Archive - May 2016

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My cousin Bob Mushroom
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Franklin Rothman (Brazil) publishes BROOKLYN, NY to BOCAIUVA, BRAZIL
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Review — LEARNING TO LOVE KIMCHI by Carol MacGregor Cissel (Korea)
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Review — AMERICAN SAHIB by Eddie James Girdner (India)
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“Peace Corps Accomplishment” by James Wolter (Malaysia)
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Review — THE PEACE CORPS, SIERRA LEONE, AND ME by Norman Tyler (Sierra Leone)
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Vietnam and the Peace Corps: Remarks at Signing Ceremony
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Review — THE GIRL IN THE GLYPHS by David C. Edmonds (Chile)
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Obama to Announce Peace Corps will be Invited to Vietnam
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“Impressions of Cuba” by Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru)

My cousin Bob Mushroom

Since I lean increasingly towards nature writing, I find myself ordering Kindle books on the topic. I’m delighted with my latest purchase: The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter by Colin Trudge. In very accessible prose, he provides a truly refreshing “refresher” course in basic biology.   In high school, as I was on the college track, I was instructed to take chemistry and physics, rather than biology. Maybe biology was considered a lesser science then. In college Biology 1A and B, I barely scraped by. I was a liberal arts gal. Fast forward fifty years: Now I realize that I want to deepen my understanding of the scientific foundations of the natural world — the evolution of scientific names for things and Carolus Linaeus’ system of classification: species, genus, orders, classes and kingdoms (later phylum was inserted between class and kingdom . . .

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Franklin Rothman (Brazil) publishes BROOKLYN, NY to BOCAIUVA, BRAZIL

  IN JUNE 1969, just three months prior to his Peace Corps project termination conference in Brazil, Frank meets a young Brazilian girl with beautiful blue eyes at a James Bond movie, and twelve days later he asks her to marry him. • Brooklyn, NY to Bocaiúva, Brazil tells the story of the unlikely chain of circumstances which led to Frank meeting Lena. The author traces these circumstances all the way back to his childhood in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he experiences the closeness of his extended Jewish family and the warmth of Puerto Ricans with whom his father came into contact. A homestay with a family in Mexico, in 1964 as part of his undergraduate major in Spanish, heightens his fascination with Latin American culture. Frank tells in a lighthearted manner of his adventures and blunders while hitching rides around Europe in the summer of 1966 . . .

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Review — LEARNING TO LOVE KIMCHI by Carol MacGregor Cissel (Korea)

  Learning to Love Kimchi: Letters Home from a Peace Corps Volunteer Carol MacGregor Cissel (Korea 1973–75) CreateSpace May 2016 274 pages $10.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Clifford Garstang (Korea 1976–77) • CAROL CISSEL EMBARKED on her Peace Corps odyssey in December, 1973. “We’re in Korea!” she writes home to her mother upon arrival after a journey through Honolulu and Tokyo with her service group. This exclamation forms the opening of Cissel’s memoir, Learning to Love Kimchi. What follows are all the letters she wrote to her mother over the course of her two years working in Korea as an education Volunteer and the months spent touring Southeast Asia after the completion of her service. My own Peace Corps/Korea experience began just a few days after Cissel left the country, so I read these letters with considerable fondness and nostalgia, remembering my own first taste of kimchi, my own . . .

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Review — AMERICAN SAHIB by Eddie James Girdner (India)

  American Sahib (novel) Eddie James Girdner (India 1968–70) CreateSpace March 2016 420 pages $14.90 (paperback) Reviewed by Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast 2000-02, Madagascar 2002-03) • ONE OF THE GREAT liberties of the on-going tidal wave of self-publishing is that an author can go on as long as he wants. No longer do fussy editors slash and burn their way through your manuscript, no nitpicking gatekeepers naysay your style or plotting, or even the basic value of the endeavor at all. Turn the coin over, however, and the drawbacks are those same things. If engineers were allowed equal liberties, the landscape would be littered with deathtrap bridges. If ballerinas were so free, most would be falling down. In the back jacket copy to Eddie James Girdner’s overlong and plodding American Sahib, someone has lauded the book as, “The only novel ever written about the American Peace Corps experience in rural . . .

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“Peace Corps Accomplishment” by James Wolter (Malaysia)

  A Writer Writes:   Peace Corps Accomplishment by Jim Wolter (Malaysia 1962-66) • Sultan Sulaiman Secondary School had no biology or senior math teacher, no library and a floundering boy scout troop before I arrived. Within weeks my biology and math students were making significant progress, I started a library using my own books and revived the scout troop. So I couldn’t understand why I was being replaced by a new PCV and transferred to Tengku Bariah Secondary School (TBSS). I suggested that the Peace Corps assign the new PCV to TBSS, but was told the Ministry of Education’s decision was final and not open for discussion. Worse, upon reporting to TBSS, I was assigned to teach Islamic Studies to students preparing to sit for the Lower Certificate of Education (LCE). I told the Headmaster I knew nothing about Islam and couldn’t possibly teach it. He said that if . . .

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Review — THE PEACE CORPS, SIERRA LEONE, AND ME by Norman Tyler (Sierra Leone)

  The Peace Corps, Sierra Leone, and Me Norman Tyler (Sierra Leone 1964–66) CreateSpace August 2015 191 pages $12.50 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971–73) • THIS MEMOIR IS ABOUT THE JOURNEY of a naïve 19-year-old who joins the Peace Corps and heads “up-country” to Kenema, Sierra Leone, on the Liberian border, from 1964 to 1966. His trek was about seven years before my PCV experience in Guatemala, after which I eventually arrived in Sierra Leone with my family as the director of an international child care agency. My experience there allowed me to commiserate with much of Norman’s story. Upon my arrival in Sierra Leone, I remember thinking, “And I thought I knew what poverty was — and diseases — lassa fever and green monkey disease — yikes!” (I don’t remember Ebola being mentioned, but you get the picture). I’ve always admired the PCVs who served and were able to survive . . .

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Vietnam and the Peace Corps: Remarks at Signing Ceremony

Remarks at a Peace Corps Signing Ceremony Remarks John Kerry Secretary of State Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Minh and Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet Government House Hanoi, Vietnam May 24, 2016   MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) On the occasion of the official visit to Vietnam by the Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, and (inaudible) between His Excellency Pham Binh Minh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and His Excellency John Kerry, Secretary of State, the two sides will sign the framework agreement concerning the program of the Peace Corps in Vietnam. Allow me the pleasure to introduce and invite His Excellency Secretary of State John Kerry and His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh to witness the signing of the framework agreement. Now I’d like to invite Madame Carolyn Hessler-Radelet, Director of the Peace Corps, to have some remarks. . . .

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Review — THE GIRL IN THE GLYPHS by David C. Edmonds (Chile)

  The Girl in the Glyphs by David C. Edmonds (Chile 1963–65)) and Maria Nieves Edmonds Peace Corps Writers January 2016 354 pages $12.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Andy Martin (Ethiopia 1965–68) • The Girl in the Glyphs was a surprisingly enjoyable book. I say surprisingly because I chose to review the book from a list of available titles, each of which had a short paragraph synopsis. I believe the synopsis for this book said it was a romantic adventure story. John Coyne, who saw a proof copy of the book said it was “a splendid tale of love and intrigue in a dangerous country . . ..” When the book arrived in the mail, I didn’t know what to think. I was definitely trying to judge it by its cover and that was a bit unfair. It’s 6″ x 9″ with cover art that harkens to Indiana Jones. The inside has one illustration, a map, and . . .

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Obama to Announce Peace Corps will be Invited to Vietnam

  President Barack Obama is expected to announce Monday during his visit to Vietnam that the Peace Corps will be invited to establish operations in that country, the volunteer organization said. The volunteers will focus on teaching English to students, and training Vietnamese colleagues to teach English. It’s a striking turnaround from the years when some young men joined the Peace Corps in an effort to avoid serving in the military during the Vietnam conflict. The Peace Corps has been working on gaining entry to Vietnam for years. In 2012, then-Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams made a three-day visit to the country to explore the possibility of an invitation to establish a program there. The Peace Corps was established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy to promote world peace and friendship. Since then, more than 220,000 Americans have served in 141 host countries. Currently, volunteers work in 63 countries. . . .

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“Impressions of Cuba” by Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru)

• Impressions of Cuba A Thirty-Year Retrospective by Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962-64) • Why Cuba? The year before my mother married my dad, she and her cousin Celia took a Greyhound bus from Milwaukee to Miami. After sight-seeing in Miami, they took an amphibian plane to Havana where they ran into some wealthy American men (playboys) who showed them the sights, including the newly opened Tropicana night club that still entertains visitors with scantily clad women dancing to fiery salsa. I don’t know why my mother, a first-generation daughter of a Bavarian-born pastry chef, chose Cuba. Her affinity toward Latin America developed after that trip even though she returned only once, after she had talked my dad into a family road trip from Milwaukee to Mexico City and Acapulco in 1956. It was my mother who encouraged me to say yes to a 1962 telegram from Sargent Shriver inviting me . . .

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