February 10, 2003 - Beach Online: EUROPE, AND $6 A DAY TO BOOT

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Turkey: Peace Corps Turkey : The Peace Corps in Turkey: February 10, 2003 - Beach Online: EUROPE, AND $6 A DAY TO BOOT

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, February 10, 2003 - 9:45 am: Edit Post




Can an ordinary person make a difference in the way the world works?


The only thing that's certain is that if you donít make the effort, you wonít.

Are there opportunities for a young person to be immediately effective, have a positive impact and feel a dramatic change in their own life because of the effort?

I asked Sarah about her experiences in the Peace Corps. She has just returned from two years service in Slovakia, working in her field of environmental issues.

"How did you choose to go into the Peace Corps?"

"I didn't like where my life was going, I thought I was too commercial - car, TV, apartment with a fireplace, cat and a boyfriend - and I didn't like the kind of person I was becoming. I have an uncle who was in the Peace Corps in the Pacific. It was something I always wanted to do."

"Was there any kind of training before you left"

"No, the training took place when I got there."

"Who paid for transportation to Slovakia?"

"The Peace Corps paid there and back."

"Do you make any money in the Peace Corps?"

"$6 a day."

"And what were the bathrooms like...?"

The questions I asked were based on my own experiences thirty years ago when, as a sailor, I traveled to Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Naples, Italy. You can read about life in a foreign country, but you canít really experience the culture or answer the last question until you are there.

Sarah worked with government agencies to increase environmental awareness through outreach programs in schools, preparing grant applications to fund projects, and as an interpretive guide in Slovenský raj (Slovak Paradise), a nature park.

In a poor country, itís a tough concept to instill the value of protecting natural resources.

Sarah has her own views on the effectiveness, practicality and desirability of environmental issues in poor and undeveloped countries. How do you convince a hungry person that he shouldnít cut down a tree when it is the only means of getting food and shelter for his family?

The issues are complex, and there are no simple answers.

"Was your effort worthwhile?"

A hard question to answer.

"I didnít accomplish those things I set out to do - the things I thought I would do, but I did accomplish things in ways that I hadnít anticipated - Yes, it was more than worthwhile."

She had set out to make a difference in the world, and what she accomplished was to provide one more set of hands to help push the world to change itself.

"Any memorable adventures? What did you do after your two years were up?"

While in the Peace Corps, Sarah was able to take trips to Vienna, only a couple of hundred miles away, Prague, Krakow, Paris, and Germany, and afterwards traveled to Turkey and Greece.

Turkey was the surprise - a clean, dynamic and modern country with friendly, outgoing people.

And of course what would a trip to Turkey be without a Turkish Bath? A steam room, segregated by sex, with a big steam chamber in the middle, sloped floor forming the sides to the steam chamber, and a place to recline while the steam does its work, and fountains of cold water to ladle on when you get too hot. Everyone is unclothed.

Sarahís attendant, middle aged, unclothed, breasts sagging, a cigarette. The loofah removes the top layer of skin. There is a mud bath, too, sulphurous mud that you cover yourself in and then lie in the sun till it dries statue hard.

And, yes, your skin does tingle quite a bit when itís over.

Public transportation is the key to experiencing a country. You travel with friends. You meet people. You are not insulated in an aluminum cocoon for a quick fly-over.

In Greece the folks were a little more reserved than in Turkey, but an opportunity presented itself to take a boat tour of the bay. Three Peace Corps travelers, Sarah included, a couple of Greek locals, and maybe a little alcohol - they entered the marina, walked to the smallest, oldest boat and piled in. They navigated the harbor at night, no moon, without lights, in and among the boat traffic. They cruised to an island and built a fire, toured a cave.

Iím leaving out the rest, just in case Sarahís momma reads this, but all came through the adventure unscathed, and had one of those real life adventures one must take, like Ö

Ö once in Costa Rica, Sarah and her friends got a chance to take a ride through the local water slide.

A river flows under a highway overpass. The water passes through multiple corrugated steel culverts. The bottoms of the culverts have silted over and there is moss and weed growing on the bottom. The current is swift, but doesnít fill the culverts completely.

Naturally, the thing to do is launch yourself in the upstream end of the culvert and let the current rush you through to the other end, down the long dark cylinder with the bright circle at the end. Never mind snakes, spiders or whatever might be stuck in the soft bottom. Wheeee!!

Sarahís back now, trying to get used to the pace of American life once again and working on her plan for the future, spending hours a day setting up exploratory interviews with companies and organizations that are environmentally centered.

Was the experience worthwhile? Yes, without doubt, but how do you place a value on the experience gained through looking at life and the world through the eyes of others?


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



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