PC Volunteer Michael Merry (Peru 68)
How did the Peace Corps select twenty volunteers from a group of forty candidates?
Every Saturday morning, the candidates were given a test I refer to as “Ranking of Your Peers.” The test was handed out by Bob and Ed, the psychoanalyst specialists contracted by the Peace Corps to weed out the men that could not survive the harsh community and social environment of Peru. (I don’t remember the last names of Bob and Ed anymore.) Each candidate listed, in ten minutes, the names of his best friends in the group. Bob and Ed consolidated all the lists into one list with the name of the most-mentioned person on top. If your name was not mentioned, you returned to your hometown.
Bob introduced us to the term “culture shock.” It was the negative impact that struck you when attempting to live in Peru. It was a feeling of despair and anxiety, of wanting to go home. It sounded like “becoming homesick.” After consolidating their list every Saturday afternoon, Bob and Ed interviewed each man to disqualify certain candidates.
“Good afternoon, Mike. How did you do last week? Not too well according to your peers. Do you have any comments for me? Are you homesick? What about your girlfriend, do you miss her?” Bob created a depressing atmosphere at the beginning of every interview. A couple volunteers became so homesick that they begged to go home before Bob finished his speech.
Bob said to me, “Mike, with your type of personality, you most probably will not be able to survive the community life in Peru.” Bob went over my weaknesses, one by one, as he interpreted them, seemingly waiting for my nervous breakdown.
Every Saturday morning, I ranked my peers. After five weeks, I could remember more than twelve names, then fifteen. By the end of the ten weeks, I knew twenty names. That is what Bob and Ed wanted from every one of the forty candidates. I learned how to convince the government psychoanalysts that my years on a farm provided me with both the flexibility and hands-on attitude I needed to cope with “culture shock.”
Apparently Bob and Ed agreed with me. Our Saturday afternoon meetings became friendlier, more meaningful and the conversation evolved to other topics... If you wish to learn more about my career at mining companies, click ad icon below.