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Peace Corps and CSU: Adventure by Mark Hallett

March 31, 2011
by Mark Hallett

Boracay Island. I could see it from our artesian well dig site. A 1-by-3 kilometer strip of coral, sand, and sea that implored some rest and recreation. I yearned for a weekend of lounging in the surf, eating papaya and prawns and maybe kicking back a few San Miguels.

Mark Hallett (right), on the Sibuyan Sea off the north coast of Panay in 1984, on his way to help build a rainwater catchment tank at his buddy's site.  Not so fast

It was not to be. That week we had used water buffaloes to haul our percussion drill rig up the mountainous switchbacks to a village on the edge of the rainforest. Spinning the rig counterclockwise, we pounded the earth to a depth of 80 feet with no water struck. We needed a break.

My coworkers from the Provincial Engineers Office and I were taken to the rainforest for a couple of nights hunting. Our prey? Monkey! On Saturday morning we moved out in a dreary rain. Our guides were local campesinos with little formal education but tremendous understanding of the rainforest. We had worked the rig together all week.

Midday they passed out what would be our gruel the whole trip: cold rice and dog meat with some White Castle whiskey. Chills of premonition. We moved on past primeval trees, climbing over root systems in a centuries-old forest.

At dusk the main hunting party shot a monkey high in the canopy and it climbed to a limb and hunkered down. It was too high to climb up and too protected to shoot. In hope of scaring the monkey, the hunters cut down a couple of smaller trees to crash the old giant. No luck.

Fitfull sleep

By this point we had been in hard rain for hours. It was dark and getting cold and looked like we’d be at this game for hours. I moved away and built a lean-to for shelter where the fatigue and whiskey took me to a fitful slumber.

The last thing I remember, I heard a sudden rush outside the lean-to and out of the black night someone thrust the monkey inside – face to my face! I kicked the shelter to smithereens in my fright and the boys had a good laugh at my expense!

Next weekend, I went to Boracay.

Mark Hallett is director of International Student & Scholar Services at CSU. He served in the Peace Corps in the Philippines from 1983-1985.

Contact: Emily Wilmsen
Phone: (970) 491-2336