The Big Bon Voyage Party hosted by Robby and Audrey is now past, as are weeks of good-by lunches and dinners with my dear friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors. Still one more week of fond farewells with all my wonderful German friends, more packing to do, and last minute details to attend to. And then the almost year-long process of Peace Corps applications and interviews, the medical and dental evaluations, the preliminary assignment and then federal budget cuts, will finally bring me to the point of fulfilling a long-held dream. And what a privilege it is to be able to devote the next several years to building bridges of understanding between Americans and those who live in my new host country AZERBAIJAN as a Peace Corps Volunteer!
This represents a meaningful and worthwhile endeavor, and for me personally, a way in which to honor the memory of my dear husband, Bill. He was a man who devoted much of his life to promoting volunteerism and service to others, and who was also interested in the various cultures and peoples of the world. Years ago, after we lived in Europe and he finished all his university course-work, Bill aspired to and then passed up an overseas career opportunity with the State Department, in order to honor his dad and help him with the family business. For me to now have the opportunity to serve overseas in a volunteer capacity with the Peace Corps is a distinct honor, and I believe Bill would be pleased.
Peace Corps service is also meaningful to me, because I served as an American teen-age goodwill ambassador in 1961-1962 to then West Germany, during the height of the Cold War. I sailed from New York City by ocean-liner (which was then cheaper than trans-atlantic airplane travel!) on the very day the symbol of the Cold War went up--the Berlin Wall, August 13, 1961. The program which sponsored me was the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization. Throughout our orientation, we were frequently reminded that soon a new federal program would be instituted by then-President John Kennedy, based on the model of our program, and that this new federal program would go by the name of Peace Corps! Fifty years later, it seems like I have come full-circle and that the Peace Corps is a perfect fit for me, my interests, and my abilities. Having spent years involved in business, education, foreign language teaching, and volunteer and service activities, I am looking forward to mutually exchanging ideas with Azerbaijani counter-parts, in a spirit of cooperation and understanding. My work assignments may present some challenges to me, but also potentially great human rewards.
I look forward to initially living with an Azerbaijani host family, learning the Azeri language and culture. I welcome news from home, and hope to have at least some internet access. But for the time being, my mailing address will be:
PCT Mary Branom
M. Rasulzade 5
Absheron AZ 0100