Summer of Peace

Jen Nicholas
Benin 2003-2005

The 14th annual RPCV Regional Campout took place at Dworshak State Park near Orofino, ID from August 3-6. Twenty-three families – over 40 attendees – converged on lovely Dworshak Lake on a weekend that left nothing to be desired. As the cars wound deeper into the woods and the cell-phone signals faded into silence, many of us breathed a sigh of relief to be, rarely in our hectic modern world, alone with nature, our thoughts and each other.

The weekend was filled with activities – swimming, fishing and kayaking in the 55-mile-long Dworshak Lake system; volleyball, running and hiking; and of course, the long-awaited Dutch Oven Cookoff on Saturday night, showcasing all of our Peace Corps improvisational cooking skills! But there were also quiet moments of sitting around the campfire, often far into the night, exchanging stories, reminiscing and discussing the state of the world. We found out how to greet each other in a dozen languages, exactly what unusual items are on the menu around the world (who can resist grossing everyone else out with tales of exotic meats and meals?), and what our fellow RPCVs are doing to make the world a little better – from a women’s training center in Mexico to a bicycle-recycling project in Ghana. And we basked in the knowledge that we were with others who understood exactly how two years abroad had changed us, in so many ways. “I love going to these [events],” said Carolee Walters, of WSPCA. “Who else would listen to all of your stories?”

Captain ClarkThe attendees got a special treat on Saturday evening – a visit from Captain William Clark, the famous explorer of the Lewis and Clark Expedition! Captain Clark, also known as Craig Rockwell (Botswana 78-79), came to speak in honor of the bicentennial of his famous voyage across the Louisiana Territory to the Pacific Ocean. The old soldier was, as he put it, “in remarkable health for a 235-year-old man”! This campout was dedicated “The Summer of Peace Campout” in honor of the Summer of Peace celebrations being organized among the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) of northern Idaho.

Attendees also received a peace necklace and a pocketknife as a memento, and one woman (yours truly) received a hilarious set of Bigfoot feet for being the most recently-returned RPCV at the picnic! All in all we had a full range of returnees, from the Walker family (Ecuador 1962-64) to me (Benin 03-05) encompassing the entire RPCV experience.

Time moved more slowly in the quiet of the woods, but the weekend was still over too fast. As we packed up our tents and Dutch ovens, we wished our new comrades “buen viaje” and “bon voyage” and looked forward to next year’s campout, at Mount Saint Helen’s during the first week of August 2007. Hope to see everyone there – I know I will be!