Peace Corps
Thai 27
Lucia McAlpin

Sorry it took me so long to write, but hearing from you (Ernie) was mind-boggling. Since you seem to remember me as a wordy, opinionated, political, feminist (before feminism was a “movement”), you will understand that trying to sum up 35 years in brief is really difficult for me, never mind what memories were dredged up by hearing from you . . .

So, here’s my scoop: In the late 60’s, I was really affected by things that were happening in the US, including freedom rides and the ’68 convention (the whole world is watching; and now watching again, as there was recently a conviction for the murder of the 3 civil rights workers in Mississippi). I was so disillusioned by what I had been taught as opposed to what I saw – total disconnect. I wanted to leave the country to find out what the country was really about. Having no money, joining the Peace Corps was one way to do this.

Skip a whole lot of stuff (wow, this is hard for me, because that “stuff” included how we were vetted, what we were told to read and not to read, etc): when I left the training (and many Thai teachers said come anyway, we will find you a job), I still had those same feelings.

When my lover deserted from the Marines (drafted even though he was the sole support of his family, his mother dying 6 days after he was drafted, certified by the doctor because he was drafted), I found information about Canada for him, and moved to Montreal shortly after he did.
Wow: I then had a totally different cross-cultural experience from you-all guys in Thailand: knowing basically nothing about Quebec, I learned (quickly!) about franco vs anglo, class distinctions based on language and quasi-racism, colonialism (US v Canada v Quebec). It was the political eye-opener I was hoping for in spades. I say that I “grew up” in Montreal. Fascinating and difficult: as foreign to me as Thailand might have been, and I made it my own.

During these ten years, I lived in communes, alone, with roommates, with lovers. I supported myself (and us) by doing odd jobs, including temp secretary crap (where I was often the only person who spoke French in a province of 85% French-speakers but with English control of the $$), while working with deserters (many of whom had been to Vietnam).
I did practical stuff like setting up housing and immigration (not so easy when people left with 25 cents and some parents sent the documents they needed ripped in shreds in an envelope); I also did much counseling for lost souls who could not understand what they were sent to die for. I’ll spare you my long history lectures about Quebec politics and American ones.

Eventually, I was able to find jobs with my first love: working with young children. When I moved back to the States because life had changed and become too difficult in Montreal (for many reasons, none of which was about the politics – nevermind the weather), I continued to work as a teacher, taking annoying courses which would enable me to continue what is my vocation. Although I have had many opportunities to “advance” in administration, I really love working with and teaching 3-5 year olds and their families. Originally I worked in co-ops, two of which I helped to found and fund;
now I live in Somerville, Mass.and work at Head Start the last existing project of LBJ’s “war on poverty”. Republicans have been trying to dismantle this wonderful program for years, but have not yet been able to do so because “statistics” prove its worth. Bush’s administration will probably succeed by his back-door and totally misguided (not to say malevolent) “no child left behind” hypocritical nonsense. I make about $22,000 a year working very hard full time to give poor kids a decent future. Perhaps you could write your congressperson.

Rats. I was hoping to make this under a page. What a trip this is.