Archive - May 2010

1
Moon Rocket
2
Telling Time
3
Return of the (Non) Native
4
You And Your Electronic Books
5
Postscript: Who Stole Marjorie's Postcard? Part 10
6
The Peace Corps Gets Vaccinated, Part 9
7
Nominees for best RPCV books of 2009
8
What They Wrote About Michelmore, Part 8
9
Christmas with Eva
10
PCV Aubrey Brown Shows Them How, Part 7

Moon Rocket

by Robert E. Gribbin (Kenya 1968–70) First published on the blog of PeaceCorpsWriters.org on February 13, 2007 • I SEE IT NOW IN MY MIND’S EYE — from my house in Songhor — wind blown tufts of light green sugar cane surging like a great sea on Kenya’s Kanu Plains to wash gently against the thousand foot heights of the Nandi Escarpment. Some thirty miles distant, Lake Victoria Nyanza glimmered in the late afternoon sun. The image is clear, yet complicated by the rush of other images, faces, smells, sounds – by the sheer exuberance of memories that so indelibly marked this time in my life. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Central Nyanza charged with supervising the construction of a rural water system designed to pipe potable water to 1200 farms on three government sponsored Settlement Sugar Schemes. I worked most closely with a group of eight men . . .

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Telling Time

by Katherine Jamieson (Guyana 1996–98) This essay was published in the newsletter Peace Corps Writers in 2000, and won the Peace Corps Writers’ 2001 Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award • FOR TWO YEARS I LIVED in a country with no seasons. We measured time by other means than falling leaves or snow, new buds on trees. There was a fresh breeze in the air, the ash of burned sugar cane floating in the window. There were times to go to work, times to stay home, an election, an eclipse; all of these differentiated the rising and setting of the same hot sun, and the appearance of a glowing moon and full set of stars. Rain would break the swelter like the fever of a child dissolves into sweat, and the whole city would breathe differently that day. Then the sun would come again and dry what had fallen, and . . .

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Return of the (Non) Native

by Paul Paquette (Thailand 1974–78) First published on the blog of PeaceCorpsWriters.org on June 11, 2007 • JULY 2005 I left Thailand in 1980 after spending four years as a Peace Corps English teacher in a secondary school and three more working in refugee camps. I really don’t know why it took me so long to finally make that journey back to Thailand. I guess part of it was the fear of facing the changes that I would possibly find hard to accept after all those years. The tsunami finally washed all that away, and I found myself needing to return to be reassured that all was well there. The changes in Bangkok seemed profound to me at first. It was so strange to see tall buildings, a subway and a monorail! In many ways, I felt like Rip Van Winkle waking up from a long sleep to find a . . .

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You And Your Electronic Books

Reading an article by Sue Halpern in The New York Review of Book (June 20, 2010) entitled, “The iPad Revolution” I came across this interesting paragraph: “According to the Association of American Publishers, book sales fell nearly 2 percent last year, to $23.9 billion. Educational books and paperbacks took the biggest hit. Their downward trajectory seemed to confirm what Steve Jobs said to The New York Times back in early 2008, when he reflected on, and then dismissed, the newly released Kindle, a device which he said would go nowhere largely because Americans have stopped reading. ‘It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,’ Jobs told the Times. ‘Forty percent of the people in the US read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.’ “Imagine his surprise, just . . .

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Postscript: Who Stole Marjorie's Postcard? Part 10

In 1965 Bob Gale, then running the Peace Corps Recruitment Office, traveled out to Ibadan, Nigeria, for a COS Conference. Gale had been a vice president at Carlton College and had developed the famous Peace Corps recruitment blitz [the most famous of all was the first in early October 1963 when teams of recruiters hit college campuses; these were mostly non-RPCVs as the first PCVs were just arriving back in the States. These all-out assaults on college campuses were very successful at recruiting Trainees. These early blitz teams were replaced by ’67 with teams of RPCVs working out of regional offices, and HQ non-PCV staff rarely traveled outside of Washington to recruit Volunteers.] Back in Nigeria, Gale arrived late in Ibadan from Washington and met up with a Nigeria APCD and headed for a local bar where he was the only white man having a drink. Then in walked another . . .

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The Peace Corps Gets Vaccinated, Part 9

In a memorandum to Sargent Shriver–attached to an Evaluation Report on Morocco (1963) done by Ken Love–and written by the legendary early Peace Corps Director of Evaluations, Charlie Peters, Charlie wrote, “Marjorie was as sensitive and as intelligent a Volunteer as we ever had in the Peace Corps.” The lesson that was learned by the Peace Corps was that “even the best young people can be damned silly at times.” According to Gerard T. Rice in the first serious study of the agency and its creation entitled, The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps, “The President’s personal support helped the Peace Corps weather its first storm.” Kennedy hand written note to Michaelmore said, “We are strongly behind you and hope you will continue to serve in the Peace Corps.” At the Peace Corps HQ the feeling was that the agency had weathered this early storm. Warren Wiggins would write, “The greatest . . .

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Nominees for best RPCV books of 2009

This is a list of the books that are the finalists for Peace Corps Writers Awards of 2010. These awards are for books published in 2009. From this list below one book in each category will be selected by the committee(s) and announced in July on our website. In 2009 more than 70 books-fiction, non-fiction, books of essays, memoirs, and poetry by RPCVs were sent to us for review. We think it is about 90% of all books published by RPCVs last year. If you have a favorite book, let me know why, and I’ll pass on your recommendation to the committees. Thank you. John p.s. If you think a book has been inadvertently left off this list, also please let me know. • for the Paul Cowan Non-Fiction Award Clintonomics: How Bill Clinton Reengineered the Reagan Revolution By Jack Godwin (Gabon 1982-84) AMACOM Press 304 pages March 2009 The . . .

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What They Wrote About Michelmore, Part 8

Segments of the U.S. Press were all over the postcard incident. The U.S. News and World Report wrote, “From the moment of its inception, despite laudable aims, the Peace Corps was bound to run into trouble.” They condemned the naivete of the entire concept and claimed, “this is only the first big storm.” Commonweal wrote in an editorial “The problem involved is really bigger than the Peace Corps for it reflects the gap that exists between the wealthy U.S. and most of the rest of the world. Given this fact, incidents like the postcard affair are bound to happen.” Former President Eisenhower added his two cents, saying the “postcard” was evidence of the worthlessness of Kennedy’s new idea However, columnist James Weschsler of the New York Post came to the aid of the Peace Corps and Marjorie. “Nothing in the card was sinister. It contained the instinctive expression of horror . . .

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Christmas with Eva

by Peggy Raggio (Poland 1991–92) First published on the blog of PeaceCorpsWriters.org on February 14, 2006 • ON DECEMBER 22, 1991, we took a smelly bus from Suwalki to Warsaw. Marzena, another teacher and I chatted and snacked on sandwiches and hot tea as we rode south for seven hours, through the chill and snowy countryside of Northern Poland. We saw farmers guiding their furry plow horses and wagons through the streets, loaded with silver milk jugs, cabbages and crates of chickens. A long-legged stork landed on her nest on the roof of a farmhouse. After a booster shot at the Peace Corps office in Warsaw, I rode a streetcar to the Marriott Hotel in the center of town for coffee (kawa pronounced “kava”). Violins and a grand piano played on a balcony over the lobby that gleamed festively with bird of paradise in blue and gold jardinières, plush oriental . . .

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PCV Aubrey Brown Shows Them How, Part 7

Nigerian PCV Aubrey Brown, who had had training and experience in non-violence resistance in the late fifties, led the Volunteers, and the Nigerian students, out of this confrontation over the postcard by the end of October, 1961. The PCVs had continued to take some meals and sleep in the dormitories, but they were isolated and shunned by the Nigerian students. Then Aubrey told the Nigerian students in his dorm that he would not eat if they would not eat with him. The Nigerians began to bring him dinner trays to his room but he refused to eat. And soon they invited him to join them at meals. Other Volunteers and students did the same. Slowly, a dialogue began between the students and the Volunteers, which was, as Murray recalls, “more valuable than if the incident had not taken place.” Other Nigerians came to the help of the PCVs. The Nigerian-American . . .

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