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Russ and Harriet in the Peace Corps, part 6: Conference and Closure
Bar Harbor
Episode 6: The conference in Campo Grande, and a final decision.

2/1/65 - 2/8/65 No. 33
Well, Monday afternoon we packed and then saw "Merrill's Marauder's" in the evening. Tuesday morning we left for Tres Lagoas and pizza and ham sandwiches. The prices at the hotel there are real funny. In October a room cost Cr.$3,000. When Bob and Nancy came up in December is was Cr. $3,500 but at Christmas we paid only Cr. $3,000. When Bob and Nancy left it was up to Cr. $4,500 and we paid and we paid $Cr. 3,000 for Tuesday night. Guess they look more gullible than we do!

We ran into 3 Americans in T.L. - 2 fellow PCVs on their way home from a vacation and Hal, a high school kid from Texas. He and his father have been here 2 months and are going to rent a fazenda near Campo Grande on which they plan to fatten steers. Hal seemed awfully lonely and rather desperate for someone to talk to. I imagine the whole situation is very hard on him. Tuesday evening we saw "Love in a Goldfish Bowl" (with Tommy Sands) and met one of our Brazilian friends at the movies. So we got to see a movie and pay off social obligations at the same time.

Wednesday we left for Campo Grande on the "Citorina". This is a one-car, air-conditioned train and was just great. We'd almost forgotten what air-conditioning is like' The train left only 15 minutes late and arrived 10 minutes early which is an almost unheard of occurrence in Mato Grosso. The countryside along the tracks is very ordinary until the last 2 hours and then it gets spectacular. There is some really beautiful scenery in this country. We arrived in Campo Grande about 8:15, got met and taken to our hotel - the Colonial. The lock on the room we were supposed to have is broken so we are staying in a pretty crummy one for the night. After getting settled we wandered about, completely overwhelmed by this huge city of 230,000. It's rather frightening after Aparecida. We went to the local bar about 10:00 and had cokes and real French fries and just talked our heads off. It is just great seeing everyone again and only promises to get greater as more people arrive.

Thursday we went shopping and got me a skirt and top and Noxema. Russ got some socks and we bought 3 issues of Time and one of Reader's Digest. We had hamburgers and eclairs for lunch. There is actually such a thing as soft toilet paper here! We changed rooms and our new one is large and airy and has 2 arm chairs. The Hotel is sort of a small courtyard so our room opens off the porch. The bathroom in the main part of the building is all right but is locked up at night and we have to use a pretty nasty one in the courtyard. If it is raining, we get wet. One of our neighbors has a pet fox named Kookie who likes his tummy rubbed. When we leave the door open, he wanders in and out of our room. We ended up Thursday night with a Brigett Bardot movie.

Friday we walked around the city exploring. Among other things we saw a mirror with a beautiful gilted carded wooden frame. And only Cr. $105,000!!. It rained a lot so we spent a lot of the day talking. We discovered a real good restaurant for dinner and a whole bunch of us ate there.

The Conference in Campo Grande went off pretty well; it was a good thing and everyone there enjoyed it. On Tuesday we got our gamma globulin shots (1.6 cc less for Russ this time), rabies shots (none for Russ this time), and a new type of TB skin test (even Russell got this...). I(and this is Russell writing) had had been having trouble sleeping at night and Dr. Ron gave me some seconal to help me. We had a banquet, supposedly in honor of the Governor of the State and Harriet and I left early, because we were both somewhat tired. I took a seconal anyway, and I guess it must have been the combination of the pill, the tiredness, and my one bottle of beer at the banquet, but anyway, I woke up the next morning positively euphoric. Not exactly drunk, but boy was I happy.

But to get down to the real news of this newsletter, we talked with Jim Creasman and Phil Lopes about our transfer, and with Dr. Ron too, and finally with Warren Fuller, Head of PC operations for all of Brazil. We talked about transferring to a different job no one could come up with any ideas on how to use me. The only suggestion that came up was from WF about a school-building project somewhere else in the country. The upshot of all this was that I finally realized what was behind all my discontent, and what I had to do about it. I ask you to read the letter printed below only with understanding and empathy. I ask you not to be disappointed or to look on it negatively, because it is written with a positive, confident resolve, and is a step forward, not a fall backward.

Aparecida do Tabuado
Mato Grosso, Brazil
17 February 1965

Mr. James Creasman, Director
Mato Grosso Project
Voluntaries da Paz
Caixa Postal 254
Cuiaba, Mato Grosso

Dear Jim:

It is with some difficulty that I write this letter submitting my resignation from the Peace Corps. I say with difficulty because my reasons for this action are many and complex.

To be sure, this is one of those low and depressing times in the life of the PCV, the period of the so-called "three-month-slump," but there are many other factors involved. One of the most important of these is that I have been unable to find any personal satisfaction or any happiness with the job I have been doing. I have tried, hard, to do the job I am here to do, but no matter how I try, I can develop neither a liking for the job nor an interest in it and consequently cannot put anything into it. It is perhaps even more unfortunate because I think we are doing a good job at our health post. We have gotten it operating from its previous state of virtual inactivity and have been both providing the community and training the personnel of the post. We have gotten it operating from its previous state of virtual inactivity and have been both providing services to the community and training the personnel of the post. We have evidently had some effect on their spirit, too, for during our recent absence for the regional conference, our visitadora made several visits on her own to newborn infants, something she never has done before. I cite these facts to help differentiate my feelings from those of mere frustration at a lack of results. Insofar as the "other"Peace Corps job community development goes, I find it difficult even to try. Difficult not only because it is a difficult job, but more because I am a quiet introverted person and I am not a leader. These are the facts which I have know, which Peace Corps has known, and which Peace Corps has know I have know, for I spelled them out to the people in Milwaukee, both in writing and in conversation.

At this point you may ask why then did I join the Peace Corps. I joined basically for personal reasons, as distinct from any idea of helping the betrodden peoples of the earth. My life had been a rather aimless wandering existence during the year or so prior to my enrolling for training last summer and I looked to the Peace Corps to provide a change of atmosphere, to waken me to break out of the shell I was drawing closer and tighter around me. An in some sense, I never really did join the Peace Corps, in the sense of making a decision backed up by a commitment. It was a kind of mechanical non-decision that I took the Peace Corps test, and partly out of fear of having nothing to do when I graduated from college. I had nothing to lose by grapsing at the offered strat and when the second straw, the invitation to training, was held out, I had nothing else to turn to; but here, in the Peace Corps, was something I could go on and do, at least for the next three months, without having to think, without having to make an actual decision about myself or my future.

I didn't decide to join the Peace Corps; I just joined. This may seem rather foolish to you but it made considerably more sense to a frightened young man of 21, about to be married, with no idea of what he was, what he could do, or what he wanted.

So I joined the Peace Corps, made it through training and selection, bought a camera and came to Brazil. I brought with me what, to me at least, if not the Peace Corps, seemed a strange set of qualifications: years of part-time work in offices and libraries; two summers' experience as a laboratory technician for a chemical plant; a major in English literature at the University of Chicago; a liking of big cities in general, Chicago in particular; a newly-found love of photography, and almost no interest, really in public health. Strange indeed, because there I was, off to the Mato Grosso to work in a health post in some little town that might not even be on the map. But I went, that is, I came, and here I am now.

Life in the outback here is slow. God knows it's slow. There's very little to do and lots of time to think and to talk. Combine that and the person I was, and my wonderful wife Harriet who has an AB in Psychology and an intense desire to help me find out who I am. A lot of thinking and talking got done. A lot of thinking and talking, and soul-searching and ultimately, a lot of growing up. I've lost some 33 pounds' weight since I came to Brazil but I've changed a lot more than that inside of me. I'm not going to be so sophomorically presumptious as to say that I have"found myself" or something equally silly but I have learned a tremendous amount about the kind of man I am, some of my strengths, my weaknesses, my capabilities, my limitations and very important, what I want to do.

In some very large sense, I have accomplished those things for which I joined the Peace Corps. There remains,however, my obligation to the Peace Corps, which has gone to considerable trouble and expense to put me here in this little town to do a job it considers important and thereby to fulfill certain goals, those goals for which President Kennedy created the Peace Corps four years ago. One of those goals (and forgive me if I state it vaguely or poorly, but I don't remember the official formulation and I don't have any Peace Corps promotional literature with me) is the returned volunteer, that is, the changes that the Peace Corps experience will make in him, in his outlook on the world and some greater understanding of its problems and its people, in his attitudes toward America, and as American citizens. I emphasize this because I think it is the most important of the Peace Corp's goals, and I think that Peace Corps, whether it admits it officially or not, thinks so too. I emphasize it also because it is the one that applies most pointedly to me.

Life in the outback here is slow, so slow that it is almost non-existent. I am situated here with a job that doesn't interest me and to which I can't respond. I have learned a lot about myself, including the profession I am going to enter and I want to act on that knowledge. I have been essentially unhappy all the while I've been in Brazil and the longer I stay the unhappier I get. And it weakens me, saps my strength and my spirit, and I have the feeling that if I stay here another year and a half, all the progress I have made in building myself and my life will be undone. This is something I will not let happen. It's not in my best interests, nor can I believe that it is in the Peace Corps' to let myself die in such a way. I sincerely regret that I cannot complete my term of service as a volunteer; I am sorry and I wish I could. But I cannot and therefore I am resigning. This decision has been a long and carefully consered one. It has waited for no change in the external factors of the situation, but only for me to grow to the point where I could face the facts honestly, recognize what was happening, and take action. I have grown; I have faced, I have acted.

Candidly yours,

H. Russell Kay

Since this is also the letter of resignation for my wife Harriet, her signature is below as an indication that we are in complete agreement concerning our personal situation, our decision, and our desire to return to the United States.

Harriet D. Kay


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