Luis Peralta

“I grew up in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. I miss the food and the people. People over there tend be closer and laugh more often. My culture is more relaxed and not so uptight and basically you enjoy being around people. In the U.S., and not just Decatur, people maintain their distance and it doesn’t mean anything bad, but they try to stay away from others. Their social gatherings are different. They aren’t so close physically. We hug, we kiss. Here, again, it’s more uptight. People keep their distance and are very aware of their personal space. The American culture is what I call monochronic. We’re polychronic. We’re in a society that’s more individualistic. An immigrant will adjust to it. If you have a friend, you’ll learn to check with him before seeing him because it’s not an open-door policy. But in Decatur, people are extremely friendly. They say ‘hi’ and ‘good morning’ and you don’t get that in big cities. One particular human asset that this city has is its friendliness that actually welcomes me and makes me feel part of it.” (1/4)

“It was very hard when I came to the United States. . . the schedule, the food, being isolated in an apartment. You don’t see a lot of people outside. The first sense that you’re in a foreign country is seeing everybody doing their own thing. There’s not a lot of sharing, like people doing things together. If it happens, it’s mostly family. It was pretty tough to not shake hands with others and not have a friend to sit down and laugh with. It was really shocking. I continued reading, though. I did a lot of reading on the U.S. culture and I talked with other professors at Millikin. They gave me lots of tips on how to get by. The number one tip was to always find time to exchange and connect with somebody. I embraced everything. I didn’t limit myself to my job. I embraced people outside, my students, and my friends and I kind of emerged in Decatur.” (2/4)

“Let me see if I can put it in very nice words: Peace Corps is the school of life. It has taught me everything I know. It made me a trainer, a language evaluator, a planner, a designer, a developer. People come with different skills and then they go out and share it with the communities. We developed a number of youth groups and organizations in the poor communities. We did a lot of little projects for the community whether it was business, water sanitation or building a little dam. You feel like you are giving things. I learned that from the Americans. They taught me their life and how to share their knowledge with others. They would come very humbly from this comfortable life we have in the States and they would go to a third world country and give everything with nothing in return; sometimes not even a thank you.

The Peace Corps was fantastic. It was the school that taught me how to be humble and how to always aspire to be better. It’s everything to me. What you have only has value when you see it from the outside. When you return, you’re more aware of things like the environment, the community, and even politics. My favorite moment was going outside to a community and spending time with them and seeing a small project develop in front of my eyes as the community and volunteers worked to put it together. One project was starting a turkey farm. The other was putting together a water pump. When we were working on the water pump, I remember a moment when we were surrounded by the community and every mom and child was thanking us. They finally had water. We were only doing our job, but we didn’t know how big the impact was. That is a moment I’ll never forget. You see what you’re doing is worth something and making a difference. We should treasure what we have here because you don’t enjoy that everywhere.” (3/4)

“I’m very persistent. Here’s my motto. Let me see if I can translate it: ‘I am man. Everything human belongs to me.’ This was my motivation when I was young. That’s how I taught myself English. I said to myself, ‘I think I can do this. He did it. I can do it.’ A journalist in my country said that. He was assassinated. It was printed in the beginning of all his articles. I read every one of them, and when he was killed, I kind of cried. In his honor, I said I was going to adopt that.” (4/4)