Archive - January 2012

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Changing Response/Crisis Corps
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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Last Part
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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer, Part Six
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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Part Five
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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Part Four
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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Part Three
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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Part Two
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The Peace Corps Evacuates Honduras
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Was Paul Francis Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer?
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December 2011 Books by Peace Corps Writers

Changing Response/Crisis Corps

The following paragraph is from the Peace Corps Agency Assessment Report published in June 2010. It is Recommendation #4 in the Vision Summary on page 12, and reads: Breaking from the current mission of Peace Corps Response, assignments would be open to those who could meet qualification criteria, whether or not they had been Peace Corps Volunteers in the past.  The program would place experienced and qualified individuals into assignments that draw on their specific skills and experience, with flexible time commitments. Questions RPCVs might raise are: Does this negate the language and cross cultural training that Volunteers receive? Does this negate the experience that serving Volunteers gain by service that would be helpful in a crisis response? Does this allows those who do not have the Peace Corps experience to use the “brand name” to their advantage? How do you keep the CIA from ‘volunteering’ and using the Peace Corps as . . .

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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Last Part

Paul Geren resigned his duties effective August 1, 1969. He said on leaving the university,  “My family and I thank the many people of Florida who have given us their friendship and support. I hope to continue to work in higher education, probably in teaching economics at another university.” Leaving Florida, and just days before his resignation would take effect, Geren went with his wife Elizabeth and their youngest daughter, 17-year-old Nancy to Kentucky. He thought that he could get a job teaching economics at the University of Kentucky, though he had no firm commitment. They decided to drive to Lexington and find out if there was a job for him. On Sunday morning near London, Kentucky, they encountered bad weather and severe driving condition. Elizabeth took over the driving so her husband could move into the back seat and rest. It was while Elizabeth was driving that she hit a deep hole in the road and lost control of the car. They swerved . . .

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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer, Part Six

Paul Geren arrived at the Baptist college as a veteran foreign service officer with a wide-ranging successful career in government. He had been deputy director at the Peace Corps in its first year. He had been a diplomat for more than a decade. And he had been a college faculty member and a vice president of Baylor University. He  was 54 when he was appointed just the fifth president of  Stetson University. Geren’s first success at Stetson was setting up a foreign exchange program and building a swimming pool for the students! But the wheels soon came off his presidency. What happened? Why was Geren such a quick failure at Stetson University when he had such a successful career earlier in his life. Or had he been so successful? He had lasted less than a year at the Peace Corps; he never jelled with the Mad Men and Women in the Maiatico Building at 806 Connecticut Avenue. He was, everyone soon learned, not . . .

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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Part Five

Geren’s diary ends with no happy ending. He finishes it on July 30, 1942 in Bamgarh, Bihar, writing: Our group moving over the mountains is a replica of the world community of sufferers. We were many races and nations: Chinese, Burmese, Indians, British, and Americans. We were hungry together on one meal a day. We were wet together, body, bedding and bread when the elements changed their policy from scorching us to soaking us. We jumped together for joy to see biscuit falling to us from the bomb rack of an airplane. We were banded together for whatever should come. Within a few months the tide of battle would turn to victory in every theater of the war-at Midway, Stalingrad, and El Alamein. Still Geren’s Diary ends with no guarantee of victory or a “happy ending” for in mid-1942 there was no assurance that the tide would turn, or that even . . .

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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Part Four

The retreat from Burma started at Shwebo on May 1, 1942. Geren would write in his Diary on May 6, 1942, from near Homalin. “The trudge has begun. The way stretches ahead of us 250 miles, first across the hot plains, then across jungle and mountains, 7,000 feet high, named in a moment of miscalculations or irony the Chin “‘Hills.’ Our small company of 104 Indians, Burmese, Chinese, British, and Americans, has become part of a great and tragic flight: the flight of Indians-perhaps a quarter million of them-from their promised land.” There party was headed by General Stilwell. For the first six days they drove trucks. They got as far as Mansa. Then they walked. They walked across the mountains and arrived at Imphal on May 20, 1942. There are many moving accounts noted by Geren and recorded in his Burma Diary. Here is just one, written by Geren . . .

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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Part Three

In the weeks and months that followed the bombing of Rangoon, Geren worked as a driver, and then as a field hospital attendant on the front lines which the Chinese were failing to hold against the advancing Japanese. “Our supplies were cut off and the Japs were advancing all the time,” Paul recalled. “We were the only medical unit with Western standards. The few members of the Quaker Volunteer Ambulance Corps and myself, we carried the wounded back from the battlefield.” All of this time his faith buffered him. On Christmas Eve, 1941, he wrote in his Diary, “The Japanese are promising a ‘Christmas present for the white people’ over the Bangkok radio.” They carried on in Rangoon. From Geren’s Diary, Christmas Eve, 1941: Whatever came yesterday, and whatever will come tomorrow, tonight we sang Christmas carols. We were a motley choir, begotten of a day between air raids, so widely apart . . .

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Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Part Two

Paul Francis Geren was deeply religious. And his religion, it appears to me, propelled him through his life, aiding him in his journey from Rangoon to Ramgarh, the legendary march out of Burma, and through dozens of  other appointments, foreign and domestic, government and academic. The pivotal point of this man’s life, however, was his escape from Burma that he details in Burma Diary, his short articulate memoir that was published by Harper & Brothers in 1943, and became an immediate best seller. It is a story told with quiet dignity, much like the man himself who is described often by others as “a quiet, studious looking individual.” But first, a quick survey summary of WWII for all of us who missed the war, thanks to Harold J. Schultz, Chairman of the International Studies at Stetson University. Schultz wrote about Paul when Geren became the fifth president of that Florida college: The Battle . . .

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The Peace Corps Evacuates Honduras

All 158 Peace Corps volunteers in Honduras left the country on Monday, weeks after the United States announced that it would pull them out for safety reasons. The U.S. group said in late December that it was bringing home volunteers from Honduras and suspending training for new volunteers in El Salvador and Guatemala, though existing volunteers would remain in the latter two countries. The region is plagued by gang violence and Honduras is considered to have the highest murder rate in the world. Honduras President Porfirio Lobo said Monday that the Peace Corps volunteers had been affected by rising crime, but neither he nor U.S. officials have cited specific attacks as reasons for the withdrawal. U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Ledy Pacheco said instructions for the withdrawal came from Washington, where the group’s head office is located. The Peace Corps had operated in Honduras since 1963. The three countries make up the . . .

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Was Paul Francis Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer?

IN THE FIRST YEAR OF THE PEACE CORPS there was a man at the agency whose name is never mentioned in any histories today, or even remembered by the men and women of that time, all those Mad Men and Women who were turning official Washington on its ear as they created from nothing a new government department at 806 Connecticut Avenue, diagonally across Lafayette Park from the White House. Even the first architects of the Peace Corps who were ‘present at the creation’ in the Mayflower Hotel that winter of 1961 seldom note him by name. He came and went silently at the Peace Corps, lasting less than a year in the Maiatico Building. What is most surprising is that Paul Francis Geren was someone of real importance at the agency. He was the first Deputy Director of the Peace Corps. Who was Paul F. Geren I wanted to know when . . .

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December 2011 Books by Peace Corps Writers

Eritrea Remembered: Recollections & Photos by Peace Corps Volunteers edited by Marian Haley Beil (Ethiopia 1962–64) Peace Corps Writers 184 pages $10.00 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle) December 2011 • The Fish & Rice Chronicles: My Extraordinary Adventures in Palau and Micronesia by PG Bryan (Micronesia 1967–70) Xlibris 334 pages $19.99 (paperback), $29.99 (hard cover), $7.69 (Kindle) August 2011 • Report of My Death: Beyond-the-Grave Confessions of North American Writers by Girard R. Christmas ( Thailand 1973–76; Western Samoa 1976–78) Lulu Publisher 660 pages $49.95 (hard cover);$34.95 (paperback);$13.99 (Kindle) 2007, Revised 2010 • Hope Is Cut: Youth, Unemployment, and the Future in Urban Ethiopia by Daniel Mains (Ethiopia 1998–99) Temple University Press 208 pages $69.50 (hard cover) November 2011 • One For The Road (Novel) by David J. Mather (Chile 1968-70) Peace Corps Writers 400 pages September 2011 $14.95 (paperback)

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