Archive - August 2016

1
De-selection in the Early Days of Peace Corps Training
2
Short-lived Euphoria
3
Graduate MFA Student Studying Peace Corps “Deselection”
4
The Peace Corps at 55
5
Southwest Michigan RPCVs Running For Office
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Review: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO AMHARIC by Andrew Tadros (Ethiopia) & Abraham Teklu
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Review: A WILD HARE by Siffy Torkildson (Madagascar)
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Peace Corps Cafe at Peace Corps House (Washington, D.C.)
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A Peace Corps Settlement House for Washington, D.C.  A Proposal From Tom Hebert (Nigeria)
10
The Passing of Poet Phil Dacey (Nigeria)

Short-lived Euphoria

  Samba dancers in brightly colored costumes, big smiles on their faces as they swirl to the music; a large float bearing two red and yellow papagayo  figures and curvaceous dancers scantily clad in sequined attire; the entire center of the stadium  arena filled with people dancing in flashes of sweeping colored lights. Soon the Olympic athletes join the performers in one big happy, mad party. My husband is somewhere in that crowd. Later he tells me he made a new acquaintance there, Mustafa, a tall Sudanese man, dressed in traditional garments.   The gaiety and euphoria of the closing event of the Olympic Games in Rio are contagious. In front of my television I smile at the antics of the athletes and sway to the rhythm. Swelling euphoria fills me at the sight of thousands of people of many races and nationalities joined together in brotherhood. This is an . . .

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Graduate MFA Student Studying Peace Corps “Deselection”

In her last year as an undergraduate, Kathleen Kanne, began to write about the training experiences of 1960s and 1970s Peace Corps Volunteers, specifically focusing on the controversial phenomenon of “Deselection.” The result was a 25 page academic paper that won the 2014 Best Senior Thesis award in the American Studies undergraduate program at the University of Minnesota. This summer, Kathleen is a graduate student in the Augsburg Creative Nonfiction MFA program and working on expanding the original idea into an investigative memoir about early Peace Corps training. She is collecting stories that Trainees are willing to share about their experiences. She is also “relaunching” her efforts to obtain actual training documents. Recently she wrote, “Thank you so much for your help with the initial paper. My inbox is open again, so if you would let people know that I want to interview them about  deselection or training psychology, feel . . .

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The Peace Corps at 55

The Peace Corps at 55 As we celebrate at the NPCA Conference this September, the 55th anniversary of an  agency that appears to be ‘disappearing’ from the view of most Americans, if not Congress and the White House, we might ask why? How often do we hear, “Is there still a Peace Corps?” from the men and women on the street. It seems that for the public the Peace Corps failed away with the “Kennedy Generation.”   But what brought about the Peace Corps in the first place? I thought I might try and chart the impulses that brought about its creation. These ‘impulses’ we might say are close to being lost in the fog of history. There were, however, several generally accepted desires that coalesced in the last days of the Fifties, framed by a number of people in speeches and in prose, and with the election of John F. . . .

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Southwest Michigan RPCVs Running For Office

Dick Joyce (Philippines 1962-64) sent me a “heads up” on what RPCVs in his group are doing.  this political season. Dick writes: “At least three of the former Peace Corps Volunteers in our group are running for office in the coming election.  Paul Clements (The Gambia, 85-87; clements@wmich.edu), who has hosted our group and spoken to us about his Peace Corps experiences is running for U.S. Congress (the 6th district, which includes most of our members).  Pat Crowley (Western Samoa, 76-79;pat@pat-crowley.com), one of our most active members, is running for reelection as Kalamazoo County Drain Commissioner. And Mike Quinn (Nicaragua, 75-77; mikedquinn@sbcglobal.net), who has hosted our group at the Shamrock Montessori School, is running to represent District 10 (i.e. much of Portage) on the Kalamazoo County Commission.  I’m sure they would all appreciate our support.”  

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Review: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO AMHARIC by Andrew Tadros (Ethiopia) & Abraham Teklu

  The Essential Guide to Amharic: The National Language of Ethiopia Andrew Taros (Ethiopia 2011–13) & Abraham Teklu Peace Corps Writers September 2015 163 pages $20.00 (paperback) Reviewed by Andy Martin (Ethiopia 1965–68) • The Essential Guide to Amharic by Tadross and Teklu, is exactly what it says it is, a brief guide to the language. At 163 pages, it is not a textbook. If you are going to Ethiopia for business or pleasure, the Guide could be helpful. If you want to learn Amharic in order to communicate with Amharic speakers for any length of time or depth, in Ethiopia or elsewhere, this is not a book I can recommend. In the biography of one of the authors, Andrew Tadross, he explains how, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia, he made lists of vocabulary words for himself to memorize and how these lists eventually evolved into this book. Unfortunately . . .

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Review: A WILD HARE by Siffy Torkildson (Madagascar)

  A Wild Hare: Finding the Life I Imagined Siffy Torkildson (Madagascar 2001–02) Sacred World Explorations July 2015 294 pages $17.99 (paperback), $7.99 (Kindle) Review by Deidre Swesnik (Mali 1996-98) • A QUOTE FROM BUDDHA in Siffy Torkildson’s book, A Wild Hare, is, “As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.” For Torkildson’s journey, I think she might also add, “be who you are.” Being present and being herself guides her on a journey to “finding the life I imagined.” She learned the hard way for too many years of not following her heart. But she is now determined to take what she has learned and to move forward with her newly found true love. She will not be deterred. Torkildson lets us into her innermost thoughts in this book that is part memoir, part travel guide. The book starts . . .

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Peace Corps Cafe at Peace Corps House (Washington, D.C.)

One of the features of the Washington, D.C. Peace Corps House will be a Peace Corps Café. The idea behind the Peace Corps Café, independent but related to Peace Corps House, comes from the Press Café in Batumi, Georgia, that far corner of eastern Europe. Happily; it was the project of Craig Schwinck. Craig served in the coastal city of Batumi. Here is what Craig had to say about his Peace Corps assignment in Batumi, Georgia: “My assignment was to establish a place where the free press in Georgia was able to come, discuss, debate, develop and learn from each other. We who started the café had a goal to create a safe haven for that expression. It became a place not only for the press, but for everyone in the state of Adjara to share diverse ideas, experiences and good food. Would it work in Washington? “I believe so. . . .

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A Peace Corps Settlement House for Washington, D.C.  A Proposal From Tom Hebert (Nigeria)

Purpose If realized, Peace Corps House will be a settlement house, also known as a community or neighborhood center. Thus, the aim of Peace Corps House is to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life for residents of a Washington neighborhood where, as the District of Columbia’s Comprehensive Plan states, “poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, crime and other social issues must be addressed because for revitalization to truly succeed, all residents must be given opportunities to advance.” Peace Corps House could help. In this spirit, the aim of Peace Corps House is to bring about a new kind of community life. Because it is in the community or neighborhood that people seek and fight for solutions to their concrete, daily, local and immediate problems. And so Peace Corps House will provide essential social services with related assistance and space to individuals and groups in efforts to solve community problems or . . .

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The Passing of Poet Phil Dacey (Nigeria)

  I recently learned the sad news that Phil Dacey (Nigeria 1963-65) died in Minneapolis on July 7, 2016, at age 77, after a nearly two-year struggle with acute leukemia. Phil won the Peace Corps Writers Poetry Award in 2000 for his collection, The Deathbed Playboy. He also won three Pushcart Prizes and the Discovery Award from the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street YM-YWHA. Phil was the recipient of a Woodrow Wilson fellowship from Stanford University as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Foundation, and the Loft-McKnight Foundation. He served as poet- or writer-in-residence at Wichita State University, the University of Idaho, and Minnesota State University at Mankato. While teaching at Southwest State Minnesota University, Dacey founded the Marshall Festivals, the Minnesota Writers’ Festival, and the International Film Series. He lived in Minneapolis until his death. Over the . . .

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