November 9, 2004 | Back to: News

No frills? No problem - Local heads for Bolivia in Peace Corps

Even though he's spent a year in Chile, Grass Valley resident Mark Graziano is still expecting culture shock when he heads to Bolivia in January as a Peace Corps volunteer.

He's expecting to live with the "poorest of the poor" in a rural village with no electricity or hot water.

"They'll be tough conditions to adjust to, but I'm flexible. I think I'll be able to adapt," Graziano said.

Having majored in Spanish and Latin American studies at Sonoma State University, Graziano will be able to converse with most Bolivians.

But he'll be confronted with the challenge of teaching subsistence farming with a limited farming background ("I don't want to cause a famine," Graziano said with a smile), living at high altitude, and adjusting to the different culture.

The Peace Corps has been on Graziano's mind since he attended an informational program at Sonoma State. And in conjunction with his graduation this spring, he applied and was accepted.

Although Graziano said his application was "fast-forwarded" by his time in Chile, he would recommend the Peace Corps to anyone.

"The Peace Corps has all different jobs, they'll find somewhere for you to go," Graziano said. "It gives you an opportunity to do volunteer work in a developing country (that) offers a different perspective to the U.S."

And even though a college degree is a requirement, Graziano said he thinks the Peace Corps would consider individuals with a strong construction or business background.

The Peace Corps requires medical exams and background checks and provides a stipend and insurance for the two-year stint.

Graziano said he thinks many people have misconceptions about the Peace Corps.

"They think it's a branch of the military," Graziano said. "But I think it's a really cool alternative to the military. (It offers) a different way to represent the U.S."

To prepare for his 27-month trip, Graziano has lived this summer with his mother and stepfather, Ed and Helen Stamper of Grass Valley, and worked at Eskaton Village to save money.

He's also been reading and researching about Bolivia.

When he leaves in January, Graziano plans to take only a guitar, harmonica, a few CDs and some books.

"They don't want you to bring something that (locals) wouldn't have - like a toaster," Graziano said.

Becky Trout

Stories you may be interested in

The Union Updated Nov 11, 2004 12:47PM Published Nov 9, 2004 12:00AM Copyright 2004 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.