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November 02, 2007
Teacher ventures into the unknown
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (STPNS) -- Leslie Michael doesn't know exactly what she is letting herself in for. She's sure it will come under the heading of Adventure.
"When you hear Peace Corps, you think of a crowd of energetic, computer- -smart 20- somethings," she says. "I'm a retired teacher trying to get up to speed with today's technology. And I'm off to Africa for two years in the Peace Corps.
"I know I'll be the oldest one there, and I'll have to adjust to a lot of different ways. I know too it will be an adventure."
Now 58, this Richland I teacher took early retirement in 2001 partly to be of help to her parents. A year later she faced up to breast cancer and a medical ordeal. Now, she's plunging into the unknown.
"I met up with a Peace Corps recruiter who described the amazing experiences offered. I don't want to have any regrets. Ten years from now, would I look back and wonder why I didn't try it? I signed up."
Michael left Columbia October 29, 2007. After three days of training in D.C., her group flew to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then on to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, on the Atlantic coast in the southern half of Africa."It is to be a 27- month assignment, and I will be doing teacher training. I will spend the first two months living with a local family. After that I'll share apartment space with other Peace Corps volunteers.
"English is taught throughout the school years, and I am hoping I will find many of the local people speak some English. Also, we are expected to embrace their language. The stay in the home will help that effort.
"There are 95 Peace Corps volunteers in Windhoek, mostly young people, of course. I am taking along a laptop, a digital camera, and a Webcam, although Internet connections may not be available all the time and everywhere. I'll acquire a cell phone there. I'm trying to learn how to use all the technology, but I think I can get plenty of help from the other volunteers."
She says that growing up in a military family, she learned early the virtues of always being on time. She expects that may be different in Namibia. She's heard they can be very laid- back about time. School probably will start whenever the teacher or the students get there.
"One thing the Peace Corps has emphasized already," she says, "is that we are not there to make changes. We want to help them, and make things better for them, but we leave their way of life alone."
One side benefit of Michael's new plans is she cleared everything out of her house and put her belongings in storage. Her brother will oversee the renting of her house while she is away. "I would have kept putting off the clearing out the attic forever," she thinks.
This adventurer has promised to keep Columbia Star up to date from time to time. Stay tuned.
Jackie Perrone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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