Archive - November 2009

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When Real Writers Were Peace Corps Evaluators
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Key West Golf
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Publishers Weekly reviews PCV Matt Davis' Peace Corps Mongolian Memoir
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December RPCV Books
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Review Of George Packer's Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade
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Condoms For The Corps
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A Bigger, Better Peace Corps Says Director Aaron Williams
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RPCV Arsenault In The Hartford Courant On Sunday
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Review: The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault
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RPCV Toby Lester Writes Wonderful Book About The Naming Of America

When Real Writers Were Peace Corps Evaluators

Dick Lipez’s (Ethiopia 1962-64) review of George Packer’s (Togo 1982-83) new collection of essays got me thinking about the early evaluators of the agency. Lipez was one of the first RPCVs to be hired by Charlie Peters in the Office of Evaluation, back in the summer of ’64. Maureen Carroll (Philippines 1961-63) and Mick McGuire (Pakistan 1962-64) were already working for Charlie, but I can’t recall other RPCVs in the Office of Evaluation. These three RPCVs were the first PCVs to end up working for Charlie. I believe Peggy Anderson (Togo 1962-64) also came on board that summer of ’64. Peggy is the author of Nurse and The Daughters: An Unconventional Look At America’s First Fan Club, among others books of non fiction. I remember meeting Peggy in the fall of ’64 when I went to work at the agency and thought she was the prettiest woman in Washington. The truth was, if you were a newly returned . . .

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Key West Golf

President Harry S. Truman is the only U.S. president who vacationed regularly in Key West. He spent 175 days at the Key West Naval Station Commandant’s house from 1946 to 1952. In the Keys, Truman wrote his State of the Union addresses, drafted legislation, fine tuned the national budget and issued an Executive Order on Civil Rights. He loved the weather and late night poker games at this winter White House which was cheek by jowl to Mallory Square, about as far south as you can get on U.S. 1. What Truman didn’t do was play golf, not that there was much golf to be played on an old nine-hole course located five miles up U.S. 1 on Stock Island. There is the story told that when Truman assigned General Dwight David Eisenhower to perform a series of military tasks around 1948-49 and the General came down with ileitis, the . . .

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Publishers Weekly reviews PCV Matt Davis' Peace Corps Mongolian Memoir

When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter’s Tale by Matthew Davis (Mongolia 2000–02) Davis, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, recounts his two eventful years as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching in a small Mongolian town in his knowledgeable yet convoluted memoir. As a 23-year-old Midwesterner, nothing prepared him for the former Communist satellite, which is largely rural and teeming with the legacy of the Great Khan, yaks and goats being herded on the rugged steppes. Davis sees a landscape on the brink of change and a young population eager for a better life depicted in Internet cafes and media from the outside world. Yet the isolation and culture shock plunge him into “a dangerous place psychologically,” and alcohol abuse and mayhem result in a brutal drunken fight. Other than some standard travelogue facts on Mongolian history and culture, Davis is correct when he concludes . . .

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December RPCV Books

The Sophisticated Savage (Anthropological memoir) by Carla Seidl (Azerbaijan 2006–08) Inner Hearth Books $13.95 230 pages May 2009 • Whispering Campaign Stories from Mesoamerica by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975–77) iUniverse, Inc. $11.95 120 pages November, 2009 • Valley Views II Four Plays by Charles G. Blewitt (Grenada 1969–71) Offset Paperback $15.00 March 2009 • The Boys 1st North Dakota Volunteers in the Philippines John Durand (Philippines 1962–64) Puzzlebox Press $17.45 422 pages 2010 • Mosquito Conversations More Stories from the Upper Peninsula by Lauri Anderson (Nigeria 1965-67) North Star Press $14.95 139 pages July 2009 • Inherit The Family Marrying into Eastern Europe Stories by Vello Vikerkaar (Estonia 1992-94) Book Man 168 pages $15.99 October 2009 • Islands of Shadow, Islands of Light (Peace Corps Novel) By Yaron Glazer (Panama 1997-99) BookSurge 300 pages $18.99 July 2009 • Henry and Anthony (Young adult) by H. Lynn Beck (El Salvador, . . .

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Review Of George Packer's Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade

Dick Lipez (Ethiopia 1962–64; PC/HQ staff 1964–67) is a former editorial writer at The Berkshire Eagle.  He also reviews books for The Washington Post and he writes the Don Strachey private eye series under the name Richard Stevenson.  Death Vows was chosen by Maureen Corrigan on NPR as one of the top five crime novels of 2008.  The 38 Million Dollar Smile, set in Thailand, was published in September. When George Packer’s (Togo 1982-83) new book, Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade came out, I asked Dick to read it, as he has traveled to many of the countries that are the focus of Packer’s essays. Dick also was a Peace Corps evaluator (after being a PCV) and he has that edgy way about him that those early evaluators had who worked for Charlie Peters. These evaluators of the early Peace Corps projects  never believed anything the staff  told them, and they never . . .

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Condoms For The Corps

Let me begin by saying that I don’t believe the Peace Corps gives any PCV 2000 condoms on arriving in any Peace Corps country. Just do the math.  However, my new RPCV friend from Estonia tells me, “we were issued the standard PC medical kit with a few clean syringes and 2000 condom in it, and we were encouraged to come back for more.” True, there was a high risk of AIDS in the north of Estonia, but nevertheless. ..that sounds like a lot of male bragging. I emailed back to Eastern Europe, saying:  Do the math! After a few more exchanges, he admitted, “Truth be told, probably 30 condoms were issued with our medical kit. But then Volunteers could get re-stocked at the Riga office. We were all ambitious and thought highly of our prowess, so we grabbed huge bunches each time. Certainly, 2,000 would have been a feat. I never had more than 200.” . . .

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A Bigger, Better Peace Corps Says Director Aaron Williams

Not sure if anyone reads Parade Magazine (but you’ll read anything on a vacation!) and last week while in Key West I picked up a copy and there was Aaron Williams being interviewed (briefly, only three questions) in the IntelligenceReport page of this Sunday newspaper supplement. There was the standard (no brainer) question: Who can join the Peace Corps? But the reporter then asked: Why is the Peace Corps roughly half the size it was in 1966? Aaron replied how funding has gone “up and down” but the Peace Corps now has bipartisan support in Congress “plus the administration’s commitment to expand.” He sums up, “We plan to add a couple thousand volunteers over the next two years.” Of course, President Obama has already said the Peace Corps should double in size, but then every president has said that and it never happens. Aaron made one interesting closing comment. He was saying how “tech-savvy” PCVs are and that there was . . .

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RPCV Arsenault In The Hartford Courant On Sunday

Interview by Carole Goldberg When Emily Arsenault was growing up in Cheshire, a teacher told the fifth-grader she was very good at writing. Give that teacher an A. At age 11, Arsenault, a fan of ghost stories and books for girls, wrote her first novel, about a summer camp, with the idea of getting published. But a year later, she said in a recent telephone conversation from her home in Shelburne Falls, Mass., she realized, “This isn’t very good.” As an adult, she tried again but also judged that young adult novel “not ready for prime time.” This fall, however, Arsenault, now 33, has published her debut novel, “The Broken Teaglass,” and it is an accomplished work. It is set at a staid dictionary company not unlike Merriam-Webster in Springfield, where she once worked. Peopled by quirky characters and centered on a mysterious killing – although it’s not a mystery . . .

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Review: The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965–67) has written nine novels including-purportedly- the first long fiction to come out of the Peace Corps, Lament for a Silver-Eyed Woman, meaning written by a volunteer with characters who are volunteers. Her most recent, Dirty Water: A Red Sox Mystery, was written in collaboration with her son, Sox blogger Jere Smith.  She has also written a memoir, Girls of Tender Age, in which she gives two paragraphs to the Peace Corps although the book does include a photo of her and her Cameroonian students. She is presently working on a Civil War novel. Here she reviews the first novel by Emily Arsenault (South Africa 2004–06) entitled The Broken Teaglass. • The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault (South Africa 2004–06) Delacorte Press September 2009 384 pages $25.00 Reviewed by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965–67) As I slip into The Broken Teaglass knowing nothing about the work . . .

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RPCV Toby Lester Writes Wonderful Book About The Naming Of America

For millennia Europeans believed that the world consisted of three parts: Europe, Africa, and Asia. They drew the three continents in countless shapes and sizes on their maps, but occasionally they hinted at the existence of a “fourth part of the world,” a mysterious, inaccessible place, separated from the rest by a vast expanse of ocean. It was a land of myth — until 1507, that is, when Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann, two obscure scholars working in the mountains of eastern France, made it real. Columbus had died the year before convinced that he had sailed to Asia, but Waldseemüller and Ringmann, after reading about the Atlantic discoveries of Columbus’s contemporary Amerigo Vespucci, came to a startling conclusion: Vespucci had reached the fourth part of the world. To celebrate his achievement, Waldseemüller and Ringmann printed a huge map, for the first time showing the New World surrounded by water . . .

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