Peace Corps Life in Guatemala by Wayne Hill

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By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, July 01, 2001 - 3:09 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Life in Guatemala by Wayne Hill

Peace Corps Life in Guatemala by Wayne Hill

Peace Corps Life in Guatemala by Wayne Hill

Peace Corps Life in Guatemala

-by Wayne Hill

The final session of the Completion of Service (COS) Conference had just ended and a small group of PCVs gathered on a pier on Lake Izabel in eastern Guatemala This was a special group indeed.

Two years earlier the two women and two men had interrupted their group's end of training celebrations to "come out" en masse to their fellow volunteers. That experience has bound them together as tight friends. Now they're making plans for the future. Michael and Patrick have both decided to extend their tours in Guatemala for another year, as have 25% of their larger group. Jill and Leslie will head home to the States with new opportunities, new experiences on their horizons.

They were joined a few minutes later on the pier by their country director, Peter Lara, who called for a round of drinks to toast two successful years in Guatemala. Peter reminded me of my own country director twenty-five years ago in Micronesia; both sincerely interested in what we volunteers had to say and concerned about various aspects of our lives. One big difference though; back in the sixties, I'd never have thought of discussing my sexual orientation with my Peace Corps colleagues, least of all my country director.

I was really impressed with the comfort of the conversation and the rapport between the lesbian and gay volunteers and the Director. When I commented on this to Peter, he responded, "is that so unusual?" My reply was that, yes, I was afraid he might be the exception rather than the rule and I congratulated him.

After an hour of lively conversation, Mother Nature intervened with a sudden tropical nightfall. We dispersed to get ready for dinner. The warm glow we all felt came much more from the good company, than the beverages we'd sipped. I left envying these young, "out" gay and lesbian volunteers, thinking of the years that slipped by before finally coming out myself.

My new LGB Guatemala PCV friends belong to an informal LGB support and social group called Cuates. They meet monthly to discuss matters of mutual concern and just unwind among friends they can trust. They have between 10 and 15 members, depending on the movement of volunteers in and out of Guatemala. My intention had been to attend their monthly meeting, but because of my tight travel schedule and some unrest in Guatemala City over a raise in bus fares, I was unable to do that. In particular, I'd been looking forward to meeting Aida, whose name came up several times as a "godmother" figure and prime motivator behind Cuates. Since she was off on vacation, that pleasure will have to wait for another day.

Cuates is one of several LGB PCV support groups scattered around the world. In addition to the Guatemala group, we've recently corresponded with similar groups or volunteers in the Southeast Caribbean and West Africa. We've heard that such a group exists in Costa Rica, and there's anecdotal evidence of others. We'd like to know more about these groups and how we could give them a hand. A number of ideas come to mind: correspondence, information, help in funding projects, and "first person" articles in our newsletter (we've published letters in the past). You name it.

So, if any of you are in or know about such a support group, write us so we can get in contact with you/them.©Wayne Hill, 1994.

Wayne Hill is the co-chair of the Bay Area chapter of the LGB RPCVs. He was in Guatemala to visit PCV Pattie Ward, former head of RPCV Services in Washington,D.C.

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



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