Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ask not what your country can do...


          "What a time it was, it was a time of innocence, a time of confidences." Paul Simon

When President Kennedy was inaugurated, it was a time of new beginnings, and PCV's must have felt they were on the bandwagon of a new frontier.  This past Saturday, all of Botswana's Peace Corps Volunteers, returned volunteers, and volunteers who never left the country, were invited to the American Embassy to celebrate it's 50th Anniversary.  What a day it was, even the lovely Ambassador was there to cheer us on like a good politician would.  Oh, and like a good schmoozer, the kind Ambassador told us that BOTS 11 "has it down."  She meant our dancing, not the Peace Corps thing yet!  Nonetheless, we were thrilled to get such a compliment!

Music was played, speeches were made, local community crafts were auctioned, as we all ate and shared old and new experiences.  We were shown homemade movies in black and white of the Peace Corps experience now and 50 years ago.  It must have been such an inspiring venture during those times.  They didn't have 2-3 month trainings as we do now, they were thrown into the trenches to do some magic, and magic they did!  Some even became a part of history as they entered Africa shortly after appartheid.  Could you just see our long haired men and women with their bandanas on making there way into Africa!  What would my grandma have thought of them if she thinks I am a freak?  They were filled with an incredible spirit of idealism, passion, emotion, and wonder that permeated the culture.  Sitting up at night writing in their blogs, like I am right now when I should be studying my Setswana, was unheard of because they were not connected with high technology.  They were truly free!  Our oldest Bots 11 was in the PC 45 years ago and was heartfelt when speaking of the exotic nature of it all, and how to this day it has impacted his soul.  Yet another returned volunteer who spoke, turned his backside to us showing us his torn jeans, stating some things never change, yet much has changed.  His ripped pants really got a laugh when our esteemed director's young daughter was obviously drawn to the pants, and peered behind him while he was finishing his speech.  She just got an education on what it means to be a "free spirit."  One spoke of the dreaded inoculation line, lowering their trousers, and everyone rubbing the cherry left on their backside---what a great way for volunteers to bond!

While watching these clips, and hearing these speeches, my mind wandered sadly back to an era that has past and left in it's wake a yearning for what can never be again.  A time when eating popsicles on your front porch on a hot summer night was a cool thing to do, watching My Favorite Martian or The Patty Duke Show, going to drive-in movies in your boyfriends mustang, and being in awe of 4 of the cutest guys singing and changing the world on the Ed Sullivan show.  Can't you even recall the smell of PB&J sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and opening up your thermos of milk at lunch time?  I was a little young to be entrenched in the real 60's hippie scene, but I remember the turbulence of the Vietnam War, the protests, the fear I felt when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.  All of these things, along with the beginning of the Peace Corps were ear marks of the sixties.

Our Peace Corps experience will be much different from those who served in the 60's, but President Kennedy's vision of promoting world peace and friendship lives on, and it made each and every one of us proud to be a part of something special on Saturday.  So Happy Anniversary Peace Corps, thank you JFK, and thanks to the Peace Corps for providing such a unique experience for those who dare!

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