Archive - May 2010

1
Marjorie Confronts William Sloane Coffin, Part 6
2
PCVs Make Their Decision, Part 5
3
Aïssa
4
Panic at Idlewild, Part 4
5
Washington Waits for Michelmore, Part 3
6
Murray In The Middle, Part 2
7
Michelmore’s Postcard, Part 1
8
Poetry and the Peace Corps Writer
9
Carol Scott reviews Peter Hessler's Country Driving
10
You’re Not Smart Enough To Write!

Marjorie Confronts William Sloane Coffin, Part 6

At Idlewild Tim, Ruth, and Betty convince Margorie to go to Puerto Rico. Michelmore agreed to go for a ‘few days’ and Tim informed Shriver, telling Sarge he would keep in touch. He boarded the plane with Ruth Olson and Marjorie, thinking that once he was on the plane to Puerto Rico, he’ll be okay. Tim was wrong. On the plane, Adams recognized Carl Mydans. At the time Mydans was a famous photojournalist, one of the giants for Life Magazine. Adams thinks: this is not a coincidence. With Mydans was a beautiful young woman reporter, Marjorie Byers. They are in first class. Of course, this is Life Magazine. When they are airbourne, Carl walks back from first class to talk to Tim who is riding in coach. [Of course, he works for the Peace Corps.] “Carl is such a gentlemen,” Tim says, “I finally relented and we were able to . . .

Read More

PCVs Make Their Decision, Part 5

Meanwhile back at Murray Frank’s home, the PCVs had assembled and were trying to understand the intense reaction of the Nigerians. Nigeria, newly independent, was surrounded, as Murray put it, “with the visages of the colonial period, including and especially white people who symbolized a colonial past.” What had quickly emerged in Nigeria was a self-image based on their new freedom, especially among the young intellectuals. These students, and others, were asking: how could the Americans help us if they were writing letters home about them? While many of the new PCVs had experienced student protests in the U.S. they were still unprepared for what was directed at them. Could they survive the postcard? They didn’t know. They began to ask themselves: why stay when so many students wanted them to leave? Other PCVs said. We know Nigeria needs teachers. We can teach. We are not imperialists, nor CIA agents, . . .

Read More

Aïssa

by Margot Miller (Niger 1972–74) First published on the blog of PeaceCorpsWriters.org on October 12, 2005 • UNDER MY MOSQUITO NET, I’d barely slept an hour when I stirred awake. I heard soft footsteps and the sound of scraping near the wall. I pulled the mosquito net up and looked around, disoriented. My clock was gone. I took myself indoors where it was too hot to sleep. The next night I moved back outdoors, locking the front door and putting the key under my pillow. Perhaps I should report the incident to the police. I remembered that I had been told something about the Chief of Police living across the street. When I found the time to go across the street, at the doorway, I clapped to signal my presence. A tall, slim young woman came to the door. She had warm brown eyes and beautiful, straight white teeth that . . .

Read More

Panic at Idlewild, Part 4

Tim Adams arrived at Idlewild Airport to a terminal overwhelmed with press people carrying tape recorders, cameras and microphones. Michelmore and Ware were about to touch down on a BOAC flight and Adams saddled up to a group of reporters and asked innocently, “Who’s coming in?” Adams thought it might be Grace Kelly, then due back in the States. “It’s that Peace Corps girl,” someone said and Tim’s heart dropped. Slipping away from the reporters, Adams pulled out his official government Peace Corps ID and got past the customs officials and when the BOAC flight landed pulled Marjorie and Dick Ware into an empty room. The reporters, however, could see them on the other side of Customs, see Tim frantically telephoning Shriver at the Peace Corps Headquarters. Tim asked what he should do. Shriver told him, “Tim, I don’t want the press talking to Michelmore.” Adams told Shriver that there . . .

Read More

Washington Waits for Michelmore, Part 3

One of the key people I spoke to about the post card incident was Warren Wiggins, then the Associate Director for the Office of Program Development and Operations, and later to be the Deputy Director. Wiggins told me that the staff in 1961 were waiting for something to happen overseas with the Volunteers. Too many young people were overseas, he said, and there “had to be” an incident of some kind. On the afternoon of October 15, 1961, they got their incident when word reached Washington about Marjorie Michelmore and her postcard. Gathering at HQ on that October Sunday afternoon, the senior staff was initially worried about Marjorie’s life, as well as the lives of the other Volunteers. Wiggins also realized that “The Peace Corps could be thrown out at any moment. It could be the domino theory–first we’re kicked out of Nigeria, then out of Ghana, and so on. . . .

Read More

Murray In The Middle, Part 2

A couple of Nigeria I Volunteers hitched a ride from the University College of Ibadan to APCD Murray Frank’s home with the news about the postcard. Protests were beginning on campus they told Murray; Volunteers were being ostracized. This was clearly not a training issue, and now Murray Frank was in charge of what to do next. Frank had arrived in Ibadan early in October. While Volunteers were settling into dormitories at the University of Ibadan (then part of the University of London and called University College of Ibadan) to continue the training started at Harvard, he was arranging for Volunteer assignments. This meant Murray would visit a potential location, meet the principal and staff, establish that there was a position for the Volunteer to fill, and check out living conditions. By Friday, October 13, he was just getting started with this work, and also learning who the new Volunteers . . .

Read More

Michelmore’s Postcard, Part 1

[A number of people have emailed me to ask about my mentioning of the “Marjorie Michelmore Peace Corps Postcard.” It is a story that they never heard before. What was that, they ask. Well, here’s the full story, in ten short blogs.] Marjorie Michelmore was a twenty-three-year-old magna cum laude graduate of Smith College when she became one of the first people to apply to the new Peace Corps in 1961. She was an attractive, funny, and smart woman who was selected to go to Nigeria. After seven weeks of training at Harvard, her group flew to Nigeria. There she was to complete the second phase of teacher training at University College at Ibadan, fifty miles north of the capital of Lagos. By all accounts, she was an outstanding Trainee. Then on the evening of October 13, 1961, she wrote a postcard to a boyfriend in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here is what she . . .

Read More

Poetry and the Peace Corps Writer

The intense cross cultural experience of the Peace Corps has produced in many PCVs a deep well of sentiment that has found its way, perhaps too easily, into poetry. Fortunately, this intense experience has also been a rich source of material for many fine published poets including Charlie Smith (Micronesia 1968-70); Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991-93); Philip Dacey (Nigeria 1964-66); Sandra Meek (Botswana 1989-91); Ann Neelon (Senegal 1978-79); Paul Violi (Nigeria 1966); Keith Carthwright (Senegal 1983-85); Susan Rich (Niger 1984-86); Lisa Chavez (Poland 1993-95); John Flynn (Moldova 1993-95); Margaret Szumowski (Zaire 1973-74, Ethiopia 1974-75); Virginia Gilbert (Korea 1971-73); Tony Zurlo (Nigeria 1962-64), and many others. Poets, I believe, have been best able to explain the values of the Peace Corps experience as it relates to writing. Margaret Szumowski, who served in Zaire and Ethiopia, puts it this way: I think the poet gains a great deal. She absorbs the sounds of . . .

Read More

Carol Scott reviews Peter Hessler's Country Driving

Executive and world traveler Carol Scott (Ethiopia 1966-68) spent many years working and living in Southeast Asia. Her corporate experience in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Burma, Indonesia, and Vietnam, as well as visits to China, have brought her into contact with the Chinese diaspora in the business community. Here Carol reviews Peter Hessler’s newest — Country Driving. • Country Driving A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler (China Harpers 448 pages $27.99 February 2010 448pp $27.99 Reviewed by Carol Scott (Ethiopia 1966–68) COUNTRY DRIVING IS A VIEW OF CHINA through the windshields of a couple of cars rented from a couple of wacky car rental agencies, driven on new roads that have accelerated the movement of workers from country farms to the new economic zones. Auto accoutrements, like hitchhikers, the hilarious Chinese driving test, road building, statues of policemen along the highways, flat tires and speeding tickets tie together . . .

Read More

You’re Not Smart Enough To Write!

John Cheever won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1979 for his collection of stories. He also won as well the National Book Critics Circle Awardand the Natinal Medal for Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work also has been included in the Library of America. He is considered by many one of the finest short story writers that America has produced. However, when Cheever attended Thayer Academy as a teenager he was expelled for not studying. Nevertheless, at the age of eighteen, one of his first published work, “Expelled” appeared in The New Republic. In 1942 when he enlisted in the army he tested low-normal on the government IQ test.  It was the same year that he published his first short-story collection, The Way Some People Live. So, when someone tells you that you are not smart enough to be a writer, remember John Cheever.

Read More

Copyright © 2019. Peace Corps Worldwide.