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vTIELKE continued from page 17 Tielke explains how the urban centers in China are extremely populated. Chongqing having a population of 20 million just in the city itself, he described the vision as “a sea of people.” “That was another big shock to me,” he reflects. “Fargo Moorehead was maybe 250,000 people and you go to Chengdu which had nearly 15 million people. That just adds to the experience.” When serving for the Peace Corps in China, volunteers often live and work in communities that are central to Western China rather than in wealthier areas, he explains. For many of the provinces, compared to most cities in China, people would be very awe-struck when they saw him walking around, not accustomed to seeing a white man in the area. Though they might see a lot of “westerners” or foreigners on TV, seeing one in person was uncommon. Many would stare at him in curiosity of why he was there and where he came from. When he moved to a new campus for the second half of his service, he strolled around the campus often and recalls feeling a bit embarrassed when others were so captivated by him, girls giggling and guys staring. Back Home & Future Aspirations After his two-year term was complete, Tielke returned to his home town of Yankton and adjusted to jetlag while adapting to the change in time, food and cultural behaviors. “When you live in another country, you develop mannerisms that are just there, and you pick them up even if you don’t know that you did,” he reflects. He explains how others looked at him curiously when he naturally displayed habits he had developed while in China. Serving with the Peace Corps made Tielke more interested in China specifically and he hopes to go back to China again to study the language, with a goal of not speaking English for a year. He plans to apply for the Boren Fellowship in January, which provides grants to students who study critical languages and allows the student to live in the host country to learn the language for a variable amount of time. He would then like to finish his Master’s program after finally returning to the United States. Because he is currently a fellow of the Robertson Foundation for Government, he is required to work for the federal government for two to three years in some way after he graduates and has career goals of working in the State Department in a diplomatic position with the government or possibly in a research or writing position. Reflecting Back Tielke brought back with him more than just the experience of volunteering abroad, explaining, “For one, it’s taught me to be a little more patient with how things work and how to approach problems in different context. Being in China, it taught me to navigate issues that were foreign to me.” The opportunity reinforced the rewards of helping others. “It also reaffirms the importance of volunteering. How small things can mean a lot to people, even if it doesn’t seem like it, even if it doesn’t seem apparent. Remembering that things that might be small to you might be monumental to other people,” he states kindly. There are some things he misses now that he’s back home. Though he was not a fan of the food in China initially, he grew to appreciate it and now craves it. He explains that much of the food was spicy, something the Midwesterner wasn’t accustomed to, but now misses the spiciness and flavors of the authentic Chinese food. He also misses the lower cost of living in China and explains that an entire plate of food 18vHISVOICEvJANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018 might cost $1.50 in American money, allowing him more freedom to eat out at a lower cost than making his own food. The Chinese weren’t so different from Americans, Tielke explains. “From the perspective of a Midwesterner, a lot of the people I met in China were pretty similar.” He found that his host family, the community and even his students were very hospitable. They were always there to help him when he needed it, or get what he needed or fix something. “In terms of goals and aspirations, they’re almost identical to Americans.” He explains that because many families can only have one child, they are very family-oriented, relationships are important, and they strongly encourage their children to obtain a college degree. He is proud of the impact that he left on the community where he volunteered. When he was first assigned to his location, his program manager selected a site for him that previously had difficulty with their volunteers. Normally the oncoming volunteer would be paired up with an existing, experienced volunteer already at the site. The site Tielke was visiting had no existing volunteers so he would be taking on the task alone. By the time he left, he feels that he made a positive impression on the community. Those that wouldn’t help him in the beginning would do everything they could by the time he finished his term. “Until you do something like this, there’s really nothing to compare it to,” he reflects. “The Peace Corps was, at that point, the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. Everything was a new challenge, no one was there to really help you. After you were done with training, it was all on you to integrate, to be a good teacher, to be a role model, to be a good representative, to really build trust.” He explains that even with this difficult task, seeing the positive change in the people’s attitudes by time he left indicated to him that he really did something. One thing people of the world have in common is people teaching people, and Tielke serves as a fantastic example of the impact this can make on others. vBy Julie Eickhoff vPALMER continued from page 9 Swedish company in England. Already an avid fan of fixed-wing flying, Palmer’s interests were about to add another hobby. “There was a guy at the next drawing board who said he was going flying,” he said. And as someone who admits to being ‘crazy’ about flying since a young age, Palmer jumped at the chance to join. Only, it wasn’t what he was expected. “We went out and it turns out, he was going ballooning,” Palmer said. Palmer, along with a few others, followed his coworker’s balloon in a ‘chase’ balloon. “He (coworker) had no interest in taking it further than that, but I was totally hooked,” Palmer said. His work as an engineer eventually took Palmer around the world — he estimates that he’s either lived, worked or traveled to 44 different countries — but he never lost sight of his new favorite hobby: Flying a balloon. Before moving to Yankton in 1993, Palmer had previously been to the area two years before when he was invited to fly an Uncle Sam balloon at a rally hosted by people who owned a balloon museum in Tyndall. The collection at that museum were eventually moved to one in Mitchell, and the Soukup and Thomas International Balloon and Airship Museum closed in 2000 — that collection was moved to a museum in New Mexico. vPALMER continued on page 19

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