He clearly did things to shock us, since he was supposed to have been our mentor and teacher. Indeed, he brought himself down to our level by doing what he did. He didn’t have to impress us; he was, at the time, someone who had gone to the Philippines before we did. He had had a successful two-year stint there, precisely because he knew how communicate. And he could relax and never worry about what people thought of him. Instead, he went to the opposite extreme. An observer had to hope he would show some restraint and wouldn’t totally destroy decorum. And he didn’t really ever cross that line. He would come close but never actually stick his finger up his nose. Instead, he would place his finger beside his nose and, without saying a word, dare someone to make something of it. It would be his way of humbling poor souls who fell for his act.
Let’s call him Roger. Someone very recognizable in his baseball cap. All show, no! Yes, he knew what he was doing, with convictions that matched, a particular passion for service, and an example of the very best that America had/has to offer. And throughout the Peace Corps, there were/are many like him.
The single-minded purpose of the veteran volunteer had been to teach. Roger would never flinch when faced with something impossible. (I wanted to use the word disgusting.) A science teacher, he was always experimenting, in the same way he tinkered with our minds. In a more subtle manner, he would listen to us and could anticipate our impulses, those when acted on shrinks were watching for. The possibility of being deselected during those early days of Peace Corp training was always hanging over everyone’s head: one bad rating from a peer would do it. Roger knew this better than we did; so it was good to have him around, doing things had we been him that would’ve led to our deselection. How disheartening the long flight home from Hawaii would’ve been.