Archive - March 2016

1
Review — AFRICAN WITCH by Christopher West Davis (Kenya)
2
“Sirens’ Sweet Song” by Gerald Karey
3
Tom Hebert’s Peace Corps Settlement House
4
Rob Schmitz (China) writes STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS
5
Peter Hessler’s (China) Peace Corps memoir to be made into a movie
6
Interim update on status of 2015 Peace Corps applications
7
RPCV writers at The New Yorker
8
Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal) publishes new travel book
9
“Notes on the Common Practice of Rape” by Bob Schacochis (Eastern Caribbean)
10
“Living with the Bomb” by Gerald Karey (Turkey)

Review — AFRICAN WITCH by Christopher West Davis (Kenya)

African Witch: A Modern Tale of Magical Harm By Christopher West Davis (Kenya 1975-78) Create Spack February 2016 418 pages $16.95 (paper), $9.95 (Kindle) Reviewed by Peter Van Deekle (Iran 1968-70) • Christopher West Davis draws upon his Peace Corps service experience in Kenya (1975-78) for his recent novel (2016) African Witch: A Modern Tale of Magical Harm. His career as a journalist also helps to inform his detailed and insightful depiction of characters and place in this suspenseful story of young Americans living and working in modern-day Kenya. On one level Davis creates a story about Westerners new to Kikuyu ways, imposing upon their encounters with native people and their attendant perceptions, a distinctly Western attitude. On the other hand, this novel gains its energy and momentum from the author’s ability to maintain a dramatic tension among the characters and the events that surround and engulf them. Despite its material and . . .

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“Sirens’ Sweet Song” by Gerald Karey

• Sirens’ Sweet Song by Gerald Karey (Turkey 1965-67) • The Sirens, Homer tells us, enchant all who come near. Anyone who draws to close to their island and hears their singing will never be welcomed home again. The Sirens sit in a green field and warble to death men who try to join them, with the sweetness of their song, Homer says, or words to that effect. Odysseus sailing home from Troy after the Trojan War orders his crew to put wax in their ears so they cannot hear the Sirens. But he has himself lashed to his ship’s mast, so he may hear them. Their song is irresistible and Odysseus begs to be freed from his bonds so that he may join the Sirens. His pleas are ignored, or perhaps his crew simply cannot hear, and Odysseus is borne safely past on the waters of the wine-dark sea. . . .

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Tom Hebert’s Peace Corps Settlement House

The Peace Corps, as we know, has Three Goals, but the agency traditionally has only spent about 1% of their budget on the Third Goal of the Peace Corps act, i.e., that’s the RPCVs community. That given, Tom Hebert (Nigeria 1962–64) has come up with a great idea to help RPCVs, would-be PCVs, and the Peace Corps community-at-large with the “Peace Corps Settlement House” in Washington, D.C. The Peace Corps Agency, of course, will not support the effort. As the Peace Corps Director wrote Tom recently— I know how passionate you are about the community enrichment that is possible through the settlement house model. I know that you also realize that the leadership for a settlement house project must come from foundations, the NPCA/RPCV community, and committed others, because it is outside the authorities of the Peace Corps. So this is what Tom Hebert has in mind. If you are willing and can help . . .

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Rob Schmitz (China) writes STREET OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS

ROB SCHMITZ (China 1996-98) first arrived in China in 1996 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Sichuan province. He is now the China correspondent for American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” the largest business news program in the U.S. In 2012, he exposed fabrications in Mike Daisey’s account of Apple’s Chinese supply chain on “This American Life.” The work was a finalist for the 2012 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. He has won two national Edward R. Murrow Awards and an award from the Education Writers Association for his reporting on China. Schmitz maintains a blog — Chinopoly— and in May, his first book, Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road, will be published. • In an interview with Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet, on his blog Shanghai Scrap, Rob talks about how the Peace Corps lead him into journalism. Scrap: How does one go from Peace Corps volunteer to China Bureau . . .

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Peter Hessler’s (China) Peace Corps memoir to be made into a movie

Chinese Lu Chuan will direct and produce River Town, the Tristine Skyler adaptation of the memoir River Town: Two Years On The Yangtze, by New Yorker staff writer Peter Hessler. Jamie Gordon and Courtney Potts of Fugitive Films are producing. This Peace Corps memoir by Peter, his first book, will depict a celebrated American writer’s journey to China for the long-awaited Chinese publication of his memoir, triggering memories from 20 years earlier when he taught English literature as a PCV to Chinese college students while on the brink of a nation’s unprecedented change. Lu’s film credits include The Missing Gun, Kekexili: Mountain Patrol, City Of Life And Death and The Last Supper. He last directed  Of The Ghostly Tribe, which grossed $106 million in mainland China within its first weeks of release. He is in postproduction on Born In China for Disney, which will be released this summer in China and April 2017 in the U.S. In addition to being a staff . . .

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Interim update on status of 2015 Peace Corps applications

  In 2014, the Peace Corps modified its application process to make it more efficient. The first full year of the new process was 2015. The fiscal year for Peace Corps ends on September 30. The applications received during 2015 could still be in the “pipeline” on the September 30th fiscal deadline. So the following statistics are just a snapshot of the status of these applications as of that date. I made a Freedom of Information request to receive these statistics. I will submit a new request for further information asking about the final determination of all the applicants received during 2015, specifically, how many invitations were finally issued to those who had submitted applications in 2015 and of those, how many accepted. Finally, I will ask how many host country requests could not be filled because Peace Corps did not have funding for those Volunteer positions. Here are the statistics, as of September 30, 2015 APP: number of candidates who reached . . .

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RPCV writers at The New Yorker

The March 7, 2016 issue of The New Yorker features two articles by RPCVs. Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) is a staff writer living now with his family in Cairo, and he writes “Living-Room Democracy,” an article on political candidates in Egypt who go door-to-door seeking votes. He starts with Yusuf Hasan Yusuf, a candidate for the new national parliament from rural Upper Egypt, who has no public political activity. Yusuf has no platform, and does not talk about issues, policies, or potential legislation when he campaigns. He has never made a single public campaign promise. Yet he still wins elections. Peter then goes onto interview and follow other candidates, mostly in Upper Egypt, on their home visits in this political season, and he does a quick evaluation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice candidate, as well as, fill in how Upper Egypt has gone from nomadic Bedouin to a fledgling democracy. In . . .

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Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal) publishes new travel book

Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96) has just published her third travel book, Sailing between the Seas: The Panama Canal. Leita, among many other careers, worked with Roma (Gypsies) for fifteen years, became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal at the age of 55, then went to work for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti for five years. She retired in Florida in 2002, and wrote a memoir of Senegal, Roller Skating in the Desert. In 2012 with Peace Corps Writers, she published In the Valley of Atibon which chronicles her experiences as a middle-aged white woman who goes to Haiti filled with good intentions to manage Hôpital Albert Schweitzer and its community development program. What unfolds for her, however, is a hell filled with young revolutionaries and vagabonds who threaten her life, and the very existence of the hospital and the program. Prompted by these experiences she delves into the . . .

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“Notes on the Common Practice of Rape” by Bob Schacochis (Eastern Caribbean)

Bob Shacochis wrote this essay for Roxane Gay who is putting together a rape anthology that will be coming out next year. After reading it, I asked Bob if we might put it up on our site, as in this piece he discusses several rapes that happened to women — and almost Bob — in the Peace Corps. As we know, the issue is a serious one for PCVs women, and what is being done about it — and not being done about it — continues to be a problem for Volunteers in-country and for the Peace Corps here at home.  •  NOTES ON THE COMMON PRACTICE OF RAPE by Bob Shacochis (Eastern Caribbean 1975–76) A friend, an architect in Manhattan, has a default mantra, an unwanted but repeated thought that loops through his brain as he walks from his Soho loft to his downtown office or further south to Battery Park — There is something wrong with us. . . .

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“Living with the Bomb” by Gerald Karey (Turkey)

Living with the Bomb Gerald Karey (Turkey 1965–67) • Duck and Cover Miss McGinn rapped her desk with a ruler to quiet her sixth graders as a bell sounded throughout the school. “This is no joke,” she said sternly. “It’s a drill. If this was a real attack, your lives could depend on it.” We knew the drill. “Duck and Cover.” We scrambled under our desks, crouched down, and covered our heads with our hands. Miss McGinn turned off the lights and hurried to the three tall windows in our classroom to close the shades. It was something of a lark, getting on the floor under your desk. But after several monthly drills it was boring routine — until I caught a glimpse of Sandra Epstein’s white panties. At that precise moment, Sandra turned her head and looked at me. She smiled and hiked her dress, revealing even more of her . . .

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