Author - John Coyne

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Ghana’s First Peace Corps Staff (Part One)
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Remembering Mexico Beach
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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined The Peace Corps (Morocco)
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Peru’s First Peace Corps Staff (Final)
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RPCV Maureen Orth (Colombia) edited by RPCV Bea Hogan (Uzbekistan)
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Peru’s First Peace Corps Staff (Part Three)
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Review — INTO THE BACKLANDS by Kenneth E. Dugan Flies (Brazil)
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Buck Humphrey speaks at Peace Corps marker dedication in Plainview MN
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First ever Peace Corps marker dedicated in Plainview MN
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Peru’s First Peace Corps Staff (Part Two)

Ghana’s First Peace Corps Staff (Part One)

During the first week of May, 1961, Richard Thornell landed in Ghana to lay the groundwork for the arrival of the first Volunteers to be sent overseas. He was stricken with TB the end of August and entered the hospital only five days before the Volunteers stepped off the pane in Accra on August 29, 1961. A number of dignitaries, however, including Ghana’s Minister of Education A.J. Dowuong-Hammond, were on hand to greet the 50 PCVs, men and women, and their escort officer, Padraic Kennedy, at the big airport on the outskirts of Accra. In response to expressions of welcome, one of the Volunteers stepped forward and delivered a thank-you for the group in Twi, the principal local language. The Twi was far from perfect, but the fact that Americans would try to speak it at all was met with smiling enthusiasm on the part of the welcoming Ghanaians.   . . .

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Remembering Mexico Beach

  Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962-64) first happened upon Mexico Beach in 1975 on her way to interview at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. She had just finished her doctorate at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In 1977, she moved to Pensacola in “Florida’s Great Northwest,” where she taught at the University of West Florida until retirement. During her family’s time in Florida’s western Panhandle, there were many family reunions on St. George Island, a gorgeous sweep of barrier island off of Apalachicola, not far from Mexico Beach. Patricia remembers . . . •   Mexico Beach Hurricane Michael flattened Mexico Beach in Florida’s eastern Panhandle on October 10, 2018. Was it a fluke in the temperature of the Gulf? A nudge from a high pressure system from the north? God’s unleashed breath, punishment for a covey of sinners living in recreational vehicles back from the beach? Until the . . .

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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined The Peace Corps (Morocco)

  Jesse Altman is finishing his tour in Morocco this December and has maintained a blog during  his Peace Corps years.  This is a recent item on Jesse’s blog, reposted with his permission. — JCoyne • 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined Peace Corps Close of Service Conference and my Last 4 Months in Morocco by Jesse Altman (Morocco 2016-18)     After closing out my summer work and the month of July, I headed off to Rabat for our Close-of-Service Conference! It is crazy and unbelievable that 23 months have gone by and less than 4 remain for my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. The conference was a lot of fun, but bittersweet as well. This was the last time that our entire staj (cohort) will be together since we all have different departure dates starting in a few months’ time. Having said . . .

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Peru’s First Peace Corps Staff (Final)

Emory Biro was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, and went to the University of Detroit, where he edited the college paper, and graduated in 1954 with a degree in political science. He was fired from his job as a college editor because of his last editorial, an attack on McCarthyism called “The Rise of Fascism in the U.S.” Also in his undergraduate career, he had served as vice president of the university’s student council, vice president of the Detroit Interracial Council, and finally, vice president of the Migratory Workers Defense League. In 1954, he moved to Chicago and went to work for the Catholic Interracial Council, of which Sargent Shriver was then president. Appointed to the CIC board, he served on it from 1957 until he came to the Peace Corps in 1962. Biro, who spoke Hungarian before he spoke English, and who first learned Spanish working with braceros . . .

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RPCV Maureen Orth (Colombia) edited by RPCV Bea Hogan (Uzbekistan)

  Among many other journalistic skills, Bea Hogan (Uzbekistan 1992-94)  is a contract writer for Seneca Women, a small company devoted to empowering women, and contributes to its weekly newsletter. Bea served in the first group Peace Corps Volunteers to Uzbekistan and wrote me the other day: “Worlds collide: the company I work for, Seneca Women, produced a show — Global Forum: Women Driving Economic Progress — in Dublin for Bank of America earlier this week. One of the star speakers was Maureen Orth. I put together the newsletter yesterday, and I tucked in a little plug for the Peace Corps at the end.” Bea went onto write, It’s funny — Maureen and I have never met in person, but I’ve crossed paths with her several times. I noticed that we both have essays in that collection of essays by RPCVs  you edited for the Peace Corps years ago, At Home in the World. . . .

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Peru’s First Peace Corps Staff (Part Three)

After two years at Utah State, Darwin Bell enlisted in the Army as a private. It was 1942 and, like Frank Mankiewicz, he was sent to ASTP and—to continue the parallel—wound up a mortar gunner in the battle for France. Here their paths diverged. Bell was captured by Germans in the Battle of the Bulge and was taken to Stalag 9-B in  Bad Orb. He escaped from the prison camp twice and was recaptured twice. The third time he escaped, the Germans caught him again, but thinking he was dead, left him in a field where he was picked up by nuns and taken to an infirmary. A doctor told him he had appendicitis and that he would be back the next day to operate. But the next day, according to Bell, “U.S. tanks came rolling into town, and the war was over for me.” He spent the next nine . . .

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Review — INTO THE BACKLANDS by Kenneth E. Dugan Flies (Brazil)

  Into the Backlands: A Peace Corps Memoir by Kenneth E. Dugan Fliés (Brazil 1961–63) Lost Lake Folk Art Books June 19, 2018 236 pages $17.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Bob Arias (Colombia 1964-66) • The Peace Corps is guilty of enthusiasm and a crusading spirit, but we are not apologetic about it! — Sargent Shriver Want to know what Peace Corps was like then and now? Into The Backlands, a Peace Corps Memoir takes you by the hand into the early years of JFK’s Peace Corps and the spirit and challenges of the times, 1961-1963. Ken Flies was 19 years old when he reported to training at the University of Oklahoma as part of Brazil II, one of the first. I doubt if Ken knew what he was getting himself into, and Brazil . . . where’s that? Ken’s memoir shares the beauty and innocence of Kennedy’s “kiddie corps” as the press portrayed . . .

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Buck Humphrey speaks at Peace Corps marker dedication in Plainview MN

  Thank you, Ken, and thank all of you for being here today in Plainview Minnesota to celebrate and honor the 50+ year history you have with the United States Peace Corps. Before I go any further I want you to know I bring greetings from my father, Skip Humphrey and all the Humphrey family. I also want to recognize and thank my uncle, Judge William Howard for joining me here today. Bill’s mother and Hubert Humphrey’s sister, Frances Humphrey Howard was instrumental in many aspects of my grandfather’s life, but especially foreign affairs, the State Department, the Foreign Service and the Peace Corps, so thank you Bill for being her today. When Ken called me up and asked if I would come down to help commemorate the placing of a historical marker to honor and celebrate the founding of the US Peace Corps and the very real connection Plainview . . .

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First ever Peace Corps marker dedicated in Plainview MN

Ken Fliés of Eagan, MN was one of the first Peace Corps Volunteers, and the youngest when he began his service in Brazil in 1961. Fliés, now 75, grew up on a dairy farm near Plainview, MN, and was just 19 when he answered President John F. Kennedy’s call to find “what you can do for your country.” He chose to represent the U.S. as a PCV in Correntina, in rural Brazil, where he would use his mechanical and agricultural skills to help fix a dam and improve the town’s farming skills. Fliés understood hard work and how to make things work when times were tough, and these were the character strengths he would draw on during his 21-month tour in what proved to be a very unorganized inaugural launch of the Peace Corps. “It was pretty chaotic,” he said. “We were spread out over 15,000 square miles of the São Francisco Valley. . . .

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Peru’s First Peace Corps Staff (Part Two)

Peru was tantamount to a second home for William Mangin who happened to have been born and raised in Syracuse, N.Y. After one year at Syracuse University, he joined the Navy V-12 program, was sent to St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., then to Cornell Midshipman’s School where he was commissioned an Ensign. Assigned to amphibious forces, he was sent to the Pacific and participated in the Marshall Islands invasions. Discharged in 1946, he returned to Syracuse for a degree in anthropology and mathematics, then went on to Yale for an M.A. in anthropology. In 1951, he went to Peru with a grant from the Social Science Research Council to study drinking practices among Quechua speakers in the high Andes. His report, eventually published, showed that a society could contain heavy drinking patterns (corn beer, super cane rum) and yet very little alcoholism. The next year, he operated the Vicos . . .

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