Friday, October 26, 2007

Potters and the Peace Corps

As Jerry Seinfeld would say, "What's the deal with that?"

I applied for the Peace Corps early this year, planning to leave for service in January or February after my graduation. Then a wonderful job offer intervened, and my plans are, for now, postponed.

Since then, though, I've discovered that there are at least three Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who regularly work at the ACC. Laura, a doctoral student in forestry, served in Ecuador just a few years ago. Lynne became a supervolunteer (someone who signs on for an extra year of service) in Africa. And Nancy was among the first ever Peace Corps volunteers in the early 1960s. She served as a teacher in Latin America.

According to the PC, about 190,000 Americans have served since the first crop went overseas in 1963. That's out of 300 million people. I did the math to try to figure out the percentage and got a lot of Es. So let's just say that RPCVs are overrepresented at the ACC.

This is much more than a coincidence. But what could it be? I think that the types of folks who are attracted to the Peace Corps are also the types who like pottery. It's hands-on. It offers satisfaction for your creativity. It's an ancient art form that has been practiced by most of the world's cultures. It's a little bit unorthodox. Instead of catching prime time TV, we potters are chatting about chemicals and plasticity in a windowless basement. We're oohing and aahing over a dish that took 10 times more time and money than it would to pick it up at Wal-Mart. We're hippies.

Perhaps the attribute of hippies that best explains this phenomenon is the importance of community. I've often pondered as I get closer to leaving Gainesville how much the ACC has meant for me. I made my very first Gainesville friend at the ACC. To quote Cheers, it's the place where everybody knows your name. It's a place where people with very different lives (an elderly nude model), many different ages (college students and retirees) and many different ethnicities (Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Spain are all represented) come together to talk on the same level. Where competition is put aside and an individual's experience benefits all. These are people who, like Peace Corps volunteers, believe in the principle of community and probably couldn't imagine life without it.

A fine one they have built.


Jessica DaSilva said...

You should read Emma Goldman. Her anarchist theories on community are definitely something you'd be into.

Jessica DaSilva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janice said...

Both potters and PC volunteers are forming the earth, each in their own way.