Archive - October 2015

1
Journey to the Unknown
2
Report from Congress on post service disability benefits
3
Dinner in DC —Were You Invited?
4
NPCA Goes To Cuba! Part IV
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NPCA Goes To Cuba! Part III
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NPCA Goes To Cuba! Part II
7
NPCA Goes To Cuba! Part I
8
Could Ambassador Christopher Stevens RPCV Been Saved?
9
Another RPCV Runs for Congress: Joel Rubin (Costa Rica (1994-96)
10
More About Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65)

Journey to the Unknown

On board Avianca flight #98, I’m headed to Bogotá and then Barranquilla. The map on the screen on the seat back in front of me indicates we are over the desert of northern Chile – in spectacular flower. I’m in a state of disbelief. Returning to Barranquilla after 48 years. When I was 23 or 24. I feel I’m returning to my past. Diaphanous clouds of memories drift in my head, of other flights, landscapes and faces of people I knew then: barrio friends, boyfriends. It will all be changed now. Google maps and Streets reveal my old barrio, once a shanty town- invasion barrio, now looks more solid. Some streets are paved! Will they have running water now? Indoor toilets? Will I locate my friends Petra, Fidelia, Dominga’s daughter or my godson Jose? And I have changed, now a white-haired grandmother. Will they recognize me? This is a journey . . .

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Report from Congress on post service disability benefits

Nancy Tongue (RPCV Chile) is a tireless advocate for RPCVs who have had service contacted medical problems and who have had difficulty receiving the help to which they are entitled. She founded Health Justice for Volunteers http://www.healthjusticeforpeacecorpsvolunteers.org Nancy’s group is an associative group of the National Peace Corps Association. The group is working with both the NPCA and Peace Corps to create better solutions for RPCVs. Nancy has updated the work of her organization in an email and also attached the report from the GAO on post service disability benefits. From Nancy’s email message:letter-from-nancy-tongue “The Senate Foreign Relations Office has just posted the findings from their recent GAO report analyzing the difference between the benefits from the USDOL vs: what employees of the State Department receive. You will see that it was noted that they did not conduct actuarial analysis, which was what was needed in order to really understand . . .

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Dinner in DC —Were You Invited?

Last night in D.C. Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, and Charlotte Kea from her office, and other RPCVs, including former Senator Christopher Dodd, were hosted by Boston University’s Scott Nichols, another RPCV so that the group could discuss raising funds to increase the number of PCVs overseas. The money raised, I presume, will be to lobby Congress to increase the Peace Corps budget. Nichols, I understand, is planning to hold a series of such dinners around the country before Carrie leaves her post at the end of the Obama administration. His aim is to make Peace Corps alumni, as he calls them, a more effective force for increasing the size of and funding for Peace Corps. As Carrie told her dinner partners, “many qualified applicants are turned away and several countries asking for volunteers cannot be accommodated because of lack of funds.” Some guests wrote checks on the spot. There were also . . .

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NPCA Goes To Cuba! Part IV

Early on Sunday, those of us up for another long drive, left Villa Clara to visit the Che Monument. It was really our first opportunity to see the countryside of Cuba, and this region of the island is quite beautiful with soft green hillsides and rolling land. What struck this Midwest farm boy was the nearly total lack of cultivated land. We learned later in the week that less than 30% of the country’s land is used for farming. Cuba imports about 80% of its food which makes it vulnerable to price increases, changes in food supply and the impacts of natural disasters, i.e., hurricanes. Most of this situation (if not all) is due to the dependence on Russia and then the end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union.  How Cubans live today in rural Cuba is obvious from just this photo. It is a photo that could have . . .

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NPCA Goes To Cuba! Part III

In our tour of four provinces, the first ‘city’ we visited was Trinidad in the province of Sancti Spiritus, in central Cuba. Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, it has been one of UNESCOs World Heritage sites since 1988. It is a cobbledstone town, a fairly well preserved Spanish colonial settlement of around 75,000.  The center of town is the Plaza Mayor, an open-air museum of Spanish Colonial architecture. Dominating the square, and the town of brightly painted buildings, is the beautiful Santisima Trinidad Cathedral and Convento de San Francisco. We arrived in Trinidad from our nearby hotel Ma Dolores with the last of the summer rains. This ancient town does not have anything like a drainage system and we were forced to hug the sides of buildings as we navigate the few square blocks up side streets to the historic plaza area. Nevertheless, wherever you go in . . .

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NPCA Goes To Cuba! Part II

On Sunday morning we drove for two hours to the Che Guevara Mausoleum and Monument in Santa Clara. Here are the remains of “Che” and twenty-nine others, including one woman, who were killed in 1967 during Guevara’s attempt to spur an armed uprising in Bolivia. There is also a bronze 22-foot statue of Che in this monument complex. Guevara, who was born in Argentina, was buried with full military honors in 1997 after his remains were discovered in Bolivia, exhumed, and returned to Cuba. There is also an eternal flame lit by Fidel Castro in Che’s memory. Our guide told us that Santa Clara was selected as the site for the mausoleum and monument as a way to remember Guevara’s troops taking the city on December 31, 1958, during the Battle of Santa Clara. It was the final battle of the Cuban Revolution. After this defeat, Batista fled into exile. What is particularly . . .

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NPCA Goes To Cuba! Part I

Last week the first NPCA trip to Cuba took place, an arrangement with Global Exchange, an organization that promotes people-to-people contact. This San Francisco travel group is one of only 12 ways in which the United States permitted to sponsored tours to the island. Twenty-five of us went on this trip, including Glenn Blumhorst, the President & CEO of the NPCA. In all 18 were RPCVs, one was a former HQ staff, there was a former PCV & Staff (me!), a current staff person, and four family/friends. Also the group had one 2015 COS RPCV (Nepal) and 2 RPCVs from the first PCVs to Samoa and Ethiopia. A second June trip to Cuba is now tentatively planned by the NPCA and in some ways we were the ‘experiment’. Let me say first that traveling with other RPCVs (if you have to go in a group) is the only way to visit . . .

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Could Ambassador Christopher Stevens RPCV Been Saved?

Ambassador Stevens was an RPCV. He brought his Peace Corps experience and his values to his appointment as Ambassador to Libya. He was assassinated in an terrorist attack in Libya on September 11, 2012. This week, the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton will testify before a House Committee investigating the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attack. In my opinion, the issues have become politicalized. Perhaps the most egregious has been a political commercial aired during the Democratic debate last week that featured the pictures of the four Americans who died at Benghazi and ended with a view of  what is supposed to be Stevens grave marker. Some families of the Fallen have deplored the ad.  To understand one accounting of what happened immediately before, during, and after the attack, read the testimony of Gregory Hicks, who was in charge when Ambassador Stevens had left on a mission.  Here is the . . .

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Another RPCV Runs for Congress: Joel Rubin (Costa Rica (1994-96)

Joel Rubin, Candidate for Congress & Returned Peace Corps Volunteer October 14, 2015 Dear Peace Corps Community, My name is Joel Rubin and I’m writing you to ask for your support as I make a run for Congress in Maryland’s 8th District.  Like you, I’m an RPCV, and I would be honored to be a champion for both the Peace Corps and international development in the U.S. House of Representatives. The key vote in this race is the Democratic primary on April 26, 2016, and we will be organizing every day until Election Day to win it.  I need your help to do this, through volunteering for, spreading the word about, and donating to my campaign. Like you, I’m a fighter for positive change.  And much of my passion is traced to my experience in the Peace Corps.  It changed my life.  When I went to Costa Rica in 1994 as an Environmental Education . . .

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More About Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65)

(This is a short essay I wrote years ago about Theroux and his ‘Peace Corps Experience’  and I am reposting it now to continue the discussion of his latest book.) Living on the Edge: Paul Theroux • He went — in the way the Peace Corps rolls the dice of our lives – to Africa as a teacher. “My schoolroom is on the Great Rift, and in this schoolroom there is a line of children, heads shaved liked prisoners, muscles showing through their rags,” he wrote home in 1964. “These children appear in the morning out of the slowly drifting hoops of fog-wisp. It is chilly, almost cold. There is no visibility at six in the morning; only a fierce white-out where earth is the patch of dirt under their bare feet, a platform, and the sky is everything else.” How many of us stood in front of similar classrooms . . .

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