When Carl Smith retired as an English as a Second Language teacher in Lewiston, he could have lived a life free from work. He could have taken up golfing, maybe moved to Florida to enjoy a warmer climate.

Instead, the 69-year-old decided to join the Peace Corps.

Over the next two years Smith will live in Thailand, where he will teach English and help the community. It’s more than another career; it’s another life.

Name: Carl Smith

Age: 69

Town: Bowdoinham

Job: Retired from Lewiston School Department

Why join the Peace Corps? Reasons I am glad to be joining the Peace Corps and am grateful to the U.S. for making it possible: Chance to live in an interesting new place, meet people with customs and beliefs which may be different from mine. Chance to use the teaching skills I’ve developed over the years in a new way. Chance to show a peaceful side of our country. Chance to help others and to learn from them. A chance to get away from Maine winters!

Have you ever been in the Peace Corps before? If not, why not join when Kennedy first created it? I was a young father when the Peace Corps was created and couldn’t go then.

How do you go from ESL teacher in Lewiston to Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand? ESL teaching in Lewiston was a wonderful international job in itself! And I had taught in West Africa. I wanted to do more international work.

Have you ever been to that part of the world? I traveled briefly in Thailand five years ago and loved it.

Do you speak Thai? I am learning Thai online. I haven’t mastered the Thai alphabet, though.

Where there any challenges in applying for the Peace Corps? Applying for Peace Corps took two years. It was delayed due to medical and legal issues which had to be resolved before I was accepted.

You could retire and live the good life golfing, sitting by the beach or gardening. Possibly in Florida. Why join the Peace Corps at age 69? Maybe my idea of the good life is a little different. Golf? FLORIDA?

Although seven percent of Peace Corps volunteers are over 50, people tend to think of them as college-aged. What kinds of reactions have you gotten from people when you tell them you’ve joined the Peace Corps? Some people are envious. Others shake their heads.

What do your friends and family think of you spending the next two years in Thailand? My family thinks it’s great. They want to come and visit me.

What will you do there? I’ll be helping Thai teachers to broaden their English teaching skills. And there is the chance to help in community projects.

Will you be able to come home during that time? I don’t plan to come home, unless there’s an emergency.

What will you miss most about Maine while you’re gone? I’ll miss my family, especially my 5-year-old granddaughter and friends. And the ocean, since I will be far inland in Thailand in a rural area.

What are you most looking forward to? Looking forward to making friends with Thai people . . . and Thai food. Lots of bike riding since we’re prohibited from driving motorcycles or cars!

What are you most anxious about? Anxious? Learning the language well enough to communicate with Thais.

Would you recommend the Peace Corps to your fellow retirees? More seniors are entering the Peace Corps these days. I would have to wait awhile before I would recommend it to others.

What’s your favorite Thai food? There’s a red curry with coconut that I love. But I don’t know its Thai name


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.