Archive - October 2020

1
Movie Review — A TOWERING TASK: THE STORY OF THE PEACE CORPS
2
“Nine Days in Wuhan, the Ground Zero of the Coronavirus Pandemic” by Peter Hessler (China)
3
Review — OWLS OF THE EASTERN ICE by Jonathan C. Slaught (Russia)
4
Malcolm X Meets PCVs in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
5
Peace Corps faces questions over another Volunteer death (Comoros)
6
Scott Brinton (Bulgaria) — “We could use a little old-school politics right now” (Bulgaria)

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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“Nine Days in Wuhan, the Ground Zero of the Coronavirus Pandemic” by Peter Hessler (China)

  By Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) New Yorker Magazine October 5, 2020 On my second visit to the site of the former Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, at the intersection of New China Road and Development Road, in central Wuhan, I wore a mask and a pair of sunglasses with a loose frame. It was late August, and three security guards in black uniforms sat at the entrance. They examined my passport, checked my temperature, and asked me to scan a QR code that connected to a registration system. The system, though, required a national I.D. number, and the guards seemed uncertain what to do with a foreigner. I handed over the sunglasses and explained that they needed to be repaired. The earliest documented clusters of coronavirus infections had occurred in the Huanan market. During my first visit, a week earlier, I had left after attracting the attention of a man . . .

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Review — OWLS OF THE EASTERN ICE by Jonathan C. Slaught (Russia)

  Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl Ny Jonathan Slaght (Russia 1999—02) Ferrar, Straus and Giroux August 2020 358 pages $28.00 (Hardcover) Reviewed by: John C. Rude (Ethiopia 1962-64) • This haunting memoir by a former Peace Corps volunteer is not about his Peace Corps experience. Rather, it is a book that explores the mind and heart of the wilderness that could have come from the pen of Jack London, had the author lived a century later and been a volunteer. This tale of a young American traveling in eastern Russia resembles “Call of the Wild” in its sensitivity to the powerful forces of nature, and its passion for human survival. Yet the author’s modern story chronicles the efforts to save a non-human species — the elusive Blakiston’s fish owl — from extinction. No one is better equipped to tell this . . .

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Malcolm X Meets PCVs in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)

  NOTE: Letter in the New York TIMES today — PCVs meet up with Malcolm X in Addis. I have no idea what PCV wrote this letter. Do you?   Letter in the New York Times October 3, 2020 Mon Ray KS Sept. 25 I am looking forward to the new book on Malcolm X. Not long before he was killed I saw him dining alone at a hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where I was in the Peace Corps. I introduced myself and we had a nice chat. He was surprised that I knew who he was and had read his writings in college. Occasionally he scanned the room; his notes from that period indicate he feared assassination and was paranoid about surveillance by the FBI and others. He accepted my invitation to have dinner with a group of Peace Corps Volunteers the next evening. He drank water but . . .

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Peace Corps faces questions over another Volunteer death (Comoros)

  A 24-year-old volunteer died of undiagnosed malaria on the island nation of Comoros. It was one of at least three deaths since 2009 that have been linked to mistakes by Peace Corps doctors.   By Sheryl Gay Stolberg New York Times Oct. 2, 2020, 5:01 a.m. ET   WASHINGTON — The Peace Corps, which suspended all operations for the first time in its history as the novel coronavirus raced around the globe, is facing renewed questions about the quality of its medical care — in particular, after the death of a 24-year-old volunteer from undiagnosed malaria — as it prepares to send volunteers back into the field. The volunteer, Bernice Heiderman, died alone in a hotel room on the island nation of Comoros off Africa’s east coast in January 2018, after sending desperate text messages to her family. Ms. Heiderman, of Inverness, Ill., told them her Peace Corps doctor was not taking seriously . . .

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Scott Brinton (Bulgaria) — “We could use a little old-school politics right now” (Bulgaria)

  October 1, 2020 by Scott Brinton (Bulgaria 1991–93) Long Island Herald Community Newspapers   My soul is aching. As the Covid-19 death toll surpassed 200,000 last week, we mourned Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of America’s greatest daughters — an incredible mind with a voracious appetite for learning, a fearless, indomitable advocate for women’s rights and, quite simply, a good and decent human being, with an old-school sense of politeness that enabled her to deliver a penetrating verbal jab without personal insult. Her death at age 87 came only two months after the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who was 80. Together they represented a particular brand of leadership: strength obtained not through bullying, but through the depth of their moral conviction, their sense of justice and their commitment to telling the truth under all circumstances. Each helped create a more equal society and a more . . .

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