Northern Ohio Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Association

NORVA connects Northeast Ohio RPCV's with each other and our community.

Monthly Volunteer Spotlight - Joe Lewis

What was your main project?

I taught English Literature and Film Studies at a University in the Sichuan Province of China. I had about a billion secondary projects on the side.

 

What were the main staples of your diet?

 A lot of rice, dumplings and noodles, along with farm fresh veggies.

 

What’s the most embarrassing/funny thing that ever happened to you?

On my second night of teaching, I walked into the wrong classroom and began writing film lingo on the board to a classroom of math students. At no one point did I realize that my class of 20 and suddenly changed to a classroom of 50. Luckily my actual students a few classrooms down got me out of there before I could embarrass myself any further.

 

What was the most satisfying aspect of your service? 

Honestly, I loved teaching subjects I was very passionate about in an entirely different culture.

 

What do you continue to do in America that you learned in your country of service?

I’m addicted to Sichuan cuisine and my wife and I hit up Asia town in Cleveland any chance we can get.

 

What do you miss the most from your service?

I miss the community that I lived in. I loved my students and my co-teachers, and it was very difficult to say goodbye to them. It really was three wonderful years over there.

What do you miss the least? 

The distance and time difference from home. I was always 12 hours apart from my family, and anytime there was an emergency it made for a very stressful and challenging experience.

Have you ever returned to your country of service? 

I have not made my way back to China, but I’d love to someday. I’m almost scared to go back to my original site as China evolves and changes at an extremely fast rate.

Describe your career path after PC? 

I applied for and interviewed with the Social Security Administration during my last month in China and thankfully landed the job before I landed back home, and I’ve been with them ever since.

What advice would you give to PCs/RPCVs?

Branch out quickly into your community. I think that’s the key for integrating faster. The PCVs I knew spent a lot of time just hanging out with each other on the weekends and were also the ones who felt the most homesick. I’d spend as much time with your host family and say “yes” to most sociable offers your community asks of you, within reason of course.

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