Archive - April 2019

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“Ex Africa Semper Aliquid Novi” (West Africa)
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Review — BAD NEWS FROM A BLACK COAST by Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador)
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Happy Easter from Mother Martha Driscoll and the Community of Gedono (Ethiopia)
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First Peace Corps Auto Mechanics Instructor (Ethiopia)
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Bill Owens (Jamaica) at Altamont . . . Read and remember the ’60s
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Michael Meyer (China) “The Quiet Revolt That Saved China,” Op-Ed, Wall Street Journal
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PEACE CORPS WRITER’S WORKSHOP THIS SEPTEMBER!
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Review — WITH KENNEDY IN THE LAND OF THE DEAD by William Siegel (Ethiopia)
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Peter Hessler (China) Discovers Egypt
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Concetta Anne Bencivenga (Thailand), Director of the Transit Museum of New York Subway

“Ex Africa Semper Aliquid Novi” (West Africa)

    Ex Africa Semper Aliquid Novi Travel with Phillip LeBel (Ethiopia 1965–67) • In the July of 1968, I finished spending three and a half years as a secondary school history teacher in Emdeber, Shoa, Ethiopia. Two and a half years were as a Peace Corps Volunteer, while the third was as a contract teacher with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education. Having taught a cohort of students passing through the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades, it was now time to return to the United States. With a graduate fellowship in economics awaiting me in Boston, I took a somewhat meandering trip across Africa, tracing some paths I covered in 1965 while still in the Peace Corps, while others were a journey of exploration. It marked an abiding attachment to Africa that has shaped my professional career ever since. I had traveled to East Africa during the summer of . . .

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Review — BAD NEWS FROM A BLACK COAST by Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador)

  Bad News from a Black Coast By Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador 1965-67) Independently Published 370 pages $12.00 (paperback)   Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971-73) • Like many Thomsen enthusiasts, I’ve wondered where his last, elusive manuscript was, and how it might come to be published, bringing the total number of  his travelogue classics to five. So when it suddenly appeared on Amazon, published, I jumped with joy. At last, 28 years after his death! And I was not disappointed; it was worth the wait. Thomsen began talking about this book in 1980 and sent some of the manuscript to fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and author, Christopher West Davis, who told him that it was some of his best work: “he was in the zone, in top form, etc. encouraging him to keep it up…” But later on Thomsen would lament the difficulties getting it published. This first . . .

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Happy Easter from Mother Martha Driscoll and the Community of Gedono (Ethiopia)

May the flames that ravaged the Cathedral of Notre Dame – and our hearts – enkindle within the souls of the post-Christian World, through the pain of loss, a nostalgia for the True, the Good and the Beautiful, and the desire for New Life found through the death and resurrection Jesus Christ:  Surrexit Dominus! We also ask your prayers for the national elections in Indonesia today for President and Congress and its aftermath. It seems the present President will be reelected, as we hope. But the opposition which favors moving toward an Islamic State, has warned they will not accept defeat and threatens violent protests if their candidate doesn’t win. Some hard line, radical parties in that coalition are backed by more than 15.000.000 followers of ISIS. In deep comunion, Martha and the community of Gedono Mother Martha Driscoll, O.C.S. O., (Ethiopia 1965-67) graduated from Georgetown University School of Foreign . . .

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First Peace Corps Auto Mechanics Instructor (Ethiopia)

First Peace Corps Auto Mechanics Instructor  By David Gurr (Ethiopia 1962-64) I entered Peace Corps Training to serve in Ethiopia at Georgetown University in the summer of 1962.  Initially, Georgetown assigned me to teach geography because I had more credits in that area than any other Trainee.  However, because of my earlier experience with repairing and building automobiles, my country director, Harris Wofford, told me that the Peace Corps wanted me teaching auto mechanics.  I was assigned to a group of other technical-skilled Trainees comprised of a machinist, a sheet metal worker and two draftsmen. Our group received little or no instruction in technical training, unlike the classes preparing others teaching academic subjects.  Little stands out other than a tour of the US Steel plant in Sparrows Point, Maryland.  Two officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Education came to one session.  They told us that there were two such schools: . . .

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Bill Owens (Jamaica) at Altamont . . . Read and remember the ’60s

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Marian Haley Beil (Ethiopia 1962-64)     Bill Owens (Jamaica 1964–66), is our most famous RPCV photographer. Back in 1972 Bill published a collection of photographs on suburbia entitled Suburbia. In this cult classic book, photographer Owens acted as an anthropologist objectively documenting suburban inhabitants, their native environs, and their daily rituals. By pairing the images with quotes made by the subjects, Owens created a hilarious and absurd account of life in the suburbs. A life that included Tupperware parties, backyard barbecues, and going to the hairdresser. In 2004 the fourth and final volume in his landmark Suburbia series — Suburbia (1973; 1999); Our Kind Of People (1975); Working — I Do It For The Money (1977) — Leisure (2004) was published. In his introduction to Leisure, photographer Gregory Crewdson writes: Owens’ photographs belong to an American aesthetic tradition of art that explores the intersection of everyday life . . .

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Michael Meyer (China) “The Quiet Revolt That Saved China,” Op-Ed, Wall Street Journal

    The Quiet Revolt That Saved China Forty years ago, farmers in Xiaogang village split their commune into family plots. A record harvest followed. by Michael Meyer (China 1995-97) April 16, 2019 7:35 p.m. ET Wall Street Journal • The People’s Republic of China turns 70 in October and will celebrate with flag-waving and fireworks. But 2019 marks several other major Chinese anniversaries whose public remembrance the Communist Party will suppress—and another milestone whose observance has been surprisingly muted. Twenty years ago, it was Falun Gong adherents being arrested. In July 1999 the Communist Party branded the spiritual meditation group an “evil cult.” On April 25, 1999, 10,000 practitioners, many of them elderly, had held a silent demonstration outside Beijing’s Zhongnanhai leadership compound. It was the capital’s largest protest since those held at Tiananmen Square ended—30 years ago this June—with a bloody military crackdown. Sixty years ago on March . . .

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PEACE CORPS WRITER’S WORKSHOP THIS SEPTEMBER!

PEACE CORPS WRITER’S WORKSHOP THIS SEPTEMBER! Want to spend three days in September on the Eastern Shore of Maryland discussing your book with other writers and RPCV authors? Peace Corps Writers, supported by the Peace Corps Fund, is arranging an inexpensive and small workshop for ten to fifteen RPCVs working on their own Peace Corps memoir, poetry, or fiction. This workshop will be held on the Eastern Shore of Maryland from Friday, September 20th to Monday, September 23rd at this lovely location: https://shoreretreatsonbroadcreek.org/ There will be talks, reviews of your manuscripts, individual conferences, stories to tell (and how to tell them) and plenty of time for conversations and relaxation. Space is extremely limited. At the moment we have not set the workshop fee but we want to make it as reasonable as possible for everyone. If you are interested in attending please let me know. jcoyneone@gmail.com Here are the RPCV . . .

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Review — WITH KENNEDY IN THE LAND OF THE DEAD by William Siegel (Ethiopia)

    With Kennedy in the Land of the Dead A Novel of the 1960s By William Siegel (Ethiopia 1962–64) A Peace Corps Writers Book 355 pages January 26, 2019 $20.00 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)   Reviewed by Sue Hoyt Aiken (Ethiopia 1962—64) • The author, like myself, served in those very early days of the Peace Corps.  We had elected to serve as high school teachers throughout Ethiopia at Emperor Haile Selassie’s invitation beginning in September, 1962.  Around 300 of us landed in Addis Ababa eager to serve and demonstrate we could carry out President Kennedy’s call: Ask not what the country can do for you but what you can do for the country!  Who knew of the tragedies that would unfold starting in 1963 with John F. Kennedy’s assassination up to and including the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King? Camelot was unmistakably over. The author has the narrator, Gilbert . . .

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Peter Hessler (China) Discovers Egypt

    Editor John Coyne talks with Peter Hessler (China)   Peter Hessler Discovers Egypt Peter Hessler is a 1992 graduate of Princeton University, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in China from 1996 to 1998. Since that time he has worked in China as a freelance writer for numerous publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, South China Morning Post, and National Geographic. In 2008, he won the National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting, and since 2000 he has been a staff writer at The New Yorker. Hessler has written four books on China. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, which won the 2001 Kiriyama Book Prize, describes Hessler’s experience as an English teacher in Fuling, a small city on the Yangtze River. Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award, explores the intersection . . .

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Concetta Anne Bencivenga (Thailand), Director of the Transit Museum of New York Subway

    Concetta Anne Bencivenga (Thailand 1992-94) is Director of the New York Transit Museum, the largest museum in the United States devoted to urban public transportation history and one of the premier institutions of its kind in the world. The New York’s first subway station opened in 1904 under City Hall with luxuries that today’s subway riders can hardly imagine. Here’s a look at the station today. • Failing New York Subway? Not Always — Once There Were Chandeliers by Winnie Hu New York Times April 11, 2019 New Yorkers once waited for the subway by the glow of chandeliers. Really. When the city’s first subway station opened in 1904 underneath City Hall in Lower Manhattan, it was a testament to New York’s arrival as a world-class city on par with London, Paris or Rome. The ornate station featured chandeliers, ornamental skylights and soaring archways with zigzagging patterns of terra-cotta . . .

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