Archive - September 2015

1
The Call of the Tropics
2
New Members of Peace Corps Sexual Assault Advisory Council
3
Review — Far Away in the Sky by David L. Koren (Nigeria 1965–66)
4
Review — The Unspoken by Christopher Conlon (Botswana 1988–90)
5
Review — Three Hundred Cups of Tea & The Toughest Job by Asifa Kanji & David Drury (Mali 201–12)
6
Losing a Piece of the Past – A Peace Corps Blog by Thomas O. Isom
7
Detour to the Unexpected
8
What Program Was The First Peace Corps Project?
9
Talking with Jonathan Weisman (Philippines 1988-90)
10
Making David Schickele's (Nigeria 1961-63) Peace Corps Film Give Me A Riddle

The Call of the Tropics

I’ve done it. Reserved a flight for Barranquilla, Colombia in three weeks time. It’s been a long-time wish of mine to return to the barrios in Barranquilla where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Fifty years have passed, yet the imprint left by those experiences and those people continues strong. A formal invitation in Spanish arrived by email announcing a ceremony commemorating a total of twenty-five years of Peace Corps service in Colombia. Not twenty-five consecutive years as for many years as it was considered unsafe to send volunteers there. I’ve been filled with apprehension while taking this decision. Browsing Internet I learn the new reality of the city and the barrios of Las Américas and Santuario. They have changed drastically. Some roads are now paved and shacks have become solidly-built, though still humble, homes. These began as invasion barrios, shanty towns with no plan or organization. I once . . .

Read More

New Members of Peace Corps Sexual Assault Advisory Council

The Peace Corps Sexual Assault Advisory Council was mandated by Sec. 8 D. of the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection of 2011. Kate Puzey was a Volunteer in Benin. She was murdered. Her murder remains unsolved.  Kate Puzey was a teacher and she had complained to the Peace Corps Office that a Host National Teacher, with an association with the Peace Corps, was sexually exploiting her female students. She was murdered shortly after making this report.  It is widely believed that her murder was in retaliation for her report. This remains speculation because her murderers have not brought to justice. In the Congressional hearings as the bill was being considered, RPCV women testified about their experience as sexual assault victims during Peace Corps service. The legislation is designed to address this problem. Sexual exploitation of young women in host countries who want to get an education is not addressed by . . .

Read More

Review — Far Away in the Sky by David L. Koren (Nigeria 1965–66)

Far Away in the Sky: A Memoir of the Biafran Airlift by David L. Koren (Nigeria 1964–66) CreateSpace April 2012 332 pages $17.99 (paperback), $8.60 (Kindle) Reviewed by Don Schlenger (Ethiopia 1966–68) • David Koren was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Eastern Nigeria from January 1964 through December 1965. At the end of his two-year service, after a brief return to the States, he re-enlisted, or ‘extended’ his service, as it was called at the time, and returned to Nigeria in January 1966, during a coup led by army officers. Many of these officers, who were from the Igbo tribal group, were Christian and their  home was the eastern district of Nigeria, where Koren served as an English teacher. They overthrew the ruling Hausa leaders who were Muslim and mostly from northern Nigeria. In June and July 1966, another coup ousted the Igbo officers and led to the slaughter of . . .

Read More

Review — The Unspoken by Christopher Conlon (Botswana 1988–90)

The Unspoken: The Lost Novel by Christopher Conlon (Botswana 1988–90) CreateSpace January 2015 776 pages $25.95 (paperback), $7.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Tom Coyne (Morocco 1981–83) • What to say about a debut novel, unpublished until about a quarter century after it was written? First, The Unspoken: The Lost Novel was not really lost. Over a six-year period, author Christopher Conlon started this novel in college, continued writing it in Peace Corps (Botswana), and finished it in several other locales. Then, it languished on paper and floppy disks until this year. Second, Conlon was apparently loath to cut any bit of it. At 750+ pages, The Unspoken is a behemoth. Third, to use the author’s favored character description, this is a very glum story. Conlon is now an established writer — a winner of awards.* In his informative new introduction to the book, he observes: The Unspoken is a young man’s . . .

Read More

Review — Three Hundred Cups of Tea & The Toughest Job by Asifa Kanji & David Drury (Mali 201–12)

Three Hundred Cups of Tea and The Toughest Job: Riding the Peace Corps Rollercoaster in Mali, West Africa A Side-by-Side Memoir by Asifa Kanji and David Drury (both: Mali 2011–12; PCResponse Ghana 2012–13; PCResponse South Africa 2013) CreateSpace May, 2015 290 pages $14.95 (paperback), $5.99 (Kindle) .Reviewed by Wayne and Laurie Kessler (Ethiopia 1964–66) • I love bath time — the feel of cool water drizzling down my sweaty back is absolutely delicious. I don’t even dry myself. I let the breeze cool me down. It feels sooooo good. My village life is so simple, it is beautiful. Asifa Kanji expresses delight in this Peace Corps memoir. But it’s more than a memoir. It’s a splendid read with insights into Asifa and David’s views on life, and glimpses of their earlier adventures in East and South Africa, India, Eritrea, and Norway. These adventures provided a base for understanding and interpretation . . .

Read More

Losing a Piece of the Past – A Peace Corps Blog by Thomas O. Isom

Peace Corps writers bring their communities to life. From their unique perspective, they allow us to share  a moment in the lives of people we would never otherwise know or understand. Through the years, from letters written on tissue thin airmail papers, to film sent away to be developed, to journals that became books, to videos, Volunteers have sought to bring their world home. Today, blogs are the media of choice for Volunteers. The blogs are unofficial and Volunteers must adhere to guidelines established by Peace Corps. But the stories still say “Look what I see,” “Let me share what I have learned,” “Know these people as I do.” One such special blog is this written by Thomas O. Isom, Volunteer serving now in Mozambique.  Peace Corps has published it on its Passport Blog on the official Peace Corps web page.  Here is the link: http://passport.peacecorps.gov/2015/09/25/losing-a-piece-of-the-past/ It is also reprinted here. . . .

Read More

Detour to the Unexpected

A strange sight greeted us as we stepped out of the downtown metro station – no traffic on the Alameda, the city’s main artery, no roaring cars, buses, trucks, taxis and motorcycles. Nothing. Nada. At the end of the block, in front of the Moneda, the presidential palace, a series of barricades were detouring cars. I’d come with two sisters-in-law to attend a free noonday Sunday concert downtown. At the theater, we found all the doors closed, people wandering about with puzzled faces. We learned that the concert was cancelled because this was the route of a protest march to the general cemetery to commemorate “los desaparecidos”, the disappeared, victims of the military coup which occurred 42 years ago on a September 11th.  We considered our options and then called a friend who lives downtown. She invited us for coffee. It was my first visit to her apartment, located in . . .

Read More

What Program Was The First Peace Corps Project?

If you ever run into any RPCV from Colombia One, the first thing he’ll say (they were all guys) before giving you their name is: “We were first.” Colombia One PCVs are obsessed with this fact and that they are not given their proper pecking order. Recently my friend Ron Schwarz (Colombia 1961-63), wrote this piece on why THEY were the first PCVs, not Ghana. I asked the Director of the Peace Corps to check on this obscure (but important) fact. She was nice enough to come back with this information and statement from the agency’s General Counsel Office and the  Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning. Start dates for the early programs of the Peace Corps were corroborated and/or updated based on detailed research and analysis conducted by our Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. Ghana . . .

Read More

Talking with Jonathan Weisman (Philippines 1988-90)

Jonathan Weisman (Philippines 1988-90) is the Washington based economic policy reporter for The New York Times.  He has also worked for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal , and USA Today. Now he has written a novel, No. 4 Imperial Lane. • What was you college background and reasons for joining the Peace Corps? I went to Northwestern University with a year abroad at the University of Sussex, double majoring in journalism and history with a concentration in Africa and the Middle East. I was torn in those years between my love of old-fashioned newspaper writing and my interest in economic development. I actually had been thinking of the Peace Corps for years — I had a romantic vision of myself in an arid village in the Sahel struggling against the elements. But in the end, I applied more to use it as a tie breaker. My experience in the . . .

Read More

Making David Schickele's (Nigeria 1961-63) Peace Corps Film Give Me A Riddle

Give Me A Riddle by Roger Landrum (Nigeria 1961-63) First published on PeaceCorpsWriters.org in 2001 A COUPLE OF YEARS AFTER WE SERVED together as PCVs in Nigeria, David Schickele asked me if I would be part of a film project he was proposing to the Peace Corps. The basic concept was to capture the adventure of crossing into another culture and the rewards gained from escaping the cocoon in which Americans living abroad typically enclose themselves. It is an experience common among many PCVs to one degree or another, and for the Peace Corps, this film could be used to recruit the next wave of Volunteers, focusing on its two mandated cross-cultural goals rather than the more commonly publicized development assistance goal. Our personal experiences in Africa had been a revelation to us in numerous ways, and David wanted to make a documentary providing Americans with a new perspective from inside . . .

Read More

Copyright © 2016. Peace Corps Worldwide.