Archive - March 2010

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Mad Men Of The Peace Corps: Padraic Kennedy Goes To Washington, Part II
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Mad Men Of The Peace Corps: Padraic Kennedy Goes To Washington
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The Mad Men Of Peace Corps Washington
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Evaluating Peter Hessler And The China Within, Part Two
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Evaluating Peter Hessler And The China Within
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Tell Your Stories: Celebrate 50 Years of Service In Manhattan
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Review: A Peace Corps Memoir about Mongolia by Matthew Davis
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How Do You Say Nicholas D. Kristof In Your HCN Language?
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Peace Corps At Day One: #21 The Last Words From Warren Wiggins About The First Days of The Peace Corps
10
Review Of Lucia St. Clair Robson (Venezuela 1964-66) Last Train To Cuernavaca

Mad Men Of The Peace Corps: Padraic Kennedy Goes To Washington, Part II

Pat was driving to D.C. when he heard on the car radio that JFK had signed the executive order creating the Peace Corps. It was March 1, 1961. He stepped on the gas and reached Washington that night. He started to work at the Peace Corps the next day. There was no specific job, however. There were no jobs. There were 12 or so people working for the new agency: Sarge, Maryann Orlando, Sally Bowles, Nancy Gore, Mitzi Mallina. Warren Wiggins, Charlie Nelson, Gordon Boyce, Al Sims, Al Meisel, Ed Bayley, and Harris Wofford. “Wofford was dividing his time between the Peace Corps and the White House,” Kennedy recalls. “He interviewed me and he kept yawning in my face. I knew he was important; I’d heard about him on the campaign. He was close to Shriver. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve had it. I’m boring him to death.’ Pat wasn’t boring Wofford, it . . .

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Mad Men Of The Peace Corps: Padraic Kennedy Goes To Washington

Pat Kennedy wasn’t a relative to the ‘other’ Kennedys, but he was never anxious to tell others that. It was nice in those balmy days of 1961 to ride the smooth carpet of the most famous name in America. Thought, in all honesty, Pat never ‘lived off’ the name. He made his own way to Washington, D.C. and the Peace Corps, he was a good guy who treated everyone fairly, and unlike many others, didn’t use his ‘connections’ to make his way in the agency. Like most of those early staffers he had ‘family money’ and he was young, twenty-eight, married to Ellen Conroy a wonderful (and in my opinion, much smarter wife. Ellen who, by the way, was the sister of Frank Conroy, who wrote the wonderful Stop-Time, and was for years director of the Iowa Writer’s Program, but back to Pat.) Pat was a teaching fellow at the University of Wisconsin in Madison (history) when he heard about . . .

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The Mad Men Of Peace Corps Washington

The Peace Corps On Day One blog series that I recently posted attempted, in pretty much short-hand fashion (suitable for blogging), to tell the history of the first days of the agency, and the initial thinking behind the Peace Corps itself. I mentioned that in those early days of 1960s the agency was full of Mad Men (and a few Mad Women) who were living in a world-of-work atmosphere very much like the provocative AMC drama Mad Men, the program that follows a handful of ruthlessly competitive men and women in New York City who work in advertising on Madison Avenue. They are living (in case you haven’t seen the series) in an ego-driven world where “selling” is all that matters. The series is set around 1962-63 and has everything we grew up with: cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, adultery, racism, etc. (I might have left out a few ‘isms’.) Well, some (if . . .

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Evaluating Peter Hessler And The China Within, Part Two

Tony Zurlo (Nigeria 1965-67) who taught at Shijiazhuang Teachers College, Hebei Province, PRC, in 1990-91 and has written several book on  Nonwestern cultures and history, including three books about China, continues his essay on the writings of Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) III: Migration Throughout River Town and Oracle Bones Peter Hessler chronicles the lives of several of his former students. He highlights three in particular, William Jefferson Foster, Nancy Drew, and Emily (students often give themselves English names), as part of his “longitudinal study” of young adults in China dealing with the booming economy. Their experiences after graduation reinforce one of Hessler’s major themes in all three books: migration. As the economy expands and modernizes, young Chinese leave their home villages for the cities, especially the boomtowns in the eastern coastal regions. Hessler writes, “The whole country is moving in that direction” (7). The numbers are staggering: approximately 90 million . . .

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Evaluating Peter Hessler And The China Within

The Peace Corps world has produced many fine writers over the past 50 years. The list is long, so I can’t name all the writers, and I won’t draw straws.  Tony Zurlo (Nigeria 1965-67), however, has been kind enough to send me his engaging and thoughtful essay on one of our real stars, Peter Hessler (China 1996-98), who has just published his third book on his host country.  This publication gives Tony, and all of us, a moment to look back on Hessler’s  books that, at least to me, demonstrate, once again, that the Peace Corps world of writers continues to produce a library of literature that enriches all are lives, whether we were in the Peace Corps or not. Tony has his own China experience. He taught at Shijiazhuang Teachers College, Hebei Province, PRC, in 1990-91. A writer, he has published several books on Nonwestern cultures and history, including three books about . . .

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Tell Your Stories: Celebrate 50 Years of Service In Manhattan

A New York Non-Profit–BEST–is partnering with RPCVs to create a historical exhibit in downtown Manhattan. The theme is “Then & Now: 50 Years of Service” and the exhibition will tell personal stories of the Peace Corps’ long-term impact on the countries where we lived and worked.  The exhibit will be displayed in the lobby of the Federal Building at 201 Varick Street where the Regional Peace Corps Recruitment Offices are located. The group is seeking stories from RPCVs (along with accompanying photos and artifacts, when available) that illustrate the impact of their Peace Corps projects and relationships that began during their service. The Peace Corps experience is rich in its history and full of stories and connections that have lasted longer than just two years. What do you remember? Who among your many HCNs still write letters, send emails, keep in touch? Tell the stories of your trip back to your country of service. Tell it in . . .

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Review: A Peace Corps Memoir about Mongolia by Matthew Davis

Aside from Peace Corps service in Honduras and years studying and working in Mexico, reviewer Lawrence F. Lihosit lived in a remote Alaskan fishing village for eighteen months. He has self-published seven books and as many pamphlets. Most recently, he partnered with iUniverse to publish Whispering Campaign; Stories from Mesoamerica. Within 60 days that same publisher will release his revised and expanded South of the Frontera; A Peace Corps Memoir. Both are available on Amazon.com. • When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter’s Tale by Matthew Davis (Mongolia 2000—02) February, 2010 320 pages $31.99 Reviewed by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras, 1975-77) Matthew Davis witnessed a quickly changing Mongolia. His memoir preserves a brief moment in history like a bee caught in amber. This is an honest memoir written in sparse American-lean. His journalism background served him well. Flown to Mongolia in the year 2000, a twenty-three year old Davis was . . .

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How Do You Say Nicholas D. Kristof In Your HCN Language?

This is a terrific piece by Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) that is on the website of  The New Yorker as of today,  March 15, 2010. Peter takes on NYTIMES writer Nicholas Kristof and his piece the other day that stirred a lot of  interest among RPCVs who have been there, done that, and know how to say more than “doorknob” in their host country language. Read it, and if you haven’t read Warren Wiggins’  comments about what the founders of the Peace Corps were trying to do 50 years ago, read his comments, too.  And also, if you are taking a class from John Brown at Georgetown University, give him an F. He’s like a lot of those foreign service officers we know overseas. You know, the ones we called, “dumb f****! in our host country language. Here’s Peter’s piece: “Here’s a one-word language test to measure whether someone really knows a foreign country and culture: . . .

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Peace Corps At Day One: #21 The Last Words From Warren Wiggins About The First Days of The Peace Corps

What continues to surprise me is how few people–since that morning in the Mayflower Hotel–have read “A Towering Task” which was the first draft of defining the Peace Corps; it was the bible for the future Peace Corps. When I asked Warren Wiggins about this, he commented, saying, “It’s marvelous that nobody has read it because, you see, in most ways I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. In some ways I was dead on, but I did recommend that we ship air-conditioned trailers to the Philippines to house the Volunteers. It’s a far cry from the theology of the Peace Corps that evolved, but then, those were the early days.” What is clear now from the safety of time and distance is that being anti-establishment, amateurish, anti-professional was the reason for the success of the Peace Corps. This attitude by the staff permeated the whole organization . . .

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Review Of Lucia St. Clair Robson (Venezuela 1964-66) Last Train To Cuernavaca

Reviewer Leita Kaldi Davis worked for the United Nations and UNESCO, for Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard University. She worked with Roma (Gypsies) for fifteen years, became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal at the age of fifty-five, then went on to work for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti for five years. She retired in Florida in 2002. She has written a memoir of Senegal, Roller Skating in the Desert, and is working on a memoir of Haiti. • Last Train from Cuernavaca by Lucia St. Clair Robson (Venezuela 1964-66) Forge Books $25.99 349 pages 2010 Reviewed Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993—96) Two very real women, Rosa King, an English widow, and Angelina Jimenez, a Mexican farm girl, inspired the characters of Grace Knight and Angela Sanchez in Lucia’s St. Clair’s fictionalized history, Last Train from Cuernavaca. During the early 1900s, after the ouster of . . .

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