A letter from Mauritius

    On Valentine’s Day, 1973, Suzanne Clark and her husband Vern were in one of their favorite bayside restaurants on Newport Harbor, a short drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from their home in Huntington Beach, California. They were sitting at a second floor window table watching the sunlight sparkle on the water and the ceaseless tossing of small boats on the bay when Vern turned to Suzanne and said, “Why don’t we join the Peace Corps?” Thus began the Clarks’ journey to Mauritius as PCVs (1973-75). Recently Suzanne collected her letters home and her memories of her Peace Corps tour while taking a Life Story writing class and self-published them in a small book entitled, My Mid-Life Adventure. With Suzanne’s permission, we reprint one of her “Letters Home” from Mauritius to her daughter Janet, then a Physical Therapy student at Long Beach State College. Today the Clarks live in Sebastopol, California.

    It is Sunday morning — Dec. 9, 1973.

    We received your letter Friday, the 7th. Congratulations on making the program. We knew you would! We are so proud of you and know you will continue to do well and put the L.B. State School of Therapy on the map! The rest of our group here send their congrats also. We all had a beer Friday night to toast your success. Also, how great that you sold your car so quickly. Hang on to that money for the future. We have been here a week and it seems so much longer. The language instruction is very intense. Amine and Danielle come every morning at 8 and we work until noon on a half day and until 2 or 3 on a full day. The teaching is all oral. We sit with no books and listen then repeat. Evenings and mornings we work on vocabulary. We have copybooks to list words then we are supposed to work together in our spare time. It is no wonder I wake up in the night repeating Creole words. But apparently the system is working. They tell us we are doing well. Along with the language we will go on field trips to learn the culture. Monday we are going to the market to learn about shopping. The nurses who are working here now came on Thurs. to tell us a little about the work we will be doing. We saw Dr. Malleck Fri. and got gamma globulin shots. Also T.B. skin tests. We still have to have DPT and typhoid. Today is a welcome party for new volunteers at Blue Bay. Vishnu will pick us up about noon. We will meet the other volunteers, swim and eat. Both of us plan to get masks and snorkels because the reefs are beautiful! Yesterday afternoon Dad and I rode the bus into Curepipe, another town up the hill. Just walked the streets and looked in the shops. There are not too many ready-made clothes but lots of fabric — much of it just like home — and many places to have clothes made. The majority of women wear short dresses. You seldom see shorts or pants. Only the Indian women wear the sari. The men, mostly trousers and shirts — some wear suits — all clothes are very colorful. The big food market (or bazaar) is all open stalls with everything fresh and on display. Meat shops the same. Some small stores with packaged and canned goods. The bread is bought fresh every day because there are no preservatives in it. It tastes good! This coming Thurs. they have planned a Sega party here at our beach house. Sega is the native dance with drums. This will be part of our cultural experience. We will wish you Merry Christmas now. We both feel fine and are doing ok. Of course, we are the “old folks” of our group but don't feel it is a handicap. Mary Tom, the Hawaiian girl, is 25. The other couple, Newton is 23 and Pauline Chase is 31. We have had a couple of bridge games with them. Still have not seen a hospital but that will come in Jan. when our training period is finished. Also then we will have our own houses. Please share this letter with whoever is interested. I will try and write to as many as possible but we are really busy now and only have a day and a half off a week.

    With love,
    Mom and Dad