Peace Corps Volunteer, Thai 87, 1986-1988
There should be memorials for the volunteers — like Danuta — who really did give up life to service.
Reading my letter still moves me to tears because Danuta was genuinely a wonderful person. It was truly the case that she and I became fast, close friends in the early days of my tenure as Country Director. I was still finding my place and was confronted by some difficult and troubling matters for which Danuta was of immediate counsel. And over the past decades she still inspires me when times are tough. I even tell her story to others that if she could survive Poland in 1939 and work so energetically for the common good and with good spirit and sense of humor, then all the rest of us should rise above our miseries and charge ahead.
I suppose, in a sense, Danuta will be with me for the rest of my life at least and so she still lives on. She should have recognition in Thailand and be recalled by the current volunteers whenever they get discouraged or doubt the value of their service.
-Vance Hyndman, September 30, 2006
Well, it has been 35 full years when we first met at the beginning of that pre-departure Peace Corps training in that hotel in Seattle, in February 1986. As a matter of fact, you were the first of the other 31 volunteers I met during those three days. I always enjoyed talking to you, whether it was there in Seattle, or at the different sites we where we had training in Thailand, or at your house on the campus of that universtiy in Songkla. I always enjoyed chatting, whether it was you talking about how you had to change a light bulb at your Songkla residence, or you talking about how, because irons were not available, you used to put your clothes under bed mattresses when in France during World War II, in order to “iron” your clothes as best you could.
I heard the news about that accident in front of the Peace Corps office in Bangkok, just a few days before I finished my two-year stint, in April 1988. I was actually standing on the sidewalk next to that road in front of the Peace Corps office when another volunteer informed me. Needless to say, I couldn’t believe it. All those years ago.
Well, I am hanging in there, but let me fill you in on the most recent news from down here.
There was a pandemic, kind of like a modern-day Spanish flu. There were people wearing masks, kind of like everyone was the Lone Ranger. And there were a lot of cancelled classes, cancelled work projects, cancelled games and events- kind of like the world had ended.
I am sure that you fared much better up there, where there is never any sickness, never any worry, never any groaning- where the glasses are always filled to the brim, the jokes are always laugh-out-loud funny, and the sky is always overflowing with sunshine.