Bio rcollman

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Who was Chris then? Autobiographical

James Bartley (Nigeria XII) introduced me to Ikot Ekpene on his Honda - Thanks for the picture Road Dog !
James Bartley (Nigeria XII) introduced me to Ikot Ekpene on his Honda - Thanks for the picture Road Dog !

I (Chris Collman) think there was one person younger than me in our group and I was part of a small set who had not completed college. I have no idea why I was selected.

I just turned 20 in April, when I started training at MSU. I went to a junior college, was interested in anthropology, worked in a place that made almond sheets (which were put under the trees to collect almonds) and irrigation dams, along with tents and awnings. I did know how to mow a lawn. I had 3 years of Latin and still consider my language aptitude pretty weak. That was my vague agricultural and cross cultural qualifications.

Actually being a summer boy scout counselor for 3 years while I was in High School should have gained high marks on my limited resume. At Camp Harvey West, I worked with 1 to 2 troops a week over a 7 week season as a "Ranger". I was used to dealing with different groups, leadership styles and adapting our camp's offerings to a troop's desires. I would led troops on daylong hikes, taught basic scouting camp skills and sometimes escort them to special activities run by others. And for two years I was also the camp Master of Ceremonies. This included 2 well rehearsed campfires a week for 300 campers put on by the staff. Prior to Peace Corps, I had read the book "The Ugly American" which probably influenced how I answered questions in the application.

Ikot Ekpene Division was roughly 20 by 30 miles and divided into 4 County Councils. Most of my work was with 12 community oil palm farms scattered somewhat evenly about the Division. I would assist any village in their community projects. This included cloth weaving, bridge construction, a raffia cooperative, poultry projects and a very troublesome rice demonstration project. I was working with more groups but it was very similar to being a boy scout counselor - you tried your best to make things possible, other people had to do them.

The previous Ag/Rd volunteer (James B.) had laid a lot of ground work in Ikot Ekpene Division. Plus Ed H. had extended for a year in Abak Division and was an experience resource for Ag/Rd in Annang Province. My Provincial Secretary and the Provincial head of the Ministry of Agriculture gave me tips and support. At the age of 20, with 2 years of college, I was the lowest rank, but considered a Senior Civil servant. While there was only 1 community farm officially organized, within a year there were 8 going because the all the ground work. When I left there were 12 community oil palm farms with 30 to 70 acres each and a rice demonstration project of 100 or so acres. I also was involved with a few poultry and bridge building projects. I relied upon the Ministry of Agriculture extension agents for expertise in growing crops. Most of my work involved community meetings and working out problems.

When I first created this page, I started to wander and put in Typical day as RDO i/c IK Division. After reading other pages, I moved it to its own page. I remember I was alway busy or trying something different. Note to file. Remember when I thought I should teach myself how to use a transit, bought a trig book of tables in the market, tried to teach myself trig and probably wasted lots of time on that. (grin). On with the story of my life. 42

Summary of my Peace Corps experience

Like most other PCVs, my Peace Corp experience was profound. For me I got to experience the best and the worst of a PVC's tour. I am so glad that I was in Nigeria first. And I believe I was lucky to be stationed in Ikot Ekpene, which of course (like most other PCVs, I still believe) was the best working situation in the entire country. I was busy all the time and helped people do good things. By contrast, only 50% of the Volunteers assigned to Somalia finished their 2 year tour. If it were not for another Nigerian transplant (Everett T), who got me a job as a roadie in a traveling PCV rock and roll band, I probably would not have finished my extension in Somalia.

After Somalia I went to Geneva and Red Cross, NYC and the United Nations to see if I could assist with aid to Biafra. No doors opened up, probably because I was burnt out mentally from Somalia and could not see and open door if I walked through it. I went to Washington to check out USAID, but met another Nigeria XVI volunteer and decided being USAID in Viet Nam was not my cup of tea. I ended up in the Army and never left the states. After the Army, I went back to Nigeria on a 3 month visa and spent 2 months with the Clan Head of Ekpenyong Atai, in Ikot Ekpene who was a friend. Things were still "a little rough" and I decided against doing an undergraduate outreach project in Nigeria.

Who is Chris now?

Upon my return to the US, I was an upper division student at Franconia College (my brother went there as well). For my year's outreach, I lived with the Navajo as a volunteer at a boarding school for specially handicapped young adult Navajos. In general Navajos are a private people, more like Somalis than Annangs, I decided to do some historical research to compare oral tradition and the written tradition. I am one of the few experts on Navajo Indian Scouts who served in the US Army from 1873 to 1895. I stayed on at the College and was a part time Director of Financial Aid. Then the college closed and I worked for a family agriculture business for a couple of years.

Without putting too fine a point on it, I have basically been with my wife since the first time we met. I helped her start a sewing business as a cottage industry, we bought a house, and got married. Gale River Designs ended up growing to 40 employees and lasted over 20 years. Lots of stories there. While we would never recommend it, we worked together for all those years. Gale River could not make the transition to offshore manufacturing and basically we lost everything in 2000 except the important stuff (our house, honor and family).

Both Karen and I reinvented our careers. She is now a certified K-12 school counselor in both NH and VT. I am paid by the University System of New Hampshire to assist state public safety agencies with distance education. This means I supervise 600 hours a year of interactive video training events and act as a technical adviser for on-line learning software (Moodle.org). Like many other FON members, many of the things I learned in Nigeria are being used again and again in my life.

We have two children. Our son is a Post Doc student in Micro Biology (something to do with the mechanics of memory and learning). Our daughter works in Special Ed in a High School and on her Master's degree. Karen and I live in the beautiful White Mountains, still in the same house by the delightful Gale River.

See also

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