Tag Archives: Glendora Press

Misery and hunger in land of plenty

San Francisco Examiner September 25, 1991

Misery and hunger in land of plenty

Dwayne Hunn

“Buck sheis de do, shab?  Khanna mangta hai.  Boock laga  hai…” he said, as he tugged my hand.  He stood belt level and I  turned away after glancing at him.  He kept holding and tugging, as  the teeming masses of Indians moved beside us on the sidewalk.

 

“Boock laga hai, boock laga hai, tora khanna mangta  hai…” he said as he rubbed his stomach and tugged my hand.  I tried  to look  at him as we kept walking in the crowd.  In  training  they had  told us that we would have to decide how to handle  beggars.  In  training, they had told us that 1/2 of India’s  beggars  were purposefully maimed.

“How do they get a statistic like that, does the  government go around and ask, `Did you purposefully maim your kid?'”  I  had skeptically asked.

During  my first five minutes in the streets, I had  trouble starring into the face of this boy whose cheek had a whole in  it the  size  of a Kennedy silver dollar, ringed  with  pus,  sores, exposed  teeth  and ugly gums.   Ahead, curbside on  the  street, were skateboards that American kids careen around on for fun.  In Bombay  they  are used by kids without hands, ankles or  legs  to reach  the  car or taxi at the light, grab its  handle  and  beg, “Paise de do, shab…  Gorib admi, shab..”

The  homeless  and  poor seemed to be  everywhere.   In  the financial district of the city, where piles of garbage were  left to  be picked up early in the morning, I naively asked the  scavenger, searching the piles which the rats always worked,  what he was  doing.   A weak “Khana (food), shab,” was his reply,  as  he continued  slowly  searching the mounds of garbage.  On  a  train trip, I laid on my pack at a village station and watched a family with a pants-less child defecate diarrhea on the train  platform, and use his fingers to lick it.

As  a kid living on the poor side of Cleveland, I  met  only one  beggar, whose cut foot my mother cleaned after  she  brought him  into the house and fed him.  As a Peace Corps  volunteer,  I saw them maimed and crippled and begging all day, everywhere.

Of  course,  I got to see the Taj Mahal, Ajanta  and  Allora Caves and stuff a kid from a working class family would not  have had  the  vacation money to see.  Those tourist  sights  made  me develop  a simplified philosophy of why the India I knew  in  the late-60’s  had the human problems it had, and has.  To build  the palaces for the rich, and naturally cooled, hand carved caves for the  influential religious classes took a tremendous  number  of  manhours and resources.  Energy that was not spent on  irrigation systems, infrastructure and education.

Little  did I realize how some of those experiences  working on Urban Community Development in the slums of Bombay would  prep me  for  today’s America.  My first work site, the  Worli  Chawls slum had  water available for only an hour a day,  usually  with enough pressure to reach the 2nd story of the typical four  story tenements, from about 3:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.  If you lived on the third  or  fourth story, you bucketed water up to store  in  your water drums.

For  years now I have lived in affluent Marin County,  California,  where in recent years we were limited to 50  gallons  of water per day per person.  The I captured rain water in drums and saved shower water in buckets and bucketed it to some very  basic toiletry  needs.  Homelessness and  begging has become a  growing problem  in  Marin   and a bigger problem in  Big  Brotherly  San Francisco.

On a shrinking planet whose resources are limited and  whose population  is  pushing 5 billion  with an increasing  number  of homeless and hungry, there is little justification in doing  more Taj  Mahals, even if we had powerful S&L financing and  visionary Trumph leadership.  There is obvious justification for increasing irrigation systems, infrastructure and education worldwide.

My  two  years of oversees work reinforced  my  belief  that there is a tremendous need for expanding the Peace Corps overseas and  its  resultant  educational benefits at  home.   Working  on affordable housing and land use problems in the North Bay of  San Francisco for almost 9 years continually exposed me to  opponents of  affordable housing, whose view of the world is  dominated  by preserving what they got and only allowing more palatial  estates to  be built.  How their relatively powerful actions play on  the stage the rest of the world must live on matters not.  They  fail to  see  how the use of our land to support  and  provide  energy efficient transit modes and affordable ownership housing  impacts not only those near their county borders but those oceans away in our  shrinking and ecologically fragile planet.  The NIMBYs  (Not In  My  Backyard)  elect NIMTOs (Not In My Term  of  Office)  who usually produce LULUs (Less than Useful Land Uses) by doing DECME (Density Erasers Causing Million Dollar Estates) projects  rather than meeting the working people’s and the environment’s  housing, transit and community development needs.

The  Maharajas’  produced  Taj Mahals by edict.   We  do  it through  a  more democratic process of meetings that  produces  a veiled but often similar result.  To a Peace Corps volunteer  who has seen and sensed what wasted hours and resources can do, it is hard  to fathom why people would fight to add another 2%  of  Marin’s land to the 88% which is already in open space, agricultural preserve and parks; rather than support a rail oriented development that would provide affordable housing, child care and less car-dependent communities.

Failing  to  comprehend  such logic, I often  fall  back  to thoughts Kishore Thakar, an Indian friend, left me.  Referring to his own caste-and-class riddled society he said, “People need  to walk a mile in other peoples’ sandals to understand the toil  and misery that goes into living the life of those who struggle.  For those  who move about easily,  the blisters developed  from  that walk  remove both the calloused perceptions some have  of  others and the scales that blind their view of what their actions do  to others.  It would do the world good if more people who move about easily  served a few years doing what you Peace Corps are  trying to do.

“Buddhists believe that each life should bring more enlightenment  and less need for selfish desires.    If in this life  we do  not become enlighten over what our actions cause  to  others, then  our reincarnation should be to walk endless miles  in  the sandals of those upon whom our actions stepped most heavily.”

 

Dwayne Hunn is a Mill Valley free lance writer.

 

Peace Corps: Planting the Seed of Hope

Glendora Press January 14, 1970

Peace Corps: Planting the Seed of Hope

(Editor’s Note: Following is the last in a series of series by Glendora High School teacher Dwayne Hunn relating his experiences as a member of the Peace Corps in India.)

By DWAYNE HUNN 

These months were not like the first. These flew. Socially I was beginning to aculturize myself. I had my third and forth date. I swam more often at the British swimming pools. I and fellow volunteers met an American engineer, who dined us into better health and partied us into better spirits while arguing us back into remembering how the mainstream of Americans thought and life was filled more with doing projects than with searching for projects to do.

The garden, library, and milk program continued to func­tion well. The orphanage still held my heart and two days a week in my schedule. But the brunt of my work centered around the school. My philosophy regarding increased involvement by these well-to-do students in their nation’s needs became more sophisticated.

In other words, fewer words were spoken this semester but more action was achieved. A few pictures, like the beg­gar at the foot of the building, plus some talk in key circles got the program into motion.

The year before a half dozen students made a trip with two of the British teachers to help build wells in Bihar. No wells were actually built. Instead, the group got involved in food distribution and, more importantly, they lived with the hungry, ate as they did, and tried to work under those conditions.

This year I wanted to get more kids involved and get them to actually accomplish something. Through a rugby contact I found what I needed.

Sister Teresa and her three assisting nuns were amazing people. The home was a tragic and wonderful place. In Build­ing Three one couldn’t miss the deaf and dumb, groveling paraplegic as he squirmed and groaned across the floor. He made the other pathetic humans there pale in comparison,

The men in Building Two all had their senses, but were without the use of such things as their leg, or arms, or couldn’t control their urinary cycle. Building One had every­thing the other buildings had, only there the ancient people continued what was called life.

The Cheshire Home, and its patients unnerved me. But the four Spanish Catholic nuns prayed, worked and sang through their young lives as if they were cast far the Sound of Music.

I was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which I got 30 volunteers for the 10-day work camp. The British chairman on the board for the Cheshire Home was delighted with my idea of supplying labor while the board supplied money for most of the needed projects, the smaller other part of the money I was able to obtain from the Peace Corps.

After 10 days at the home we had built a new chicken house, painted and fixed much of the furniture, cleared and seeded some very tough terrain into a large garden, started and failed at establishing a handicraft class for the patients, painted and repaired the servants quarters and water pump, and helped cook meals for everyone.

For all but two or three of the group this was the first extended manual labor they had done in their 16 or so years of life. It was also the first time that any had worked for the lowest castes of Indians, rather than the reverse which they were accustomed to. It was the first time they had roughed it.

We slept under the stars near the newly developed gar­den and ate mostly rice, tasteless chowpatis, platins and gallons of tea. It was a hard diet for them to adjust to but, I think, it showed them something. They had engaged in a so­cially responsible act and had made it succeed. If the thought of the deed would linger, if the thought would plant a seed, if the seed would sprout into a habit, then this capable class of Indians could start adding richness to a great mass of humanity.

It was not all labor among the miserable. During the hot afternoons they found light, pleasant conversations taking place with the sisters adding a beauty to them. Afternoons also sometimes found fooling with their friends, the two Bri­tish teachers, or for those who thought they had energy to burn, jumping their two PCV’s and dousing — excuse me, trying to douse them in the nearby pond. It was hard work, but fun, and they were heroes when they returned to school after their summer vacation.

After the work camp I took my last break. I had been reading about the famine conditions in Bihar, though the lo­cal cinema houses had shown only one documentary on the drought and famine conditions — what was shown all the oth­er times made one feel that India was sprinting into the 20th century amid religious festivities, steel mills and agricultural wonders; now I wanted to see some of those conditions. So I again threw some stuff in my green bag and climbed aboard a third class train out of Bombay.

If the monsoon doesn’t come before the middle of June, most of India’s farmers suffer dearly. This was one of the states in worse shape than Bihar, only the government did not want to reveal these plights. Well, I never tried digging in the fields outside of the train’s windows but its parched, brown, barren condition drove the small farmers plight home.

After some days, I reached Benares, India’s holy city. Since it was early morning and I was feeling better, I quickly hailed a bicycle-walla and toured the city. The temples, the pagodas, the university, and the Ganges, with its dirty brown, but believed drinkable, holy water, were sights; but by the time the heat of the afternoon arrived they had lost their appeal to me, I left the bike man for the benefits of a small but air conditioned room. I had dinner, took two quarts of beer to my room, wrote in my diary, and slept. The next day I decided on the hill air over that of India’s hot stuff.

I trained to Patna, and seeing wells, and green patches along the tracks of Bihar state, I figured that her notoriety was at least making something happen here about the drought. Not much was happening along those miles of tracks through the other three states.

From Patna I flew to Katmandu, Nepal where I spent about five days, and then on to the Pokhara valley at the foothills of Annapurna for three days of trekking. I stopped in Delhi where I again met Ambassador Bowle’s wife, who with her husband had visited my chawl work site; and then I returned to Bombay to finish up a few months of work.

I wrote a few radio scripts comparing American and Indi­an histories of development, continued checking on the chawl programs, played and coached basketball, went to the orphanage, and taught and coached at Cathedral School. The remaining months flew by and when the end approached I debated about extending. A fellowship at grad school, thoughts of preparing more for a career, and the draft pulled me back and cut my travels home to a month.

I still wonder if rushing home was the right path. I know it was a most intense period of my life, I was flooded with new physical, mental, and emotional experiences. I was forcing myself to work on my own, to contemplate, to read, to write and to wonder just what a world of perceived misery, new friends, new acquaintances and new thoughts were doing to me, the person. Still don’t really know what all those vibrations did. Do know, I wouldn’t trade those experiences.

Why build these cities beautiful

If man unbuilded goes

In vain we build the world

Unless the builder also grows

Edwin Markham

You know, when the Peace Corps left town the heart of the heart of the rugby team left with it. But some native heart blossomed at about the same time. The Indian Police team, coached some by John Fuller Sessions and prompted on by the PCVs played the Berahi Shabs of the Rugby Club when we were leaving.

For the first time, the Police beat them handily. It looked like it might be a pattern. Competition would be keener from then on. Respect would soon became two-sided, and sweet. Somebody had made those losers believe they could become winners.

To me, that’s what building’s about. To me, that’s what the Peace Corps was about. I like to believe that many peo­ple from our group planted some seeds, started some projects, laid some foundations that will help those men build their own world, and grow too.

 

 

 

 

India Elite Has Chance To Aid Own

Glendora Press January 11, 1970

India Elite Has Chance To Aid Own

By DWAYNE HUNN

It was during the first monsoon that I would take on an­other extra-curricular activity which would introduce me to another life style in India.

Dave, one of  our UCD23 basketball players, who was in the unsuccessful UCD land development attempt, was a founding manager and captain of Fordham’s revived Rugby program of l964-65. Thus he had become interested in playing the sport and accepted when he was asked by some British chaps to play for the Bombay Gymkhana Club.

Lynus, another PCV, but one who did very little work and devoted most of his time to partying, drinking, and girls, also played. Dave introduced me to a few of the Rugby play­ers and they invited me to play, as I did. Rugby, a combina­tion of the skills of football and basketball without the pads, was fun. But a major part of the game was the drinking and partying after the game. On a PCVs’salary, we could not go that route often, but the hospitality of the British helped us to do so.

Their parties were a welcome diversion, for they had good food and sometimes some pretty girls. The young Bri­tish chaps were obviously interested in the latter attraction of those parties. We were too. However, the pretty girls ran a poor second to the attraction the food they put on the table held over us. The British, at first, were amazed at how repeatedly we’d return to the serving table and how long into the party we’d eat.

Educationally, rugby was a good window into British thought concerning the Indians. Many of them were embarrassed for us because of the conditions we lived under and felt we were foolish to try to teach the Indians by working from their level.

John Fuller Sessions, a British teacher at Cathedral School and rugby captain, saw this ruler-shah philosophy among both whites and Indians at the club, social, and edu­cational level. I realized it by working and living with the lower echelon, being part of the rugby club, and through at­tending rich Indians’ parties.  Not wanting to believe this was a natural trait of the upper classes, I decided, following John’s suggestion, to do some teaching at Cathedral School.

I was interested in entering teaching as a profession aft­er returning to the states and thought this might he a unique teaching experience. But that was not my main motive for teaching at Cathedral School (CS). CS did not seem to need good teachers as much as good workers were needed in social action programs.

I realized this. I also realized my language deficiency and that I would not be here forever. I felt, though not without a retort from my Christian-bred conscience, that it was not my, or America’s, prime responsibility to rectify inequities in a nation that was not mine by birth or citizenship.

I felt, with support from my conscience, that if I could, in some way, make Indians who possess the native and economic tools to see and feel and work against the inequities, then I would have done my, and America’s, part.

 Cathedral School was one of the three best schools in Bombay. It had the likes of the son of the Chief Minister of Bombay and the niece of the Prime Minister Gandhi. It also had the sons and daughters of those struggling middle class-families who knew the value of a good school’s name in get­ting their kid a little further ahead.

I started teaching part way through their first semester. I taught, and in some cases first had to learn, subjects such as British and Indian history, Indian geography, moral sci­ence, physical education, journalism, world history, and an honors course.  In all of them I found a setting to express my philosophy that they, the well-to-do, must get involved with their nation’s problems, which they so easily ignore or over­look.

How hundreds of well-dressed and well-fed kids could he chauffeured daily past the beggars, pass them walking to lunch at the local restaurants, and when asked in class to de­scribe what they noticed on the back street — say nothing about the baby who lived on the sidewalk, or the others, was beyond me.

I continued to take my bike into the main street, grab onto a speeding truck, and whiz to the orphanage from Cathe­dral School. Worli was also still on my visit list. But with se­mester break I also found the other work situations condu­cive to a month break for personal travel. I threw a leather bag over my shoulder and with some money from home and what I had been able to save, I was soon flying to Thailand to visit a PCV buddy from the Pakistan group we had both trained in before switching to our present country programs.

Thailand was hosting the Asian games, Dave was hosting me and his Thai friends felt they must host us. What a con­trast Thailand offered. The people were healthy, strong, and proud. Bangkok, in parts, looked like street corner shopping centers back home. Stores had window displays, streets were clean and officers directed traffic, nights were clear, quiet and romantic.

Dave mixed very little with Americans other than PCVs. He was down on the military and the influence they had in Thailand and found his Thai friends much more entertaining.

Even the trains were a joy to ride and the rich, verdant scenery was part of the eason. The green land and healthy brown people were helping me unwind from the grimness of India.

I took a ferry to Penang Island, found a cheap, little room, and walked in the drizzling rain to attend Mass on Christmas Eve in Malaysia. It was a lonely, pensive, and happy, though not merry, Christmas. I thought the typical thoughts — home, family, old girl, the past year’s rich and different experiences.

Later I laid in bed trying to assess just what all those influences were doing to form me, the man I would be.

The next day I found the PCVs who had been in Bangkok the week before and accepted their then extended hospitality. They lived in a pleasant little suburban house, exemplifying the fact which the PCV no longer hides, that not all PCVs ­are living in gutters. I stayed for three or our days, and dug their food too. I also dug the island and its deserted beaches, rolling hills, and neat secluded huts, all of which I saw first hand during my one-day, 52 mile bike trip around the island.

In Ipoh I visited with the family of a Malaysian whom I played rugby with in Bombay. They treated me like an honored guest. Yet, it took me a day to realize just how far their hospitality was extending.

My arrival at the Deen’s home coincided with Ramadan, which meant that all Muslims were fasting and praying Koran from dawn ‘til dusk. The Deen family, being especially religious, was eating at 4 p.m. (sunset) only, while they were feeding me gigantic and scrumptuous portions three times a day.

It was comfortable being in a family setting again and nice being treated as an honored guest. It was more than nice to know that this was happening to a stranger from a land 7,000 miles away.

I left the Deen family knowing a bit more about one devoted Muslim’s interpretation of his religion. Watching Mr. Deen spend hours in front of his TV listening to the chants of the Koran reader, talking with him about his beliefs and mine, and reading a Muslim book he gave to me made me feel how insignificant any comparative  religious learning I had been exposed to was. I left the Deen home with gratitude, love, and another little inkling of what brotherhood was about. I left for the road, and I stuck out my thumb. A few days later, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and their people were just pleasant memories. I was back in Bombay to work for nine months.

 

 

 

 

 

Forever, You Were Victim Of the System

Glendora Press January 1970

Forever, You Were Victim Of the System

By DWAYNE HUNN

Kiki and Melody soon left the area, and I survived on a rice and dahl lunch that my cook left at the nurse’s chawl, where the girls had lived, and by eating out for dinner. The girls, plus Marilyn, Dave, and Jerry tried to nurture a UCD project from scratch.

For months they battled the red tape until they had purchased a piece of land in a slum area. They then rounded up plans, got a contractor, and found a shell-like material that would be cheap, easy and quick for construction.

Finally after about five months of having reached many peaks of frustration, disgust, and disappointment, they were ready to implement their plan.

They started clearing the land they were to build the peoples recreation-education-PCV living-center on and on the very first day the Indians, who were starting to understand the meaning of their project, pitched in. After two or three days, the group re­turned to the PCV hostel with faces that read exhaustion, disgust and frustration. It was not physical exertion that beat them, but the system.

The landlord from whom the land was purchased was not the rightful owner. The technicality which killed the program centered around something about the rightful owner refusing to sell the land unless it could be counted as his required 10 percent public deed. Hazy politics killed a good project and embittered the volunteers involved.

Jerry and Dave were part of our PC b-ball team which started playing about a month and a half after our arrival. We had played a series of games in training at Columbia and looked pretty good.

Our first night of Indian b-ball didn’t reflect the same. Nagpadda Neighbor House, considered one of the four or five best in the state, was our opener. They were all little guys and they, some in bare beet, ran us off their dirt floor with a score around 100-60.

It was pretty embarrassing    for us big, bad Americans to walk home through the crowd hat night. I could make plen­ty of excuses, but our Indian rivals would just demand equal time or a rematch—nei­ther of which I, or probably my wind, could supply, so I’ll just give a few excuses.

Al-34, Bill-30, Kevin-40, Jerry-27, Dave-33, Dwayne-24; yes, in time we all had numbers, but those were not on our uniforms. Those were the number of pounds which were not on our frames anymore.

Under such redesigning, the old two-footed chassis did not feel much like running, in any gear. Running their light, lit­tle frames was all those brown guys knew. What they were telling us was we’ll teach you the game our way, in our climate, on our dirt floors, with our greasy foods to fuel on.

When Bill and Kevin moved into the YMCA they were nat­ural attractions because they were Americans. After a few months they were attractions because they were also the best coaches around and the neatest white guys that neigh­borhood ever knew. Girls and guys from 12-20 knew Bill and Kevin for all the teams they coached, and what they did through coaching was more than just teach b-ball.

The Indians knew some of the fundamentals of b-ball, like run and shoot. It took someone with a different out­look to stress the importance of teamwork and steady hard practices. Lingering caste ideas were quickly drilled out in Bill and Kevin’s system of play.

B-ball was a tremendous public relations asset for the corps. The Peace Corps may be well known here and in some educated circles throughout the world, hut in cosmopolitan Bombay it was little known.

Well, there are many Indi­ans who can’t afford the luxu­ry of picking up hitch-hikers and who know nothing about Kennedy other than his face and that they liked him. How­ever, many of those know that the Peace Corps is a good basketball team filled with Americans.

It’s the team with a couple “DARa Singhs,” in other words big, tough guys named after India’s best wrestler; it’s the team with Zubair, the only four-foot, pre-teen, seventh man in India’s big leagues, and our leader.

Ball was fun, and as sports usually do it made us a pretty tight unit on or off the court. But it sure made you tired, especially when it was a night game far from home and one had the bus, train, and the walk to cope with before one reached the rack.

Those were the nights, with a post-game celebration of or­ange soda, a bus, a train, and a walk that I heaped especially large praises on the luxury of sleep as I had known it.

Passing bodies sleeping on the streets, in open spaces between buildings, on maidans, on curbs, on train benches; used to make me super-sleepy. I even thought, on oc­casion, like I’d just like to lie down with the masses. I never did though, and the thought made me appreciate my bed, even with the ticks, mosqui­toes, and occasional passing mouse that visited.

Since I had not mastered Marathi over the monsoon I spent more time at the orphanage, looked far social education programs that I could just plug into the chawls, and found a new work sire. Before I left the center, though, I’d learn more about getting things to grow.

Because I was white and could play the role of some­one fairly important, or was too tired to show how unimportant I was, I had swung, without knowing how great a quantity it was, six liters of milk for the girls and myself, during our third month in In­dia. There was, for the aver­age Indian, a waiting period of over a year to receive even one liter of milk.

It was too much and, though I continued to drink much of it, we gave some of our allotment to our cook and to another friend. If it was that easy, I figured it could be done on a grander scale. So by running through the red tape maze as an American in a hurry, and it still took a long time, I set up a milk feeding program for about 60 pre-nursery school children.

To ensure that the milk powder, contributed by Uncle Sam through Catholic Relief, was not pilfered to the black market or others, the kids had to be fed while in school or brought to the school by an older person with a cup and drink the milk on issuance. It was a good program and once it was set up I only checked infrequently since the women handled it beautifully.

An old mali, Hindi for gardener, was the real driving force behind one of my last projects in the chawls. I had suggested to Dr. Sabnis that, even in the city, people could, since most were recently immigrated farers, start kitchen gardens with hardly any capital needed. I even suggested that I might be able to supply some seeds. He was skeptical. I was too.

From what I had seen of the sand of the maidan and the debri sewn ground be­tween the chawls, I didn’t think much could grow. The mali, when I approached him on the possibility of starting a garden on the ground between the center and the nursery, only said, “seeds are not available, shah.” That was  all, aside from a not too well hid­den fear of having to do all the ground work, he listed as a drawback.

A week before the monsoon hit he and I were raking, dig­ging, and clearing, and I got more lessons in the “clean hands mania” of caste riddled India. My two young friends and Marathai tutors, Radashom and Dilip, when I explained the principle and strength behind such an undertaking, agreed.

But when I called on them to pitch in with the work, they  did so for only a few minutes before they feigned a reason to leave. During hours of la­bors stretching over a few days the mali and I had no more than ten minutes of help, though we had many who would stop, observe, pass on, laugh, or move to play games on the maidan in front of us.

We finished two days before the rains came. I was still skeptical that anything would issue forth from the sterile land. The mali merely said, “Barsat girta hai, seeds laga hai,” which meant “rains fall, seeds will come up.” Two days after those rains kept tumbling, those green shoots kept coming.

It was a joy to have green things grow outside the win­dow when all around was the sand color, the gray masonite color, the sprinkles of gar­bage color.

We had to make an addition to the garden right after our first crop. Due to unanticipat­ed crop depletion (by the hungy and poor), we added a barbed wire fence. The produce went to the nursery school kids, and, I hope, that old mali got his share.

 

 

Kids Like Attention In India, Too

December 31, 1969, Glendora Press

Kids Like Attention In India, Too

(Editor’s Note: the following is another in a series of articles by Glendora High School teacher Dwayne Hunn relating his experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in India.)

By Dwayne Hunn

On a chance search through a social service center in the city, I made the acquaintance of a Dr. Pai.  Dr. Pai was one of those rare Indians.

He was well-educated abroad, had been to a dozen or so American universities on Fulbright and Rockefeller grants, and was dedicated to bettering his country.

At that time he was teaching college medical courses and requiring that his students get involved in a program of family planning clinics that he was taking to the slums and factories.  I mentioned that I had a large hall that theoretically could be said to reach about 40,000 near-by chawl dwellers.

*

In a few weeks the center had a family planning exhibit that lasted 10 days.  The purpose of the clinic, aside from involving his students in a crucial area, was to educate the poor in just what family planning and birth control meant.

After the educational program, Doctor Pai told whichever parent was present that the male could have a harmless and technically reversible vasectomy performed and receive a rupee reward in return.

Being raised a Catholic, I had ideas against this kind of birth control, but India had given many of those ideas food for thought.

I was a little disappointed in the numbers that turned out for the educational program and not very impressed with the three or four vasectomies Dr. Pai performed. Dr. Pai, however, did not seem disheartened.

His drives and optimism seems to be paying off for about five months ago (this is 1969)  I heard from Dr. Pai.  It was not a very personal communique, but it made me feel rather important, like I had been around for the start of something big.  It happened after a late dinner while I was watching 60 Minutes at Rubel’s Castle in Glendora, California.

*

To my TV screen came Dr. Pai talking of the successes of his scheme.  He had started taking it to rail road stations and textile mills, with PCVs helping advertise his educational program, while I was still in India.  Now it had caught on so well that it was about to be spread to other large cities.

Monetary incentives were still being given to males as inducements to this activity as well as to contact who brought in the “vasectomee.”

June, if all goes climatically well for the Indians, is the start of the monsoon.  For me, it was also the time to decide the course of my future work pursuits.  If I wanted to make it as a strict UCDer I would have to spend hundreds of hours during the next months mastering Marathi.  My work habits had, in a sense, decided this for me.  I could not sit and study 8 to 10 hours a day, even if it was raining out.  I kept plugging away at what I felt were good experiences and jobs and let the future shift out a work pattern for me.

*

In mid-June I overheard a few volunteers mention that an orphanage was interested in having a PCV.  I’d like the idea of working with an orphanage and thought that this might be a new fulltime work site.  Since my Marathi was weak, and since the PCV girls across the street were about to move out, which would return my feeding habits to the street restaurants, I was thinking of new work sites.

Father Nelson, the main work horse of the orphanage, responded favorably to the idea of my coming out twice a week to direct the physical education program, to teach a little, and just to mingle with the kids.  He did not see that it would be possible for me to live at Our Ladies Home for another 6 to 10 months, since the school was being enlarged and would not be ready till then.

The orphanage holds a special niche in my heart.  It was filled with much.  It had the old priest, who technically was Father Nelson’s superior, but who did not work, seemed irritated by the kids, and was seen only at tea time by me.

*

It had Father Nelson, whose seemed to put in 20 hours a day with the kids, always seemed bedraggled, and desired to be the learned philosopher but who, burdened with work, had no time to read, think, or contemplate.

It had teachers who did not qualify for the good paying, which was still terribly low paying, jobs of the municipal schools; nice young men and women trying to do a good job on the younger minds without the experiences, training, and texts that help make them dynamic.

Most of all, it had the kids.

I can remember the first day I got close to those kids.  I can remember how their white teeth stood out on their brown faces, how their eyes sparkled with a special glint, and yet, how skinny their bodies were.

It was because so few people noticed how white and shiny their teeth were and special their eyes were that they were so hard to control.  They went wild when I showed them a new game or exercise.  They went wild when I put one of them on my lap, wrestled with one, or just fooled with one.

*

“Sir, sir, do that with me!  Show me!” you can use this same vein from the kids in the states, but there it meant something different, something more, something less.

Physical education in India is not very demanding.  Most Indian exercises seemed to depend on arm movements from a standing position, knee bends, and standing at attention.  My kids got to believe that pushups, isometrics, jumping jacks, squats, and all those other football exercises built muscles.

After a few months, most of the kids had to pull “Sir” aside to show many pushups they could do, to show their muscles, to show how they could touch their toes without bending their knees, or how hard they could push on an isometric drill.

They were such good kids, and I wished others could give them more.  For a while an English mother of three and her friend came to the orphanage to work with them.  When a buddy from Australia came to visit me, he spent five days, living, playing, and loving them.

*

But when, through publication in the Indian Express (a major newspaper), I tried to establish a weekend visit program to homes and families, it came to naught.  After the publishing of my letter, the only response I knew of was an invitation for me to come to dinner with a good family, because the breadwinner wanted to show me how beautiful Indian family life was.  As I said, it came to naught.

They needed but had little contact with the outside world.  The five days I lived with them was a time for daily trips to the museum, the harbor, and the downtown.  With few exceptions from the different ten kids I took each day, these experiences were all firsts that for them.

For most, riding the train into town was a first.  Taking them on a boat ride, I’d see their awe at being in a sailboat.  Walking around the harbor, I’d watch their excitement at seeing the Gateway of India, and feel my spirits rise and sag.

*

Leading them through the open air parlor area of the Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the India’s plushest, and having a manager rush up to usher my not so well dressed brown kids out, made my blood pressure rise and caused a heated scene.

 

Culture Shock Brought Need ‘To Get Away’

Glendora Press – December 28, 1969

 Culture Shock Brought Need ‘To Get Away’

By DWAYNE HUNN

In the process of rebuilding the dilapidated basketball courts outside my window, I found my most efficient Indi­an worker, the carpenter.

I already had a reputation as a carpenter, which may or may not have been good. Dur­ing those first months, I had built a closet for my room. I did this for two reasons: 1) I needed somewhere to hang my garb — and when the monsoon with its mildew producing tendencies arrived this would serve to hide my mildewing clothes; 2) it was another way to keep me from feeling sorry for myself and daydreaming. Indian nails, which bend on anything but a perfect hit, hammers, whose handles break, and other materials of similar quality caused reason #2 to be quashed under deeper frustration.

The office workers upstairs had heard of my project and daily came by to check on its results. In the process, they’d say, “Ah, Sir is a carpenter too, yes? “ The carpenter came up to see my place after he had been assigned to build the basketball backboards, and I am con­fident he knew I was not a carpenter. But to the Indians, who seldom get the chance and who often look down on work with the hands, I was a ‘carpenter too.’

The carpenter was a good man and good at his trade. I had no problem once I got him the wood for the basketball backboards. I did have problems getting the right materials, and it was irritat­ing to feel that one of the In­dians should be obtaining the materials, but they knew just as little, or claimed to, about finding and purchasing the required materials.

I had not built these on a hunch that the basketball courts would prove popular. Some older boys around the park had been criticizing the center for not doing anything for them. I asked about the courts, and they said that long ago they had been used.  I asked what would they do if they were fixed and equipment made available. They said Dr. Sabnis would not do those things, but if he did they would be there to assist as I requested.

To inaugurate the center we got our Peace Corps team together for an exhibition. The Indian team we had asked to come never showed. The crowd of 300-500 claimed they had some old players and they would play us. They did. It was like the Harlem Globetrotters playing the junior high. We did not try to embarrass anyone, in fact, we clowned it and the crowd loved it. They loved it so much and understood so little of the game’s rules that they encircled the court to some­times one-third its size.

The size of the crowd was an omen. The next day when I stepped out to start some kind of practice sessions I was greeted by about a hundred kids.  The next day almost the same, as was the next, but the same faces seldom ap­peared. Daily, there was al­most a fresh batch of about fifty. I never saw the older boys who claimed they would help form a team, wanted the courts, and knew some bas­ketball.

This protect turned out to be a flop. Had I stuck with it long enough, perhaps I could have shaped the mobs into some teams. But most of the kids spoke Marathi, and Hindi was my stronger medium, weak as it was, and only with much intensive language work would this change. Other in­volvements now would not allow that study and b-ball mob organizing time.

The year 1966 was the last year Peace Corps India had three month seminars: these were most of the physical job accomplishments I would en­ter into my late April report. The seminar was approaching at just the right time for me. Culture shock, which we had been warned about in training, probably had me strongly engulfed. Being continually sick, I was not accomplishing enough.  I was being frustrated trying to find the right, in my own mind, work involve­ments.  I was seeing babies, whose thighs were not any bigger than my first two fingers, being given giant hypodermic nee­dles three times a week just to stay alive. These sights were everywhere and left me with only my diary to turn to for opening my feelings, where I’d wonder if I’d be able to stick it out; all were indica­tors that it was time to get away. Before departing I made another overture through my chief motivator, Dr. Sabnis, to get a few work projects moving. I left before he arrived for work on the 18th of April but left a note for him mentioning a few things which must he done on the movie scheme and this ex­cerpt:

“One other problem. I’ve talked with Mr. Lally on many occasions about repair­ing the rusted out pipes and broken flushers in the public latrine. I’ve also talked to his assistant in charge of the specific repairs. On April 1st these repairs were to be begun. Well, following many de­lays the repairs have still not begun. Mote than a month ago Mr. Mokashi told me he was looking into such repairs, but thus far I have had no as­sistance from him in this area. The latrine is filthy, the stench is almost unbearable, and it’s not very healthy. I would think a little repair such as this would be much appreciated by the users of the center.

“As usual, I have come to you with the work which taxes my patience primarily because around you action usually centers. Today I hope to start relaxing and allow the action to be in the realm of touring the greener places of India.

I think Peace Corps initiated the three month seminars to help volunteers adjust to the throes of culture shock.

The seminar showed that no one was quite sure what they were doing, where they were going, and too proud to admit they were not sure they would cut it.

  1. Dave, and I took ten days after the seminar and bummed it. We ate in little Indian towns that were not crowded with slums, and did we eat! . . . We are prob­ably still being talked about in some towns as we were in the eating circles of our UCD group.

(That’s part of the reason fellow PCVs didn’t invite us over often for dinner. Al tried to rectify this situation through Peace Corps administration by suggesting that the bigger guys should get an extra food allowance. Coming from a guy who would drop 40 pounds, be felled by a special case, which did not kill, of spinal meningitis, and constant amoebic and bacillary dysentery, he deserved to be lis­tened to.  But the adminis­tration’s ears is as far as the request got.)

It was a ball traveling in crowded buses, with smelly In­dians and seeing the green hillsides of the south. It was a ball taking over a bicycle-shaw from an Indian, telling him to sit and relax in the back and speedily pumping dawn the streets amid shocked looks of by-standing Indians.  It was great to travel and to see green lands and healthier people.

We returned to Bombay rest­ed and in a better state of mind. Walking onto the mai­dan (large playfield) made me feel as though I had been working on my last project since I left. In the sundas (toilet) there were two or three gov­ernment employees cleaning the urinal, emptying the toil­ets, and fixing the plumbing.

They did not like the jobs that they were being forced to do, but the jobs would be done.

Fixing the sundas would still take a week or two, and after it was fixed it would often be locked at night. To me, lock­ing it merely meant the alley­way to my sundas would be used instead.

On returning from the break I endeavored to start sonic pure community devel­opment work. Organizing the people in the chawls to under­take projects of their own was what I had in mind. It didn’t take long.

One night while roaming in the chawls area I met fairly well-educated English speaking Indian. He seemed to have many of the qualities a leader from the chawls should have.  But after some talk is some great thing about India’s needs, but I suggested that the councils should be formed in each of the chawls buildings to act as catalysts for worthwhile programs, with the implication that he would make this sound leader of such an undertaking.  He went on to tell me how it was in the chawls.  A Marathi family living in 10’x15’ room and separated by 3 inches of concrete would not trusted the Gujarati family living next door and consequently could not be expected to engage in joint projects for their improvement.  Caste, fear of theft, and the harshness of their economic positions were some other reasons he claimed such group action would not work.  Since my Marathi was too poor to work into the chawls to validate such statements, I had to (though I doubted that such could not be overcome with the proper effort) accept his statements.

Our poor language training hindered many of us from being successful as strict urban community developers and hindered other successes, though it did not kill all successes.  Another example of the poor’s poverty of mine was brought home to me soon after this incident.

It was difficult to live in a chawl because getting a room there meant an Indian family was driven out. They had tight enough conditions. Therefore I had an ex-file closet for a room, and it had a fringe benefit — a night watchman.

Dondi was a neat guy and seemed to think he was my guardian besides being the bearer of my morning bucket of washing and drinking water.  We’d often banter back and forth, in part Hindi and part Marathi. The evening before a national holiday in celebration of independence and President Radhakrishnan who, exemplifying the ideals of Indian democracy, was from the Harijan, or low­est, caste and nonetheless had become India’s first president from that caste, we bantered and Dondi gave me another insight.

“President Radhakrishnan from third class Harijan caste. I from second class Harijan caste. So if he come to my home to ask for water or food, I no give.”

To Dondi’s words I said little. I just thought…

To communicate and change things on the ground floor you must work through the parts of the system available to you.  So I plugged away doing what I thought was beneficial, although the projects were not always as poignant as I would have liked.

The Peace Corps—Bringing Hope to the Downtrodden

 Glendora Press – December 24, 1969

The Peace Corps—Bringing Hope to the Downtrodden

  By DWAYNE HUNN

(It’s time to wrap up this series on India and the Peace Corps, and it has been sug­gested that I do so by writing of what some of my friends and I did as volunteers. I hes­itate to do this because talk­ing about oneself is often in­terpreted as a bit of braggadoncio or the accomplishments may be belittled as insignifi­cant. The writer cannot win. He can never clearly explain what, or all, of what his friends and he did or what such experiences did to them.

I’m grateful to Mr. Lloyd for having given me the chance to share a few experi­ences with the readers. These experiences are an important part of what any PCV does or has done to him.)

The first time I met Dr. Sabnis, Labor Welfare Com­missioner for the state of Ma­harashtra and my Indian su­pervisor, if I had one, he stressed the importance of buying some Gandhi kadi cloth work clothes.

We bought the sheer, white, pajama-like shirt and trouser, and I have worn it thrice since, twice in the states. Dur­ing that meeting he explained that he had asked Peace Corps for a man good at ath­letics who might coach. Aside from that he was not sure what I should or could do.

Coaching was alright with me, but I did not want to spend most of my time learn­ing Indian sports on which I would try to add better tech­niques and instill a better spirit. The problem of the crowded slum I lived in were not those a good athletic pro­gram would alleviate. So be­fore the Doctor could start stuffing games down my throat, I started looking for a different kind of Involvement.

Not m u c h involvement clicked for what then seemed like a long time. The only reg­ular clicking, which took up a great deal of effort and time, was caused by the pull chain -of the flush toilet I used so of­ten those first six months.

The condition of the sundas graphically portrayed the way I felt, particularly during those first half-dozen months. Physically I was run down, sick, underweight and the frustrations of finding little satisfying work made my mind feel like it was overflow­ing with wastes.

Sundas in India means toi­let. My sundas’ walls were filled with hundreds of crawl­ing cockroaches but compared to the public sundas mine was in regal condition. Cockroach­es, however, were not present in the public sundas. I guess even cockroaches were not strong enough for it.

The squatting urinals were at the end of the room and, in one way or another, were al­ways filled. Filled, if not with people, always with excre­ment. Both holes, about 18 inches deep before entering into the piping system, were overflowing its contents onto the floor.

I never became native enough to use these squatting urinals. For me, it took same effort just to walk into the horde of flies and stench which the place aired. Though many Indians used the place (humans can get accustomed to most things, I guess), many did not. Instead, they would use the walls, alley­ways, etc., and public observance was no hinderance to natural undertakings. Later I would, with mixed success, try to change this situation.

During those first months, I scrambled to get a sense of direction for the months to come and to familiarize my­self with the employees of the center where I worked and lived, and with the people of the surrounding chawls. I quickly shed twenty pounds, of the thirty I’d shed during my whole stay, during those first three months.

The stomach situation got better when two Peace Corps volunteer girls were found liv­ing across the street. They got me to eat at the better estab­lishments, but we all started realizing that our budgets would not hold out by eating at grade one restaurants.

They initiated the search for an Indian cook, whose salary Peace Corps would pay, and found a mother of five from the chawls. Peace Corps required a physical check of all hired cooks, and this check found Shakila filled with amoebic and bacillary dy­sentery along with something more serious like a high TB (tuberculin) count, though I cannot remember for certain if that were it.

Peace Corps gave her some medication and by the third month we had a cook, and I loved it. Beef, since the Hin­dus won’t eat it, was very cheap in the chawl market. Of course, with rats, flies, roach­es, dirty hands and dirty breath permeating the open air market, the quality was not the best. And, of course, at first Shakila would not pur­chase the beef for us. She would, however, in the priva­cy of the girls’ room, cook it.

Our diet consisted of rice and chowpatties for lunch, and either stew, or separate portions of beef, vegetable, and potatoes, for dinner. I gorged myself and burned up the energy. The girls, at first, gorged themselves, but since they were not burning it up, it started to show. In the end, I gorged, and the girls ate like they did not want it to show.

I threw myself into any ac­tivity which I thought might keep my mind off my physi­cal and living condition. In the mornings I had two or three young kids come to learn English. The truth was probably that they were com­ing to improve my Hindi and teach me Marathi, but, for my ego, let’s say I tried to teach them English.

Soon the three grew to many, for in running around the city I had found that USIS had some simple reading books for youngsters and this helped enlarge my English class. I still had my special 2 tutors and favorite kids come early, but by 8:30 am, I often had about 20 kids sitting around a little reading table listening and trying to read stories.

My cubicle of a room was next to a large conference room that Dr. Sabnis used to host government dignitaries. Outside of it there was a slop­ing balcony of 25-ft. by 5-ft. This is where we had our reading classes. The confer­ence room is where, I sug­gested to Dr. Sabnis, we should stock a library. He said there would not he enough interest in it and that he needed the room for his meetings. Well, I did not press the subject, but the crowd of kids the Doctor saw each morning pressed it for me.

By my fourth month, the Doctor would be convinced that the library would be a good idea. Perhaps it was partially a political gesture; he might have wanted to im­press the dignitaries with his sacrifice of a room to further the cause of his needy mas­ses. Whatever the reason, it was a step in the right direc­tion.

I stressed that an Indian should run the library and establish his own system over it. I did not want to he a head librarian and making it their show was what we were sup­posed to be trying to do.

Doing it their way meant that the cabinets to most of the books were locked. Unfor­tunately, most Indians, suffer­ing from some form of inferi­ority complex, will not ask for a book just as they will not ask for a change in the sys­tem. If it is the system, it is assumed to be right. I men­tioned this to Dr. Sabnis, and he replied that many of the books were valuable, were his in other words, and would be issued on request to those who could be trusted to use them properly. For instance, I was one the books could be trusted to.

These books were not the el­emental reading that was needed by these people, and this kind of explanation furthered my belief that show was part of the reason the library was to exist. It was not a completely bad situation though. At the least, it got people out of the crowded chawls and into a room where they could read in relative quiet, and I stocked the open shelves with books and maga­zines from the American, Bri­tish, and Russian information centers. USIS (United States Information Services) had a great deal of books and magazines that they were not worried about having returned. I showed the librarian how to get more of these and im­pressed the philosophy of use on him. He figured I was some kind of bera shab (im­portant person) and therefore followed my instructions.

An extension to the library was the movie project. I start­ed the movie scheme by showing a couple hours of movies for a couple of weeks in a row. That soon shifted to having an Indian show these. Then I was told by Dr. Sabnis that the center had a projec­tionist who had been assigned to such a scheme long ago.

The movie scheme, with 10 to 12 hours of movies shifted between three centers each week, worked well for the pe­riod that Dr. Sabnis and I kept on top of the situation.

Kids and adults were so starved for the wonders of film that a few minutes after the projector went on the grounds 400-500 people ap­peared. Even with the bad au­dio portion which was often the case, the cinematic expo­sure to the developments of the outside world was a tre­mendous education for them.

I also tried to contribute to the center’s athletic program. I played a few games: cubari–where the kids squat next to poles and zig-zag in and out of the long line of pegs escap­ing the opponents tag; and whip-lash-tag-and-tackle-the-last-guy-game. I figured they did not really need me to play those games often. The game I decided to get involved in was much closer to my heart. I decided to rebuild the dilapi­dated basketball courts that existed outside my window.

‘Westering’s Died Out… It’s No More’

Glendora Press November 2, 1969

‘Westering’s Died Out… It’s No More’

(Editor’s Note: Glendora High School teacher Dwayne Hunn continues his series of articles describing his Peace Corps experience. He continues with his impressions of life in America which he feels lead the young into Peace Corps service.)

By DWAYNE HUNN

In many nations Americans have a bad image. They have a bad image for many of the reasons that the young criticize their affluent parents.

American tourists tend to flaunt their wealth, trample on foreign customs and cultures, believe living first class in nations whose masses live third class gives them peroga­tives. Being Americans, the most successful yet to dwell on the earth — luckily, on its richest continent, seems to mean they deserve to be treated as prima-donnas.

In the 50’s our image was worse than today’s. The high society tourist and high society ambassador inundated our foreign affairs. The Ugly American by Eugene Lederer splashed this story on the American reading market and it became a topic of discussion.

It had not been much more than a decade since we had saved Europe from poverty and the radical philosophies poverty sprouts. The Europeans, with their Puritan ethic, their assembly line know-how and our millions of dollars through the Marshall Plan, rebuilt. By 1959 we had spent 10 times as much in foreign aid as Russia had. Yet the edifices Russia built and her propaganda about us seemed to be winning more hearts than we were. She would point to the strings we attached to our aid, to our demands for a return on invest­ment (from first time entrepreneurs), and to the ex-colonial power we had as allies, and the lesser developed countries of Asia and Africa listened.

World War II had toppled the sleeping America giant from a pleasant dream that we could grow and prosper as the nation did in the era of the Davey Crocketts. World War II shot the fortress America theory and afterwards we had to get involved in the world’s growing pains along with our own. Our first adventure in this area led to the rebirth at Europe. It was not too hard. We gave lots of dollars, some skilled help, and Europe was better than before. As a world power we learned pretty fast. Putting the world in economic shape would not be too hard for the ex-sleeping giant.

For awhile we must have mislaid our history texts. We pumped money into Asia and Africa and nothing near what happened in Europe happened. We became disgusted and frustrated. That the Industrial Revolution hit Europe in 1775 and, in some parts of Asia and Africa still has not hit, did not seem to register with some impatient Americans.

Some Americans started realizing that there was a need for some human skills before a nation could start doing tricks with dollar bills. So by 1959 America had 3,200 techni­cians and engineers working in LDCs to plant the seeds for economic growth. Still Russia seemed to be moving ahead in world affairs and the acceleration of her economy was the bulk of the developing, and developed, world. The fact that in 1959 Russia had 6,100 technicians and engineers planting those same seeds, and in twice as many fields, might have been one of the reasons she was still surging while we seemed to be moving in a quagmire for the hearts of other peoples.

In a sense we had been entering a new era of isolation­ism. We, within our nation confines, had produced more than any other nation in history. To do this, we had to know a great deal — at least about ourselves. What had we learned about other nations? We were the most travelled nation in history and because we had produced so much, we travelled first class. Only minute sections of the LDCs lived first class so what we saw and brought home was not reality.

There are, and probably always will be, the narrowminded first class tourists. But the 60’s ushered in a president who wanted to put in more of a new breed into the field of economic development. Kennedy wanted dedicated men, not partygoers; he wanted them to know the native language, not just English. He got rid of much of the deadwood in the foreign affairs office. He pumped the LDCs with a fresh, energetic breed of idealistic BA.generalists. He offered them an op­portunity to rough it—a desire he sensed their building frus­tration called for, And he hoped that they were not just mou­thing slogans, that they were not yet spoiled by affluence, and that they could respond to the kind of challenges long forgotten in our history.

Kennedy’s one thousand days were appropriately termed the New Frontier. Some of his programs and his aura offered an exciting challenge to many Americans. When John Steinbeck in Red Pony lamented:

“No place to go, Jody. Every place is taken. But that’s not the worst—no, not the worst. Westering’s died out of the people. Westering isn’t a hunger any more. It’s all done…”

He was speaking of something that muscles America’s fibre; that girded her backbone. He was speaking of a loss that many were sensing—a loss based on readily having too much. To many, Kennedy offered the spirit of the cowboy. His Peace Corps offered something akin to the rawness of the west of years ago. You did not use six guns as your tools, but your mind, hands, and the accumulated experience that about 20 years of life in twentieth century America could pump into you. It was exciting and challenging, but it was cushioned too. For you knew you could always ride back to protective Marshal Sam. The sheep ranchers you left behind had no Marshal to ride to in leaving their hovels behind.

The bulk of the Peace Corp is still composed of B.A. generalists. They are not exactly technicians and engineers, and what skills they have must have been developed by participating in the life of their earlier environment. Anyway, mere technicians and engineers are not what LDCs need.

Often technicians and engineers lack the social or liberal arts education that would allow them to understand the sociology, psychology, culture, or history of a foreign land. After many years of mastering an exacting science they lack the patience or desire to measure human developments in anything but definite progressions. If the engineers’ efforts are not eliciting successful strides by the natives, then the engineers may become irritable and sometimes goad or degrade the natives, which is seldom a good policy. Against this setting the B.A. generalist, who is willing to listen and learn and who has a basic but broad under­standing of the needs of LDCs, is a greater asset to the LDCs and his own nation’s foreign policy.

In the total picture, however, LDCs need specific skills to enable them to stand on their own. The idealistic, college grad volunteer realizes his insufficiency in fulfilling this role more than anyone else. The new director, Joe Blatchford, found the present time opportune to try to remedy this situa­tion.

Some have criticized the Corps as a post-graduate trip, financed by the government, to help graduates find them­selves. Others have criticized it for being a prejudiced insti­tution, catering to that class that can finish college. But the Corps has always asked for older people, successful businessmen, carpenters, mechanics, farmers, etc. The response was never great. College kids respond, in part, because they are tired of the easy life and want to see if their mettle measures up. Mechanics, carpenters, farmers, etc., feel that they have been testing their mettle all their lives, haven’t been taught in classrooms of idealism or the brotherhood of man­kind and have been too interested in making a little more money each year, before their bodies wear out, to be interested in the Peace Corps.

Blatchford has initiated special pay incentives to attract these men to the Corps. If on top of their skills training can inject sensitivity to a foreign culture and a certain idealism, then the Peace Corps could be a truly dynamic outfit. The background of the skilled laborer rubbing with that of the college grad’s in their respective work experiences may cause some sparks to fly at first. In the end, however, the sharing of experiences, the communicating of ideas will enrich the lives of Americans at home, enlighten the officials in Washington, and brighten the lives of those LDCs they work in.

The Peace Corps was good as it was. A sign of this is the tag the Communists paste on them as CIA agents, and the tag the LCS’s ruling elites paste on them as commies. Such innuendoes will not kill the Peace Corps. Snide remarks by groups back home that returned volunteers are just a hunch of pinkies probably do more harm. Some from these groups have been the skilled laborers who look on the Corps as a government financed vacation for the college kids. Getting the college kids and the laborers together in theis venture will result in both being more worldly aware and worldly mature.

It would be tragic if their were no more frontiers; tragic if there were no more challenges for youth on which to vent their pent-up strength. And there is westering to be done—in building communications between people, in providing a meaningful education in the classroom, in giving the ghetto kid a better starting block in the race of life, in exploring space, in nurturing the ocean floor, in giving and learning in the LDCs.

‘But I Have Also Been In the Peace’

Glendora Press  October 26, 1969

‘But I Have Also Been In the Peace’

(Editor’s Note: Glendora High School teacher Dwayne Hunn continues his series of articles describing his Peace Corps experiences. He now turns in his impression of life in America which he feels lead the young Into Peace Corps service.)

 By DWAYNE HUNN

Often high school classes are boring, subjects seem irrel­evant, and life then seems more exciting in excursions with friends. Consequently, when high school finishes the graduate often seems to have learned or remembered more from what his peers have done than from what his teachers have said.

College is sometimes less boring. One is freer to chose classes, is being treated more as an audit, is closer to a career and this degree is relevant to a successful career. Even then, however, it often seems that one remembered and learned more from experience with friends than from what professors said. By the end of college one may wonder just how 500 tests were to measure one’s growth in knowledge or test one’s moral fiber, classical goals of education.

Most collegians were served from cafeteria lines, had a structured schedule of courses to follow, participated in or­ganized extra-curricular activities, dated, had friends, read, etc., and the time flew-by. Many professors did the thinking for the students and the students ingested as much of their thinking as they could — often just to cough it back and hopefully boost their grade point average. Often the profes­sors’ thoughts had been crammed, as some students were now ingesting, from someone else’s thoughts under a similar, but earlier system.

Most colleges are a testing grounds to see how well you can grind out a certain amount of mental work under a sys­tem. If you are smart enough to get into college, you only need to set yourself to the grindstone to complete it. It is a testing ground because the next phase of your life may be just as much, or more, of a grind.

For some it may mean an IBM kind of job that gives plenty of training in manipulating machines, to the point where the personality of the overseer is deadened. It may be an advertising executive’s job, where one may have to learn how to manipulate consumer desires. It may be a job in a phase of engineering where one learns how planned obsolesc­ence makes the economy go. Or one’s next phase may be the army where one knows when to shower and when to sleep and one’s day is filled with simple, uncreative, at the least, tasks.

One could he obstinate and search for a more satisfying job. There are many of these jobs still existing in America, though one may be penalized in the salary by taking one. Or one may just listen to the right FM station and hear its recent ad.

The Peace Corps won’t keep you out of the army. But when people ask, “Been in the war?” You can at least say, “Yes, but I have also been in the peace!”

The Peace Corps gives no grades, hands out no PCV of the Year awards, offers no pay incentives, delegates no ranks, often supplies no structure to work through, and es­tablishes no commissary or barracks. The Peace Corps often forces you to rely on yourself, instills a certain esprit de corps, allows you to be responsible to no one but yourself, and may mean one must learn to be one’s own best compan­ion.

Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corps’ first director, wrote his philosophy of the Corps in “Point of the Lance.” He hoped the Corps would point the way for economic growth, help people know people as people, and cut the path for better things to come between the have and have-nots, the haves and haves.

As director he initiated the policy of keeping staff-to-volunteer ratios high. The Corps was not to be a babysitting or a keep-em-busy-keep-em-out-of-trouble educational agency.

Volunteers were to be put on their own initiative. Staff would seldom oversee, advise, etc. Staff was to check on vol­unteers’ physical and mental health, and, if approached, provide what help it could for major projects. For the few staffers we had in India’s western region to cover about 500 volunteers, this was a full time job.

A critical analysis of American society may return the diagnosis that she is maligned with materialism, hypocrisy, narrowmindedness among sections and groups, and a break­down of communication between not only groups but families as well… The young sense this weakening of fiber and express their frustration about it.

Jack Kerouac, spokesman of the beat generation whose books ushered in the Hippie era, died a few days ago. His original intention regarding the term “beat” had to do with the idea of “beatific,” a termini used for the concept of a people rejecting the materialism of the United States in the 50’s and turning instead to a frank enjoyment of life. Well. I did not dig the Beatniks or Hippies too much because I doubted the sincerity of most of them. With time, however, I came to respect some of their criticisms of some American ways.

The Beatnik or Hippie who criticized the shriveling of individuality, the growth of materialism, the accepted spread of hypocrisy but protested by dropping out was worthless. For the sincere Beatnik or Hippie who doesn’t want to be programmed through the IBM world, the advertising game, the consumer-planned obsolescence-profit syndrome America still offers him the opportunities, and the Peace Corps is one, to be his own man.

If in one’s Peace Corps application the recommendations present you as an honest, hard-working individual, if you do not reveal a different side in training, then you are sent over-seas. Once overseas if you decide to be a Buddhist monk, a playboy, or one dedicated to some kind of social action — the program will have room for you. This variety of people, goals, and experiences enriches the program and allows individualism to grow.

It does not cost the government much to have volunteers spend years getting to know other people, teaching them something new, and learning something old from them. In fact, it is probably much less expensive than the ammunition costs of keeping a GI alive in Vietnam for one month.

Large military contingents stationed abroad usually mean the native girls turn to prostituting. The native males feel emasculated by the dash of the American, and their uni­forms. An inflated economy often adds heat to the boil. A bad foreign policy move adds more heat and sometimes you have demonstrations of “Yankee Go Home!”

I can remember only one demonstration launched to get rid of the Peace Corps. Within three years the Indonesians launched a counter-demonstration to call them back.

 

 

 

 

 

Off to India, Sensing the Travail of Life

Glendora Press — Oct. 22, 1969

 Off to India, Sensing the Travail of Life

(Editor’s Note: For several issues the Glendora Press has carried articles by Glendora High School teacher Dwayne Hunn, in which he describes his impressions as a Peace Corps worker in India. He continues with aspects of his Peace Corps experience and training while in New York.)

By DWAYNE HUNN

There was another startling, more personal, experience dur­ing Peace Corps training in New York. Rio and his family filled this niche.

In our field work we tried to find more job opportunities for the returnees from the Big House. We tried to take Negro and Puerto Rican mothers to the welfare center to apply for funds, a place whose imperson­alness intimidated them, and, in youthful idealism, I tried to solicit funds for the Christian Damascus Church Of Christ (oUp up up ut of which we worked)  from philanthropic organizations.

We were not very successful. Jobs for men of their skills were scarce. The New York Port Authority had a waiting list of between 10-30 months for school janitors, street cleaners, and refrigerator and air condi­tioner repairmen. These were not even jobs, but the waiting period to enter into training, after which there was usually another, perhaps longer, wait for employment.

We took a mother or two to the welfare center, and I could understand their intimidation. The welfare officials were rushed by poor, illiterate people all day long. They were tired of seeing this mob day-in-and-day-out, year-in-and-year-out and consequently were irritable and impersonal.

We were successful in getting a few tenants, who were afraid of their landlords, to complain about the lack of proper trash and garbage facilities and failing ceilings. In Rao’s case we had to go almost to the Landlord Commission before the landlord fixed the broken ceiling.

Rao hid been a good friend of the reverend, and had fallen into alcoholism, and then, since it started as a cheaper habit; took to drugs. The reverend, certain that Rao was sincere in his desire to clean up, sent him to the big house. Now the reverend was down on him, for Rao had returned from the house n a month rather than after six, the period the church wanted all addicts to stay.

Rao had reasons for returning. He had a wife and three children, had been out of work for two months, had few savings — as their furnishings and steady diet of spaghetti and beans reflected, and his wile had not been able to qualify for welfare.

His street was filled with old, bricked or cemented four story apartment houses. The street was fairly clean, but drab. There was little color other than that supplied by cement slabs, cement sidewalks, asphalted streets, Up up up up up up  and what seemed to be when we visited, cloudy days.

Their hallway was about 10 feet long and extended by a bathroom on the left and entered into a bed-living room combination of about 10’x 20’ and then into a long, narrow kitchen. Rao and his family, though a little ill-at-ease, were pleasant to us on our first visit. While we talked, we noticed the fallen ceiling over the sink. They explained that when it fell it almost hit one of their children.

Earlier they had complained to the landlord, but he had refused to act. About six square feet of lath was now showing, and it looked like more plaster would soon adorn the sink below. We were lucky on this one.  Before we left New York, this ceiling would be fixed.

Four days before we left for Bombay, we said goodbye to Rao and his family for the last time.  We left hoping that Rao, still earnestly searching, would soon find a job.  We had a few parties before departing from the golden shores.  One was especially enjoyable.  It started with a dinner between Bill, myself, and a Jesuit priest who had taught me in high school.  During his 30 some years he had been a wild, swinging hillbilly, a war veteran, and now a Jesuit.  It was our last night in the city, and he treated us to our last American steak and some beautiful talk.

We asked if he would come with us to our bon-voyage party.  He said he would, under one condition…  So we did not tell anyone he was a priest, and with his collar removed, his good looks, and his personality, he had a crowd around him all night.  He had been so wrapped up in studying for his doctorate that he was fearful that he was losing touch with what the young were feeling.  This was an opportunity for him to touch some of their feelings.  He was a rich individual to bow out of America with.

That thrill and excitement of jetting across the ocean to a new, and what we felt was a great adventure, buried many impressions of training.  The spirited, frank, often critical discussion groups…  The probing, self-reflective talks with my roomy, who was not sure if his motives were the correct ones for joining the corps…  The crowded subways to and from our work site — the man in the crowd acting sexually against Doris’ thigh on one of the few occasions Frank and I were not around her on the subway…  The look of at leased disdain, and maybe malice, from the older Negro basketball players I’ve worked with in the ghetto gym…  The bland looks from the younger Negroes…  The happy smile, or perhaps contemptuous chuckle, from the youngest Negroes when they beat me at table tennis or checkers…  The dimly lit, trash littered ghetto street with the barred drug store windows and two Negro kids squared off against each other with one viciously waiving a broken bottle in his hand…  The dates with pretty girls and walks down cold, windy New York streets…  The weekend visits to the special Vermont girl and the rupture of our parting…  The experiences and general impressions of intensive training…  NYC from the ghetto to Columbia to Broadway…  The quick Christmas with the family I love dearly—these were all fading to the back as the hopes and expectations of a new adventure flooded our thoughts.

We all entered the plane buoyed with a hope and a certain sense of accomplishment.  Little do I remember thinking of Rao and his family.  Yet Rao’s attempt to break from his past into a better life did not end with our departure.  First, it ended with word that reached us the day of our departure… Rao had been searching for a job.  His wife was washing the baby in a few inches of bathtub water.  She left for a few minutes to check on the boiling spaghetti.  She returned to a drowned baby.

We may have been better people because of our experiences and training.  We may have been better merely because we “experienced” the realization that many of the people we left behind were merely “sadder, poorer people” while we had the opportunity of beings some kind of “better, richer people.”