Steppin’ Out – Peace Corps Style
By Jonathan Pearson on Monday, October 1st, 2012
This year’s Third Goal Expos in Nashville, Minneapolis, Providence and Pasadena were not only opportunities for the Peace Corps community to congregate, socialize, share stories from the past and brainstorm how to better bring the world home. For many, they also provided an opportunity to dig out the clothing of their country of service.
That was the case at the September 22nd Expo held at the Providence, Rhode Island Convention Center.
“(Clothing) sparks a lot of interest and a lot of pictures,” said David Mather (Chile 68-70). A forestry volunteer serving in the remote southern hills of Chile (1 – 3 hours from Valdivia), David wore the traditional dress of a “Huaso”, a Chilean cowboy.
A resident of Lyme, New Hampshire and Horseshoe Beach, Florida, David published a novel One for the Road, based on his Peace Corps experiences. He said subsequent book events are providing further opportunities to wear his Huaso garb. And, there have been other unexpected opportunities, such as the time he was invited to a “Come as You Were in 1968″ party. While there were lots of interesting costumes, there’s no doubt few of the party-goers anticipated connecting with a Chilean cowboy!
The RPCV father and daughter team of William and Arielle Miles also displayed some outstanding Peace Corps fashion. Arielle (Kenya 09-11) is not far removed from a daily donning of her colorful, tailor-made dresses made from traditional kangha cloth. ”I’m wearing art,” she proclaimed, adding that she promised skeptical Kenyan friends she would wear the beautiful dresses when she returned to the United States.
A tutor at a public charter school in Providence, Arielle said she planned to wear one of her dresses to school soon. ”It’s a conversation starter.”
For William Miles, the clothing he wore at the Expo had a different story. The Seekonk, Massachusetts resident served as a volunteer in a Hausa region of Niger from 1977 to 1979.
While visiting his son this past summer in Senegal, William stopped by the Embassy of Niger which was just down the street. The Embassy put him in touch with the Hausa Association of Dakar. It turned out the President of the Hausa Association was from Niger. He also was a tailor. Before he knew it, William was being measured and queried about his favorite colors. The clothes were presented to him as a going away present.
“Today (at the Providence Expo) is the first day I’m wearing it…It’s the most comfortable African dress that I have, and I have a lot!”
The counter-balance to William Miles’ brand new wardrobe was the clothing worn by David Magnani . A former member of the National Peace Corps Association Board of Directors, the Framingham, Massachusetts resident served in Sierra Leone between 1968 and 1971. The 41 year old shirt has aged and suffers from some wear and tear. Because of that, David said “I only wear it now on special occasions.
“This,” he said, “was a special occasion.”