Flora Tano – Chicagoland

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Name: Flora Tano
Country of Service: China, 2013-15
Assignment:  Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Recruitment Territory: Chicagoland

When you applied where you did hope to go or hoped to do?
I had no particular preference; however, I assumed that being a native French speaker and from the Ivory Coast would automatically destine me for an African country.  I was wrong. Peace Corps had something else for me.

What was your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge was keeping my students motivated in learning English. My Peace Corps experience gave me insight on the challenges that many teachers face around the world. That in turn gave me a great deal of respect for the teaching profession.

Describe a memorable moment from service.
I was invited by my student to visit her hometown, Xingyi. During one of our strolls in a village inside The 10,000 Peaks Park, an elderly lady flagged us down and had a bright smile on her face.  She walked towards me and said, “Welcome, where are you from?” We chatted in Mandarin for a minute and she asked that we come to her house. She wanted us to stay for supper and meet the rest of her family. but unfortunately, we had other engagements to honor later that evening. Before saying goodbye, the lady went to her a pear tree in her garden, grabbed ripped pears and handed them to me. This kind gesture truly is one of many that I encountered in China.

Name one thing that surprised you about Peace Corps or your host country.
One thing that surprised me was the ethnic diversity of China. We often hear about the Hans, who are the majority, but seldom hear about Chinese minorities. During my two year of service, I lived among Chinese minority groups and learned a lot about the Miao, Dong, Yi, Yao, Buyi, Shui and many more.

Tell us about one of your projects from service.
My host country friends – Eric, Eve, Seven, and Shirley – decided to create a community English club for professionals. They ran the idea by me and my site mate. We agree to participate, and it turned out to be a fantastic experience for me because I got the chance to meet a variety of professionals that I would not have otherwise met. I learned so much about their fields.

What role does your service continue to play in your life? My service plays a great role in my life.
As a recruiter, I rely heavily on my service to inspire others to join and have their own experience of a lifetime. Another impact is the ability to understand Mandarin speakers on my commute to and from work and sometimes being able to help lost Chinese exchange students or tourists find their way.

What does Peace Corps mean to you? Peace Corps to me means the opportunity of a lifetime.
I never imagined living in China and let alone forging deep ties with its people, and my Peace Corps service allowed me to do just that. The province of Guizhou, the city of Kaili, is forever engraved in my history.

Search current event listings and sign up for more info to receive notices about Peace Corps events near you. Questions about life as a volunteer or the application process? Contact Flora directly at ftano2@peacecorps.gov.