Archive - September 2021

1
Three years as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer
2
RPCV Ambassador Foote Resigns (Bolivia)
3
The world has changed. Should the Peace Corps?
4
An Urgent Appeal from RPCV Congressman Garamendi on Peace Corps Act
5
Driving Jesus to Little Rock by Roland Merullo (Micronesia)
6
2021 Special Book Award Winner — OWLS OF THE EASTERN ICE: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl by Jonathan Slaght (Russia)
7
Another review — AFGHANISTAN AT A TIME OF PEACE by Robin Varnum
8
Grateful for vision, leadership that led to creation of Peace Corps
9
Tennis Clubbed, Snubbed and Rubbity-Dub Dubbed by Eric Madeen (Gabon)
10
Review of LOVE IN ANY LANGUAGE by Evelyn LaTorre

Three years as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer

Three years as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer By Doug West (Jamaica 1968-71) September 22, 2021 I write this inspired by a New York Times op-ed earlier this year, “Should Young Americans be Required to Give a Year of Service?” I also note that this week marks the 60th anniversary of enactment of the legislation which created the Peace Corps. In 1968, my former wife and I were among 80 volunteers selected for two-year Peace Corps assignments in Jamaica, the fifth Peace Corps group to be sent to Jamaica following President Kennedy’s founding of the Peace Corps in 1961. Like many, I was inspired by JFK’s grand vision, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” (Dismissed by Richard Nixon as a refuge for draft dodgers, the Peace Corps created a deferment, but not an alternative to military service. When I returned in . . .

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RPCV Ambassador Foote Resigns (Bolivia)

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Clare Shea (Ethiopia 1965-67) U.S. Special Envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote (Bolivia 1992-94) has handed his resignation to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, saying he “will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti” from the U.S. border. Foote, a career diplomat, said the U.S. policy approach to the country is deeply flawed, and that Haitians shouldn’t be sent back to “a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life.” In his resignation letter, Foote criticized the Biden Administration, writing “I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger . . .

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The world has changed. Should the Peace Corps?

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Michael Varga (Chad 1977-79) The world has changed. Should the Peace Corps? Youth participate in a camp organized by the Peace Corps in Ghana in 2015 designed to empower girls and teach boys how to respect others. September 22, 2021 By Ryan Lenora Brown Staff writer Nick Roll Correspondent The Peace Corps took Patricia Smith, like nearly a quarter-million volunteers before her, far from home. Every morning, she rose early to walk the mile to her job, dodging cars on roads without sidewalks to make it to the public health site where she volunteered. The sun came up earlier in her host community than it did at home in Oregon, which required some adjustments. And sometimes, the culture and rhythms of life in her new environment felt very different from home. But none of that bothered Ms. Smith. In fact, it’s why she joined the Peace Corps . . .

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An Urgent Appeal from RPCV Congressman Garamendi on Peace Corps Act

At the close of this historic day marking the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Peace Corps Act into law, California Representative and Ethiopia RPCV John Garamendi issued an urgent appeal to the Peace Corps community.  Please review his two requests, take action, and share with others! 1)  IMMEDIATE PHONE ACTION NEEDED: On Thursday, the House of Representatives will continue its work on the National Defense Authorization Act. A passionate opponent of nuclear weapon proliferation, Garamendi has an amendment (House Floor Amendment 38) to slow the development of the Ground Base Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). According to Garamendi, this program is an unnecessary and costly mistake at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer, and further precipitates the modern nuclear arms race between the United States, Russia, and China. “I believe our current nuclear arsenal exceeds our deterrence requirement, and this is only going to worsen if we proceed with the planned modernization programs. . . .

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Driving Jesus to Little Rock by Roland Merullo (Micronesia)

Roland Merullo’s Driving Jesus to Little Rock, fits neatly on the shelf with his other beloved, quirky-spiritual books: Golfing with God, American Savior, Vatican Waltz, The Delight of Being Ordinary, and the Buddha trilogy (Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner)-a list that has sold over half a million copies and been widely translated. This time, the narrator, Eddie Valpolicella, is on his way from Massachusetts to Arkansas to give a talk on “his” novel, Breakfast with Buddha, when, not far from home, he picks up a mysterious hitchhiker. Plainly dressed, insisting that he’s a fan of the author, the hitchhiker claims to be Jesus, the Jesus, and accompanies Eddie on a five-day road trip that challenges him in an amusing variety of ways. Every night on the way south, Eddie calls home to speak with his wife, and Anna Maria’s fiery insistence on choosing trust over suspicion gradually pushes him out of his original cynicism. Jesus plays tricks appearing and . . .

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2021 Special Book Award Winner — OWLS OF THE EASTERN ICE: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl by Jonathan Slaght (Russia)

  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. • Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl by Jonathan Slaght (Russia 1999—02) Ferrar, Straus and Giroux August 2020 358 pages $28.00 (Hardcover); $11.89 (paperback); $14.99 (Kindle); $23.29 (audio CD); $13.08 (audiobook) Reviewed by: John C. Rude (Ethiopia . . .

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Another review — AFGHANISTAN AT A TIME OF PEACE by Robin Varnum

  Afghanistan at a Time of Peace by Robin Varnum (Afghanistan 1971–73) Peace Corps Writers June, 2021 201 pages $25.00 (paperback), $10.00 (Kindle) Reviewed by John Chromy (India 1963–65) • Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Robin Varnum (Afghanistan 1970-72) has brought to us a wonderful reminder of how Peace Corps operated in faraway lands 50 years ago.The Volunteers remembered President Kenndy’s “ringing call to service” and they were ready to go to the ends of the earth to serve, to learn and to teach. Ms. Varnum’s narrative begins with the three day PRIST (pre-Invitational Staging) program in Chicago in which the potential volunteers were briefed, provided with vast amounts of information on Peace Corps and Afghanistan, and given the choice to go to Afghanistan or not. If they said yes, two months later they were on their way to Kabul and three months of in-country training. The description of sights, emotions, excitement and . . .

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Grateful for vision, leadership that led to creation of Peace Corps

Peace Corps volunteers examine a map of Guatemala in 2016. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal) By Frank Price (Côte d’Ivoire 1969-71) September 18, 2021 at 1:37 p.m. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 did not kill the dream he inspired within me. A senior in high school, I knew that I would join the Peace Corps and go to a Francophone Africa nation. On Wednesday, we will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps Act. Although it was created in 1961, the Peace Corps was inspired a year earlier by what Kennedy — then a candidate on the campaign trail — said in a 2 a.m. speech in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was not there that early morning, but his words still stick with me. Addressing a large crowd from the steps of the University of Michigan Union, he posed an improvised historic question to . . .

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Tennis Clubbed, Snubbed and Rubbity-Dub Dubbed by Eric Madeen (Gabon)

A NOVEL SET IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN … In historically rich Yokohama, the wicked shiver of the tennis snub pits David Adams against K: a puffed-up, xenophobic tyrant who rules over the courts of a club that has as its anthem, ironically, the promotion of international friendship. Off the courts, David labors on a “McContract” at a Japanese university while married to the proverbial nail that sticks up, a fiery medical doctor who rides a 1200cc rice-rocket Yamaha. A heady tale of comparative culture and revenge, Tennis Clubbed goes down like a cocktail of pure fire … served up in the hall of the mountain king. Tennis Clubbed, Snubbed and Rubbity-Dub Dubbed (Novel) by Eric Madeen (Gabon 1981-83) Absolute Author Publishing House 171 pages September 2021 $2.99 (Kindle); $9.99 (Paperback)    

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Review of LOVE IN ANY LANGUAGE by Evelyn LaTorre

  Love in Any Language: A Memoir of a Cross-Cultural Marriage by Evelyn Kohl LaTorre (Peru 1964-66) She Writes Press 320 pages September 2021 $9.95 (Kindle); $16.95 (Paperback)   Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971-73) • I have a soft spot for books written by tough, honest women who bring an inner sense of who they are and what’s different and unusual around them. I also appreciate simply told memoirs from fellow travelers, especially Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. As I told the author, her timing couldn’t be better (the book drops later this month), since my Guatemalan wife and I are closing in on our 50th anniversary, making this an opportune time for me to appreciate, reflect and celebrate our matrimonial journey and what makes for a successful blended marriage. I’ve already reviewed the author’s most recent book, Between Inca Wall, and according to the president of the National . . .

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