Short Works about the Peace Corps Experience

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

1
“Nebaj Notes: Revisiting Peace Corps Guatemala” by Taylor Dibbert (Guatemala)
2
“That Day”: A poem by Ada Jo Mann (Chad)
3
“Loose Ends” by Bob Criso (Nigeria/Somalia)
4
“Miriam’s Dream and a Peace Corps Story” by Joe Thigpen (Brazil)
5
Regional Meeting by Anson K. Lihosit (Panama)
6
“On the Merits of Eating Raw Goat Spleens” by Justin Parmenter (Albania)
7
“An Unexpected Love Story: The Women of Bati” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)
8
“The Peace Corps Blew It” by Bob Criso (Nigeria)
9
“Is It Folly to Be Wise” by Janet Mulgannon Del Castillo (Colombia)
10
“The Gift” by Keith Dunn (Dominican Republic)

“Nebaj Notes: Revisiting Peace Corps Guatemala” by Taylor Dibbert (Guatemala)

  Nebaj Notes: Revisiting Peace Corps Guatemala Taylor Dibbert (Guatemala 2006–08) — freelance writer • I RECENTLY DID ONE OF THOSE “security clearance” interviews. A friend of mine listed me as a reference; he had applied for a job with a certain U.S. government agency. I’d never done an interview like this. Minutes into the conversation, I’m reminded that I know a lot about this guy (the person whose background is being ‘checked’), which really shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’ve known this person since 2006; we lived in the same rural town in Guatemala – Nebaj – for two years. We were Peace Corps volunteers. The Peace Corps is an awesome journey. Yet it’s not something that one does alone. Lasting friendships are cultivated during those highs and lows. And some of the strongest relationships are formed in one’s “site.” In our case, rather uniquely, one of the members of our Nebaj . . .

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“That Day”: A poem by Ada Jo Mann (Chad)

  That Day By Ada Jo Mann (Chad 1967–69) It seemed like just an ordinary day Safe in bed next to my husband as we lay under the Peace Corps issued mosquito net, listening to the lulling sounds of millet pounded rhythmically each day in the time-tested  traditional way. Soon our cook would arrive and begin rattling pots and pans in the  room we called the kitchen I heard the children running fast to school fearing the grass whip’s unfriendly sting, if they were late and made to play the fool because they failed to hear the school bell ring. I rolled out from beneath the gauzy net making sure to check for creatures hiding in my well worn  LL Bean slipper set before padding off to what looked like a well-equipped bathroom, but was powered by gravity from a rain barrel on the roof. Delicious anticipation of an upcoming trip . . .

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“Loose Ends” by Bob Criso (Nigeria/Somalia)

  Loose Ends by Bob Criso  (Nigeria 1966-67, Somalia 1967-68) • SUSAN STEEN AND PAUL BAUMER met on a beach in Bali. She was traveling with her friend Janice, taking a lot of pictures with her fancy camera. He was on his way home after two years with the Peace Corps in Africa. They have sex in the moonlight. It was 1970. “What was it like?” Susan asks, sitting up on the blanket and lighting a cigarette. Paul tells her about his early Peace Corps success. He and his friend Jeff “worked their asses off” and got all the latrines built for their project in only six months, thanks to a lot of help from the locals. He became fluent in Nglele. When the locals didn’t use the latrines, he learned that they use feces as fertilizer and didn’t want to waste it in the latrines. All along, the locals . . .

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“Miriam’s Dream and a Peace Corps Story” by Joe Thigpen (Brazil)

  Miriam’s Dream and a Peace Corps Story by Joe Thigpen (Brazil 1963–65) • WHEN I WAS A young Peace Corps Volunteer in Capinzal, Santa Catarina, Brazil, I lived with Guilherme and Miriam Doin, along with their­­ four children, Zezo, Jota, Tânia, and Jane. I was 21, young and idealistic. I was committed to do my job in rural community development in this small community of about 1,000 people. I did not pay much attention to living in the small town, although I did play with the local soccer team, and eventually helped start a local basketball team. Many afternoons after a day in the nearby rural communities I would return to play backyard soccer with the boys and their dad, who was somewhat of a local star on the town’s number one team. For my Peace Corps project I was very fortunate to be part of the 4-H Club . . .

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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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