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Middle East experience invaluable to Sparks resident
by Andrea Tyrell
Jul 17, 2013 | 1471 views | 1 1 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Andrea Tyrell -- Sparks resident Kris Shelton relies on her past experience in the Peace Corps to fuel her current goals.
Tribune photo by Andrea Tyrell -- Sparks resident Kris Shelton relies on her past experience in the Peace Corps to fuel her current goals.
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Not many people get the opportunity to visit the Middle East. Sparks resident, Kris Shelton, lived in Jordan working with the Peace Corps, eating goat lips and teaching wandering families and their children.

Shelton grew up in Lemmon Valley and went to Hug High School. After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno with a dual degree in philosophy and psychology, Shelton wanted to do something different other than the stereotypical post-college job hunt. She watched a lot of footage of the Iraq War, which was just beginning upon her leaving school.

“You’d see things on TV every day, the most horrible, terrifying stuff,” said Shelton. “I felt what we (the United States) were doing was wrong.”

Growing up, Shelton attended many local political rallies, supporting different causes. “I was that kid waving the sign,” she said.

After much consideration, she applied for the Peace Corps, requesting that she serve her time in Jordan, which at the time, was the only Middle Eastern country accepting American volunteers.

“I wanted to do something good,” Shelton said. “I saw it as a personal way to balance out the good I could do verses the bad things I saw on TV.”

She was placed in Al Husseini, a small town in northwest Jordan. The town consisted of mostly sheep herders, living and raising their families in tents, living a nomadic lifestyle.

Shelton taught special education at a charity school, teaching children and young adults with moderate development abilities and with hearing issues. Because she worked at a charity school, Shelton often taught with no learning materials or supplies. She would ask the local Sikh, a religious teacher, for educational donations.

“I met the warmest and most amazing people there,” Shelton said. “They have pretty negative stereotypes against Americans but they are just stereotypes. Jordanians were surprised that I wasn’t blonde and kicked out of my house when I turned 18.”

“Those from the Middle Eastern have an amazing ability to distinguish between American government and the American people. They often don’t agree with American policies and concepts but love Americans,” said Shelton. “I realized there that everyone feels the same things. We all just want to be happy and to have relationships and friends and families. We are so more alike than different.”

However, the most different thing between the Jordanians and Americans was the food.

“I was walking in a shopping district and met a bunch of herders coming into town for water. They invited me to lunch in their tent,” said Shelton. “I watched them slaughter a goat. The mom of the group roasted it in a fire and the dad handed me a slice of goat lip. If you never had goat lip before, don’t! It has these little hair bump follicles that feel gross in your mouth as you chew. The family was nice enough to share the goat lip with me but I’m never eating it again.”

Shelton served in the Peace Corps for 27 months and returned to the States, looking for a career where she could help people with disabilities. For the past three years, she has worked with the local homeless population, advising those with mental health conditions. She is in the process of completing her master’s degree in clinical mental health studies and counseling. She bought her Sparks home in December 2011 and has no plans to leave the Rail City anytime soon.

“I’ve always wanted to live in Sparks,” said Shelton. “It has this great small-town feeling with being right next to a big city. It’s absolutely fantastic.”

She enjoys her quiet, family-friendly block and the parks where she can bring her Labradoodle, Zar, to play. Often during warm evenings, one could find Shelton with her head buried in a book at the Sparks Marina. The only thing she would fix about the Sparks area is its available of parking in Victorian Square area, suggesting that residential parking passes should be handed out.

Shelton encourages anyone and everyone to join the Peace Corps as long as the applicant is a college graduate or has special skills.

“I learned so much about life, living there. I encourage everyone to apply and serve. It’s worth it.”
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Gail Lawson Blevins
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July 19, 2013
What a wonderful life experience! The Peace Corps sounds like a great way to learn about the world outside our own life.
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