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Madera Peace Corps volunteer returns home, writes book of his experiences

Anson Lihosit, graduate of Lincoln Elementary and Liberty High schools, has returned to Madera after more than two years of service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama, where he taught English.

He also wrote a recently published memoir of his stay in Panama, “Peace Corps Epiphanies: Panama.”

Assigned to a remote village near the famous Darien Gap, 95 miles from the Colombian border, he helped middle- and high school teachers, offered night classes and conducted conferences for isolated indigenous people.

The Darien Gap, a break in the Pan-American Highway, has been crossed by adventurers on bicycle, motorbikes, all-terrain vehicles, and on foot. These risk-takers have to deal with jungle, swamp, insects, venomous snakes, and other hazards. The gap connects Panama and Colombia.

“The Peace Corps was a life-changing experience,” he writes in his memoir (available on books).

In his book, he describes training near the capital city, and then his life in rural Panama, where he adjusted to life with bats, lizards and armies of ants invading his humble living quarters. He learned how to dodge poisonous snakes, bathe in a river and spearfish to supplement his meager diet.

A former Madera Little League All-Star, he also describes his foray into his favorite pastime — baseball. Panamanians love baseball. They have their own professional league with an annual play-off that the entire nation watches via television. American Major League scouts also watch closely. More than one quarter of all Major League players now are Latin Americans.

Even in nearly inaccessible areas, like Torti where the author lived, locals play softball. After a half-hour jungle bus ride, Lihosit jogged across a ballfield, greeting locals.

“Who are your rooting for?” one man asked.

Lihosit unzipped his mud spattered sports bag to reveal an old, worn baseball glove, a McDonald’s cap and new cleats. “I want to play.”

The local turned and yelled to a man seated behind him, “The gringo’s with us!”

Lihosit describes his adventures traveling to far-off villages with ballfields wedged against jungle where he and his new friends found a common denominator — softball. This became the basis for lasting friendships.

Fellow returned Peace Corps volunteer and author Eric Kiefer commented that Lihosit’s story is “The essence of the Peace Corps experience.”

For information, call Anson Lihosit at 373-1086.


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