February 2, 2004 - Caspar Star Tribune: Whitney Marquardt will serve in Peace Corps in Guyana

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Guyana: Peace Corps Guyana : The Peace Corps in Guyana: February 2, 2004 - Caspar Star Tribune: Whitney Marquardt will serve in Peace Corps in Guyana

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Whitney Marquardt will serve in Peace Corps in Guyana

Whitney Marquardt will serve in Peace Corps in Guyana

Casper Native Goes Coastal

Star-Tribune staff writer

Casper native Whitney Marquardt will celebrate her 24th birthday in Guyana.

Marquardt, a biologist, recently gave up her laboratory job in Portland, Ore., doing research on multiple sclerosis, and left Sunday to spend the next two years in the South American country, working to improve its public health infrastructure.

"A lot of people have been telling me I'm crazy or that they would be so scared," she said. But she is so far undaunted by the tales of malaria, dengue fever, unknown living conditions or political unrest.

She's used to traveling. She's roughed it in the Grand Canyon and worked in the Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador.

Marquardt will be working with the Peace Corps, a federal program that sends trained Americans to developing countries to help with technology, health and education issues, as well as foster intercultural understanding.

But Marquardt said she expects to learn more from the Guyanese people than the other way around. She does hope to leave a positive impression of Americans.

"Hopefully they'll see that all Americans aren't out to bomb the world," she said.

"I don't want to push American culture on them," she added. " I'm going to share the knowledge with them -- hopefully it will help improve their health -- but I'm not there to Americanize them."

Marquardt has flirted with the idea of joining the Peace Corps ever since her days as a student at Kelly Walsh High School. She graduated in 1998.

"I've always wanted the opportunity to live abroad and learn another culture, see what is out there," she said.

Marquardt will arrive in Miami on Sunday for four days of training. Afterward, she'll join 16 other volunteers in Guyana's capital, Georgetown, where she will train for another two months. In Georgetown, she will learn Creole, a language spoken by much of the population.

Only after she completes training will she learn her exact assignment and the town she will live in for the next two years.

She said she doesn't really know what to expect -- except she knows she'll probably get sick a few times.

"They give you filters for the water, but from what I hear most people slowly stop using them and just get it over with," she said.

And she is expecting some unusual food.

"They have seafood and a lot of fresh fruit, but they also consider jellied cow heads to be a delicacy," she said.

She expects to see a lot of the world after her time is done -- she'll be paid $275 for each month of service from the Peace Corps, which she expects to spend traveling throughout South America.

Her parents, Rich and Martha Marquardt, and her sister Jenna, a freshman at the University of Wyoming, have been very supportive, she said. She did admit, though, that her mother was worried at first.

"Once we got more information about it from Peace Corps, she came around," she said.

The true sign of their support, she said, was when they agreed to care for Whitney's chocolate lab, Meg, for two years.

Marquardt said the most tiring aspect of preparing to go abroad is having to listen to people telling her she is crazy to go to Guyana.

"It kind of makes you question your decision to go," she said.

For this reason, she is looking forward to meeting her new co-workers, people she said will finally understand that she isn't crazy, but will support her in her adventures in this coastal land of curry dishes, Creole language and cholera epidemics.

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Story Source: Caspar Star Tribune

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



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