1968 "Mr. Karl"

The Great Buddha of Bamiyan

Name: Karl Perrin
U-M Affiliation: Alumni

Where do you work?

Developmental Disabilities Assoc. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

When did you serve in the Peace Corps?


Where did you serve (which country/countries)?


What were your main responsibilities as a volunteer?

TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Is there a specific person (or persons) who made a strong impression on you during that time?

The nomads, the gypsies, the Sufis, my Afghan friends and students, the Peace Corps women, esp. the Smallpox Vaccinators: "We walked in on weddings, on funerals... whatever was going on and vaccinated everyone." See the movie: http://www.dirtroaddocumentaries.com/

What was one of the most memorable moments you had as a volunteer?

Paddling and walking up a stream bed in a truck inner tube with ping pong paddles for oars. People ashore thought I was nuts and/or fantastic.

In what ways did your Peace Corps experience affect your life and/or career decisions?

That's a big question. I learned that everyone believes their nation/tribe/town is the best on earth...and it's true.

In what ways did your U-M education, both inside and outside the classroom, prepare you for your Peace Corps experience?

Linguistics, Psychology, Speech Therapy, English, Education courses gave me a love of language and teachering, and confidence as a TEFL teacher. They gave me a thirst for speaking another tongue, which was slacked by imbibing the language and culture of northern Afghanistan. I am now relearning Farsi as I teach English to Afghan refugees.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating going into the Peace Corps?

Find a strong selfish motivation, i.e. learning a language, developing a small scale technical skill or teaching/health skill. Forget about vague ideas of helping people. That will fade when you're hit with dysentery and depression. You need the pleasure of building a strenth, day by day, in spite of everything. Then, the second year, you can find out why you're there, and relax, and really enjoy yourself.

What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?

I was a boy. I became a man.

What lessons did you learn in the Peace Corps that you carry with you today?

Afghan men are wonderful fathers. Living off the hard scrabble land isn't easy, but humans are amazing. Family first. Staying put has its pros and cons.

Do you have a video youÂ’d like to share?

Buy this video "Once in Afghanistan". My Peace Corps experience was less dramatic than wiping out the last smallpox in the remotest valleys of the planet. Still, what these Returned Peace Corps Volunteers tell us in this well edited DVD is about the heart and the muscle of the Peace Corps experience at its best. Forty years later, like veterans, they are still close friends.

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