Archive - September 2012

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Who Was That Stranger
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The 'Best And The Brightest' Join The Peace Corps–High Risk/High Gain
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12-Step Peace Corps Program
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A Writer Writes: Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965-67) Makes Jackie O Laugh & Cry
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Phil Lilienthal's Global Camp Africa On NPR's "Here and Now" Friday
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Review of The South American Expeditions, 1540-1545 by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de VacaTranslated with notes by Baker H. Morrow (Somalia 1968-69)
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Bless Me, Father, For I Have Sinned….I ETed!
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Book Publisher Goes To Court To Recoup Hefty Advances–But Not From RPCV Writers!
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Review of Thomas and Peter Weck's The Lima Bear Stories: The Labyrinth
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An RPCV Who Continues To Work For Ethiopia

Who Was That Stranger

John C. Kennedy is the author of Last Lorry to Mbordo. He was station in Peki, Ghana (196568) a Peace Corps Volunteer, 1965-68, in Peki, Ghana. He is working on a second novel about the travails of RPCV readjustment. About this story – In his youth John was a fan of western serials. John is a man of few words. • Who Was That Stranger By John C. Kennedy, Ghana (1965-68) The passenger lorry slowed as it entered the old part of town.  Jason wondered if the large van had somehow become a time transporter. The bank, built during his last year in the village, still looked new and out of place. The community center that had beenunder construction was still under construction. A large sign congratulated the paramount Chief on thirty years of service. He nudged Karen, “He was a new chief when I came so that sign is new. . . .

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The 'Best And The Brightest' Join The Peace Corps–High Risk/High Gain

In the very first years of the Peace Corps we all became familiar with a strange new nomenclature that dominated  Training Programs and was used by Alan Weiss (Nigeria 1962-63) as the title of his  humorous book about the Peace Corps published in 1968 by St. Martin’s Press, High Risk/High Gain. This new nomenclature was crafted by Peace Corps psychologists to grade Trainees while they were still in Training Programs at U.S. colleges and universities. The Peace Corps  Selection Division had  ‘agreed’ to measure potential PCVs with this classification. Besides High Risk/High Gain, a Trainee could also be High Risk/Low Gain; Low Risk/Low Gain, or considered by the Shrinks as an outstanding candidate for success in the Peace Corps as  High Gain/Low Risk. Based on these evaluations, Trainees were Selected-In or Selected-Out of the Peace Corps. More than a few of us lost good friends in those first days of the Peace Corps based on the High Risk/High Gain grading system. But how did High Risk/High Gain . . .

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12-Step Peace Corps Program

It might be interesting, in light of the discussion about the ET rate, to look at what else has changed in the fundamental attitudes and beliefs and practices of the agency. Here was some of the thinking and statements within the first year, 1961. In the first days of the Peace Corps (early ’61) the ‘experts’ working with the agency decided there should be a ‘corps’ of between 300 and 500. That would be a realistic number for a ‘pilot program’ to make sure  that the Peace Corps got off on the right foot. That idea, however, changed quickly after a Peace Corps ‘team’: Shriver, Wofford, Franklin Williams, and Edwin Bayley returned from a trip to Africa and Asia in May of ’61. They had received requests from around the world for PCVs. And at home there had been an onslaught of letters and cables coming to HQ from people who wanted to volunteer. . . .

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A Writer Writes: Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965-67) Makes Jackie O Laugh & Cry

When I finished my second novel,  The Book of Phoebe (the first was really bad), I could not get an agent because I hadn’t been published, and of course, I couldn’t get published because I didn’t have an agent.  Catch-22.  Then I read an interview in my local paper with a writer who mentioned that her editor was Kate Medina at Doubleday. I wrote a letter as compelling as I could make it to Medina saying I’d written a novel but couldn’t find an agent and mentioned the interview I’d read and asked if she’d read my novel. I heard back from her assistant, Anne Hukill, who asked me to send it to her.  I did.  She loved it.  She asked her colleague Adrian Zackheim to read it and he loved it, too.  (Adrian went on to edit Equator, a great travel book written by Thurston Clarke (Tunisia 1968). Anne was then  instructed by Medina to get all 12 senior . . .

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Phil Lilienthal's Global Camp Africa On NPR's "Here and Now" Friday

I have been writing lately how RPCVs continue to serve the world long after their tours. Here is another example, and another RPCV from Ethiopia, Phil Lilienthal (Ethiopia 1965-67), who returned home and worked for the Peace Corps for five years as a lawyer in the General Counsel Office, then from 1969-74, Phil was a Regional Director and Deputy Director in Thailand. While a PCV in Ethiopia Phil worked in one of the government ministries and for his ‘second project’ he started a summer camp on the shores of Lake Langano down in the Rift Valley. This was the first such camp started by a PCV in Ethiopia.  Camps for kids have always been in Phil’s blood, his family has one in Maine, but about 9 years ago, in retirement, Phil turned the family business over to his son (who was also a PCV) and established a new one, this . . .

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Review of The South American Expeditions, 1540-1545 by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de VacaTranslated with notes by Baker H. Morrow (Somalia 1968-69)

The South American Expeditions, 1540-1545 by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca Translated with notes by Baker H. Morrow (Somalia 1968-69) University of New Mexico Press $39.95 240 pages 2011 Reviewed by Ann Neelon (Senegal 1978-79) As Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar, “The evil that men do lives after them./The good is oft interred in their bones.” Thus my guess is that if you can name a Spanish conquistador at all, it’s most likely Hernan Cortés, who succeeded in subjugating all of Mexico between 1519 and 1526.  Cortés famously sank his own ships in Veracruz, on the east coast of Mexico, after hanging two of his men for getting cold feet about schlepping with him across three mountain ranges to scope out Aztec gold in Tenochtitlán.  As Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s The South American Expeditions, 1540-1545 gives evidence, though, not every conqueror is a study in ruthlessness.  Translated with notes . . .

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Bless Me, Father, For I Have Sinned….I ETed!

In those early days of the Peace Corps the greatest sin was leaving before one finished his or her tour. More than one person I know back in Ethiopia in the early Sixties would declare, “I don’t care what happens to me, I’m not ETing!” Now it seems to many PCVs ETing isn’t even a venial sin. The numbers of PCVs who pack it in before finishing their tour keeps climbing and no one at HQs is blinking an eye. It wasn’t always that way. In the first 22 months of the agency, 294 Volunteers did not complete their tours. Of these, 65 returned for compassionate reasons, usually family illness or death, another 37 had to resign for medical reasons. And sadly, six PCVs lost their lives–four in plane crashes, one in a jeep accident, and one as a result of illness. The total number to ET during those first 22 months for other . . .

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Book Publisher Goes To Court To Recoup Hefty Advances–But Not From RPCV Writers!

A New York publisher this week filed lawsuits against several prominent writers who failed to deliver books for which they received hefty contractual advances, records show. The Penguin Group’s New York State Supreme Court breach of contract/unjust enrichment complaints include copies of book contracts signed by the respective defendants. The publisher is seeking repayments from: * “Prozac Nation” author Elizabeth Wurtzel, who signed a $100,000 deal in 2003 to write “a book for teenagers to help them cope with depression.” Penguin wants Wurtzel, seen at right, to return her $33,000 advance (and at least $7500 in interest). * Blogger Ana Marie Cox, who signed in 2006 to author a “humorous examination of the next generation of political activists,” is being dunned for her $81,250 advance (and at least $50,000 in interest). Her Penguin contract totaled $325,000. * Rebecca Mead, a staff writer at The New Yorker, owes $20,000 (and at . . .

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Review of Thomas and Peter Weck's The Lima Bear Stories: The Labyrinth

Review of Thomas and Peter Weck’s The Lima Bear Stories: The Labyrinth The Lima Bear Stories: The Labyrinth Thomas and Peter Weck (Thomas Weck (Ethiopia 1965-67) Illustrated by Len DiSalvo Lima Bear Press, $15.95 30 pages 2012 Reviewed by Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast 2000-02, Madagascar 2002-03) The Lima Bears are back in the fourth installment of the engaging series by father and son team Thomas and Peter Weck, along with illustrator Len DiSalvo. In The Labyrinth, the Weck’s lively, happy kingdom of Limalot, inhabited by the ever-friendly and teeny-tiny Lima Bears, is under-going regime change, a very timely story to tell in our election year! Good King Limalot Bear has grown too old for the throne, and having no son, he naturally decides to pass his scepter to his fair daughter, the lovely and kind Princess Belinda Bean. But not so fast, says the scheming Mean ol’Bean, a militaristic tiny . . .

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An RPCV Who Continues To Work For Ethiopia

This weekend, approximately 130 RPCVs from Ethiopia, going back to the early 1962 and the first group of PCVs, traveled back to Addis Ababa. Arriving at the International Airport, they were met by the Minister of Education and other officials of the Ethiopia government, were hosted by the American Ambassador at the Embassy and  yesterday, Monday morning, September 24, they were bussed to Jubilee Palace, Emperor Haile Selassie’s former residence, and greeted for a sit down meeting with the new President of Ethiopia, Ato Girma Wolde Giorgis. “He was not only very obviously happy to welcome us,” one RPCV wrote afterwards, “he also answered our questions at length and with aplomb.” This sort of ‘reception’ for former Volunteers returning to their host countries is not unusual. We are remembered fondly in many places in the world. But what is surprising, and gratifying, is seeing how many RPCVs continue their service to . . .

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