The first night Ross Dionne and his wife spent with their host family in Jamaica, they were served chicken foot soup, he remembers with a laugh—probably on purpose so the family could see their reaction. Neither his wife nor he picked up that foot and “sucked off all the skin and meat like people do when they eat chicken foot soup” he recalls. Even though he never particularly came to like things like cow skin soup much, making the effort to try the food was one of the best things they could do to build connections with people—something Dionne appreciated very much over the course of the two years he spent in the Peace Corps.
Dionne became interested in serving in the Peace Corps when he was in his early thirties, in part because he wanted to give something back. He felt very privileged in his life, having grown up in a family who, though not wealthy, were highly supportive. The Peace Corps allows couples to serve together as long as they apply individually and are accepted individually, and the opportunity would offer a way for Ross and his wife to get experience living overseas and acculturating to a different environment.
Upon receiving their assignment and arriving in Jamaica, they went through three months of acclimation, particularly focused on cultural integration. They took language classes in Jamaican “Patois” every day, and also practiced skill-building around the work they were going to do. They listened to music and learned Jamaican parables or children’s stories to help them “get into the minds” of the local people. Things... (Read the full post or listen to the audio interview here)