BW's Treefort 2019 Playlist: Peace Corps Volunteers Share their Service at Storyfort 

click to enlarge Left to right: Katie Miller, Gwen Ayres, Rebecca Sweetland, Tim Randall and Evan Leacox dressed in the traditional garb of their host countries.  - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Left to right: Katie Miller, Gwen Ayres, Rebecca Sweetland, Tim Randall and Evan Leacox dressed in the traditional garb of their host countries.
To hear the panel of Storyfort speakers tell it March 21, service in the Peace Corps is as much about riding the wave of chaos as it is about helping other communities.

Tim Randall, a Boise State student who served in Ukraine, told the story of the time that his philosophy of saying 'Yes' to every question he didn't understand led to him agreeing to marry a Ukranian girl and bring her home with him to America. To be fair, he had drunk his fair share of vodka beforehand. He managed to get out of the agreement with help from his host family, but said that since then he's had this message to pass on to other volunteers:

"If you take away one thing from anything I say, it's if you do not understand, say you do not understand."

Katie Miller and Rebecca Sweetland, who served in Guatamala and Dominica respectively, told heartwarming stories of connecting with their host communities, from forming close friendships with local farmers to coming to rely on bus drivers who doubled as mechanics, tour guides, babysitters, mailmen and more.

Gwen Ayres and Evan Leacox brought down the house with their hilarious tales of mishaps in Africa. Ayers, who served in Tanzania, related to a giggling crowd how she'd used duct tape, a pocket knife and a machete to turn a tree branch into a poor reproduction of a penis for a sex education class, only to arrive to find her students had outdone her.

"On every student's table is the most beautifully carved penis you've ever seen!" she told the crowd. "Like, the adult stores have nothing. I was like, 'Oh, this is what penis envy really is.'"

Leacox served in Senegal, and his tale of battling a bout of giardia on a 9-hour bus ride down one of the worst roads in the country proved that it's less about the story you tell than how you tell it. He described leaving various families' toilets "in ruins" at bus stops and the time he asked to have the bus pull over and a "chorus of languages" rose up to call a halt to the trip, shouting "Story the bus! The toubab [white man] needs to poop!"

He said that it turns out struggling with illness on public transportation was a regular part of being living in Senegal.

"While I thought I was being wholly foreign, I was, in some gross way, integrating." 
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