Kossuth County Advance from Algona, Iowa on May 31, 1971 · Page 3
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Kossuth County Advance from Algona, Iowa · Page 3

Algona, Iowa
Issue Date:
Monday, May 31, 1971
Page 3
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Monday, May 31, 1971 Kottuth County Advance - ^^ ^^E^to flR *^ii^•IMMIMHmMMMM-^TC^B•••••••••••••^•••••••••i^MMIMI^HMH^MHMH^^^^HHHH AfriCdl'The Experience Has Changed Our Lives' By Judy Canaday Two Peace Corps workers, recently returned to Iowa from Africa, are returning to school after more than two months of job hunting. Mr. and Mrs. Rod Bakken returned to Ridgeway, Iowa, and Algona, the home of their respective parents, after spending two years with the peace Corps in Liberia, Africa. Mrs. Bakken (Corene) is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Matt Frideres, 800 East. Call street, Algona. —NO JOBS FOR THEM— When the young couple wasn't traveling between the homes of their parents, they were job-hunting in Mason City, Charles City, Decorah, Fort Dodge, Waterloo and Des Moines. They wanted to remain in social work, which made the search more difficult and made it necessary to look in communities larger than Algona. The Bakkens are used to travel by now, a few thousand miles and two continents later, they'd prefer to stay put awhile. The traveling started a couple of years ago when the Peace Corps recruiter interviewed them at the University of Iowa. Joining was no more than an idea before that. Six months later, they were accepted. •' The couple.then started a long period of training which first took them to Philadelphia for three days of testing, followed by six weeks in Charlotte Amalie, capitol of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. They learned how to teach English through repetition of phrases. —FIRST AFRICAN HOME— Africa was the next stop, specifically the village of Hendi where they spent six weeks learn- ing Kpelle (pel-e), one of 22 major dialects spoken in Africa. They lived with a blacksmith, receiving the best room in the little house of mud and sticks. Conditions were semi-primitive, with two small beds and a table beneath fee thatched roof. Corene and Rod then moved to Suehn, which was their home the remaining time in Africa. They had a small home of their own much like the one they stayed in at Hendi. —FRIENDLY WATCHERS— "The people are friendly and are always watching you", Corene said. "Even though we had no children of our own, there were usually from five to 10 African children in our home, just to keep an eye on us." Rod taught elementary literature and English at the Baptist Mission. The students wore uniforms of dark blue pants or skirts a'nd white tops. He also helped with student organizations by starting a 4-H club and the Future Farmers of Liberia. He re he worked with the people in creating a demonstration plot of high-yielding swamp rice. Corene taught at the government school two miles down the road. The students wore uniforms of dark blue pants and skirts and light blue tops. She also taught the elementary grades, updating their library, counseling and directing a ninth grade play, «The Chiefs Bride'. "They were hard to organize", Corene recalls. —NATIVE APPAREL— Native dress is simple. For the women, it consists of a lappa- which is a two-yard piece of cloth that is wound around the waist and folded over .to make it snug, and a buba - which is like a blouse with a flared or pleated edge that gives the effect of a small skirt. The men wear a country gown which is similar to a poncho with shorts underneath. The younger boys wear slacks and a shirt. "The food is hard to get used to", Rod said. "But after awhile it tastes pretty good." The main dish is called soup-on-rice. This is prepared by taking greens, chopping them up very fine, boiling them in an oil called palm oil, and then adding small chunks of meat or fish. When this becomes thick, it is poured over the rice. Rod and Corene had ample opportunity to get used to soup-on-rice; it's eaten two or three times a day. • —SLOWER LIFE— The style of living is slow by American standards. The people never hurry to do anything, and they don't spend time worrying. "The people aren't lazy," Corene explained. "The type of food they oat gives them enough energy for about four hours of work. And when they work, they work hard." The climate also dictates the pace of living. They live in a tropical rain forest (one year it rained over 280 inches). The temperature ranges from 80 to 100 degrees. Corene and Rod nevertheless found that they liked Africa and Peace Corps work. They are still in touch with three former students and friends. One boy they hope someday to bring to the U. S. to study. "Even though there's no electricity or running' water there, we'd like to go back someday," Rod said. "The experience has changed our lives," Corene added. "It took us three months to get used to the faster living again." After their return to the U. S., the Bakkens spent three weeks in Washington, D. C., attending a seminar on Urban Problems in America. This was to help them get re-established in the U. S. by letting them in on what happened domestically while they were gone. —BACK TO SCHOOL— The Bakkens would like to settle in Iowa if employment makes it possible. Right now it apparently isn't, so they've decided to enroll in a teacher training program at Drake University in Des Moines. That study, which starts in June, will enable each of them to earn Masters degrees. When school is finished, and if nothing turns up then, they may return to Africa sooner than they expected. AA/v/vVvAAAAAAAAAA/s/v^^

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