My Peace Corps Years

A Brief Personal History by Dave King

Amusing Picture of Dave in Thailand

In the spring of 1963, 42 enthusiastic (and mainly young) people arrived in Hilo Hawaii to begin a training program to prepare them for a two year adventure in Thailand as Peace Corps Volunteers. This was to be the first Peace Corps group to live in the rural areas of South East Asia, and the training was intense. The group's mission was described by the catchall title "Community Development"; with the training covering agriculture, animal husbandry, basic sanitation, simple surveying and road building, Thai culture, and much more. The Thai language was "tonal", with the same "word" having up to five different meanings, depending upon the intonation used with it. This made the language quite foreign to the ears of European language speakers, and thus it's study was the dominant component of our training period.

Four months later, after numerous "de-selections" and resignations, 25 survivors, myself among them, boarded a plane for Thailand. I was assigned to a very small village in southern Thailand, not far from the Malayan border. There was no electricity, no running water, and the market was a 6 mile trip by bicycle. The villagers spoke either Malayan or a southern dialect of Thai. While the physical conditions may sound a bit daunting, it was really not much different than an extended camping trip; no problem for a 23 year old. The real problems were the psychological adjustments required by the culture; accepting the slow pace of life, and that it was OK to lie to avoid "losing face", and also OK for someone to look into our eyes continuously without looking away (this drove us nuts), and also OK for another male to hold your hand in friendship (creepy!).

There is no way to describe my experience over those two years in a few brief paragraphs, so I'll simply say that I left Thailand with a eye-opening global awareness, and a resourcefulness that continues to be an aid in understand and coping with the complexities of our contemporary world. So - if you like working with people, and are open minded, flexible, and a bit of an adventurer, it's never too late to sign up; Lilian Carter served in the Peace Corps in India when she was in her 60's!

Thailand Collage (21K)
Collage by Dave Marsters, 1964