Degrees of Separation, Peace Corps Travel Edition
By Erica Burman on Monday, October 15th, 2012
We hadn’t even left the outskirts of Guatemala City, when it happened. Seated in the van from the airport, hurtling past colorful camioneta (aka “chicken buses”) and gritty storefronts, participants in the inaugural National Peace Corps Association Next Step Travel trip were doing that getting-to-know-one-another thing. Where you’re from. Where you served. What years.
Terry and Ann Marshall live in Las Vegas, Nevada and have strong Peace Corps ties: Terry was a Volunteer in the Philippines from 1965-67 and together with Ann they served as a co-country directors for Peace Corps in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu from 1977-1980. He also did a stint at Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. from 1980-82. Lynda Reynen is a retired high school math teacher who lives in Florida and served in Kenya from 1976-78. As they chatted they discovered that Terry’s brother Randall and wife Margaret were in the same trainee group as Lynda and her former husband Alan – and had attended Lynda’s wedding in Kenya!
It didn’t stop there.
Alan and Beverly Bertaina met and married in the Peace Corps, serving in Tanzania from 1964-66. He worked on road construction and she taught English. Their daughter Lara Bertaina, while not an RPCV, is (as she puts it) “a product of the Peace Corps.” Through conversation, Beverly discovered that not only did she, Ann and Terry attend Colorado University at the same time, but that Beverly and Ann lived in the same dormitory, on the same floor and even sang in the same chorus. And Terry was a history major like Ann, so chances are they were in some of the same classes.
The Marshalls and Bertainas aren’t the only Peace Corps couples on the trip. Gary and Janice Sonderland live in North Dakota and served together as a married couple in India from 1971 to 1973. They worked with the rural development department in agriculture, with Ann focusing on nutrition programs. Their daughter was adopted when she was three months old and a few years later they returned to India adopt their son from the same orphanage.
Judith, a semi-retired social work clinician who served in Nigeria from 1972-74, is on the trip with her partner Lori, a retired nonprofit social services executive. Lori isn’t an RPCV (yet!) but she has the enthusiasm of one, and participated on a month long People-to-People trip to the Baltics in the mid-1990s.
Like Lynda, Elizabeth Griffin is a retired educator. She got her start as a TEFL teacher in Niger from 1972-74, and then “brought the world home” to Los Angeles, where’s she spent her career teaching English to students from around the world.
Participant Jane Shimshak isn’t an RPCV (yet!) either, but she has a background in public health and is a veteran of similar service learning vacations to Brazil and Peru. As it turns out she and Discover Corps CEO Andrew Motiwalla (Honduras 1996-98) knew someone in common in Peru. Small world!
The Discover Corps team was ready and waiting to meet participants at the airport in Guatemala City and transported us to Antigua, about 36 kilometers (Discover Corps is our partner in this new service travel program). After getting settled into our hotel on Saturday evening, we ventured into the cobble-stoned city center with Andrew, guide Tara Tiedemann (Guatemala 2010-12), Guatemala Discover Corps director Orlando Arizandieta, and drivers Fredy Leon and Nayo Yoc.
The next morning Peace Corps training officer Craig Badger stopped by to brief us on the history of the Peace Corps’ work in Guatemala. Afterwards we hit the road to Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, which would be our “home base” during the trip.
En route we stopped at a small Mayan cultural center, where we learned about traditional wedding traditions, tried our hands at making tortillas, grinding coffee and admired the intricate weaving and embroidery. Tomorrow would bring the first day of our service project.
Look for more trip updates here on our website. To see photos, check our Next Step Travel – Guatemala October 2012 Facebook album.
To learn more about how you can join us on upcoming trips via our Next Step Travel Program, visit http://travel.peacecorpsconnect.org