Richard Piazza's Web Site on his Service in Nigeria III

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nigeria: Peace Corps Nigeria : The Peace Corps in Nigeria: Richard Piazza's Web Site on his Service in Nigeria III

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, December 08, 2001 - 9:24 am: Edit Post

Richard Piazza's Web Site on his service in Nigeria III

Richard Piazza's Web Site on his service in Nigeria III

Hi! My name is Rich Piazza. Welcome to the African Journey WWW site. This site is a compilation of the photos, music, and information relating to my participation as a volunteer in the Peace Corps from 1961 to 1963 as well as the subsequent 3-month, 10,000 mile motorcycle trip through much of Africa. All references to countries' names, leaders, etc., reflect what they were at that time. A video comprising the full 300 photos, considerable indigenous music, and narration is available for viewing at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Columbia Point in Boston Mass.

Training at UCLA and Departure to Lagos, Nigeria

My identification with the goals of the peace corps actually took place before formation of the Peace Corps. In fact, during my senior year in college, my good relationship with a fellow student from Ethiopia, Terrefe Raswork, led to my inquiries to the Ethiopian government about volunteering for a teaching position there upon my graduation. Although these efforts did not meet with success, the Peace Corps was formed the following year by President John F. Kennedy. And, although I had already started my graduate program I immediately applied for a volunteer teaching position in West Africa. A barrage of testing and interviewing in the spring of 1961 led to acceptance into the 3 month training program at UCLA. The telex from Sargent Shriver informing me of this gave no indication of the intensity that this training would entail. It included medical, cultural, language and other subjects. In September of 1961 I joined up with other volunteers on the UCLA campus.


In spite of the demands of the program, the group that came to be known as Nigeria III still found time for parties and recreation. Though a few of the volunteers and even one of the instructors, dropped out of the training program, most of us completed it and eagerly made preparations for departure to Nigeria.


Although Lagos, the capitol, had served as a wonderful introduction to Nigeria I was eager to relocate to a more rural area. I was soon transferred out of the Yoruba's Western Region to the Eastern Region's land of the Igbo. My new duties were in the village of Awo Omamma where I occupied one-half of a recently completed duplex on the property of the Community Grammar School.

Within a few weeks of arrival, a donated generator was connected up and provided electricity to all of the buildings on the campus.


Nicholas, a local boy, helped me out around the house and in preparing meals. He occasionally bunked-in in a spare room at the end of the duplex. On one occasion, in the early morning hours, he discovered under his bed a large poisonous snake which we captured in mosquito netting and later destroyed.

It didn't take me long to get used to the local foods, dress, and haircuts. Two other recent additions to staff were Mr. V.M.Thomas from Kerala, India to teach chemistry and Mr. P.K.C.Panicker from the Bombay area to teach biology. They lived in a similar duplex adjacent to mine and over the coming months I would get to share a number of authentic Indian meals with them.

The Journey Home

As for myself, I made preparations for travel across Africa - the boldest part of my adventure yet. A previous 3 week stay in Liberia during a school break to assist in establishing the new Peace Corps program there helped me assess the difficulty of what I wanted to do. Also my travels around Nigeria had given me some experience in traveling alone through constantly changing cultures and languages. My plan was to head east across the Cameroons, The Central African Republic, the Congo, Uganda, and to Kenya in East Africa. Then north through Ethiopia over to the Sudan, up the Nile to Cairo, and across north Africa through Libya to Tunisia. From there, I'd go through Europe to London to fly home. To do all this I bought a motorcycle with the money given us by the Peace Corps for air fare home. The motorcycle I purchased was a Triumph 350cc, the standard of the Nigerian police force. Besides its extraordinary reliability and durability this choice later proved of great value to me in the Congo. It was very popular with my fellow teachers as well as others from the village. Here, it's tried out by two other Peace Corps volunteers, Jim Crawley and his wife. Dubbed the Road Runner, I painted the symbol on my helmet and headlamp and a Lagos to London destination on the fender.

My departure from Awo Omamma was delayed briefly as news of the assassination of John Kennedy arrived on the very day that my assignment to CGS was completed and I was preparing to leave. In spite of this tragic event I decided to go ahead as planned and loaded up with about 150 miles worth of gas, canned food for several days, a machete (my only weapon), folding cot, mosquito netting, and a few other necessities.

By eva ( - on Sunday, October 02, 2005 - 4:28 pm: Edit Post

Hello cousin Rich - Hope all is well with you since our last conversation over the summer. Dad had the surgery and is doing quite well. I am with Carol, Sonny and brother Jim today looking in at your African Journey - Amazing!

Love from all of us to all of you.

By Tina Benedict Daily ( - on Saturday, August 19, 2006 - 11:06 am: Edit Post

Dear Richard, Over the years I have made a few forays into trying to find you! Particularly after we moved to Portland, Oregon. Imagine my surprise this morning to find this posting and on the second try.

Dad is in Spain. Mom passed away in 88, peter in 86 and Chris in 93. Charlie lives in the SF Bay area and Bruce and i are still in Portland since 1999. Our children are in Portland and Eugene.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about Awo Omamma and the color there - getting ready to try some paintings from all of dad's slides. He has compile all the Nigeria slides on cds.

I remember vividly the crunch of your feet on the gravel outside the house on the night Kennedy was assasinated and the day you left for your trek to London...

Kind of weird to be sharing this with the world!

By oneesha scott ( - on Tuesday, November 27, 2007 - 7:54 pm: Edit Post

Hi, My name is O'neesha i'm 13 years old I dont have many friends down here so I really don't know you so why don't you write back to me and tell me a little about you ok bye bye.

By Sonja Hershey ( on Sunday, September 28, 2008 - 11:57 pm: Edit Post

Hi Richard,

I knew you well for the three months you were at UCLA. I was a co-ed and you were a visiting Peace Corps volunteer training on campus.

I remember a party we all attended with lots of Nigerians and Americans, celebrating the anniversary of Nigeria's independence. I danced with Nigerians in their native dress which was great fun. I smelled their B.O. which was less fun.

You introduced me to wine at Mario's Italian Restaurant in Westwood Village. A sign on the wall said "A Day without Wine is a Day Without Sunshine."You told me I had to grow up so I must drink a glass of wine. You taught me the word Grazi.Thanks for that All of us students had many good times together.

I've wondered if the baseball pitcher Richard Piazza from Boston was related to you. I have a great nephew Brad Meyers who is a 6 foot 6 right handed pitcher for the AAA team of the Washington Nationals. He pitches nearly 100 pm. He is 22.

Please send me an update of your life. Thank you very much if you do. I worked for IRS for 33 1/3 years after UCLA (a career the length of a long playing record)and have done a lot of volunteer work through the years. I am married to a retired MIT professor (P.H.D. electrical engineer) and we play tennis every day. He plays men's tennis and I play women's tennis. He is a very good,bright, funny, kind man. He owned a company that manufactured electric wheel chairs and one that made magnetic recording heads for airplanes and other recording machines. He still manages our rental properties and is now remodeling our house. We live in the northern San Diego area (Rancho Santa Fe) and our climate is the best in the world. Life is good! "Par avion" --do you remember the blue colored letters? ~~Sonja formerly Hershey now Meyers~~

By Bamidele Oladayo Oluwatosin. ( on Saturday, October 11, 2008 - 5:13 am: Edit Post

I'm Bamidele Oladayo, I love my country. God bless Nigeria

By Terrefe Ras-Work ( on Tuesday, October 21, 2008 - 4:05 pm: Edit Post

To Richard Piaza,
What a long time to get in touch. This is Terrefe Ras-Work your class mate in RPI class of 60.
Thanks to Google I came across your website. I have spent most of my professional life based in Geneva, Switzerland working for the International Telecommunications Union. I still have my base in Geneva. As of last year I finished building a house in Ethiopia and are spending more time here. If you get this message call me at +251911624492.
For your information I have three children and 6 grand chÓldren

By Pecker Wood ( on Tuesday, December 01, 2009 - 1:29 pm: Edit Post

Nigeria is a *hit hole. There is not one good country left in Africa with the exception of maybe Egypt (and they are not really Africans). Look around the world to all countries, look hard at the former British and French colonies that are no longer ruled by Whites. Are any of them successful nations? In South Africa a woman has a better chance of being raped than learning how to read. Nice job fellas.

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