30. Peggy felt that the last month of school was really a waste. The teachers were busy the whole time administering and correcting division tests, making all sorts of reports (including one listing the average age of their pupils … correct to the nearest hundredth!), planning graduation, etc. This made Peggy think that next year she’d find herself a special project for the month and disappear from the scene.
Graduation from the sixth grade was really a big deal … partly because Filipinos like to have big shindigs every time possible and partly because many children never make it beyond the sixth grade. Most teachers wore native attire equivalent to American formals to the event, and many comments were made about the few who dared to wear short dresses. Peggy decided that she wasn’t going to put out the money to have a proper dress made. (There was another native dress that she liked better.) And Peggy’s Tagalog teacher was in a quandary because she had already worn her dress three times and her husband didn’t want her to spend money for a new one. Since Peggy was considered to be on the same level with the principal she was going to try to make him see what a burden it created making the teachers wear long dresses … using herself as an example. But then one of her co-teachers and her sister … both of whom were single and rather well-to-do … decided to give her a proper dress. Refusing an offered gift in the Philippines is an affront, so Peggy was placed in an awkward position. She ended up accepting the dress (it was really beautiful), and her Tagalog teacher got a new dress, and they were both pleased.
31. Peggy spent the month of May teaching in Good Shepherd Convent, a home for girls from broken homes. The girls ranged in age from five all the way to 22 or 23. She taught two classes of modern math … one for girls age 9-11 … and one for those from 12 on up. Having such a wide age range made it really difficult to find something that interested everybody and which wouldn’t bore the fast ones or leave the slow completely behind. She floundered around the first couple of weeks but did better the last couple. She also taught typing to the oldest girls. Then during the first period she conducted training in modern math for nuns. She started out with a class of 16 or so, very few of whom were math teachers. By the last week she had only 7: a couple of the sisters were sent to a convent in Baguio; a couple quit coming because they were always called from the class to do this or that, and the rest kind of just dwindled away. Peggy felt that working at Good Shepherd was really a good experience. She however regretted that she wasn’t there long enough to use much sociology or psychology (her college majors) with the girls. All of them demanded lots of attention, which she did her best to spread around.
Since she had never been around nuns before, she didn’t really know what to expect, but they seemed quite human. Most laughed and joked and teased. And in class they were very much like the teachers at the elementary school where Peggy normally taught. They did spend an awful lot of time in prayer and meditation, but Peggy said that she supposed the time was very meaningful to them. The hierarchy there frustrated her though. Whatever a nun in a high position said, went. There was no arguing or discussing the matter. Since classes weren’t the most important thing, Peggy frequently had only half of her students, and a couple of times classes were completely cancelled. Peggy was all for everything not having to center around classes, but it made teaching difficult. And sometimes the sisters’ reasons for disrupting class didn’t seem very valid, but Peggy thought that the discipline of just accepting the situation was good for her.
I spent the month teaching playwriting, directing, and stagecraft in a crash summer drama workshop. I found it difficult to cram so much material into so little time.
31. Shocking news! When we came back from vacation, we learned that I was reclassified I-A. We knew that my draft status was up for reconsideration, but Peace Corps Volunteers were usually automatically given an occupational deferment. That was the main reason we ended up in the Philippines and not somewhere in Africa. Usually government bureaucracies don’t move as fast as the Peace Corps did in our case. After we were set to go Africa but not scheduled to leave for several months, I received word that my draft status was changed to 1-A. So I called the Peace Corps in Washington, told them the situation, and within two days they changed our assignment to the Philippines and within a matter of weeks we were on a plane to Hawaii.
Now less than a year later it appeared that since I’d be 26 within a year and 26-year olds were not being drafted, my board decided to act while they still could. We appealed, knowing that the chances of my regaining my 2-A status didn’t look good. But then my board made a huge mistake. Instead of sending me to a nearby American base like Clark Air Force Base for my physical, they wanted me to go to Ryukyu Island (Japan). I consulted a Peace Corps attorney, and he advised me to write my board (and send it surface mail, which I did), telling then that I’d be happy to go to Ryukyu Island for my physical, except I didn’t have enough money to go. Then by the time the board realized it’s mistake I turned 26 and (after college deferments) got another pass. And that was how I avoided Vietnam … while emotionally I never escaped.
32. All Peace Corps volunteers were given a thorough medical checkup half way through their term of service. It turned out that Peggy had amebic dysentery. Obviously she didn’t have it badly since she had been feeling better than she had for almost our whole stay in Manila … but it probably explained some of the stomach trouble she had earlier. The symptoms came and went, and the parasite that caused the disease was hard to isolate … which was why it wasn’t found before. The doctor didn’t really seem too concerned. Peggy took a lot of pills for 20 days, and then was tested again to see if all the bad guys were gone. They were. Otherwise, we were in pretty good shape.
Peggy and Randy Ford