Short Works by PC Writers

Short works by RPCVs that do not reference the Peace Corps experience.

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One PCV’s Story (Afghanistan)
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“Late Night Conversations with e.e. cummings” by Tony Zurlo (Nigeria)
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“Pay The Price” by Robert Gribbin (Kenya)
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“2016 — The Year of the Creepy Clown” by Susan O’Neill (Venezuela)
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“Jungle Softball” by Anson Lihosit (Panama)
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“One Monsoon” by Don Messerschmidt (Nepal)
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A poem of peace by Julie R. Dargis (Morocco)
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A Poem: “Minorca” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)
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“The Peace Corps Radicalized Me” by Thomas Pleasure (Peru)
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Tony D’Souza: Summer in Sarasota (Cote d’Ivoire)

One PCV’s Story (Afghanistan)

  Baktash Ahadi was born in Kabul in 1981. His family had to flee during the Soviet Invasion in 1984. After spending over a year and half in Pakistan between refugee camps and makeshift homes, his family was given asylum in the United States and started their new life in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Baktash started his career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique from 2005 to 2007. He then went into management consulting with Booz Allen Hamilton before serving as a military translator in Afghanistan for three years. His experience not only brought him closer to his roots, but also instilled a sense of responsibility to educate others on the realities on the ground in Afghanistan. Baktash joined FRAME BY FRAME as an ambassador for that same reason — to shed light on the country’s complexities through human stories. Here is RPCV Baktash Ahadi’s story. — JC     MY STORY . . .

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“Late Night Conversations with e.e. cummings” by Tony Zurlo (Nigeria)

  After six years in retirement contemplating the “Whys” of life, Tony Zurlo (Nigeria 1965-66) has concluded that all the corrupting temptations of 75 years have failed to change him.  He has been honest enough in life to fend off wealth and fame. However, realizing his lack of genius and talent, Tony has achieved just enough in writing and education that he appreciates how remarkable but incomprehensible life is. So in old age, Tony scribbles a poem, now and then, and with great effort plays a tune or two on the saxophone hoping to back up Chuck Berry or Ray Charles in the great hereafter. • Late Night Conversations with e.e. cummings by Tony Zurlo   life is “puddle-wonderful,” e. e., even when city showers linger, we can make up nonsense games, after school in the autumn fog and ignore salespitches for wireless typing machines that double as phones. truth, . . .

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“Pay The Price” by Robert Gribbin (Kenya)

  Pay the Price by Robert Gribbin (Kenya 1968–70) • I WATCHED HIS TWO BROWN FINGERS thump against my arm. “Aha,” he muttered under his breath, then I saw the needle poised slowly before it plunged into the vein. Has it come to this? I thought morosely as I slipped away into somnolence while my blood dripped into the bag. Shortly, I awoke with a start to find Mamadou grinning down at me. “Okay, Jimmie,” he grimaced, “all done.” “You rest until dark, then go. Arrangements are in place. You’ll be safe.” I nodded assent. I was indeed ready to go.   TWO AND A HALF YEARS in Sierra Leone was more than enough. I had dawdled and procrastinated, found myself bound by slippery ties to a place that I didn’t really like and to a culture that I could not fathom. Yet that is partly why I stayed to try . . .

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“2016 — The Year of the Creepy Clown” by Susan O’Neill (Venezuela)

  2016 — The Year of the Creepy Clown by Susan Kramer O’Neill (Venezuela 1973–74 • IT STARTED WITH RANDOM GUYS who showed up in public places, their very presence disturbing the peace. Rumors flew that some attempted to entrap children. I doubt they accomplished it. Children are smarter than adults; they know to be wary of the white face, the painted grin, gigantic feet and orange hair. I remember one picture: a lone clown, hands on hips, head tipped to one side, across from a rural apartment complex somewhere down south. Just standing. Watching. It creeped me out. In no time, the clowns claimed 2016. They owned it. I must add this disclaimer: There were good clowns in the year’s mix. Lovely, heartbreaking clowns. Muhammed Ali; Prince, and Bowie. Gene Wilder. The wry Zen master, Leonard Cohen. These fine clowns will be linked with 2016 only because that was . . .

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“Jungle Softball” by Anson Lihosit (Panama)

  Jungle Softball by Anson Lihosit (Panama 2015-17) GETTING A BASEBALL MITT proved difficult. A Peace Corps Volunteer’s salary was not enough to buy a new one. Back in the United States, my father rummaged around the garage and blew dust off an old utility mitt I hadn’t used in years. He mailed it with a hometown baseball cap to the father of a Peace Corps pal since my pal was briefly going home to attend a wedding. He brought it back to Panama on the return flight. I had a four-hour long bus ride to the capital to pick it up, then four hours back to my tiny jungle truck stop, Torti, located halfway between Panama City to the west and the Darian Gap to the east —that stretch of roadless jungle between Panama and Colombia known for smugglers and armed rebels. Cleats were much easier. I bought some cheap . . .

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“One Monsoon” by Don Messerschmidt (Nepal)

  This essay by Don Messerschmidt (Nepal 1963-65)  appeared on December 2, 2016, in The Common, a print and digital literary journal published biannually, in the fall and spring. Issues of The Common include short stories, essays, poems, and images that embody a strong sense of place.  The Common Online publishes original content four times per week, including book reviews, interviews, personal essays, short dispatches, poetry, contributor podcasts and recordings, and multimedia features. Based in Amherst, Massachusetts, the magazine is supported in part by Amherst College and The Common Foundation. •   ONE MONSOON Don Messerschmidt December 2, 2016 One Wednesday morning late in the rainy season of 1964, I sat at the open window of my room overlooking the tiny hill town of Kunchha, Nepal where I lived. I was watching huge clouds expand overhead, upward and outward across the blue Himalayan sky. I knew that by noon the temperature and the humidity would rise proportionately. . . .

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A poem of peace by Julie R. Dargis (Morocco)

  Tolerance, Freedom, and Peace by Julie R. Dargis (Morocco 1984–87) • Pitch with us tolerance, freedom and peace In churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. Stand up with our friends at home and abroad. Let respect choose the words we use wisely. In Morocco, Mali, throughout Asia, Eastern Europe, across the Middle East, Peace Corps volunteers are welcome in homes. We live together as one in global Communities, Humanitarians Working in Turkey, Greece, and Syria Attest to the same. Islamophobic Rhetoric, spinning in news cycles, is Staining our communities with chatter. Can you not hear all our cries to stand down?     Julie R. Dargis is a poet, a writer, and an intuitive. “Tolerance, Freedom, and Peace” was taken from her recently published collection of “memoirs, sonnets and prose,” White Moon in a Powder Blue Sky. Previously she published a creative non-fiction book drawing on her Peace Corps experience, Pit Stop in the . . .

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A Poem: “Minorca” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)

I first went to Menorca in the fall of 1967 having just finished a tour as an APCD in Ethiopia. I was looking for a place to live while working on my novel. In my last months in-country I combed the back pages of advertisements in the old International Herald Tribune looking for a place to rent, and it was Mark Foster (Ethiopia 1965-67), reading over my shoulder one day, who spotted an ad for an apartment in Mahon, Menorca, that was renting for $1 a day. “I’ve been to this island with my mother,” Mark said. “We sailed over from Mallorca. No Americans ever go there.” That was just what I wanted to hear! I left Africa in early September and spent the fall of that year on the island. I have been returning to Menorca ever since. Here’s why.     MENORCA From the red tile terrace of the Port Mahón Hotel I . . .

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“The Peace Corps Radicalized Me” by Thomas Pleasure (Peru)

The following article was published on Argonaut Online — the web presence of The Argonaut, a local newspaper for the westside of Los Angeles — on June 1, 2016 under the title “Opinion Power to Speak.” We are delighted to have received permission from the author to repost it here. •   •  The Peace Corps Radicalized Me by Thomas Pleasure (Peru 1964–66)   SINCE FRANK MANKIEWICZ’S DEATH in 2014, activists, historians, cineastes, journalists and spinmeisters had been awaiting publication of his posthumous memoir, So As I Was Saying . . . My Somewhat Eventful Life. I imagine we all felt that Frank — son of “Citizen Kane” writer Herman Mankiewicz, nephew of director Joseph Mankiewicz and a political force of the 1960s and ’70s in his own right — had a special message for us. We were right. Movie buffs will lap up Frank’s tales of growing up in Hollywood and his conversation . . .

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Tony D’Souza: Summer in Sarasota (Cote d’Ivoire)

  I’ve lived all over the world, and I’d never be able to explain to my foreign friends how important summer is to my American identity. Lots of them don’t even have summer. In West Africa where I was in the Peace Corps, the only seasons were hot and hotter. Central America was like that, too; and in far northern Japan, where I studied the Utari indigenous people, summer was a starving time when the sea ice melted and the seals and whales they hunted headed farther north, leaving them with nothing to eat. But when I was a child in Chicago, summer was a golden season. It meant release from school, from long underwear, from interminable evenings in front of the TV with the world outside dark and frozen and nothing else you dared to do. Summer was like someone had turned the lights back on and we were . . .

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