Archive - 2020

1
“My First Christmas in Africa” by Mark Wentling (Togo)
2
“Peace Corps Christmas” by Jeanne D‘Haem (Somalia)
3
New Novel — STREETS OF GOLFITO by Jim LaBate (Costa Rica)
4
Suburban Chicago family says: “Peace Corps at fault for daughter’s ‘preventable’ death” (Comoros)
5
Craig Storti (Morocco) talks about Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador) in SIETAR newsletter
6
Peace Corps has created a “Virtual Service” pilot program
7
Larry Leamer (Nepal) — “Trump Not Welcomed” by Palm Beach Neighbors
8
The Volunteer Who Has lived the Third Goal — Ben Moyer (Colombia)
9
“Peace Corps job after THE Peace Corps job” — Yuta Masuda (Republic of Georgia)
10
A Writer Writes — Mike McQuillan (Korea)

“My First Christmas in Africa” by Mark Wentling (Togo)

  by Mark Wentling (Togo 1970-73) This holiday season has me reminiscing again about my first Christmas in Africa. As I stare blankly out the window I am transported back to 1970 and my humble room in the Adjakpo family compound in the village of Agu-Gadzapé, Togo. After three months of living there as a Peace Corps Volunteer and learning how to fit in where I would never really fit, the Christmas season was upon us and I began raising questions about what to do for Christmas. Everybody in our congested compound, which was always vibrantly alive with people doing their daily chores and what they had to do to survive the poverty that engulfed them so profoundly, liked the idea of doing something to celebrate Christmas. But, they all said they had no money to do anything. They did, however, tell me how nice it would be if I . . .

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“Peace Corps Christmas” by Jeanne D‘Haem (Somalia)

  by Jeanne D’Haem (Somalia 1968-70) On Christmas Eve my family gathered at my grandmother’s house on Jane Street in Detroit, Michigan. Her Christmas tree glittered with multicolored bubble lights. The uncles sat in the small living room, my aunts and grandmother tasted and talked in the kitchen. Cousins played with the wooden blocks and the Indian doll in the wooden toy box in the den. Sometimes there were new babies to hold. I was 22 the first time I could not attend, as I was a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Somalia, and  I wanted to at least send a Christmas gift to Grandma Carter. Newspaper cones of tea, alcohol for the tilly lamps, or the blue and green patterned cloth for sale in my village did not seem worth sending across two oceans. However, when my neighbor showed me what she gathered from distant trees, I realized I could . . .

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New Novel — STREETS OF GOLFITO by Jim LaBate (Costa Rica)

  Streets of Golfito: A Novel by Jim LaBate focuses on two individuals who meet in Golfito, Costa Rica in 1974. Jim (Diego) is a 22-year-old Peace Corps Volunteer from upstate New York, and he has been assigned to introduce sports other than soccer to the young people. By contrast, Lilli is a shy, beautiful, 17-year-old Costa Rican girl who wants to learn English and escape her small town, a banana port on the Pacific side near the Panamanian border. In alternating chapters, the first third of the book shows these two characters growing up in their respective countries. Then, after they meet, Lilli experiences a tragedy that will drastically change her life, and Jim does all he can to help her survive and thrive in her new circumstances. • Streets of Golfito: A Novel by Jim LaBate (Costa Rica 1973-75) Mohawk River Press 252 pages October 2020 $9.99 (Kindle); $19.95 . . .

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Suburban Chicago family says: “Peace Corps at fault for daughter’s ‘preventable’ death” (Comoros)

UIC grad Bernice Heiderman, 24, was living her dream as a volunteer in Africa. She died of malaria, which the agency’s inspector general said was easily treatable with proper care. By Stephanie Zimmermann Chicago Sun Times   Serving in the Peace Corps had been Bernice Heiderman’s dream since high school. When the north suburban resident finally got accepted during her senior year of college, she wept with joy at the news, her family says. But just 18 months into her tour, the 24-year-old volunteer from Inverness was dead in a spartan hotel room in the East African island nation of Comoros, the victim of what her family calls a “preventable tragedy.” They say Heiderman endured a painful death from malaria that went undiagnosed by a local Peace Corps physician as well by a medical officer in Washington, even though the disease is endemic in Comoros. On Friday, the family filed . . .

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Craig Storti (Morocco) talks about Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador) in SIETAR newsletter

  LIVING POOR and THE SADDEST PLEASURE: Two by Moritz Thomsen Reviewed for BookMarks/SIETAR  by Craig Storti (Morocco 1970-72) • There’s a movement afoot (led in part by Mark Walker (Guatemala 1971-73), see the interview below) to elevate Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador 1965-67) to the status of a Very Important Writer, someone whose books stay in print for generations and get assigned in college literature classes, someone whose name every well-read person should know. And we here at BookMarks SIETER [Society of Intercultural Education, Training and Research USA] are happy to do our part. We briefly mentioned Thomsen in one of our previous columns (where we reviewed two Peace Corps memoirs), and now the time has come to bring him front and center. Living Poor: An American’s Encounter with Ecuador (image is the cover second edition) is widely considered the quintessential Peace Corps memoir. With deepest apologies to all my Peace Corps . . .

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Peace Corps has created a “Virtual Service” pilot program

  Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers had no time to prepare their communities for their emergency departure. That loss has been described  many times by  the Evacuated RPCVs.  Now, Peace Corps has developed a pilot program to help 45 ERPCVs to reconnect with their communities. There are plans to expand the program. Here is the link: https://www.peacecorps.gov/news/library/evacuated-volunteers-participate-virtual-service-pilot-program/ Read the announcement Evacuated Volunteers Participate in Virtual Service Pilot Program December 18, 2020 WASHINGTON – Peace Corps Director Jody K. Olsen announced the completion of the first phase of the agency’s new Virtual Service Pilot program, which connected host country communities with returned volunteers who were evacuated due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nine posts participated in the first phase of an 11-week pilot. A total of 45 returned volunteers donated their time voluntarily serving as private citizens to conduct virtual engagements with our host country partners and, were selected based on a match between . . .

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Larry Leamer (Nepal) — “Trump Not Welcomed” by Palm Beach Neighbors

  CNN and Washington Post among others are reporting that Trump won’t be welcomed back in Palm Beach. Larry Leamer (Nepal 1965-67) author of many books, including Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump’s Presidential Palace was interviewed for today’s CNN report. Here is an edited version of what Trump and his current wife are facing when they pack their bags and grab a cab for the National Airport to fly ‘home’. • West Palm Beach-based attorney Reginald Stambaugh wrote to Palm Beach officials on Tuesday saying that Trump has already violated the agreement for visitor stays at Mar-a-Lago, noting the President’s plans to move to the club in January. The letter was first reported by The Washington Post. “It is the Town Council’s responsibility to right these wrongs and restore safety and security to the neighborhood by upholding its Use Agreement,” Stambaugh wrote. “In order to avoid . . .

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The Volunteer Who Has lived the Third Goal — Ben Moyer (Colombia)

A Profile in Citizenship By Jerry Norris (Colombia 1963-64) • In my time as a country director for a Cooperative Development Group in Colombia, one of the Volunteers in that group was posted to the country’s poorest and most under-resourced area: the Choco. It is on Colombia’s west coast, has a rainfall of some 400 inches a year, is largely jungle, thinly populated — mostly by indigenous native tribal groups and decedents of former African slaves, and it has few schools beyond the primary level. It is probable that in the Peace Corps long history of having thousands of Volunteers in Colombia, not more than 5 were ever posted in the Choco. Yet, into this unpromising site with two Volunteers, Ben Moyer (1965-67), a recent graduate of Yale University, was posted as their replacement. Those early Volunteers had teed-up the El Valle Agricultural Cooperative in its formative stages, such as securing its Legal Charter . . .

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“Peace Corps job after THE Peace Corps job” — Yuta Masuda (Republic of Georgia)

  Yuta Masuda (Georgia 2005-06) is a Senior Sustainable Development and Behavioral Scientist in Global Science at the Nature Conservancy. His work at the Conservancy investigates the impacts of conservation programs on human well-being, and he has a particular interest in gender, development, institutions, and human health. Yuta’s current work looks at integrating human well-being considerations into conservation programs to better understand their risks and benefits to people.      In addition, he is working on research on sustainable development, gender and conservation, technology-assisted data collection, and developing new indicators for human well-being.      Before joining the Conservancy in 2013, Yuta was a graduate student at the University of Washington where he did research on water infrastructure, time use, and gender in Ethiopia. Prior to that, he was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Georgia and also worked at RTI International as a Health Economics Research Assistant. . . .

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A Writer Writes — Mike McQuillan (Korea)

  A Narrow Definition of “Winner” Shouldn’t Hide McGovern’s Moral Clarity by Mike McQuillan (Korea 1978-79) An unmarked door opens to a vacant bar where I go seeking news, not booze. Chair-climbing to an aged black and white television, I find a CBS station for the South Dakota Senate update on November 4, 1980, election night in Mitchell, Senator George McGovern’s hometown. Six months before, Greyhound had taken me 1,000 miles from New York City to his last reelection campaign. I traded jeans and tee for a suit and tie in a Sioux City, Iowa diner’s restroom at dawn, then I felt awkward with McGovern’s casually dressed statewide staff in Sioux Falls. “You showed you were serious. That impressed us,” Political Director Judy Harrington would later say. Now, having canvassed house to house through four counties’ farm towns and ranch lands, recorded radio spots, phone-banked, planned events, sent thanks, and . . .

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