By Marcy. When I was 20 years old and just beginning my senior year in college, I was eager to make plans for my life after I graduated. In my Catholic women’s college, we were great fans of the Kennedys and especially of John F. Kennedy who was then president and who had actually initiated the Peace Corps very early during his time in office. I filled out my four-page application, lined up my ten references, and took the entrance exam. Peace Corps representatives interviewed my friends, teachers, family, and neighbors, and before I knew it, it was June and I was flying to Bloomington, Indiana for my ten-week training program to be a school teacher in Sierra Leone. We sat through all kinds of instruction from 9 AM until 9 PM, but to me it was just one big fun time. I had many kind, sweet farewells before I boarded my Pan American flight in early September ultimately destined to land in Conakry, Guinea in West Africa. Our group of about 95 arrived in Conakry and immediately boarded a rather small Russian plane to make the half hour trip to Freetown, Sierra Leone. Then the trouble began. The fast-developing tropical storm kept us from landing at Lungi Airport, nor could we land again in Conakry. Thunder, lightning, and rain pelted our plane, but inside my friends and I were singing the whole way. Our flight ultimately lasted four hours, eventually taking us all the way to Dakar, Senegal where we spent the night. The next day we arrived safely in Sierra Leone and began our grand Peace Corps adventure.
Almost immediately there in Freetown I met my companions for the year: my roommate, Marcia, and the guys, Don and Walt. They were all starting their second year, and what adventures we would share! We had a Jeep available for our use, and as we drove to our assigned school in Kenema, the guys took turns driving full tilt down the center of the road for the 230 miles of our trip. I stepped out of that Jeep almost stunned to have arrived safely at my new home.
In class all the exotic names of the boys leapt out at me: Moinina, Tamba, Seikor, Sheku, Alhaji, and Mustapha, along with a handful of girls in each class: Yatta, Khadijah, and Fatima. I taught English, French, and history, and managed various after school activities. My roommate nightly regaled me with wonderful stories of the students and our fellow Peace Corps volunteers. We drank “pink ladies” at our Canadian neighbors and planned our school break vacations. The highlights of my Peace Corps experience: getting to know and make friends with the students, fellow teachers, and many people in the community, both African and European; having the opportunity to travel extensively in West Africa as well as Morocco; and getting to know my wonderful, dedicated fellow Peace Corps volunteers who all shared a great camaraderie.
The Peace Corps changed the trajectory of my life and broadened my perspective. It influenced me to seek a tolerant community to make my home and to develop a more altruistic bent. It was a valuable start to my adult life, and I am grateful that the Peace Corps and my own dear ones placed their trust in me to permit me to embark on that exceptional life experience.