Short Works by PC Writers

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

1
“The Peace Corps Radicalized Me” by Thomas Pleasure (Peru)
2
Tony D’Souza: Summer in Sarasota (Cote d’Ivoire)
3
“The View from Birauta” by Don Messerschmidt (Nepal)
4
“The Nzeogwu I Knew” by Tim Carroll (Nigeria)
5
A Writer Writes: Not John — A short story by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)
6
A Writer Writes: BULLETIN BOARD — A poem by Ann Neelon (Senegal)
7
“Sirens’ Sweet Song” by Gerald Karey
8
“Living with the Bomb” by Gerald Karey (Turkey)
9
“There Is No Such Thing as a True Story” by Ellen Urbani (Guatemala)
10
“St. Pete” — Gerald Karey (Turkey)

“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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“The View from Birauta” by Don Messerschmidt (Nepal)

  When Don Messerschmidt (Nepal 1963-65) graduated from the University of Alaska/Fairbanks, cass of 1963, he was only vaguely aware of the Kingdom of Nepal. With a degree in education he thought he’d become a teacher in the Alaskan bush. But, by accepting an invitation to join the Peace Corps that summer, his life changed dramatically. By September he was in Nepal doing development work in the (then) remote central hills. Since 1963, Don has lived and worked in the Himalayas as a development advisor, anthropological researcher, teacher, and writer/editor. The epicenter of Nepal’s April 2015 Gorkha Earthquake was very near Don’s Peace Corps village. After the quake, he returned twice to help with the recovery work and documentation, under auspices of the all-volunteer non-profit Gorkha Foundation. As a member of the Board of Advisors, Don helps raise funds for rebuilding schools destroyed in the quake. Don can be contacted at . . .

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“The Nzeogwu I Knew” by Tim Carroll (Nigeria)

   Editor’s Note: In February 2015, Roger Landrum (01) 1961–63, in the email below, alerted the newsletter staff of what he believed to be an interesting story about a friendship that had developed in Nigeria in 1965 between Peace Corps Volunteer Tim Carroll and a young major in the Nigerian army. Jim. I recently read Achebe’s Biafra memoir, There Was a Country. It has a brief section on Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, one of the five military majors who led the coup that triggered the chain of events leading to the Biafran secession and the civil war. Achebe calls Nzeogwu “a mysterious figure.” Maybe not all that mysterious! There was a Nigeria PCV named Timothy Carroll posted in Kaduna who was friends with Nzeogwu. I’m trying to convince Carroll to write a piece for the FON newsletter called “The Nzeogwu I Knew.” I think Nigeria RPCVs would find this fascinating. It . . .

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A Writer Writes: Not John — A short story by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)

  Not John by Mark Jacobs first published in The Critical Pass Review • Three minutes into his conversation with Weather Woman, Marco Slivovitz knew it was a test. It took two Bushmills and thirty more minutes of talk to be sure that the test had nothing to do with sexual conquest. An objective observer of Marco, looking down from a safe location, would have said it was about escaping. Marco knew better. He was being tested, all right, but the subject of the exam was his shifting self. The Tangiers was the kind of bar Marco gravitated to any time he found himself in a new city. Small, one of a kind, protected from the hard-knocks crowd by high-priced drinks, it took up just enough space on the ground floor of a boutique hotel called The Craddock. The Craddock’s website used the word “cognoscenti” to describe its clientele. A bit . . .

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A Writer Writes: BULLETIN BOARD — A poem by Ann Neelon (Senegal)

  BULLETIN BOARD Ann Neelon (Senegal 1978–79) • When I discovered that all the postcards of black authors had been defaced, I heard my voice crackling, as in a radio transmission from outer space. The world was waiting for me to deliver an important message, but I was an ______ astronaut, not a poet. The best I could do was paraphrase someone else’s efforts: “That’s one small step back for a man, one giant leap backward for mankind.” Through the window of my classroom, I could see the Columbia Point Housing ______ Project rising up in front of me like a lost planet. Asphalt and cinder blocks were its most distinctive surface features. I remembered the alien boy who had landed from there in my classroom. When I called on him to read, he had inched his long black finger across the page, sounding out each syllable as if he were in . . .

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“Sirens’ Sweet Song” by Gerald Karey

• Sirens’ Sweet Song by Gerald Karey (Turkey 1965-67) • The Sirens, Homer tells us, enchant all who come near. Anyone who draws to close to their island and hears their singing will never be welcomed home again. The Sirens sit in a green field and warble to death men who try to join them, with the sweetness of their song, Homer says, or words to that effect. Odysseus sailing home from Troy after the Trojan War orders his crew to put wax in their ears so they cannot hear the Sirens. But he has himself lashed to his ship’s mast, so he may hear them. Their song is irresistible and Odysseus begs to be freed from his bonds so that he may join the Sirens. His pleas are ignored, or perhaps his crew simply cannot hear, and Odysseus is borne safely past on the waters of the wine-dark sea. . . .

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“Living with the Bomb” by Gerald Karey (Turkey)

Living with the Bomb Gerald Karey (Turkey 1965–67) • Duck and Cover Miss McGinn rapped her desk with a ruler to quiet her sixth graders as a bell sounded throughout the school. “This is no joke,” she said sternly. “It’s a drill. If this was a real attack, your lives could depend on it.” We knew the drill. “Duck and Cover.” We scrambled under our desks, crouched down, and covered our heads with our hands. Miss McGinn turned off the lights and hurried to the three tall windows in our classroom to close the shades. It was something of a lark, getting on the floor under your desk. But after several monthly drills it was boring routine — until I caught a glimpse of Sandra Epstein’s white panties. At that precise moment, Sandra turned her head and looked at me. She smiled and hiked her dress, revealing even more of her . . .

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“There Is No Such Thing as a True Story” by Ellen Urbani (Guatemala)

Ellen Urbani (1991–93) emailed me this article and note: Not that this has anything to do with Peace Corps, but an essay of mine came out in The Rumpus yesterday. It’s one that was almost 15 years in the making; hard to tell, but important, I believe. Please feel free to share if you’re so inclined. http://therumpus.net/2016/03/there-is-no-such-thing-as-a-true-story/ • THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A TRUE STORY BY ELLEN URBANI. There is no such thing as a true story. I know this because my daughter insists I told her to put her dirty dishes in the sink when I know I told her to put them in the dishwasher, and because my sister swears that on a late summer night in 1990 I deliberately flicked a Japanese beetle into her mouth when—cross my heart and hope to die—I only intended to swat it off my mother’s shoulder. I know this because my . . .

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“St. Pete” — Gerald Karey (Turkey)

St. Pete Gerald Karey (Turkey 1965–67) • Death was a frequent visitor to the Ebb Tide Retirement and Nursing Home in St. Pete. It usually arrived during the night – perhaps there was a biological or psychological reason for that – but whatever the reason it allowed the staff to deal quietly and discretely with it, in order shield the residents from the grim reality that death had taken another. Not that it made much difference to the residents who knew Ebb Tide would be their final stop on what Mrs. Daphne Delacourt from Piscataway, New Jersey – who as a young woman appeared in a number of amateur theatricals and was given to dramatic gestures and phrases – liked to call life’s great journey. But while the residents didn’t dwell on dying or talk much about death, most shared a resigned acceptance about its inevitably and it was never . . .

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