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Grace Arimura, Peace Corps volunteer in '80s, holds Botswana dear today
1,4068949.story?coll=chi-newslocalnearwest-hed, Grace Arimura, Peace Corps volunteer in '80s, holds Botswana dear today
A memorable adventure
Peace Corps volunteer in '80s holds Botswana dear today
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Published December 7, 2003
NAPERVILLE -- Grace Arimura, 77, has stories to tell.
During World War II, Arimura and her parents and nine siblings were imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp in Arkansas. In 1992 she survived Hurricane Andrew, but her Miami condominium building did not.
Those experiences stand out in Arimura's life, but the Naperville woman said they are small potatoes compared with her two-year stint as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Botswana, where she taught science in a small village school.
"Botswana was stellar," she said. "I don't think anything compares to that. I still learn something every time I go there."
This fall, Arimura, accompanied by her sister Ida Ochi, 75, of Lisle, returned from her fourth and likely final trip to Africa. She went on safari, then visited the town and school where she had worked.
"It's like my second home," Arimura said. "I have grown to love it. I know the people. It is like you are part of their culture, part of their life."
Arimura was a retired medical technologist at the University of Miami when, at age 62 in 1988, she signed up for the Peace Corps. Arimura said she chose the African nation because she knew she would never be able to travel there on her own.
"It was so far, so mysterious," she said.
It was also dry and dusty, she said, but the relatively new Denjabuya Junior Secondary School, where she first taught, had "good desks and good furniture." Most of the students were between ages 13 and 18 and were taught in English.
Arimura was equally affected by her day-to-day experiences outside the classroom as she adapted to routines like standing in long lines at the bank during the two hours a week it was open.
On her most recent trip, Arimura noticed much had changed in the town where she had taught. People carried cell phones. Roads were tarred, and new ones were built.
"My two years' experience was the most enjoyable and gratifying in my whole life. You feel like you are needed and wanted," Arimura said.
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