July 25, 2002 - Clarksburg Exponent Telegram: RPCV John Wickland remembers life in Colombia

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 07 July 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: July 25, 2002 - Clarksburg Exponent Telegram: RPCV John Wickland remembers life in Colombia

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, July 25, 2002 - 10:45 am: Edit Post

RPCV John Wickland remembers life in Colombia

Read and comment on this story from the Clarksburg Exponent Telegram on RPCV John Wickland and how life in Colombia thirty years ago changed him at:

Peace Corps a life-changing experience*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Peace Corps a life-changing experience

by Jennifer Biller


WESTON -- Almost 30 years ago, John Wickland set out to change the world. Instead, it changed him.

Wickland joined the Peace Corps in 1972 after earning a college degree in natural resource recreation management. He was sent to Colombia, South America, to offer his expertise in developing national parks in the country.

"I wasn't ready to settle down, but wanted to do something productive," he said. "I was reading a magazine one day and saw an article about the Peace Corps, so I applied."

After his arrival in Bogota, he spent three months with a Colombian family. He learned enough Spanish for basic communication. He took in the culture and even attended a bullfight.

Wickland was deeply affected by what he saw and experienced. Crime was prevalent and poverty widespread.

Most families didn't have cars, he said. Those that did would park them in their living rooms at night to prevent theft.

"The people were either rich or poor," he said. "There was no in-between. It was difficult to see the type of poverty that people lived in."

It was culture shock for Wickland. He couldn't drink the water without boiling it. He washed his clothes in a river. He couldn't watch television to hear news reports, because he didn't understand the language well enough.

"I lost 50 pounds. It was hot, and the food wasn't the greatest," he said. "I ate a lot of rice -- cold rice, fried rice, burnt rice."

Wickland said he enjoyed representing America. For many Colombians, it was the first time they'd seen an American who wasn't on television.

"An American to them was John Wayne in a cowboy hat," he said. "Everywhere I went, people would stare."

After leaving Bogota, Wickland was sent to a secluded area to study the feasibility of making it into a national park. The land was beautiful and the wildlife fascinating. He saw 6-inch grasshoppers with multi-colored wings, enormous snakes, playful monkeys and colorful birds.

While the park never came to fruition due to the area's conditions, the trip was a success for Wickland.

"You will get a lot more out of being there than the people who you're there to help," he said. "It teaches you about yourself and other people and to live with the decisions you make."

Most of all, he learned patience and perseverance, Wickland said.

"It's not for everybody. But I enjoyed every minute, and I'm glad I was there," he said.

"The Peace Corps does a lot of good for the host country and for the person going over there," he said. "It helps people learn about what Americans are like, too."

Wickland was born and raised in Weston. He lives in Bridgeport and is an insurance agent in Weston.

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1449 or by e-mail at jbiller@exponent-telegram.com.

Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

Help the New Peace Corps Bill pass CongressFor the Peace Corps Fallen
Senator Dodd holds Hearings on New Peace Corps LegislationThe Debate over the Peace Corps Fund
Why the Peace Corps needs a Fourth GoalThe Peace Corps 40th plus one
The Case for Peace Corps IndependenceThe Controversy over Lariam
The Peace Corps and Homeland SecurityDirector Vasquez meets with RPCVs
RPCV Congressmen support Peace Corps' autonomyPeace Corps Expansion:  The Numbers Game?
When should the Peace Corps return to Afghanistan?Peace Corps Cartoons
RPCV Character on new Fox SitcomBush and JFK

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Colombia



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.