Archive - June 2020

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A Writer Writes — “Reading Masks,” a poem by Tony Zurlo (Nigeria)
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Nominate the Best RPCV Books of 2019 — awards will be announced in August 2020
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“A Train Took Me 5,000 Miles from Moscow to China—and to a Whole New Life” — Peter Hessler (China)
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Why Did American University Professor Melillo Ignore Peace Corps Archives?
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Review — THE TOUGHEST JOB I EVER LOVED by Jonathon Shacat (Gabon)
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“Leaving Guatemala, Part 4: ‘A year in the land of eternal spring’ ”
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Bill Josephson has more to say on “How the Peace Corps wasn’t sold to the American public”
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A Writer Writes — “In the Kitchen with Andrea, Corona, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Tutu” by Patricia Edmisten (Peru)
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Discussion on “How the US Government sold the Peace Corps to the American Public”
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The Pandemic, Or How People Are Like Butterflies

A Writer Writes — “Reading Masks,” a poem by Tony Zurlo (Nigeria)

  My brother-in-law suffered a bad stroke about a decade ago and was stricken with aphasia. In the last couple of years before his death in January 2019, he was in therapy and he made this mask. I thought it was a profound struggle of a “soul” shouting out to a world that had “forgotten him.” Jim’s soul must have been desperately wanting to speak to former friends or even family, and the mask reveals to me a plea for a touch of love, or a simple smile from that outer world that he will never see again. I hope the poem speaks for itself. Reading Masks by Tony Zurlo (Nigeria 1964-66   I. We think we read faces and focus on a people’s eyes, “the windows to the soul.” But each  mask speaks a different language, and each mask looks at us with a different set of eyes. Sometimes faces and . . .

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Nominate the Best RPCV Books of 2019 — awards will be announced in August 2020

  To further fulfill its goals to encourage, recognize and promote Peace Corps writers, RPCV Writers & Readers, the newsletter that was the precursor of PeaceCorpsWriters.org and PeaceCorpsWorldwide.org, presented its first annual awards for outstanding writing in 1990. A total of 163 awards have been given since that time. When possible, Peace Corps Writers Awards are presented at the RPCV Conference Awards Ceremony. The awards are: The Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience Award The Paul Cowan Non-Fiction Award The Maria Thomas Fiction Award The Award for Best Book of Poetry The Award for Best Short Story Collection The Award for Best Travel Book The Award for Best Photography Book The Award for Best Children’s Book about a Peace Corps Country Other Awards Send you nomination(s) to John Coyne at jcoyneone@gmail.com (You may nominate your own book. Make sure you are nominating a book that was published in 2019.)

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“A Train Took Me 5,000 Miles from Moscow to China—and to a Whole New Life” — Peter Hessler (China)

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Steven Saum (Ukraine 1994-96)   An epic journey by rail answers the question: Where am I going? Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) Businessweek, June 24, 2020   A moment on the Trans-Siberian railway line. Photographer: Oleg Klimov/Panos Pictures/ReduxWhen I was 25, I boarded a train, rode it to the last stop, and disembarked with a new sense of what to do with my life. This kind of thing can happen when you’re 25. It also helps if the journey lasts six days and 5,000 miles. The year was 1994, and I was traveling along the Trans-Siberian Railway. I had bought a one-way ticket from Moscow to Beijing. After passing through the western part of Siberia, the train would head south across Mongolia. Back then, the world seemed bigger: no cellphones, no online reservations. Things were heavier, too. In my ­backpack—Lowe Alpine, internal frame—I carried a tent, . . .

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Why Did American University Professor Melillo Ignore Peace Corps Archives?

   by Joanne Roll (Colombia 1963–65) Professor Melillo, Associate Professor at American University,  wrote an article, “How the US Government Sold the Peace Corps to the American Public” See:https://peacecorpsworldwide.org/how-the-us-government-sold-the-peace-corps-to-the-american-public/ She speculated on the motives behind the creation of the Peace Corps and the  reasons Americans volunteered or did not to serve.  Bill Josephson, one of the architects of the Peace Corps and the absolute authority on its early history, wrote a rebuttal to the article. A discussion followed included remarks by Professor Melillo.  See: https://peacecorpsworldwide.org/discussion-on-how-the-us-government-sold-the-peace-corps-to-the-american-public/ I do not understand why Professor  Melillo ignored the Peace Corps Community Archives at American University, where she is an Associate Professor.  The Professor may also have done research at the JFK Library, but she ignored the RPCV Oral History Project archived at the JFK Library. Visit the American University collection. https://blogs.library.american.edu/pcca/?_ga=2.253647113.1870185124.1506009714-1469212090.1469636313 Peace Corps Community Archives AU Library “The Peace Corps Community Archive curated by . . .

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Review — THE TOUGHEST JOB I EVER LOVED by Jonathon Shacat (Gabon)

  The Toughest Job I Ever Loved: A Peace Corps Memoir Jonathon  Shacat (Gabon 1998–2000) Amazon 2017 181 pages $9.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle Reviewed by D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • Jonathon Shacat, who is now a journalist, has self-published a well written memoir of his Peace Corps experience in Gabon, central Africa. He was a fish culture extension agent, helping villagers build clay-lined ponds and raise tilapia, from 1998 to 2000. I’ll get my gripes out of the way first. The book does not contain any maps of Gabon, any photos, or even page numbers! But it is an entertaining account that maintains its upbeat tone through incidents involving eating grubs and insects, mixing antelope blood with rice, a machete wound, a bout with Dengue fever and ridding himself of round worms. Though the author’s Peace Corps experience was almost a quarter century after my own, like . . .

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“Leaving Guatemala, Part 4: ‘A year in the land of eternal spring’ ”

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Dan Campbell (El Salvador 1974-77) Nathaniel Smith (Guatemala 2019-2020) The Times-Independent Utah, June 18, 2020 A group of Peace Corps Volunteers watch the sunrise from the summit of the volcano Acatenango. Photos courtesy of Nathaniel Smith The van carried me away on the first leg of what would be a multi-stage journey from rural Guatemala to southern Utah. I gazed forlornly out the window as we wove through pine forest and out of the valley. My mind cycled through the list of things I had hoped to do in Guatemala over the next year. Though I planned to return someday, whether as a Peace Corps volunteer or not, this experience proved that even the best-laid plans go awry. That morning, when I still believed I would have the entire day, I made what I thought would be my final trip to the town’s thermal . . .

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Bill Josephson has more to say on “How the Peace Corps wasn’t sold to the American public”

  I disagree with Ms. Melillo’s statement that “Peace Corps advertising emphasize myths about heroes, adventure . . . But fighting communism was among the agency’s original foreign policy purposes, according to Peace Corps historians and other scholars.”  Ms. Melillo cites virtually no authority for that statement. The origins of the Peace Corps include the bills sponsored by then Senator Hubert H. Humphrey for a Point Four Youth Corps, Representative Henry Reuss and others, particularly Congressmen who had had missionary experience. Point Four, of course, was President Harry S Truman’s proposal for technical assistance worldwide, particularly the developing nations. “Fighting communism” certainly was not the point of the University of Michigan students who urged President Kennedy, as a candidate, to create the Peace Corps. “Fighting communism” was not mentioned in President Kennedy’s Cow Palace speech formally proposing a Peace Corps. “Fighting communism” was not a theme of Warren Wiggins and . . .

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A Writer Writes — “In the Kitchen with Andrea, Corona, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Tutu” by Patricia Edmisten (Peru)

  By Patricia Edmisten (Peru 1962–64) I am preparing breakfast for my husband and myself. Today I will use the last of the milk to make lattes. I pack the little metal coffee container of our espresso machine and turn it on. While it starts to steam, I hear Andrea Bocelli on National Public Radio. He is singing Panis Angelicus. I am taken back to St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I attended Mass six mornings a week during the school year and once a week during the summer. I sang with the grade school choir comprised of 7th and 8th graders who had good grades and passable voices. One of the hymns we sang was Panis Angelicus, “Bread of the Angels.” As I listened to Andrea, the bagels with cream cheese and lattes had to wait: Tears streamed, sinuses filled, lips trembled, as longing and nostalgia commandeered . . .

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Discussion on “How the US Government sold the Peace Corps to the American Public”

    Bill Josephson Responds to Wendy Melillo’s “How the US Government Sold the Peace Corps to the American Public.”   I have tried to make sure that what I have received is the complete document that she published in Conversation.  I’m not sure that I have succeeded. I disagree with Ms. Melillo’s statement that “Peace Corps advertising emphasize myths about heroes, adventure . . . But fighting communism was among the agency’s original foreign policy purposes, according to Peace Corps historians and other scholars.”  Ms. Melillo cites virtually no authority for that statement. The origins of the Peace Corps include the bills sponsored by then Senator Hubert H. Humphrey for a point four youth corps, Representative Henry Reuss and others, particularly Congressmen who had had missionary experience. Point four, of course, was President Harry S Truman’s proposal for technical assistance worldwide. “Fighting communism” was not a theme of the University of . . .

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The Pandemic, Or How People Are Like Butterflies

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Steven Saum (Ukraine 1994-96) GUEST ESSAY Northern Express Traverse City JUNE 13, 2020   THE PANDEMIC, OR HOW PEOPLE ARE LIKE BUTTERFLIES by Kathleen Stocking (Thailand & Romania) When did I become more interested in reading about the plague than daily dealings with it? The internet mediates all information. The telephone is part of every conversation. I have not seen a friend face-to-face in so long I can’t remember what it’s like. I am sick and tired of my hot and germ-infested blue-green surgical mask, dangling from one ear when I’m not wearing it, and the pervasive smell of hand sanitizer. Please God, when I die, let me not smell like hand sanitizer. It’s early June in the year 2020 on the northern shores of Lake Michigan. The stores are starting to open again, but there will be no National Cherry Festival in Traverse . . .

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