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Peace Corps Volunteer FAQ

Miscellaneous Questions

Peace Corps Stories Section:

Main Page (Introduction and Contents)

PCV FAQ, questions about my experience and the Peace Corps in general

I Was (Almost) Tattooed by Headhunters

Quentin, the World Traveler

Stalking Extremely Small Game

The Christians and the Pagans

We Visit the Land Dayaks


Maps of Malaysia and Sarawak

Related Sections:
Pictures of Sarawak
Peace Corps Links
Sarawak Links

Other Sections:
Christmas News Letters
Misc. Essays
Web Design

This is page 6 of 6. If you came here directly from a search engine, you should read the introduction at the top of the Main FAQ Page. This page has these questions:

Q: What can you give a Peace Corps Volunteer as a gift?

As always, the best gifts are gifts of time; time you spend on the person.

My grandmother cut out my favorite comic strip and sent them, with a short, chatty letter, every week. If nothing happened during the week of special interest, she wrote about her childhood in Kansas before the first world war. I still have those letters, and I treasure them. Your PCV will appreciate a one-page letter once a week a thousand times more than an expensive piece of hardware.

Several people gave me small things when I went. I'd suggest either the Swiss Army Knife that they call the "Camper" - it has the standard useful blades plus a small saw - or one of those flashlights that doesn't use batteries. They have some you crank and some you shake.

One thing I wish I had done, still recommend to any potential PCV and would suggest to any PCV's family - take pictures of the normal stuff; your house, the street you live on, your family, the main street of your town, a grocery store (meat, produce, bakery sections) and a hardware store. The medium of choice back than was color slides; it may be CD or prints now. Your PCV can then show his/her neighbors that he/she doesn't live like the people in the TV shows and movies.

Keep any gift small and simple. My parents sent me some instant chocolate pudding, for instance. It was one of the things I missed. (I also missed walking through a grove of redwoods on a chill, foggy morning, wearing an friendly old brown wool sweater, but you can't mail that.) 12 small packages every 2 months would be better than one big one.

If you send pictures, label the package "PERSONAL PHOTOS - NO COMMERCIAL VALUE". Write a separate letter telling your PCV when you sent the package. Some postal employees are not as honest as others.

The things I liked were paper-back copies of books by authors that were hard to find in Borneo; I was a science fiction fan. Newsweek gave us all complimentary subscriptions. If they don't now, a subscription to it or Time would be nice.

Don't send anything too expensive. A PCV shouldn't live above the level of the hosts. To take an extreme example, if Donald Trump's son went into the PC, it would be physically possible to send him a generator, a 42-inch plasma TV, 55 gallons of gasoline and a boxed set of the 500 greatest movies on DVD. That would tend to isolate him from his neighbors.

Q: How do Peace Corps Volunteers end world hunger?

I didn't solve the problem of world literacy. I taught English and English Literature to about 150 students over the course of 2 years. I increased their fluency a little and exposed them to some good books.

If I had been a farm advisor, I would have tried to convince the local farmers to try some different crops - slowly, so if they didn't work, their children wouldn't be hungry. I would have investigated chicken farms and ponds for raising fish. I would have looked for new cash crops.

PCVs do not solve the world's problems. They help people, one person or one classroom or one village at a time.

Q: Why does Peace Corps Service disqualify you from certain military jobs?

To avoid even the APPEARANCE of impropriety. The Peace Corps doesn't want host countries to think their volunteers are a cover job for spies, nor that the Corps is a training ground for spies. The CIA and Defense Department have agreed to the restriction.

There is an old Chinese saying - "If you are walking through your neighbor's melon patch, don't stoop down to tie your shoes." It means that even if your heart is pure, don't do something suspicious.

Most host country nationals have a hard enough time wondering why someone would leave the land of fast cars, blondes in red swim suits and easy living to teach Biology in an upriver secondary school. (An appalling number of HCNs get their information about the USA from TV shows; "Bay Watch" is still a big hit overseas.)

If people went into the CIA or Army intelligence from the Peace Corps, it would look like the Peace Corps was training spies. If people went into the Peace Corps from the CIA, it would look like they were using it as a cover job. So, you can't be a PCV if you have ever worked for the CIA. You can't go directly into the CIA after the Peace Corps, either. The restrictions on military specialties deemed "intelligence gathering" are a little less strict, but there are restrictions. There has to be time lag between one and the other. The last time I checked it was 10 years.

Along those lines, if you hunt in the USA, you can't take guns with you, even if you go to Kenya and the greater kudus make pests of themselves. If you are a ham radio operator in the USA, you can't take your radio with you either. Again, avoiding the appearance of impropriety.

Q: Is the Peace Corps a good place to pick up chicks?


Two of the 30 people in my group got married, to each other. A PCV occasionally marries a host country national. Some male PCVs rent a woman's services on occasion. Mostly they are celibate. If the pressure becomes too great, they "handle" it appropriately.

The number of women in the USA who were fascinated by my adventures, once I got back, was about 99% less than I thought it would be before I went.

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This page updated: June 20, 2014