January 1, 2003 - Kingfield Irregular: RPCV Judy Hunger taught English in Poland
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January 1, 2003 - Kingfield Irregular: RPCV Judy Hunger taught English in Poland
RPCV Judy Hunger taught English in Poland
Read and comment on this story from the Kingfield Irregular RPCV Judy Hunger who taught English in Poland. By living in Poland for an extended period of time, she was able to view her own culture with a clarity that she had never had before. "The thing that shocks me is I can't believe how materialistic Americans are," said Hunger. "We shop in our spare time. Their idea of a great weekend is to go together to the mountains to climb, taking only a rucksack and some food."
She was struck by how her Polish students were seemingly unable to grasp what could be attained through spending money. "I would ask them what they would do with $5,000," she said. "They said that they would give half of it to their parents and use half of it to travel. I tried to get them to dream. Their lives were so constrained (under Communism), that they don't know how to dream." Under Communism, said Hunger, the people of Poland had responsibilities without privileges, while in the United States, freedom with responsibilities is a creed that has been present since the formation of the Constitution. Read the story at:
Hunger experiences life away from home*
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Hunger experiences life away from home
Judy Hunger joined the Peace Corps and began teaching English to Polish teachers in Poland in 2000;
RANGELEY -- Rangeley resident Judy Hunger first learned of the opportunities afforded by the Peace Corps when President John F. Kennedy created it in 1961.
"I'm a Peace Corps era person," she said. Hunger graduated from college in 1963, with the vision of a career in theater. She thought of joining the Peace Corps, but the demands of theater work were greater than her desire to become a Peace Corps member. "You don't take time out from that competitive a job at that age," she said.
From 1969 to 1971, she lived in Denmark. "I got a job working with an international company in Copenhagen," she said. "I knew that I liked to travel."
Hunger moved to Rangeley in 1971, and spent three years working as an executive assistant with a real estate company owned by Shelton Noyes. While she was there, Noyes expressed his interest in purchasing The Rangeley Highlander, which was a small newspaper that covered Rangeley news and events. "He asked me if I would help him run it," said Hunger. Two years later, in 1976, Noyes sold the Highlander to Hunger. It became a job that she held for 23 years.
Hunger's interest in the Peace Corps was re-ignited after she retired as publisher. "My late husband had wanted to do it with me," she said. "After he passed away, I said 'There's nothing keeping me here.' My daughters and stepdaughters gave me their blessing, so I applied."
The application process involved filling out an application, which asked for the individual strengths and interests of each applicant, and an interview. "But what you wind up doing may have nothing to do with what you put on the application," said Hunger. "You also go through a rigorous health examination. It is a two-year commitment."
She was accepted for an English teaching position in Poland commencing in 2000, in which she would teach Polish teachers the language. While she was a member of the Peace Corps, Hunger had a chance to directly experience the Polish culture.
"The Peace Corps is quite clear that you are to live at the level of the in-country person whose job you have," she said. "The Peace Corps provides housing, and you are well fed. What it does not do is go off in a missionary sense to save the world. You are invited by the host government to serve, and you are expected to abide by the rules and customs of the country you are in."
She looked forward to the challenge, but also had reservations. "Generally, when they send you off to work, you are the only volunteer in your town. That can be kind of scary," she said.
Hunger said that her task was to educate as many English teachers as possible. "They knew hardly any English," she said. "This was because they had experienced many years of Communist rule. Poland has just now started teaching English to junior high school students. It is now a second language in the country."
During her two years of service, she was a witness to the poverty that was present throughout most of the country. "The teachers in many countries such as Poland are so underpaid," she said. "The young people did not work; there was so little money. Most people who did not have a lot lived in flats, with three rooms housing an entire family." She said that many homes housed three generations of family members.
Hunger never failed to be impressed with the desire of the Polish students to learn English. "For them, education is so important, and in particular, the English language," she said. "The students just sopped it up and worked so hard."
The language barrier was something that Hunger felt keenly. "Older Peace Corps volunteers often struggle with learning the language," she said. "I could order what I wanted or ask for directions, but I never became fluent in Polish."
She also noticed vast differences between Polish and American culture. The country was overwhelmingly Catholic, and the Catholic Church was a centerpiece of Polish life. "Christmas and Easter were huge holidays for them, and they were religious holidays," she said. "Easter was the biggest holiday for them. A community of 80,000 people, which would be a city to us, was a town to them, with a university, churches and grocery stores."
The idea of the American work ethic was something that was unfamiliar to the Polish, said Hunger. "The idea that you would be committed to your job is not part of their way," she said. "You did what you had to and then left. I got three weeks paid break between semesters, a week's vacation at Easter, and a week beginning on May 1. I also got a break for All-Saints Day. I received six weeks paid vacation during the year as a teacher."
By living in Poland for an extended period of time, she was able to view her own culture with a clarity that she had never had before. "The thing that shocks me is I can't believe how materialistic Americans are," said Hunger. "We shop in our spare time. Their idea of a great weekend is to go together to the mountains to climb, taking only a rucksack and some food."
She was struck by how her Polish students were seemingly unable to grasp what could be attained through spending money. "I would ask them what they would do with $5,000," she said. "They said that they would give half of it to their parents and use half of it to travel. I tried to get them to dream. Their lives were so constrained (under Communism), that they don't know how to dream."
Under Communism, said Hunger, the people of Poland had responsibilities without privileges, while in the United States, freedom with responsibilities is a creed that has been present since the formation of the Constitution.
She said that the people of Poland are initially guarded toward outsiders, "but then you are their best friend for life. They find it hard to understand why you would be a member of Peace Corps, and think that maybe you're not totally representative of what Americans are actually like."
The concept of team spirit was not something that was present during Hunger's time in the country, and the differences in education between the U.S. and Poland were always evident. "There's no sense of team spirit, even in high school," she said. "At colleges, there was no collegiate loyalty. Their education system is different from ours in that college is free. The government gives it to you, but it is very competitive. There are a limited number of slots."
During her tenure with the Peace Corps, she had the chance to meet many volunteers from a diversity of backgrounds. "I got to know a lot of very interesting Peace Corps members," she said. "I got to know a great bunch of people. All ages of people interact in the Peace Corps."
On June 20 of this year, Hunger returned to the U.S. "One of the reasons I came back was to get caught up with American culture," she said. She added that she realized what she had missed by living in Poland, but was grateful to have had the opportunity for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of living and working in a radically different culture.
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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Poland; Special Interests - Culture Shock