Through Grateful Eyes:
The Peace Corps Experiences of Dartmouth’s Class of 1967
by Charles A. (Chuck) Hobbie (Korea 1968-71) — Compiler/Editor
$2.99 (Kindle); $39.99 (Paperback); $31.95 (Hardback)
Reviewed by Evelyn Kohl LaTorre (Peru 1964-1966)
“Talk less and listen more.”
“Accept the values of the population you’re working with.”
“Adapt to being comfortable being uncomfortable.”
These are a few of the sage learnings found in this 2 ½ pound, 8 1/2” x 11” tome that relates the Peace Corps experiences of 19 members of the Dartmouth class of 1967 and several of their spouses. All served in the Peace Corps in the late sixties and early seventies, and their exploits are a sampling of the 30 Dartmouth ’67 graduates who went on to join the Peace Corps. Their fascinating, and often humorous, stories are punctuated with 146 photos that show the youthful volunteers and the 15 countries in which they served in living color. The book is printed with large print, presumably for those of us with aging eyesight. This look at Peace Corps volunteers’ lives before, during, and after their two-year assignments can’t be recommended highly enough.
The foreword, by Peter Kilmarx, MD, ’83 succinctly sums up the content. “Many of the recurring themes in the book,” he writes, “continue to define the Peace Corps experience in the present. The descriptions of culture shock, loneliness, austerity, adventures, and professional and health challenges will resonate with readers who have lived and worked immersed in the culture of a developing country … The most compelling and recurring theme is how the writers, like me and most volunteers, grew up during their service to learn about themselves, their role in society, and their potential to make a difference.”
Each of the 19 chapters begins with an inspirational quote from a luminary like John F. Kennedy, Neil Armstrong, Chris Dodd, Caroline Kennedy, Sargent Shriver, and fourteen other well-known figures. “Indeed,” wrote Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State, “we’re strongest when the face of America isn’t only a soldier carrying a gun, but also a diplomat negotiating peace, a Peace Corps volunteer bringing clean water to a village, or a relief worker stepping off a cargo plane as floodwaters rise.”
The Dartmouth graduates represented, served in Chad, Kenya, Morocco, Ethiopia, Thailand, Swaziland, Nepal, Chile, Korea, Sierra Leone, Peru, Micronesia, Afghanistan, Cameroon, and Iran. Their stories relate how they, and sometimes their mates, survived and thrived. Five of the men’s Peace Corps wives, and one volunteer who returned in 2005 with the Crisis Corps, add to the narratives. Challenges and snafus abound to describe Peace Corps training, placement, and everyday living. This is an exciting read for everyone who wants to live the adventure of the Peace Corps.
The volume will expand the horizons of readers, teaching them about countries they may never have visited. Like this reader, many will compare their own experiences to those of the Dartmouth grads and find a myriad of familiar and unusual circumstances. As the reader progresses through the stories, it becomes clear the significant impact this brief time had on the volunteers and their families.
As I have written on my website: “By living in other cultures you learn a lot about your own.”
Reviewed by Evelyn LaTorre (Peru 1964-’66), author of Between Inca Walls: A Peace Corps Memoir, winner of the 2021 Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award, and Love in Any Language: Memoir of a Cross Cultural Marriage, winner of a Book Excellence Award. www.evelynlatorre.com