Frogs serving in Guatemala with the Peace Corps find more than a job.
They find a new life.
By Rachel Stowe Master '91
'97 admits to eating armadillo soup, raw bull testicles and pig face.
Sarah Burleson '01 concedes to straying from her vegetarian diet out of
respect for her gracious hosts.
Sawyers '02 now thinks it's no big thing to wash clothes by hand or hitchhike
(but she does admit that a Dairy Queen chocolate-chip cookie-dough blizzard
"would be heavenly"). Lisa Hall Gore '97 finds that life without
a refrigerator or microwave can be vastly satisfying. She also says fried
bugs taste "just like popcorn."
It's a far
cry from their comfort zones, but a handful of former Frogs scattered
throughout Guatemala are having the time of their lives -- and impacting
other lives -- as Peace Corps volunteers.
those who have gone before them, these recent grads are learning a new
language, a new culture and a new land, while being challenged by the
toughest job they'll ever love.
140 TCU alumni have joined the Peace Corps since its establishment in
1961. That's enough volunteers to rank TCU 13th among schools in the five-state
region and seventh among Texas schools.
1961, TCU alumni have served in 67 countries," said Jesse Garcia
with the Peace Corps Southwest Regional Recruitment Office in Dallas.
As of last fall, in addition to the former Frogs serving in Guatemala,
one each was in El Salvador, the eastern Caribbean, the Ukraine, Bangladesh,
Madagascar and Ghana, and two were in Kazakhstan.
that several TCU exes landed in Guatemala at the same time is mostly "just
a fluke," plus that's where the need is. "You can request a continent
but that's about it," Gore said. "We requested Africa, but they put us
in Guatemala. You have to be real flexible when you're in the Peace Corps.
And it has turned out to be a really good experience."
in the Healthy Schools program with her husband, Hayden (who attended
TCU before transferring to UT Austin). The couple teach basic health and
hygiene to kindergarten through sixth-grade Mayan indigenous children.
volunteers go in with visions of changing the world. "You soon learn we
are in a process that will take generation after generation to change
these small habits," Gore said. "We're just the tip of the iceberg -- but
that little portion is something, and we're starting something."
'02 serves in the Healthy Schools project in another area. Her biggest
challenges are the language and integrating into her society, which still
considers her a foreigner.
I learn more of the cultural norms and become more of a constant figure
in the community, I hope that this will change," she said. "My
biggest rewards come from my kids, when I realize that they have actually
learned something and will perhaps change their lifestyle in a positive
just teaching kids to brush, the Healthy School program emphasizes teaching
the teachers. Creating programs like this that strive to be self-sustaining
is one of the beauties of the Peace Corps.
electronic business and marketing degrees, Sawyers works in agricultural
marketing, specifically with the "Artisans of San Jacinto," a talented
group of women and girls who make beautiful baskets, place mats, hats
and other crafts from palm leaves. She teaches the women business skills,
then helps them find markets for their products.
behalf, Sawyers does Internet research and networks with potential clients
in the states and in touristy parts of Guatemala.
in the future to get the women's group running smoothly, to the point
where they can run the orders and find contacts on their own," she said.
"Overall, I just hope that these women can increase their standard of
living so they can have more on the table besides beans and tortillas
and so their kids can go to school instead of work to support the family."
Gores, Reeve didn't enlist right after graduation. After a couple of years
of "completely unsatisfying" work, he took a temporary position with the
truth.com, the anti-tobacco campaign, and realized he wanted a job with
social impact. He arrived in Guatemala in January 2002 and is involved
in the Community Environmental Management program, where he teachesenvironmental-themed
lessons in elementary schools. He has his "very own little environmental
group" of kids that meets Saturdays.
lives next to a semi-extinct volcano that has a "gorgeous lagoon
in the crater surrounded by a beautiful remnant cloud forest." The
volcano is a protected area, and he works with other Peace Corps volunteers
to help maintain it.
As for a
typical day, he says there's no such thing -- part of the beauty of the
job. "In the past couple of weeks, I have been working with the city to
develop an emergency alert system for droughts and earthquakes. I've helped
the school district manage their brand new computer lab, taken a dozen
kids on a trip to a cave and walked the runway as a model for locally
made cowboy boots."
is a country noted for its beautiful terrain -- tropical jungles, fertile
river valleys, immense volcanoes, traces of the great Mayan civilization
past -- and a completely different culture. After moving from Massachusetts
to Texas, Gore had some experience dealing with culture shock. And Reeve
has found his Texas roots to be beneficial. When he tells people he's
from Dallas, where parts of their beloved "Walker, Texas Ranger" was filmed,
he has immediate fans.
knows that the best bull riders come from Texas. And since Reeve already
had a reputation as a mechanical-bull rider, he gets to climb on the real
deal at the town fair in January.
good thing we have great medical coverage in the Peace Corps," he said.
more remote areas especially, there are many things to get used to. Like
mariachi bands and fireworks at 5 a.m. Livestock traipsing down the street.
Simpler lifestyles sans modern conveniences Americans take for granted,
like kitchen and household appliances. And transportation that can be
downright scary -- and packed. So much for personal space.
commute to work with her women's group includes a ride on a microbus,
a 15-passenger van, she noted, "that turns into a 28-person van in Guatemala,
because they like to get their money's worth."
Peace Corps volunteers try to get together every couple of months, July
4 and Thanksgiving guaranteed.
special to share experiences like that with people you have a common bond
with," said Burleson, who completed her service working with municipalities
in August. "I got more and more excited as more people from TCU came.
I was really proud of my university."
does the road from Guatemala lead? Mostly grad school and law school,
though Sawyers is already considering another Peace Corps term.
they land, these Frogs have a wealth of new experiences to draw upon.
part is the relationships you make," said Burleson, who already has a
weeklong return visit planned. "In the beginning it's so hard. It's not
a job, it's your life. It's so stressful to be a part of a totally different
all they give, Peace Corps volunteers don't walk away empty-handed.
with you so many experiences and relationships," Burleson said, "and an
education that you couldn't get anywhere else."
Stowe Master '91 and husband Kevin '91 (MBA) live in Tarrant County with
their three sons.