2011.02.09: February 9, 2011: While many American Peace Corps volunteers experienced culture shock during their two-year immersion in Brazil, that wasn't true of Carl Brown who had lived with his family in Rio de Janeiro from age 10 to adulthood

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Brazil: Peace Corps Brazil: Peace Corps Brazil: Newest Stories: 2011.02.09: February 9, 2011: While many American Peace Corps volunteers experienced culture shock during their two-year immersion in Brazil, that wasn't true of Carl Brown who had lived with his family in Rio de Janeiro from age 10 to adulthood

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While many American Peace Corps volunteers experienced culture shock during their two-year immersion in Brazil, that wasn't true of Carl Brown who had lived with his family in Rio de Janeiro from age 10 to adulthood

While many American Peace Corps volunteers experienced culture shock during their two-year immersion in Brazil, that wasn't true of Carl Brown who had lived with his family in Rio de Janeiro from age 10 to adulthood

Brown had grown up in the cosmopolitan city of Rio. His year in the Peace Corps was spent in the high desert with people who were extremely less well off. Brown scouted out locations that would be suitable for volunteers to teach residents of the interior of the country about sanitation. Fifty percent of children there didn't make it to their first birthday and if they did, their life expectancy was from 23 to 33 years, depending on the area, Brown said. "Not only could you not drink the water, but you could get sick from just touching it," he said. "We were vaccinated for everything from polio to the plague and tried not to get anything that could not be cured." He did, however, occasionally come down with dysentery. Brown and two other volunteers traveled by Jeep along dirt roads filled with potholes, staying in towns where many of the residents lived in mud huts. They stayed where they could, sometimes in a room next to the outhouse, which may or not have been maintained, he said. The volunteers visited towns as small as 1,000 people to as large as 10,000. The Peace Corps rarely places volunteers in small communities, he said. Brown said he benefited from the program, just as did the Brazilians he worked with. "Like many Peace Corps volunteers, I personally gained from the experience as much as I gave. I was constantly amazed that these extremely poor people would give you the shirt off their back." He and his wife visited Brazil 20 years after he volunteered and saw some changes. "I just hope that amid the progress that they don't lose their sense of community and caring for each other."

While many American Peace Corps volunteers experienced culture shock during their two-year immersion in Brazil, that wasn't true of Carl Brown who had lived with his family in Rio de Janeiro from age 10 to adulthood

Resident spent formative days in Brazil, then volunteered there with the Peace Corps
By Cathy Tallyn Staff writer

"My experiences were different from most Peace Corps volunteers," said Carl Brown.

The Rossmoor resident was a volunteer during one of the early years of the now 50-year old program. It was a time when the organization was trying to identify what its mission should be.

Brown spent a year in Brazil with the Peace Corps during parts of 1964 and 1965. He helped prepare the way for other volunteers. Brazil was among the first countries to welcome the Peace Corps.

While many American volunteers experienced culture shock during their two-year immersion in a strange place, that wasn't true of Brown.

From age 10 to adulthood, Brown had lived with his family in Rio de Janeiro. His writer father had relocated the family to Brazil, thinking it more conducive to writing and more within his means.

When the younger Brown returned to the United States for college, he felt out of place after spending his formative years in Portuguese-speaking Brazil.

"Coming back to your homeland and finding it an alien culture is more traumatic than living abroad where you know that you will never fit in like a native born person," he said.

After two years, Brown returned to Brazil. By that time, his father worked for the Peace Corps so he helped him set up an office in northeastern Brazil. He then decided to become a Peace Corps volunteer.

"It was the ideal situation," he said. "I was familiar with the language and the culture."

But, there was a bit of culture shock, too. Brown had grown up in the cosmopolitan city of Rio. His year in the Peace Corps was spent in the high desert with people who were extremely less well off.

Brown scouted out locations that would be suitable for volunteers to teach residents of the interior of the country about sanitation. Fifty percent of children there didn't make it to their first birthday and if they did, their life expectancy was from 23 to 33 years, depending on the area, Brown said.

"Not only could you not drink the water, but you could get sick from just touching it," he said.

"We were vaccinated for everything from polio to the plague and tried not to get anything that could not be cured." He did, however, occasionally come down with dysentery.

Brown and two other volunteers traveled by Jeep along dirt roads filled with potholes, staying in towns where many of the residents lived in mud huts. They stayed where they could, sometimes in a room next to the outhouse, which may or not have been maintained, he said.

The volunteers visited towns as small as 1,000 people to as large as 10,000. The Peace Corps rarely places volunteers in small communities, he said.

Brown was there to check things out. He ascertained whether people wanted help from the Peace Corps and whether they knew what it was.

Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps was the answer to President John F. Kennedy's challenge to Americans to help people in less fortunate nations. More than 200,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps in 139 countries.

Brown explained the role of the Peace Corps to Brazilians and made sure when the volunteers came in there was an infrastructure and a place to live. "It was our job to find safe places for others," he said.

Brown said he benefited from the program, just as did the Brazilians he worked with.

"Like many Peace Corps volunteers, I personally gained from the experience as much as I gave. I was constantly amazed that these extremely poor people would give you the shirt off their back."

He and his wife visited Brazil 20 years after he volunteered and saw some changes.

"I just hope that amid the progress that they don't lose their sense of community and caring for each other."

After the Peace Corps, Brown worked in the computer business for 40 years. He eventually returned to the United States, settling in the Bay Area.

In recent years, he has owned a massage therapy business. His specialty is chronic pain and range of motion problems. He is also a hospice volunteer.

Locally, the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps will be celebrated Saturday, Feb. 26, at the International House at UC Berkeley. The day-long event will look into the past and future of the Peace Corps. There will be an evening reception. Register at http:peacecorps.berkeley.edu or call 510-452-8442.

Other residents who served in the Peace Corps and who want to tell their stories to commemorate the 50th anniversary may call the News at 988-7800.




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: February, 2011; Peace Corps Brazil; Directory of Brazil RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Brazil RPCVs; Culture Shock





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Story Source: Roosmoor News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Brazil; Culture Shock

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