an excerpt from my humorous travel
Sun, Strong Tea. (This
is the first episode):
The champagne was at 31,000 feet
and by happy circumstance so was
I, cruising along at 500 miles
per hour in a Boeing 707 chartered
from Pan American World Airways by
the United States Government.
It was September, 1967, the end of
the Summer of Love, and the
plane was full of Peace Corps Volunteers
who, having just completed an intensive
three-month training program, were
on their way overseas to fight communism by
helping Third World countries with
their economic development.
The champagne was courtesy of Pan
Am, which donated it in a gesture of
thanks to the brave young people off
to do good in the world.
We had our airline tray dinners in
front of us, and we held up our wine
glasses to be filled by the smiling stewardesseswhich
is what everybody called flight attendants
After our wine glasses were filled
we held up our water glasses, and then
our coffee cups. The stewardesses filled
them all. Pan Am was being exceedingly
generous with the bubbly.
This was too good! We had been chosen
for Peace Corps service because of
our resourcefulness, intrepidness and
initiative, so no one was surprised
when a few of us got up from our
seats, cajoled the stewardesses out
of their service aprons and took over
pouring the champagne.
We popped corks and formed a bottle
brigade, passing bottles hand to hand
from the stern galley to the foreward
bulkhead. Wine glasses, water glasses
and coffee cups refilled, we sipped,
joked, and toasted our future.
If this was the Peace Corps, it was
going to be a hoot.
We were a homogeneous bunch of upper
middle-class twentysomething men and
women, Christians, Jews and agnostics,
the leading edge of the Baby
Boom, most of us fresh out
We volunteered for the Peace Corps
out of idealism, a taste for travel
and adventure, and in the case of the
men, an antipathy to having small pieces
of swiftly-flying lead lodge painfully
in our bodies. For most of us men of Selective
Service (ie, draft) age, Peace
Corps service was the only viable patriotic
alternative to service on the front
lines in Vietnam. For the women, it
was a foreign adventure and philanthropic
service before settling down to career
Right now the Peace Corps was a college
frat party high in the sky, and it
went on until we reached the coast
It was deathly quiet in the plane
as we entered Dutch airspace and the
full extent of our champagne hangover
took hold. We returned the aprons to
the flight attendants and allowed them
to serve us espresso-strength coffee. Quietly.
We stopped in Amsterdam for an hour
to re-fuel, then took off again bound
the Turkish capital. There was little
sound in the 707's cabin except for
the occasional low moan.
Until the moment when the Pan Am captain
eased back on the throttle, lowered
the plane's nose and dropped the wheels
to land in Ankara, my future as a Peace
Corps Volunteer teaching English in
Turkey had been entirely theoretical.
Now here it was right in front of me.
I saw a brown, dusty landscape of
low rolling steppe, treeless and barren.
My mind conjured a vision of the lush
forests of Pennsylvania where I had
Oh God, was this ever gonna be
I disembarked into blast-furnace-style
mid-September Middle Eastern heat which
was even less bearable with a hangover.
Where was I? What on earth had I done?
It had all seemed so plausible, so
worthy, so innocently good, a
few weeks ago at Peace Corps training
here to order an autographed
copy of the book online with
credit card or PayPal.
from Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong
Tea copyright © 2004 by
Tom Brosnahan. All rights reserved.)
from Bright Sun, Strong Tea
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