What is an embassy? What is an ambassador? 'Embassy' and 'Ambassador' were practically new words for me in 1967 when I encountered them firsthand in Tegucigalpa. Way back then, I and other members of 8th group new Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) were being whisked off to the embassy to meet the ambassador. We were graciously received by Ambassador John Joseph Jova and offered a delicious assortment of food that we had not previously enjoyed during our three months of rugged training in Puerto Rico. We were all dressed up and wearing neckties for this big event. We impressed everyone by being able to sing the Honduran national anthem in Spanish. I did not know then that embassy life would become my life, and I was embarking on an overseas career that would span forty-seven years.
That evening in Tegucigalpa was an exciting high point for us before going to our respective sites to serve two years as volunteers working in various programs. That would be the last time I would hear the words 'embassy' and 'ambassador' for almost three years. In 1970, I was privileged to begin a second tour as a PCV in Togo. By that time, I had some vague notion that ambassadors represented the U.S. government and worked out of places in the capital city called embassies. When my small group of PCVs arrived in Lome after three months of training in the Virgin Islands, we were met by an enthusiastic Ambassador Dwight Dickinson. I was pleasantly surprised during my three years as a PCV in Togo that Ambassador Dickinson and I became friends and during his last year in country we collaborated together in building a health center for a local community.
In 1974, Nancy Rawls replaced Ambassador Dickinson. At that time I was acting Peace Corps Director and required to go to the embassy for something called a country team meeting. I recall distinctly some of what Ambassador Rawls said in that meeting. She was emphatic about how entirely too much reporting was coming out of the embassy that nobody in Washington was interested in reading. She went on to say unless the Red Chinese were building submarines at the port, reports coming out of the embassy should be minimal. I learned then how important a function reporting was for an embassy and Foreign Service Officers, whose careers could often rise or fall on the quality of their reporting. For sure, I never forgot the words Ambassador Rawls said on that day.
I must mention an important highlight in those early years in Togo was meeting Shirley Temple Black, our ambassador to Ghana, during her brief visit to Lome. The Peace Corps transferred me in 1975 from Togo to Gabon to oversee the re-introduction of the Peace Corps into that country. My first duty was to pay a call...