Everything Happens for the Best: A Cross-Cultural Romance During the Early Years of the Peace Corps
On a warm August evening, Phil drove his ’56 Chevy down Interstate 96 heading for home. He had completed the last of the coursework required for his college degree and as his headlights brightened the road ahead, he felt he was at a boundary separating stages of his life: college and work. Two emotions surfaced for him—appreciation and disgust.
He thought about the education he was completing. From kindergarten through high school and college, he benefited from public education. He had worked hard to learn and earn for college expenses but still felt gratitude for the majority of the costs borne by the taxpaying citizens. He wanted to pay back with some form of community service. The advice of President Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country” gave him the direction he sought. He would apply to be a Peace Corps volunteer where his training as a math teacher surely would be needed.
Now his thoughts turned to his dissatisfaction with his dating behavior. The sexually exploitive manner he had been treating girls and women since his high school days was dissonant with the image he portrayed to the public. A fresh start away from his home and country could provide the setting to engineer a wholesome and just manner to behave in a relationship. The phrase “Get thyself to a nunnery” popped into his head.
So the Peace Corps would be his pathway to dealing with these twin goals. He was eager to talk to his parents and to set his plan into action. The murder that fall of President Kennedy saddened him and the nation to the core but renewed his resolve to go forward.
Peace Corps training at UCLA was more rigorous than he’d imagined. It was like cramming a college education into four months. It was made even more difficult by his falling in love with his Spanish-speaking language assistant shortly after he began preparing to teach in Ecuador. Beatriz was just what he had visualized as a life companion.
What follows is a pair of journeys over two years as these lovers try to find a way to maintain and enhance their desires over a distance of thirty-five hundred miles and countless cultural barriers that seemed to say “no” at every turn.