CC 24: Marshall Islands | Steve Latin-Kasper
Steve and I had an enjoyable conversation in early March, talking about his experiences as a volunteer in the Marshall Islands back in the '80s, as well as life after coming back from the Peace Corps. One thing I liked about his story was that music played a big part in his experience in the Peace Corps. But when he returned to the states, it sort of took a back seat to life and responsibilities. It's only recently, decades after his service, that he's returned to music, releasing an album with a friend.
I often think about the kinds of people that we were during our years in the Peace Corps. In a way, being in such a unique and sometimes isolating experience frees you to explore parts of you that can sometimes get lost or pushed aside in the "real world." The trick is being able to meld those two personas - the you before and during Peace Corps - and allowing all those experiences to shape who you are.
Steve earned a Masters degree in Economics at the University of Utah in 1979, and started his first job shortly after as an Economic Statistician for the Bureau of the Census. He had expected to join the Peace Corps at that time, but the group he was originally supposed to go with to El Salvador was prevented from going when American nuns were murdered and Peace Corps removed all volunteers from Central America.
Apparently Steve was not cut out to be a bureaucrat and one and one-half years later he decided to find out why he never heard back from the Peace Corps. During a visit to the old K Street office in DC, he found out that they had lost his file, so he reapplied. He ended up in the Marshall Islands. While in the Peace Corps from 1981 to 1983, he spent his first year a Community Developer on the outer atoll of Lae. After his group’s mid-tour meeting, he was asked to work with the Republic of the Marshall Islands Department of Development to write the country’s first 5-Year Economic Development Plan as part of the process for joining the United Nations.
Upon returning home in August 1983, he found that the unemployment rate in Milwaukee was over 20%, and it took six months to find a job. He finally landed one at Astronautics in Milwaukee, and about one year later took a job with the National Fluid Power Association. Since 1999 he has worked for the truck industry. He specializes in forecasting and is a member of the forecast panels run by Bloomberg and the National Association for Business Economics.
Steve had played drums and sang with a band called Dri Karere Ran while in the Peace Corps, and when he and Molli became empty nesters, he found that he missed writing music and performing. So, at the age of 54, he found the time to start a new band with his friend Bill. They self published their first album in February 2013, and are currently working on another one. Band info can be found at boksofrock.com.