. The other part was that our town (a block headquarters and big bus stop) was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. We had a bazaar and as post office. Water came from the public well, and the electricity was unreliable. We were in our home with the door (that opened up to the bazaar) locked with a big lock and chain by dusk. We were never out after dark. But neither was anyone else in Karera.

      By contrast, most of the guys in our group lived in cities and worked with government poultry projects with Indian colleagues who maybe had ag degrees. They could go out and socialize as men did in cities like Bhopal. My guess is that even if we had been posted in a city, we would not have socialized as the men did because that would not have been appropriate. Even in the big cities like Delhi, we learned to beware of casual contact with Indian men because we Western hussies were regarded as loose and fair groping game. Opportunities to develop friendships with Indian women weren’t really available in 1967. So when we went to Delhi, we hung out with each other, ate meat, drank Kingfisher beer, and spoke English.

      I know we missed out on something. On my trip to India this last December, we had an art tour guide in New Delhi. She was the sort of person I would love to have had as a friend when I was there 50 years ago. But I’m not sure that Seema would have existed then. She is part of a new social order in India, filled with bright young women (and young men, too).

      My guess is, and I have not studied it, that in the 60s (and maybe to this day), women’s social lives were (are?) largely kept within the family (mom, dad, their sons and daughters-in-law, and grandkids) while men go out and become present in public life. But we gals have learned to paddle around in a gulf. You never know who else might be swimming there.

  • I would second Jane’s request: “More stories from the field, please ! ” This is the substance of the PC Third Goal, what puts it all into perspective, and makes it meaningful and worthwhile to the American citizenry — and decision-makers.

    I never thought that, as Jane suggests, that “Geologists just know how to have fun.” What geologists do have is a broad understanding of what people everywhere, have questions about — Be it the sparkly crystals in the soil underfoot, or where is water, or why are the stars out there, or why is the moon round. I would field ALL of those questions whilst in Africa.

    Geologists, in the minds of many, especially the world’s children, (excluding maybe PC officialdom) are special. Geologists have answers to these immediate and universal questions — AND they like to drink beer and live it up ! Worry about religious stuff later. Not a bad formula for a PCV.

    So, let’s have more real-life volunteer experiences ! I am sure, that if Pres JFK is today looking down on us from a better place, he will be smiling. All Africans can relate to that. John Turnbull New Mexico

    • Ditto on geologists. Wonder drives the best of them. You might enjoy one of Dad’s book: The Abyss of Time (about the “discovery” of geologic time).

  • Thank you, Jane. I will see if I can find the book on Amazon.

    My mind goes back to some of those impromptu conversations I would have with all the village children, with their questions. Most required a frame of reference that the kids didn’t have (nor for that matter, many “educated” Americans. I would find myself, like the great teachers of history, the Lord Buddha, or Jesus of Nazareth, pausing to try to create a parable, or story, to get across something very big, or very complex.

    In all of the southern Bantu languages there is a word, variously “Indaba”, or “Ndawa”, which means everybody listen carefully, because an important message is coming. Integral to their oral tradition. And so, I would be quiet, trying to develop my metaphor and story, and someone, perhaps my educated field assistant, or one of the elders, standing nearby, would say “Ndawa”, and all the kids would be totally silent. Waiting. How big is the moon ? Bigger than a hut ? Why doesn’t it fall down and hit us ? And i would make up stories to explain.

    On a more literal level, some of the village widows, reading the newspaper, or talking to lorry drivers, might have heard about the marvelous new VoTech school being built in Limbe. That special 10% wanted to know what the school would teach, and how to apply. These questions were a LOT easier.

    As for geologists, they all are not the same. There are the engineering, applied geologists, happy to work on bedrock foundations for bridges and buildings. Then there are the more philosophical, tuned in to the magnitude of geologic time, and what can be wrought, given enough millions of years. The stuff of parables. John Turnbull

  • Hello!

    I am former Peace Corps volunteer and served in Venezuela from 1962 to 1964 .

    While in Venezuela working with the YMCA we transported over 5,000 Venezuelan
    children from the poorest barrios throughout the Country to Venezuelan museums.

    When we left the YMCA of Venezuela adopted the program and the program continues
    today in all parts of Venezuela sponsored by the Venezuelan YMCA and by Venezuelan

    Upon my return to my home city of Chicago I realized that so many Chicago inner-city children
    grow up without ever visiting any of our great museums because their parents and schools cannot budget museum field trips for their students.

    Please ‘google’ a list of our Chicago museums that children from all over the world visit
    but our inner-city children do not because their parents/schools cannot afford to take
    them there !

    Example: My wife Sheila and I are from Chicago’s inner-city and have visited the JFK
    Museum in Boston because we are both of Irish descent and were invited there (me)
    to receive the Peace Corps John F.Kennedy Service Award in 2011.

    How many Afro-American children in Chicago have been to the MLK Library…how many Afro-
    American young girls know about Rosa Parks and how many will know about President Obama while they are still young ?

    Bottom line:

    Chicago has THE best museums in The USA that children from poor Chicago districts
    never have an opportunity to visit and we want to change this forever !

    We have arranged for children from St. Thomas the Apostle & Ryan Banks & Mercy
    Home Boys & Girls to visit MSI !

    If interested email

    p.s. comments from St.Thomas the Apostle

  • She must have not traveled much to other countries. It’s called stupid….third world countries. I have been on a flight with Europeans…I could breathe from the stench. You have not traveled most of Africa. You judge a whole nation by one experience. By the way….Have you ever traveled to certain parts of Texas, Virginia, Louisiana in America just to name a few? You will see some of the poorest white people and others on the face of the earth. Another thing, you need to read ypur American history books and see what America looked like especially during WW1 AND WW2. You are just as stupid as trump. Last…..never think you are better than other people per God. You are one step from an illness that could land you flat on your back having one of thosr people from what you called a – — hole country come wipe your but and feed you.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2022. Peace Corps Worldwide.