Archive - June 2014

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

New York Times Writes Editorial Supporting Peace Corps Women

Saturday, (6/14/14) issue of The New York Times carried a short editorial entitled, “Peace Corps Volunteers Deserve Fairness.” The lead sentence read: “Women make up more than 60 percent of the Peace Corps, volunteers who are often put in situations where safe and reliable medical care is difficult to find and where they face the risk of sexual assault.” The editorial was drawing attention to the fact that this week’s subcommittees in both the House and Senate will begin to work on a Peace Corps budget for the next fiscal year and how the current federal law (written in 1979) does not allow abortion coverage in the volunteers’ health care program, even in cases of rape or incest, or when a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life. The Times writes: “All women should be allowed comprehensive reproductive health care coverage. Women taking risks to advance the country’s interests by serving in . . .

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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 to Chad . . .

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Contraband

As nervous as a novice drug courier, I handed the Chilean customs agent my sworn statement declaring I was carrying no plants, seeds or fresh foods into the country. The agent waved me through. Outside, I patted the bulge in my parka pocket-a plastic tube containing a ten-inch California redwood seedling. Greater than my concern for breaking the law was my need to bring back to Chile a living keepsake of what I’d left behind. Those were times of relative ecological innocence. Biodiversity was not yet a word in my vocabulary. In my walled city garden I chose a protected spot to plant the seedling and gently placed it in the hole I’d prepared, uncertain it would survive in this dry climate. A towering avocado tree started from seed twenty years ago by my younger son, Nicolas, flourishes in one corner of my garden. Avocados, originally from Central America, thrive . . .

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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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