Archive - October 2020

1
Paul Strasburg — “A life-changing lunch in Thailand”
2
Review — FROM THESE BROKEN STREETS by Roland Merullo (Micronesia)
3
SPLENDORS OF SYDNEY by Steve Kaffen (Russia)
4
YOU TRY PAA: A LOVE SONG IN TRANSLATION by Cythia Ann Caul (Ghana)
5
AROUND THE HORN AND BACK by Michael Banister (Ethiopia)
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Review — POETRY SKETCHES by Eldon Katter
7
“Teacher” by Kathleen Coskran (Ethiopia)
8
Inspector General of the Peace Corps’ Report on the death of PCV Bernice Heiderman
9
Bill Josephson’s letter to The New York Times
10
Movie Review — A TOWERING TASK: THE STORY OF THE PEACE CORPS

Paul Strasburg — “A life-changing lunch in Thailand”

How a young Peace Corps Volunteer’s chance encounter with a teacher in Thailand in 1966 touched over a million lives.   Thousand Currents By Bilen Mesfin Peace Corps’ Passport Blog   ONE HOT DAY in 1965, Paul Strasburg (Thailand 1964-66) was having lunch with his Thai counterparts near the village of Ban Nong Boa. A man in a civil service uniform approached the table. The man introduced himself as a teacher and told them his story. With no school, Boonthom Boonprasert was teaching his students outside. When it rained, school would be canceled. Cautiously and respectfully, Boonprasert asked Strasburg, then a young Peace Corps Volunteer, and his Thai colleagues: Could they help him build a school? Strasburg’s colleagues turned to him.“You are the American,” they said. “You guys have all the money.” In what would prove to be a pivotal moment, Strasburg agreed to find out what he could do. . . .

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Review — FROM THESE BROKEN STREETS by Roland Merullo (Micronesia)

  From These Broken Streets: A Novel Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979-80) Lake Union Publishing 376 pages November 3, 2020 $14.95 (Paperback) Reviewed by Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64) • A gifted and versatile author of 24 books, including 18 works of fiction, Roland Merullo has now produced a historical novel that’s a humdinger, as suspenseful, revealing, and involving as any World War II fiction I’ve ever read. In his acknowledgments, Merullo describes visiting Naples with his family and being surprised to learn of a successful four-day uprising against Nazi occupation in 1943 and then being moved to write about this remarkable but little-known popular revolt. He created this deeply researched and powerfully told tale in under a year, an amazing feat. In September of 1943, Mussolini has been strung up, leading Fascists are in hiding, an armistice has been declared, and the Italian army is melting away.  But the Germans are . . .

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SPLENDORS OF SYDNEY by Steve Kaffen (Russia)

Steve’s latest travel book on Sydney, Australia (Russia)   Australia is a country of superlatives, and Sydney is its principal gateway. “The Everything City” has a vibrant city center; the stunning Opera House overlooking bustling Sydney Harbour; world-class fine arts, contemporary, and maritime museums; the country’s largest zoo and its oldest botanical garden; an excellent bus, train, light rail, and ferry transit network; a multicultural population; superb beaches and the striking Blue Mountains; a lively and casual lifestyle; and always within reach, the sea. Author Steve Kaffen (Russia 1994-96) uses a hundred original photos accompanied by informative descriptions and observations to spotlight this great city of splendors. Included are Sydney’s famed New Year’s Eve celebration, showtime in the Opera House, and renowned Bondi Beach, plus a side trip to Melbourne. “Splendors of Sydney” is fun to read and sufficiently detailed to plan a visit to “The Everything City.” NOTE: Amazon.com . . .

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YOU TRY PAA: A LOVE SONG IN TRANSLATION by Cythia Ann Caul (Ghana)

New memoir explores white saviorism and U.S. American exceptionalism in the Peace Corps   Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Cynthia Ann Caul published You Try Paa: A Love Song in Translation on October 8, 2020. The book is a Peace Corps memoir, detailing Caul’s time in Ghana in a series of episodic poems. The poems traverse a number of themes, including race, gender, and religion in relation to the Peace Corps, community and international development, and the author’s role in both. Caul’s everyday experiences raise questions about how white saviorism and U.S. American exceptionalism can be perpetuated and maintained by the Peace Corps and similar organizations, as well as how they were by the author herself during her time as a Peace Corps volunteer. The work invites a thoughtful examination of the Peace Corps and international development more broadly, as well as self-reflection among those who participate in these institutions. Caul was . . .

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AROUND THE HORN AND BACK by Michael Banister (Ethiopia)

  What would you do with your dad’s broken time machine, a modified “spherical astrolabe?” You could fix it if you had 21st century tools, but you’re both in the 15th century. You could pretend it’s a normal nautical device and offer it to the 15th century explorer Vasco da Gama. But what if the Great Admiral discovers the true function of the device? How will you edit your dad’s memoir to describe the astrolabe as nothing more than an ancient marine navigation device? Will your dad’s wannabe time-traveling companions find the astrolabe in the future? — Around the Horn and Back • I’ve always been a voracious reader, and in junior high I published two science fiction stories in my school’s creative writing magazine. After a long hiatus, I began writing again in my junior year of college at UC Berkeley. I joined a group of acquaintances in 1969 . . .

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Review — POETRY SKETCHES by Eldon Katter

  Poetry Sketches: A Peace Corps Memoir Eldon Katter (Ethiopia 1962 – 1964) Peace Corps Writers June 2020 266 pages $10.48 (paperback) Reviewed by Kathleen Coskran (Ethiopia 1965-67) • In his evocative memoir artist Eldon Katter  made me want to learn to sketch with a pen as well as with words. Katter is able to do both and has been doing so beautifully for the last 50 years or so. He had the foresight to chronicle his time in Ethiopia and his subsequent travels with short poems and line drawings, both his own drawings, and those of his students. Individually they are interesting, and together, the drawings paired with the poems, they are wonderful. Katter was in the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to go to Ethiopia, and had the good fortune to be assigned to the Teacher Training School in Harar, Ethiopia, along with 19 other Volunteers, “doubling . . .

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“Teacher” by Kathleen Coskran (Ethiopia)

   Foreword   Chuck Coskran and I were Peace Corps Volunteers in Ethiopia from 1965 to 1967. We didn’t train together though — he was trained in Los Angeles; I, in Salt Lake City. We were both stationed in the capital, Addis Ababa, the first year, but didn’t meet each other until we were assigned to the same summer project, giving BCG vaccinations [Bacillus Calmette–Guérin vaccine primarily used against tuberculosis] in Nekemte. At that time I was lobbying hard with Peace Corps staff to be transferred out of the city to a village, and, to my great delight, was posted in Dilla, Ethiopia, for my second year. Chuck continued teaching history at Bede Mariam Lab School for talented 12th-graders who were brought to Addis Ababa from throughout Ethiopia. Following our completion of service in 1967 Chuck returned to the US to work in Peace Corps/Washington as the Ethiopia Desk Officer, which . . .

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Inspector General of the Peace Corps’ Report on the death of PCV Bernice Heiderman

  PCV Bernice Heiderman (Comoros 2018) died of undiagnosed malaria in 2018. Please read the article Peace Corps faces questions over another Volunteer death (Comoros) posted here in Peace Corps Worldwide. The New York Times published this article, October 2, 2020. The article quotes from the Inspector General of the Peace Corps’ report.  Her parents are preparing to sue the agency over the death of their daughter.  As the Peace Corps evidently plans to send a new contingent of Volunteers overseas, when countries are safe and are willing to welcome new PCVS, the problems identified by the OIG become even more important to resolve.   Click here to read the entire OIG report. Here is the Executive summary: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY “This report provides the results of our review of the circumstances surrounding the death of Peace Corps Volunteer Bernice Heiderman (PCV Heiderman) on January 9, 2018, in Comoros. PCV Heiderman died . . .

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Bill Josephson’s letter to The New York Times

  Letter to the Editor The New York Times October 5, 2020   This relates to Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s, “As Peace Corps Gears Up to Redeploy, Its Health Care is Questioned,” that appeared in our Sunday home delivery edition of The New York Times on October 4, and was printed digitally October 2, revised October 3.  The story is an excellent, if saddening report. Two people are completely absent from the article. The director of the Peace Corps in the Comoros and the Peace Corps Director herself, Josephine Olsen. During the formative years of the Peace Corps, 1961-66, volunteer deaths and serious injuries were the responsibility of the Peace Corps Director himself, Sargent Shriver, and myself as founding counsel. The only Peace Corps Washington staff person mentioned in the article is the regional director, a third or fourth ranking official. I happened to be the Senior Duty Officer on a weekend when . . .

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Movie Review — A TOWERING TASK: THE STORY OF THE PEACE CORPS

Directed by Alana DeJoseph (Mali 1992-94) Reviewed by Kathleen Coskran (Ethiopia 1965-67) • A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps took on a towering task: to tell the story of a 57-year-old government agency where virtually all the people involved were short-timers. Volunteers served two  years, with a few, very few, extending to a third year, and staff were limited to 5 years of service. What RPCVs like me remember is our window of service in the country we served, but the story is much bigger than a single slice of time. Director Alana DeJoseph obviously knows that the best way to portray history is through the stories of participants threaded together, and makes generous use of interviews and film clips beginning with those present at the creation and including volunteers, host country nationals, and staff of every era. It opens with Sarge Shriver earnestly explaining the purpose of the Peace Corps, then moves to John . . .

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