Archive - October 2013

1
“Broken English — a song by Greg Horn (New Guinea)
2
The Ballroom
3
Better Remember This
4
To Peel Potatoes
5
Innocence Melts Obstinacy
6
White
7
Soledad by Chris Honore’ (Colombia 1967-69)
8
Water
9
Thirty Years Later
10
Second Time Around

“Broken English — a song by Greg Horn (New Guinea)

by Greg Horn (New Guinea 1991–92) This song won the 1993 Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience • Now your friends have all gone and the parlor is empty ‘cept for me in this chair with a book full of words and your thoughts and your deeds, they all come back to claim you ’cause no one’s understood anything they just heard. So you try to explain in your broken English ’bout the rivers of pain that keep crossing your mind but they’re too wide to cross and they’re too deep to see through and I’m not really sure what you want me to find. Chorus But please, I don’t want to go and please, I just gotta know if I should put out the light when I get done for the night. There are times when you think that there’s nobody watching when . . .

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The Ballroom

by Christopher Conlon (Botswana 1988-90) This poem won the 1994 Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience. • Southern Africa, Kalahari Desert She is the perfect image of a rag doll I saw when I was a child, in a trash can, dirty, ripped abandoned: here in the Kalahari is that same doll, maybe five, eyes huge, legs white with desert dust. Ke Kopa madi, sir, ke kopa madi. Money: I shake my head no, no madi: try to move on. But she stares at me, suddenly transfixed. No longer begging. Her eyes wider than before. My sunglasses: I crouch down, she approaches me, nose to nose, tattered, filthy, she stares at me, at herself. Then her hand moves to her chin and she says Oh, in a tiny, surprised voice. She rubs away the dried spittle there. Then she turns and, whitened heels kicking . . .

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Better Remember This

by Meg Sullivan (Kenya 1992-94) This essay won the 1995 Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience. YOU’D BETTER REMEMBER THIS. Because people will ask you. Whether you want them to or not, they’ll ask you how Africa was. And though you won’t know where to start, you’re going to have to have something to tell them. A shrug of the shoulders and “Good” won’t be enough. So you’d better remember this. Open the parts of your mind you need, and work them over until you’ve got them just right. Then put what you know in a place the will be easy for you to get to. Deep, but not too deep. Just enough so that even though no one else can see it, you know it’s there, and you can see it and feel it, and you know it makes up part of who . . .

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To Peel Potatoes

by John P. Deever (Ukraine 1993–95) This essay won the 1996 Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience. • “LIFE’S TOO SHORT to peel potatoes,” a woman in my local supermarket announced, as she put a box of instant mashed potatoes into her cart. When I overheard her I nearly shrieked. After recently returning from my Peace Corps stint in Ukraine, I tend to get defensive about the potato in all its forms: sliced, scalloped, diced, chopped, grated, or julienned; then boiled, browned, french-fried, slow-fried, hand-mashed, baked or twice-baked — with an indulgent dollop of butter or sour cream, yes thank you. A large portion of my time in Ukraine was spent preparing what was, in the winter, nearly the only vegetable available. Minutes and hours added up to a string of days handling potatoes. I sized up the biggest, healthiest spuds in the market . . .

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Innocence Melts Obstinacy

by Leita Kaldi (Senegal 1993-96) This essay won the 1997 Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience • IN THE MARKETPLACE OF DAKAR, Senegal, amid the welter of vegetables, chickens, dried fish and shouting women, a small boy leans against a crumbling wall staring into space. His bare toes knead the sand; the rags he wears flop around his skinny frame. A gang of older boys push and shove their way past him, turning to jeer. The boy leaps into a ninja position, hands like scissors, knees bent on rigid legs. He must have studied the nearby movie poster where a ninja film had been showing. His eyes are fierce and belong to the world of warriors. The older boys laugh and walk on as the child glares after them balefully. His dirt-colored pants have two rips down the back. At the back of his . . .

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White

by Lynn Marshall (Mali 1997–99) This essay was the 1999 Moritz Thomsen Award winner. • YESTERDAY, I ATTENDED MY FIRST FUNERAL. I wore white and so did the corpse. The body was wrapped in a heavy, white cloth and placed under a mango tree, surrounded by dozens of old women with missing teeth, gray hair, and skin as dry as coconut shells. The old ladies wore mismatched swatches of bright print fabric. Over a hundred people had gathered in the concession, and sat cross-legged on long, colorful rectangular mats. They paid their respects by playing cards, smoking Marlboros and drinking tea. As I toured the concession, I felt hundreds of eyes on me. Trying to convince myself that I was not out of place, I casually made my way over to the body. A group of women standing guard over the body immediately surrounded me. One woman gestured that I . . .

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Soledad by Chris Honore’ (Colombia 1967-69)

[Chris Honore’ was born in occupied Denmark, during WWII. After the war, he immigrated to America. He went to public schools and then attended San Jose State University and the University of California, at Berkeley, where he earned a teaching credential, an M.A. and a Ph.D. After teaching high school English for two years, he joined the Peace Corps. He’s a freelance journalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His wife owns a bookstore on Main Street. His son is a cinematographer, living in Southern California.] • SOLEDAD By Chris Honore’ I was thirteen years old when I went to stay with my grandmother. She lived alone in a rambling, two-story farmhouse with a wide wrap-around porch that offered soft views of the road and woods and a sheltered bay just beyond. Not far inland, due east, was the town of Watson. Everything west was ocean, the Pacific, deeply blue and endless. . . .

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Water

by Rachel Schneller (Mali 1996-98) This essay was the 1998 Moritz Thomsen Award winner. • WHEN A WOMAN CARRIES WATER on her head, you see her neck bend outward behind her like a crossbow. Ten liters of water weighs twenty-two pounds, a fifth of a woman’s body weight, and I’ve seen women carry at least twenty liters in aluminum pots large enough to hold a television set. To get the water from the cement floor surrounding the outdoor hand pump to the top of your head, you need help from the other women. You and another woman grab the pot’s edges and lift it straight up between you. When you get it to head height, you duck underneath the pot and place it on the wad of rolled up cloth you always wear there when fetching water. This is the cushion between your skull and the metal pot full of . . .

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Thirty Years Later

by Barbara Carey (India 1966-68) This essay was originally published July 2001 on PeaceCorpsWriters.org, and received the Moritz Thomsen Award in 2002. • “I DON’T UNDERSTAND what is ‘first class’” about this train car, my husband said. I looked around at the dirty, rusty old car, with bent bars on the open window, red betel juice stains on the walls, and the single hard seat in the small cabin. I looked through the bars to the bustling train station, with hawkers, beggars, food and magazine stalls, travelers, crying children, hungry dogs, and all the noise that went along with the bustling activity in the humid Bombay afternoon. I could smell the pungent odor that is always present in India — a combination of rotting garbage, sweaty bodies, and smoke from dung fires. The sights, sounds and smells were coming back to me after thirty years of being away. I suddenly . . .

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Second Time Around

by Kathleen Coskran (Ethiopia 1965–67) The following essay was published in September, 2007 at PeaceCorpsWriters.org, and in 2008 received the Moritz Thomsen Award for Best Short Work about the Peace Corps Experience • I JOINED THE PEACE CORPS at 21 because I was restless for adventure and after two years in Ethiopia, discovered that true adventure lies in the relationships and routines of daily life. I was delighted to live in a tiny mud house with the tin roof, thought the sound of roosters in the morning and the whoop of the hyenas at night exotic, learned to prefer fiery food that made me sweat and cry, but the surprise was my students. I fell in love with them — 75 kids in an unlit classroom with mud walls and a tin roof, 75 kids who walked an hour or more to get to school, kids whose parents I never . . .

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