Archive - June 2014

1
Ben East (Malawi 1996-98) Shortlisted for International Book Prize
2
A Writer Writes: “Addicted to Chad” by Michael Varga (Chad)
3
Jason Carter (South Africa 1998-2000) Seeks Georgia Governorship
4
Peace Corps Colombia: What do Colombians think?
5
Colombia PCVs Damaged by Juan Gabriel Vasquez novel, The Sound of Things
6
Review of Kilometer Ninety-Nine by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador 1999-02)
7
Carrie Confirmed by Senate as next Director of the Peace Corps at 2:12 pm EST–Congratulations, Carrie!
8
Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet Up For Senate Vote at 1:45 Today
9
A Writer Writes: Three short essays by George Branson (Chad)
10
PCVs in Senegal Are Well Wired Thanks to Chris Hedrick!

Ben East (Malawi 1996-98) Shortlisted for International Book Prize

RPCV Malawi (1996-98) Ben East was shortlisted among ten finalists for the Dundee International Book Prize for his manuscript Sea Never Dry. The novel began as a short story about crooked cops and drug trafficking in West Africa, originally published as “One Dead Cop” in 2012 by Umbrella Factory Magazine.  Two years later, the story centers on development efforts in the region and the corrupt officials, tribal politics, and black magic that undermine progress there.  Sea Never Dry is thick with spies, cops, and fetish priests, crooks, Internet fraudsters, and the unlucky Ghanaian orphans turning a buck on Accra’s e-waste ash heaps. As a Volunteer Ben taught English in southern Malawi, and has spent nearly two decades working on various teaching and diplomatic assignments in Africa, the Middle East, and throughout the Americas.  A Connecticut native, he recently returned to the United States where he lives in Virginia with his wife and two . . .

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A Writer Writes: “Addicted to Chad” by Michael Varga (Chad)

A Writer Writes     Michael Varga (Chad 1977–79) is a retired American diplomat, who spent much of his career in the Middle East. The BBC broadcast his short story “There Are No Kangaroos In Egypt,” and four of his plays have been produced and one published (Payable Upon Return; Juniper Press, 1983). One of his essays was used by the Peace Corps as the introduction to a book, Uncommon Journeys: Peace Corps Adventures Across Cultures, published in 2004. Other stories, essays and poems of his have appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The South Bend Tribune, The Foreign Service Journal, Commonweal, Archer, Earthwise, The New Jersey Poetry Monthly, Notre Dame Magazine, The Scholastic, Cabin Fever, and Rider University Magazine. The Peace Corps has a slideshow on its website about his service in Chad, entitled “Africa Colors A Destiny.” This essay was first published in Literal Latte in 2011. • Addicted . . .

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Jason Carter (South Africa 1998-2000) Seeks Georgia Governorship

Jason Carter, who as you know is the grandson of former president Jimmy Carter, and just as importantly (in my mind) the great-grandson of Lillian Carter (India 1967-69) is in a ‘toss up’ election in Georgia against the Republican Gov Nathan Deal. A recent poll has Jason ahead by several % points; other polls has the race a tossup. Deal has raised something like $8 million; Jason has raised $1.9 million. This governor’s race is running in tandem with a U.S. Senate contest, in which Democrat Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, will run against one or the other of two Republicans in a July runoff. Georgia is a Republican state. The state hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 1998 or a Democratic senator since 2000. To win, Jason will need blacks and Hispanic voters, whose number have been growing rapidly in the state, as well as . . .

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Peace Corps Colombia: What do Colombians think?

Always the very best way to understand Peace Corps history in a country is to turn to that country for perspective.  There may be conflicting opinions and that may be at the heart of the current controversy.  In 2009, then President Uribe wrote to Acting Peace Corps Director Jody Olson inviting the Peace Corps to return to Colombia.  His letter is a powerful testimony to the value of Peace Corps.  But years earlier, there was a popular movie in Colombia, entitled “El Rey”. The movie’s premise was that Peace Corps Volunteers had brought cocaine production and marketing to Colombia.  Peace Corps Online, published by RPCV Hugh Pickens, described the movie and the controversy. Here is the link to those articles: http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/467/2024372.html Thanks to RPCV Bob Arias  for a copy of President Uribe’s letter.  Bob’s extraordinary Peace Corps resume includes work with Peace Corps Response over five years in various South and . . .

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Colombia PCVs Damaged by Juan Gabriel Vasquez novel, The Sound of Things

Dennis Grubb (Colombia 1961-62) keeper of “all things RPCV Colombia” sent me this email from Jeremiah Norris (Colombia 1961-62) concerning Juan Gabriel Vasquez’s novel, The Sound of Things. In his email to Dennis, Jeremiah wrote: I’m sure you are aware of this book, The Sound of Things Falling, by South America’s newest literary star, Juan Gabriel Vasquez.  A central narrative theme is that PC ag volunteers in the Cauca Valley, under the supervision of a Regional Coordinator, were the originators of Colombia’ drug trade with the U. S. His narrative which was limited to a few volunteers has now been conflated by Amazon.com reviewers, via an insatiable social media mechanism, to be applied to Peace Corps as an institution. Some examples: 1. NPR Book Reviewer, “it is about Peace Corps hippies doing drugs”; 2. “I had no idea Peace Corps was so integral in the growth of Colombia’s drug industry”; 3. “Maybe it started . . .

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Review of Kilometer Ninety-Nine by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador 1999-02)

Kilometer Ninety-Nine by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador 1999-02) St. Martin’s Griffin $14.99 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) 344 pages 2014 Reviewed by Philip Damon (Ethiopia 1963–65) This is a gem of a book. It’s a coming of age saga that touches on visceral themes affecting numerous cultures in a disarmingly naïve narrative voice. Under the guise of a surfer’s escape fantasy gone haywire, author Tyler McMahon deftly enables his part-Hawaiian Peace Corps engineer Malia to narrate her story in such a way that it unfolds on numerous levels of situation and meaning. At one level, it’s a fictional chronicle of the El Salvador earthquakes of 2001, limning the experiences of two groups of people-the earthy class of Salvadorans, and the twenty-something PCVs living and serving among them. At another level, it’s a tale of intrigue and danger in a foreign land. And at a subtler level, Malia’s narrative breathes life to the . . .

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Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet Up For Senate Vote at 1:45 Today

Senate Votes on Carrie Hessler-Radelet to be Director of the Peace Corps Carrie Hessler-Radelet is acting Director of the Peace Corps as of July 2013. She was initially appointed deputy director of the Peace Corps on June 23, 2010. She is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Western Samoa, 1981-83) with more than two decades of experience in public health focused on HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health. Since 2010, Hessler-Radelet has spearheaded a comprehensive agency assessment and reform effort, leading the development and implementation of initiatives to improve efficacy and efficiency across the organization-the first such endeavor since its founding in 1961. She has worked with each office to develop individual performance improvement plans and has focused on projects proven to be best development practices. During her time as deputy director, she led the roll-out of the Focus In/Train Up initiative, which provides targeted technical training to Volunteers to increase . . .

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A Writer Writes: Three short essays by George Branson (Chad)

A Writer Writes George Branson (Chad 1975-78) was a water well driller in country. Since then, and over the years, he has written several short pieces on his experiences in Africa. One of his African pieces won first prize at the Space Coast Writers Guild Conference in Coco Beach. His pieces are short and humorous, all non-fiction vignettes. He has also written a few fables/parables that draw on the animal characters in African folklore. Here are three of George’s essays. • CAMEROON VACATION In early ’77, when we had been drilling wells in Chad for The Peace Corps for well over a year, one of my fellow well drillers, Mark, and I decided to take our vacation in Cameroon, where it was a lot greener, a welcome change from the desert. We got a real kick out of Western Cameroon, the old English speaking part of the country. The people . . .

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PCVs in Senegal Are Well Wired Thanks to Chris Hedrick!

Chis Hedrick (Senegal 1988-90) will be leaving his position as Senegal Peace Corps CD this June. He has been CD in his country of service since 2007. The Peace Corps, however, will still be in the family. His wife, Jennifer Beaston Hedrick (Senegal 1997-99), who has been the COO of Tostan for the past 6 years, is becoming the Peace Corps’ CD in Rwanda. (Tostan is the human rights NGO that has been recognized for its success in reducing female genital cutting and forced early marriage.  It was founded by another PCV Molly Melching (Senegal 1976-79).) Previously Jennifer Hedrick worked at Microsoft, Citigroup and the Grameen Foundation Technology Center. She has her  MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. For the last 25 years, her husband, Chris Hedrick, has been focused on the intersection of technology, development and learning,  and was recently recruited by Kepler to become their CEO. . . .

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