Local counties, varied cuisines and vivid memories bonded a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who gathered in Oneonta on Tuesday to celebrate Peace Corps Week.
March 1 marks the 47th anniversary of the international volunteer service. The local returned volunteers were at the Universalist Society on Tuesday night for a potluck dinner.
Edna Brown began contacting local residents who are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and hopes to find others in Otsego, Delaware and Chenango counties who have served. She said she has already compiled a list of 25 RPCVs from Otsego County.
"We are all very different people who had similar experiences, and it's fun to get together and talk about them," Brown said Tuesday.
David Rutherford, 49, said joining the Peace Corps was something he always wanted to do , though he can't remember why.
"When I graduated from college, I taught for a while and then I applied," Rutherford said.
Rutherford said he met Brown on the first day of training. Although they were both in Kenya, they were three to seven hours apart because of the quirks in the public transportation system.
Rutherford said he was teaching math and English and was the deputy headmaster at a boarding school, where he lived in a block building with a tin roof.
On Tuesday, he said, he and Brown were preparing ugali, a cake made of cooked grits, and sukuma wiki, fried collard greens with onions and tomatoes, to share at the potluck dinner.
Rutherford described his two-year stint as "one big positive experience" even though he was living in poverty-like conditions.
"It was a good life," he said. "The children were incredibly happy and you didn't get a sense of poverty. It was pretty remarkable."
Robert Chiappisi, 42, of Oneonta, said he was inspired to join the Peace Corps after meeting someone on his first job, when he was 17, who was preparing to leave for her Peace Corps assignment.