|By Sally Lewis Bishop (cable-66-191-159-192.mgy.al.charter.com - 188.8.131.52) on Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - 1:30 pm: Edit Post|
This article about Sargent Shriver brought back so many many memories!
I was one of those early volunteers and I think that Sargent Shriver was one of the reasons I stayed with it through training and those early months.
In spring of 1962, after sending in my application to take the "Peace Corps test" (it was a doozy then - unlike any we'd ever taken before) I went into training for the Thailand Group II group. We had 2 1/2 months of training at Ann Arbor , Mich in the middle of the summer and then were sent overseas.
I thought then (and still do now) that one reason the original Peace Corps worked so well was that no-one (absolutely NO-ONE) had any idea of what we Peace Corps Volunteers were supposed to be or do! We were trained to fill specific jobs and given a lot of indoctrination about being "representatives of America" to the world and about learning about the world for the education of America!
I think the basic idea that many of us came into training with was that we would show "those people" what American Democracy was like and that they would immediately want to become like us!
Yeah! Right! Sure!
What happened was that we spend time and effort into performing our jobs and into showing the "natives" what Americans were like. And in the process we accomplished two things. We taught them that Americans were, underneath the brashness, just like them with good and bad things to consider (I still haven't decided whether this was good or not! :->). And we also learned that most of the world *does NOT* really want to be like us - - they just want our prosperity!
Most of us came home with a renewed love of our country, a love of our "host country", and a realization of the fact that international relationships are NOT easy or simple!
But the major memories I have of my first year in Peace Corps are intertwined with the memories I have of Sargent Shriver. He was the everpresent jolt that pushed us onward to learn more and teach more and just DO more. He "infected" us with his ever present gaity, enthusiasm and energy. He almost *dared* us to do the impossible!
One particularly strong memory I have of him was the weekend he came to Bangkok. As many of the volunteers as possible took leave and came into Bangkok in order to meet with him. We had the biggest BBQ ever seen in Bangkok for him. We had hired some good Thai cooks to run the food and someone (they never admitted who) showed up with two or three large vats of cold Singha beer! Now those of you who served in Thailand *know* that Singha beer is one of the strongest ones in the world! The result should have been foreseen but either someone forgot to warn Sargent Shriver or he was a better actor than we thought! Within an hour or two he and most of his party were drunk as skunks!! It all happened on Peace Corps property with no "media" in attendance (that I know of) and nothing big happened but it convinced most of the volunteers I knew (including myself) that we were led by a group of "regular folks" that weren't too prim and proper to make mistakes. Whether it was planned or not it was one of the best examples of why we all so eagerly followed "the Sargent" and why we continued to believe in the Peace Corps ideal.
Thanks for letting me remember.
Sally Lewis Bishop
(Thailand, Group II,