Short Works about the Peace Corps Experience

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

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So well remembered — Judith & Michael Jerald (Turkey)
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Sixth Prize Peace Corps Fund Award: “A Nice Black Shirt” by Nathan Hecht (Peru)
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Sixth Prize Peace Corps Fund Award: “Hyena Man” by Jeanne D’Haem (Somalia)
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Fifth Prize Peace Corps Fund Award: “Where Carbs Mean Friendship” by Lucas Gosdin (Peru)
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Third Prize Peace Corps Fund Award: “Of That Wide Water, Inescapable” by Eleanor Stanford (Cape Verde)
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First Prize Peace Corps Fund Award: Penye Nia, Pana Njia by Kristen Grauer-Gray (Tanzania)
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“Nebaj Notes: Revisiting Peace Corps Guatemala” by Taylor Dibbert (Guatemala)
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“That Day”: A poem by Ada Jo Mann (Chad)
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“Loose Ends” by Bob Criso (Nigeria/Somalia)
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“Miriam’s Dream and a Peace Corps Story” by Joe Thigpen (Brazil)

So well remembered — Judith & Michael Jerald (Turkey)

I received a note from Ken Hill (Turkey 1965-67) about the Instagram message from Judith Jerald (Turkey 1965-67) that he received and I contacted Judith who wrote back, “There are not many people who would be interested in this, but since many of you may have had similar experiences, I am sending it along to you.  It touched my heart and confirmed for me, once again, that although we were ( mostly) very young Volunteers, we perhaps had more of an impact on our students and neighbors than we thought at the time. It has been 50 years since we left Turkey, so I find this pretty amazing. Meral found me on Instagram, and the conversation we had is below.” • Hi Dear Judith this is Meral from Kozan.  | If you are my teacher I will be very happy to find you. Because you have affected very much to our life . . .

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Sixth Prize Peace Corps Fund Award: “A Nice Black Shirt” by Nathan Hecht (Peru)

  Nathan Hecht (Peru 2012-15) was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the high Andes Mountains near Huaraz, Peru. Nathan worked on projects to promote community environmental management, including reforestation through agroforestry, trash management, environmental education, and, in his third year, climate change adaptation and water quality monitoring with The Mountain Institute. Originally from La Crosse, WI, he is now a graduate student at the University of Minnesota studying sustainable agriculture and diversified farming systems.   • A Nice Black Shirt by Nathan Hecht “I DON’T HAVE a nice, black shirt.” A familiar feeling of anxious uncertainty rose as I realized I didn’t know if Quechua people even wore black to funerals. “White is okay, Natan,” my host mother said kindly, “for the angels.” My mind grasped at thoughts of training on cultural integration, the historical influences of Christianity in Peru, the Spanish word for “condolences,” as I brushed a layer . . .

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Sixth Prize Peace Corps Fund Award: “Hyena Man” by Jeanne D’Haem (Somalia)

  Jeanne D’Haem, Ph.D. (Somalia 1968-70) is currently an associate professor of Special Education and Counselling at William Paterson University in New Jersey. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Somalia. She served as an English and math teacher in Arabsiyo and Hargeisa, and taught adult education classes and sponsored the first Girl Guide troop in Hargeisa. Jeanne was a director of special services and a special education teacher for over thirty years. As a writer, she has published two prize-winning books and numerous journal articles. The Last Camel, (1997) published by The Red Sea Press won the Peace Corps Paul Cowan Peace Corps Writers Award for nonfiction. Desert Dawn with Waris Dirie (2001) has been translated into more than twenty languages. It was on the best seller list in Germany for over a year where it was awarded the Corine Prize for nonfiction. Her most recent book is Inclusion: The Dream . . .

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Fifth Prize Peace Corps Fund Award: “Where Carbs Mean Friendship” by Lucas Gosdin (Peru)

    Lucas Gosdin (Peru 2013-15) served as a community health volunteer in Peru where he had two host families and lots of friends. He loves to visit them and communicate with them through WhatsApp. Lucas never learned how to make good ceviche, but he can make a lot of delicious dishes you have never heard of. Lucas is a doctoral student studying maternal and child nutrition at Emory University. He also conducts research in Peru.   •   Where Carbs Mean Friendship by Lucas Gosdin EVERY GUEST KNOWS that refusing food might be considered rude. Now imagine being in a place where friendship is measured in food. After hugging me and calling me her new son, the first question my host mother, Teo, asked was, “Qué no te gusta comer?” — what don’t you like to eat? After living in Peru for a few months of training, I knew the connotation . . .

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Third Prize Peace Corps Fund Award: “Of That Wide Water, Inescapable” by Eleanor Stanford (Cape Verde)

  Eleanor Stanford (Cape Verde 1998-2000) is the author of two books of poems, Bartram’s Garden and The Book of Sleep (both from Carnegie Mellon University Press). Her  poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, and many others. Eleanor’s Peace Corps memoir, História, História: Two Years in the Cape Verde Islands, received the 2014 Peace Corps Writers Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award. She was a 2014/2016 Fulbright fellow to Brazil, where she researched and wrote about traditional midwifery. She lives now in the Philadelphia area. • Of That Wide Water, Inescapable • We live in an old chaos of the sun, Or old dependency of day and night, Or island solitude, unsponsored, free, Of that wide water, inescapable. from “Sunday Morning,” Wallace Stevens • MY HOUSE ON THE ISLAND of Fogo was built into the side of the volcano. When I moved in, Gustinha . . .

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First Prize Peace Corps Fund Award: Penye Nia, Pana Njia by Kristen Grauer-Gray (Tanzania)

  Kristen Grauer-Gray served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Karatu District, Tanzania from 2007 to 2010. She taught chemistry and biology at a rural secondary school, managed the school science lab, and contributed to a manual for Peace Corps Volunteers on how to conduct experiments using cheap, local materials. She is serving now as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Liberia, where she is teaching chemistry and education classes at a community college. The following is a true story from her service in Tanzania. Some names have been changed, but all events are true to the best of her memory. •   Penye Nia, Pana Njia [Where there’s a goal, the road is wide. — Swahili proverb]   “I’D LOVE FOR HER to continue with her education,” Rehema’s mother says. “But there’s the problem of the cow.” I’m sitting in the house where Rehema grew up. The dirt floor is . . .

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“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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