Bio: Govek, Carol - Ecuador (Peace Corps - 1980)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Govek

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 8/07/1980

Carol Govek, Ecuador (Peace Corps - 1980)

“They threw us out there and said, ‘Survive with the Ecuadorians,’ so we did.”

This, according to Carol Govek, Willard is how the Peace Corps gets around the problem of culture shock when placing its volunteers.

Govek knows what culture shock is, for until just last July 18, she was a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Ecuador, South America.

“The whole living experience is just-so different,” she said. “There’s no water, no electricity—you have to go down to the creek to take water back for your bath.”

Raised on a dairy farm in Willard, Govek is a 1976 graduate of UW-Eau Claire, with a degree in political science, but it was for her diary farm background that the Peace Corps wanted her. Her job in Ecuador was to teach cattle management practices to Ecuadorian farmers.

“There’s a few new diseases and different pastures, but cows are the same wherever you go,” Govek said. She said that she tried to teach management and disease prevention, but mostly she was asked by her “students” for cures for different parasite problems. A lot of her work involved injecting cattle and helping the farmers to build corrals, with which most of the Ecuadorians were completely unfamiliar.

“I learned really quick that you have to meet them on their level,” she said.

Govek said that the Ecuadorian farmlands start out as jungle. Once the jungle is cut back, the farmers plant rice and corn for their own survival; they also raise chickens and pigs. Once they have raised enough to support their own families, the farmers begin to grow cash crops – coffee and cacao, from which chocolate and cocoa is made. Only those farmers successful in these areas are able to then consider dairy farming.

According to Govek, the Ecuadorians do practically all of their farm work with machetes, long, heavy-bladed knives. She said they use the tool to cut back the jungle growth, to dig and plant, to build a house – they even use the instrument to prepare food, she said.

They find special rocks on which they keep the blades sharp; they sharpen their machetes at least three times daily, Govek said. She said that there is a game Ecuadorians play with their machetes, in which a live chicken is buried in the ground up to its neck; a blind-folded Ecuadorian takes his machete and swings low to the ground—if he succeeds in cutting the head off the chicken, he is awarded the rest of the bird.

Govek arrived in Ecuador on April 15, 1978. Following a three-month training period in Quito, the mountain capital of Ecuador, she was sent to her work site, near the town of Santa Domingo de los Colorados, in a coastal lowland area. She said she lived in the town by herself for the first nine months of her stay in Ecuador, traveling 35 kilometers (around 15 miles) to her work site. Once she became more adjusted to the area, she moved to her site, where she lived with an Ecuadorian family on their 100-acre farm.

Govek studied Spanish, Ecuador’s native language, in her three-month training period in Quito. She had no knowledge whatsoever of the language before arriving in the country, but her stay with the Ecuadorian family and her work with the Ecuadorians improved her Spanish-speaking ability quickly. From a zero score on the Foreign Service Institute exam (a system used throughout the United States to determine language proficiency), Govek increased to a high three (out of five possible), indicating a skill level barely below that of the experts.

Now that she’s back, Govek’s main concern is that she retains the Spanish that she learned in her two-year stay. With that in mind, she took off last Saturday for Robstown, Texas, where she recently landed a job as a religious education coordinator, a position in which she will be dealing with an area 90 percent Mexican.

Also during her stay in South America, Govek visited Peru, Bolivia and the Galapagos Islands.



© Every submission is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.


Show your appreciation of this freely provided information by not copying it to any other site without our permission.


Become a Clark County History Buff


Report Broken Links

A site created and maintained by the Clark County History Buffs
and supported by your generous donations.


Webmasters: Leon Konieczny, Tanya Paschke,

Janet & Stan Schwarze, James W. Sternitzky,

Crystal Wendt & Al Wessel