Short Works about the Peace Corps Experience

Including essays, letters home, poetry, a song and Journals of Peace.

1
Regional Meeting by Anson K. Lihosit (Panama)
2
“On the Merits of Eating Raw Goat Spleens” by Justin Parmenter (Albania)
3
“An Unexpected Love Story: The Women of Bati” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)
4
“The Peace Corps Blew It” by Bob Criso (Nigeria)
5
“Is It Folly to Be Wise” by Janet Mulgannon Del Castillo (Colombia)
6
“The Gift” by Keith Dunn (Dominican Republic)
7
The Innocents: A Filipina WWII Oral History
8
A Writer Writes: “¡Sigue no más!“ by Folwell Dunbar
9
What is a Peace Corps Volunteer?
10
“Toothpaste” by E.T. Stafne (Senegal)

Regional Meeting by Anson K. Lihosit (Panama)

  Regional Meeting by Anson K. Lihosit (Panama, 2015-17) • At breakfast, the family I stayed with told me that the goat was already tied up outside. They gave me an extra plate of rice and a bucket. “Now that it is here, you’ll have to feed it and give it water twice a day,” they said as they glanced at each other, grinning. I walked up the hill in between my host family’s home and their son’s home.  As I approached, the goat ran as far as the short leash permitted trying to avoid me. I got as close as possible, dumped the rice and left the bucket of water. The goat, tied to a tree in a strange place with strangers, kept jerking that rope. The next morning, three American friends awaited me at my host family’s restaurant. After breakfast, we lugged wooden tables, chairs and cooking utensils . . .

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“On the Merits of Eating Raw Goat Spleens” by Justin Parmenter (Albania)

  On the Merits of Eating Raw Goat Spleens by Justin Parmenter (Albania 1995–97) • YESTERDAY I WALKED TO KUTAL, a nearby village, with my friend Ali. There we sat for a time with a friend of his, knocked back a few rakis and talked goats. Cute little animals, they are. So much cleaner than sheep and, though it may seem a strange word to describe them, so much more intellectual. I love animals, and it pains me to see the malicious way in which they are sometimes treated here. But for some reason, I thought of these goats as Albanians do. As a luxury. After all, May 1st only happens once a year.  That little black goat I carried back to Permet was Ali’s Dom Perignon, if you know what I mean. When we arrived back in Permet, we found an expert knife wielder who agreed to do the . . .

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“An Unexpected Love Story: The Women of Bati” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)

  An Unexpected Love Story: The Women of Bati   by John Coyne If the reader prefers, this may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a piece of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.                                                                   Ernest Hemingway A Moveable Feast • AT AN ELEVATION OF 4,000 FEET,  the town of Bati, Ethiopia, off the Dessie Road, is the last highland location before the Danakil Depression. A hard day’s drive from the Red Sea, it’s famous only for its Monday market days when the Afar women of the Danakil Depression walk up the “Great Escarpment” to trade with the Oromo tribe on the plateau. These tribeswomen arrive late on . . .

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“The Peace Corps Blew It” by Bob Criso (Nigeria)

  I HAD JUST GRADUATED from college in January 1966 when I picked up the New York Times and read about the bloody military coup in Nigeria. The Prime Minister and a number of other top government officials were killed. Nigeria’s budding democracy ended two weeks before I’d be leaving for Peace Corps training. Mmmm. “Do you know what you’re getting into?” my Uncle Ralph asked.   FOUR MONTHS LATER  I was settled into a teaching assignment in Ishiagu, Eastern Nigeria, and pretty content. Nice house, great students, companionable colleagues and a village culture that fascinated me. I rolled up the sleeves of my new dashiki and plunged right in — lots of palm wine, kola nuts and cultural-exchange-talk in mud homes, my Igbo vocabulary expanding in the process. When I was invited to a local wedding, I felt like I had been granted honorary citizenship. It wasn’t long before the BBC . . .

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“Is It Folly to Be Wise” by Janet Mulgannon Del Castillo (Colombia)

  IS IT FOLLY TO BE WISE? by Janet Mulgannon Del Castillo (Colombia 1964–66) A GREAT ADVANTAGE OF BEING YOUNG is that one has no fear. Young adults are so devoid of knowledge and life experience that they have no concept of failure. I was 19 years old when I went to Colombia, South America, to save the world. I was in the Peace Corps and President Kennedy’s words rang in my ears. “Ask not what your country can do for you — but what you can do for your country!” There I was, in the tiny town of Buena Vista, enlightening the villagers on what latrines were for, how to construct them, and how to use them. The irony was that I had had little knowledge of where water came from or how toilets even flushed before I arrived. But I sure knew how to build a latrine! One sweltering morning . . .

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“The Gift” by Keith Dunn (Dominican Republic)

  The Gift by Rudolph Keith Dunn (Dominican Republic 1990–92) The muscles in Maria’s small body screamed in pain. Beads of sweat covered her forehead. With each step, she felt the weight of the pails of water weighing down heavily on her slight frame, as she struggled to carry them up the steep hill. This was her third trip to the river today. She knew it would be the hardest with the afternoon sun blasting down. The two pails held in her small hands pulled her arms, hard, towards the ground. It took every ounce of effort and focus to keep the third pail, balanced upon her head, from toppling. The sun seared the back of her neck, legs, and arms. Maria planted her bare, dusty, feet in the well-worn indentions in the ground, giving her the firm grip needed to launch another step up the hill. Finally, she breathed a sigh of relief . . .

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The Innocents: A Filipina WWII Oral History

  by Diane Rodill (Philippines 1985–87)   Author’s Notes: Pseudonyms were used for the Filipino nationals below for privacy purposes. Mr. “Navarro” was my host-country father.    Introduction I still weep when I reread the oral history notes I recorded 30 years ago. As a child in the 1940s, in a darkened cinema, I watched shadowy newsreels of World War II raging in Europe. I was incapable of comprehending the carnage in the Pacific. Today, Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken has unveiled the cruelty faced by U.S. and Filipino POWs under Japanese occupation. But few have recorded the cruelty, without munitions, imposed on the innocents in my father’s native country. In 1985, I fulfilled a 25-year dream of serving as a PCV in the Philippines. I was further blessed to become part of a wonderful host country family, the Navarros, in Irosin, Sorsogon. Since I lived and worked at the local level, I . . .

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A Writer Writes: “¡Sigue no más!“ by Folwell Dunbar

Through the Quagmire of Despair By Folwell Dunbar (Ecuador 1989–92)   Author’s Note: “¡Sigue no más!” in Spanish means, “Continue no more!” or “Stop!” In Ecuador though, it had become a popular expression meaning, “Carry on,” or in my case, “Soldier on!” • When Mike Wooly stepped off the bus, he was carrying a vintage canvas Boy Scout backpack, an entire wheel of farmer’s cheese and a case of Pilsner, Ecuador’s version of Milwaukee’s Best. “¡Listo!” he exclaimed. “I’m ready!” I had two bags of homemade granola, a box of iodine tablets and a small tarp. I figured I was “listo” as well. Wooly and I had planned to spend our Peace Corps “Spring Break” in the Amazon. We would climb over the Andes and drop down into the jungle. There we would fish for piranha, learn the secrets of “la selva” from a wise shaman, and spot scarlet macaws, . . .

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What is a Peace Corps Volunteer?

  Terry Campbell (Tanzania 1985–87, Dominican Republic 1989–92; Crisis Corps: El Salvador 2001–02, Hurricane Rita 2005) • Peace Corps Volunteers get into various activities during their two years, which brings to mind something several of us were involved with in 1990 while serving in the Dominican Republic. Word had come down at the office that they were going to be filming a major motion picture in Santo Domingo, and they needed Americans to appear as extras. And they would even be paying a small amount of money for each day of work. The Country Director put out a letter saying that any Volunteer who wished to could participate, as long as he or she used this extra money for his or her individual project. The movie, called Havana, was about a chance encounter between a middle-aged, self-absorbed gambler played by Robert Redford and a young, passionate revolutionary played by Lena Olin, basically a . . .

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“Toothpaste” by E.T. Stafne (Senegal)

  E.T. Stafne (Senegal 1994–96) • I never knew such goddamn pain in all my life. My fingers searched out the offending patch of skin and found it just above my mouth. In my groggy, half-awake half-asleep state it felt like a fist-sized plug of tobacco shoved between my teeth and upper lip. That explained the bulging I felt, but not the intense pain. Slowly, I rose up from the hot and uncomfortable foam mattress, threw aside the frayed Peace Corps-issued mosquito net, and dragged myself over to the lone mirror in my possession, the one on the inside cover of a Silva compass. Not meant for self-inspection of deformities, its size did not allow for the full effect of horror that I would have realized with a regular-sized mirror. This small one gave me the illusion that it wasn’t all that bad, just a small bump. But as I . . .

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