The Peace Corps

I served in the United States Peace Corps in 1970 – 71, in Bafilo, The Republic of Togo, West Africa. It was a time where I felt our government did an exemplary job matching my background with my posting. I grew up on a small farm raising vegetables and chickens. I had 4 years of high school French, and always wanted to teach. So I’m in the Ohio garden, when my mother comes out and said, “Washington’s on the phone.” OK. It was a very short conversation: ” What do you think of going to a French speaking African country to teach children vegetable gardening and chicken raising?



My landlord, Baba, 103

I went.I taught at 7 different schools, with chicken projects at 5 of them. The chickens were Leghorns specially bred in Ghana (next door) for egg laying in the tropics, the idea being that eggs are a wonderful renewable source of protein.The chickens disappeared one by one between visits.  “What happened?”  “They died.” “Gee, I hope you ate them.”  “Oh, yes.”

Nearing the time of my departure, while having a gourd of chickatou (millet beer), with an Educated Togolese  teacher, I asked why they  killed the chickens rather than have continuous eggs. “Oh, there is an old Kotokoli superstition ( the Muslim tribe I lived with), that if you feed a child an egg he or she will grow up to be a thief.” I was careful to include that in my final report.

THE SATORI. One sunny afternoon I set off to visit a friend in Bassari, about 60 kilometers away. My motorcycle was broken down, so I set off to catch a lorry , which was a pickup with a covered back. On the walk up town I began about a 2 hour experience which was later suggested as a possible “satori”. It was just after the rainy season and the world was brilliantly green. I began to see the inner light, life, and love in every glowing blade of grass – in absolutely everything around me. It was reciprocal; I was feeling the love back. The ride in the bush taxi was no exception, except now I am packed cheek to cheek in the back of  a canvas topped truck, surrounded by people, goods, chickens, smells, and it was all wondrous. Every pore, tribal scar, tattoo, coil of hair, and bloodshot eyeball was the same experience: the exchange of inner light and love. It was simply beautiful.

Another gift of life redirection.


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