Joseph Lendvai's Content
PC Group: Micro VI
Trained: Udot (July-Aug 1967)
Years of Service: 1967-1969
Story from Joeseph
"After graduating form the University of Illinois in May 1967, I decided that the best way to serve our country was to join the Peace Cops. The likely alternative was Viet Nam. The way I saw the decision, it was ‘killing' – or getting killed – versus ‘helping’ others.
I arrived in San Francisco the following month for a few days of introductory sessions before in-country training, including physical and dental exams and some psychological tests which I nearly failed. (I was resistant to following orders, according to the test results.) But I did make to Udot in Truk District and did complete the training in 'agriculture extension’, such as planting coconut trees, thinning coconut groves, planting vegetable gardens and learning to speak Ponapean. And learned it well enough that two months later I gave a little speech – thanks to Daka and Billiam, our patient language instructors – to the welcoming crowd at the Kolonia town green in Ponape.
A few days later each person in “agriculture extension" group was assigned to a specific outer island or local municipality. I ended up in Khamar, Nett, one of the nearest communities to Kolonia. My host and wrk partner Thomas Luthrick was already working for the Trust Territory as local extension agent. And, lucky for me, he along with his wife Bilesi and other extended family members had mostly finished building a house for me right next to theirs.
Here is what I tried to tackle during those two years of volunteering.
• First, got acquainted with my neighbors and neighborhood, joined small groups to help cut the tall wild grass called “raypatle” that grew everywhere and begin small vegetable gardens.
• My host and co-worker Thomas and I planted close to 1,000 coconut seedlings in Nett municipaity and beyond. This meant collecting coconuts (seeds) from nearby Ant Atoll and giving them to interested 'farmers’. Thomas, or another extension agent from the Ag Station and I would sail from Ponape Harbor in a Mokileese motor boat to Ant, select and gather the seeds, 80-100 at a time.
• Helped cut and carry 9-10 foot logs of ‘khatar’, a very fibrous palm-like tree that does not rot for decades, to newly developed black pepper planting sites. The logs were used as anchor, a perfect host to hold the black pepper vines. Ponape’s humid, tropical environment was ideal to grow black (and white) pepper, much sought after for it pungent yet pleasant fragrance by chefs the world over.
• Planned and carried out a mangrove cruise around Ponape Island to determine what percentage of trees were fit for logging. Wrote and delivered the final report on the project to the Office of Economic Development and to the District Administrator.
• Worked with members of the Agriculture Department team and the PC Volunteers to thin overgrown coconut groves on Ponape and on Mokil Atoll. (1968)
• Initiated, helped to organize a road and bridge project(s) under the auspices of the Ponape Transportation Board. It transformed a footpath into a regular dirt road into the Khamar area of Nett Municipality. A short 14 minute silent film about this project can be seen here.
• Helped establish a Farmers Market in Kolonia, Ponape.
• Toward the end of 1968 traveled around Micronesia, including Yap, Palau, Truk and the Marianas to get a better feel for the other Districts. Never got to Kushai nor to the Marshalls. But I did visit most of the outer islands in Ponape District – down to Kapingamarangi – shooting film throughout. You can share this adventure by watching on Youtube "This Precious Land", my 33-minute documentary (which does have sound), here.
I ended my Peace Corps tour in December of 1969 by heading back home the long way, thorough Japan and Russia and much of Europe. It was quite a trip.
Today, my wife Sharon and I live in Bath, Maine, overlooking the Kennebec River. Please see below."