Heed the Call

Theresa - Colville, Washington
Entered on February 9, 2011
Age Group: 65+
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I believe in being a citizen of the world. In “The Wind in the Willows,” The Merry Sea Rat declares, “Take the adventure! Heed the call, now, ere the irrevocable moment passes.” Even as a girl I’d yearned to be at home in every land, to follow in that sagacious sailor’s paw prints. And I did.

My adventures began at age 50 in l987 when I joined the Peace Corps. Assigned to the Belize Council of Churches, I organized women around child abuse and neglect. We gave talks, distributed bookmarks, and even attended a Caribbean conference in Trinidad. I learned to dance the punta, and simmered rice in milk from the coconuts growing in my yard.

In l992, I rejoined and journeyed to the Dominican Republic. I lived in San Juan de la Maguana, legendary home of Anacaona, queen of the aboriginal Taino. I rode on the back of my counterpart’s motorcycle to rural villages near the Haitian border, fostering health and literacy among young moms who worked in the bean fields. I danced the merengue and cooked mangu. I sunbathed on Samana peninsula, where Christopher Columbus first set foot on Hispaniola.

Then I transferred to Seychelles to work in the Ministry of Education’s Students’ Welfare Unit. I conducted trainings for school counselors and established out-patient drug and alcohol treatment programs. Though Peace Corps closed there shortly after I’d arrived, I signed a local contract and worked in Victoria for three years.

I established teen pregnancy prevention peer education programs and taught youth to write scripts and film videos to heighten HIV/AIDS awareness. I stared down baby octopuses while snorkeling around the coral gardens in Beau Vallon Bay. I swayed to the sega. I sautéd mangoes for chutney. I vacationed in Mauritius, wandering through the camphor-scented botanical gardens of Pamplemousse, seeking a glimpse of the ghosts rumored to flit through its sandlewood trees.

Later, I worked at Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC, as a health specialist, traveling continually. Everywhere I listened: on a spring equinox in the steppes of Mongolia as gray wolves howled; in Apia, Samoa when chiefs broke into spontaneous song at a suicide prevention workshop; and as locals described health conditions in Guyana, Uzbekistan, Thailand, St. Vincent, Bulgaria and dozens of other countries.

In each locale together we strengthened the efforts of Peace Corps Volunteers to combat malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, and the infectious diseases leading to high infant mortality rates.

Heed the call? Be at home in the world? You bet!