Archive - October 15, 2013

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What will Peace Corps look like in 2018?
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PC Director Writes Her Vols! The Word From HQ
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Development Is Down This Road
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Broken English — a song
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The Ballroom
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Better Remember This
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To Peel Potatoes
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Innocence Melts Obstinacy
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White
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Soledad by Chris Honore’ (Colombia 1967-69)

What will Peace Corps look like in 2018?

Who knows? Before sequestration, before Congressional gridlock, before the government shutdown, before the possibility of default, Peace Corps Washington was in the process of answering that question. The Peace Corps Annual Report for 2012 called for a Strategic Plan 2015 – 2018 to be developed. The Report further stated that input for the development of the 2015-2018 Agency Strategic Plan would be solicited from many different sources, including Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. “How could Returned Peace Corps Volunteers contribute to this plan?” I asked.  The Press Team responded: “The agency began engaging RPCVs in the development of the new strategic plan with three focused discussions with RPCVs during the career conference in February.  Moving forward, the agency will gather additional feedback on the draft strategic plan from RPCV groups in late summer and Fall 2013.  We will also be providing an email address where individual RPCVs can send their input.” . . .

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PC Director Writes Her Vols! The Word From HQ

Dear Volunteers: As many of you are aware, annual funding for the US government expired on September 30, 2013. This has affected Peace Corps operations, as it has all federal government activities. I want you to know that we have made a conscious decision to prioritize continuous operations in our host countries over headquarters activities.  In fact, over 90 percent of Peace Corps’ US-based staff – both in Washington and in our regional recruiting offices – have been furloughed. This action, combined with good financial planning, has allowed us to keep Volunteers in the field throughout the government shutdown. I am very hopeful that Congress will come to a resolution shortly and all of our staff can return to work. Please be assured that all activities necessary to ensure your ongoing health, safety and security will continue without interruption, as your well-being is our highest priority.  Volunteers should see no . . .

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Development Is Down This Road

by Abigail Calkins Aguirre (Cameroon 1987–1990) This essay won the 1992 Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience. • FEW RECOGNIZE ME without my trademark Suzuki. Now I have this red Yamaha DT they gave me to replace it. I’m still white, though, or so they keep insisting as I pass by the shouting voices trying to get me to stop to do a favor, chat, or taste the latest in palm wine. I know I have a bike, but how do you say “I’m not a taxi” in the local language? I’m late, I’m in a hurry, I’ve got to help a women’s group plant rows of plantains and pineapple in their community farm. This road could jostle my insides right out of me. My thighs are sore from being abused as non-stop shock absorbers. Yet, nothing beats a forestial commute: a time to . . .

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Broken English — a song

by Greg Horn (New Guinea 1991–92) This song won the 1993 Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience • Now your friends have all gone and the parlor is empty ‘cept for me in this chair with a book full of words and your thoughts and your deeds, they all come back to claim you ’cause no one’s understood anything they just heard. So you try to explain in your broken English ’bout the rivers of pain that keep crossing your mind but they’re too wide to cross and they’re too deep to see through and I’m not really sure what you want me to find. Chorus But please, I don’t want to go and please, I just gotta know if I should put out the light when I get done for the night. There are times when you think that there’s nobody watching when . . .

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The Ballroom

by Christopher Conlon (Botswana 1988-90) This poem won the 1994 Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience. • Southern Africa, Kalahari Desert She is the perfect image of a rag doll I saw when I was a child, in a trash can, dirty, ripped abandoned: here in the Kalahari is that same doll, maybe five, eyes huge, legs white with desert dust. Ke Kopa madi, sir, ke kopa madi. Money: I shake my head no, no madi: try to move on. But she stares at me, suddenly transfixed. No longer begging. Her eyes wider than before. My sunglasses: I crouch down, she approaches me, nose to nose, tattered, filthy, she stares at me, at herself. Then her hand moves to her chin and she says Oh, in a tiny, surprised voice. She rubs away the dried spittle there. Then she turns and, whitened heels kicking . . .

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Better Remember This

by Meg Sullivan (Kenya 1992-94) This essay won the 1995 Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience. YOU’D BETTER REMEMBER THIS. Because people will ask you. Whether you want them to or not, they’ll ask you how Africa was. And though you won’t know where to start, you’re going to have to have something to tell them. A shrug of the shoulders and “Good” won’t be enough. So you’d better remember this. Open the parts of your mind you need, and work them over until you’ve got them just right. Then put what you know in a place the will be easy for you to get to. Deep, but not too deep. Just enough so that even though no one else can see it, you know it’s there, and you can see it and feel it, and you know it makes up part of who . . .

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To Peel Potatoes

by John P. Deever (Ukraine 1993–95) This essay won the 1996 Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience. • “LIFE’S TOO SHORT to peel potatoes,” a woman in my local supermarket announced, as she put a box of instant mashed potatoes into her cart. When I overheard her I nearly shrieked. After recently returning from my Peace Corps stint in Ukraine, I tend to get defensive about the potato in all its forms: sliced, scalloped, diced, chopped, grated, or julienned; then boiled, browned, french-fried, slow-fried, hand-mashed, baked or twice-baked — with an indulgent dollop of butter or sour cream, yes thank you. A large portion of my time in Ukraine was spent preparing what was, in the winter, nearly the only vegetable available. Minutes and hours added up to a string of days handling potatoes. I sized up the biggest, healthiest spuds in the market . . .

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Innocence Melts Obstinacy

by Leita Kaldi (Senegal 1993-96) This essay won the 1997 Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience • IN THE MARKETPLACE OF DAKAR, Senegal, amid the welter of vegetables, chickens, dried fish and shouting women, a small boy leans against a crumbling wall staring into space. His bare toes knead the sand; the rags he wears flop around his skinny frame. A gang of older boys push and shove their way past him, turning to jeer. The boy leaps into a ninja position, hands like scissors, knees bent on rigid legs. He must have studied the nearby movie poster where a ninja film had been showing. His eyes are fierce and belong to the world of warriors. The older boys laugh and walk on as the child glares after them balefully. His dirt-colored pants have two rips down the back. At the back of his . . .

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White

by Lynn Marshall (Mali 1997–99) This essay was the 1999 Moritz Thomsen Award winner. • YESTERDAY, I ATTENDED MY FIRST FUNERAL. I wore white and so did the corpse. The body was wrapped in a heavy, white cloth and placed under a mango tree, surrounded by dozens of old women with missing teeth, gray hair, and skin as dry as coconut shells. The old ladies wore mismatched swatches of bright print fabric. Over a hundred people had gathered in the concession, and sat cross-legged on long, colorful rectangular mats. They paid their respects by playing cards, smoking Marlboros and drinking tea. As I toured the concession, I felt hundreds of eyes on me. Trying to convince myself that I was not out of place, I casually made my way over to the body. A group of women standing guard over the body immediately surrounded me. One woman gestured that I . . .

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Soledad by Chris Honore’ (Colombia 1967-69)

[Chris Honore’ was born in occupied Denmark, during WWII. After the war, he immigrated to America. He went to public schools and then attended San Jose State University and the University of California, at Berkeley, where he earned a teaching credential, an M.A. and a Ph.D. After teaching high school English for two years, he joined the Peace Corps. He’s a freelance journalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His wife owns a bookstore on Main Street. His son is a cinematographer, living in Southern California.] • SOLEDAD By Chris Honore’ I was thirteen years old when I went to stay with my grandmother. She lived alone in a rambling, two-story farmhouse with a wide wrap-around porch that offered soft views of the road and woods and a sheltered bay just beyond. Not far inland, due east, was the town of Watson. Everything west was ocean, the Pacific, deeply blue and endless. . . .

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