Crofts visit Africa to see son in Peace Corps

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, October 14, 2009

John and Rozilyn Croft enjoyed a safari in Africa this summer, but they saw more than just exotic animals — they also got the chance to see their son, Johnny, who is a Peace Corps volunteer in the African nation of Malawi.

Johnny Croft, 24, left Andalusia in September 2008, to work for 27 months in the small south African country as a physical science, math and biology teacher in Malawi’s secondary schools. In July, his parents traveled to visit him.

“In the village where Johnny works, nobody has electricity or running water,” John Croft said. “We drove up in our car and everyone was amazed to see an automobile. His students were really impressed with Johnny, because they’d never seen him drive before.

“Everyone there was so nice. People would come up and thank us for sending him.”

The Crofts left the United States on July 28 and returned home Aug. 14. Croft said it was a “three-part” trip that started with a couple of days in the capital city of Lilongwe just to “get over the flight.” Later, they visited a Roman Catholic mission and a famous homemade pottery factory in a small village.

The couple then went on a three-day safari in the nearby nation of Zambia, where they saw a variety of animals — some closer than others.

“There was this one baboon that actually came right into our chalet,” Croft said. “There were elephants in the parking lot. It was an amazing experience.”

After finishing the safari, the couple drove to Johnny’s village, about a nine-hour trip from the Malawian capital.

Croft said English is the universally spoken and official language, but there are two native languages also widely used. Johnny is fluent in both of those dialects, Croft said.

“When we were in the capital city, Johnny could go into any store and do business,” he said. “That got a lot of attention, because the Malawians are not used to foreigners speaking their tongue. Johnny tried to teach me a few phrases, but I’d say a few words to a villager and then he’d start talking quickly in response and I’d have to say, ‘Wait! Slow down, I don’t speak Chitumbuka (the language spoken in Johnny’s village).’”

Croft said he and his wife brought Johnny a “suitcase full” of items from the U.S., including a lot of Crystal Light drink mixes. He said Johnny seems to be doing well, but it is sometimes hard for him to find people to socialize with.

“The volunteers are a closely knit group,” Croft said. “It’s hard for him to just ‘shoot the breeze’ with anyone over there, because the cultures are so different. But he seems to be enjoying himself and what he’s doing. It was great to get a chance to see him again.”