Archive - 2022

1
MY SADDEST PLEASURES: 50 Years on the Road by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala)
2
Talking with Glenn Ivers (Liberia)
3
Final Words about the First Days of the Peace Corps — Part 5
4
The Volunteer Who Had His Book Banned by the Chinese Government — Rob Schmitz (China)
5
7 Ways To A Successful Peace Corps — Part 4
6
Anybody Want Some PCVs? — Part 3
7
LBJ Saves The Peace Corps! Part 2
8
Review — ANGELS OF BASTOGNE by Glenn H. Ivers (Liberia)
9
Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo — How the Peace Corps was established, Part 1
10
Kansas City RPCVs host fundraiser for Ukraine, Friday, May 27
11
Melissa Cole — Artist, Writer, Traveler, RPCV (Dominican Republic)
12
FIVE FINGER FEAST by Tim Suchsland (Kazakhstan)
13
PCV Credits His Teacher for His Dedication to Service (Colombia)
14
THE WORLD AGAINST HER SKIN by John Thorndike (El Salvador)
15
KNOCK OFF THE HAT by Richard Stevenson aka Richard Lipez (Ethiopia)

MY SADDEST PLEASURES: 50 Years on the Road by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala)

  In his new book, Mark Walker reflects on his fifty years of travel miscalculations and disasters and how and why he travels changed over the years, as has who he traveled with. As a young Peace Corps Volunteer with no overseas travel experience, the world was his oyster, and he figured he could go anywhere if he set his mind to it—with little or no money. Then he married a Guatemalan lady and had to think more about “our” needs; then, three children meant additional requirements and responsibilities. And later, as a professional fundraiser, he would set up donor visits to program areas where the organizations he represented needed funds, which meant considering the needs of up to fifteen individuals of all ages, including children and some donors in their 70s and 80s. He’s become a savvier trekker, although he was still prone to the occasional snafu. This book . . .

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Talking with Glenn Ivers (Liberia)

An interview with Glenn H. Ivers (Liberia 1974-76), author of ANGELS OF BASTOGNE   Glenn, what is Angels of Bastogne about? This is a story from World War II. The main characters are Jack Prior, a U.S. Army doctor, and two heroic Belgian nurses who volunteered to serve in his aid station in Bastogne, Belgium in December 1944, during a German offensive, the “Battle of the Bulge.” The aid station was short-staffed, under-equipped, and unsuitable for the tidal wave of wounded they faced, yet with grit and great compassion they persevered. What is the genre of the book? It has been described as historical fiction by a prominent Upstate New York historian, who generally “avoids books of this type,” but who nonetheless claimed he could not put the book down once he started reading it. I think of it as narrative nonfiction because it is a true story with an . . .

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Final Words about the First Days of the Peace Corps — Part 5

  What continues to surprise me is how few people–since that morning in the Mayflower Hotel–have read “A Towering Task” the position paper written by Warren Wiggins and Bill Josephson which was the first draft of defining the Peace Corps; it was the bible for the future Peace Corps. When I asked Warren Wiggins about this, he commented, saying, “It’s marvelous that nobody has read it because, you see, in most ways I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. In some ways I was dead on, but I did recommend that we ship air-conditioned trailers to the Philippines to house the Volunteers. It’s a far cry from the theology of the Peace Corps that evolved, but then, those were the early days.” What is clear now from the safety of time and distance is that being anti-establishment, amateurish, anti-professional was the reason for the success of the . . .

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The Volunteer Who Had His Book Banned by the Chinese Government — Rob Schmitz (China)

The following profile is drawn largely from a Peace Corps WorldWide article.   by Jeremiah Norris (Colombia 1963-65) • Rob Schmitz, lived and worked in China from 1996 to 1998 as a Peace Corps Volunteer, first as a teacher, and later as a free-lance print and video journalist. He joins other well-published Volunteers who served in China, e.g., Peter Hessler and Michael Meyer, as a living symbos as to why our government needed to sustain Peace Corps’ presence in China as it emerged into a global economic presence from a distant reality. Their combine out-put of award-winning books, literary awards, newspaper articles, radio and TV presentations — all had their creative starting points rooted in their China Peace Corps experiences. In a contemporaneous manner, this provided Americans with a window — and most especially, a much-needed view into rural China. In a significant case, one of Rob’s books was in . . .

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7 Ways To A Successful Peace Corps — Part 4

  What strikes anyone reading about the creating of the Peace Corps was 1) how creatively it was organized; and 2) how fast it was put into operation. The reason was that the ‘founding fathers’ (and they were only fathers) took chances. Wofford remarks in Of Kennedys & Kings how a management consultant said to him one evening, “You guys had a good day today. You broke fourteen laws.” Then the consultant promised to straighten out the paper work and urged then all on, saying, “Keep it up, we’re making progress.” Wiggins in his interview with me listed 7 reasons why the Peace Corps was so successful in those early days of the Kennedy administration. Bill Josephson and Warren Wiggins kept the idea of a “Peace Corps” simple. At first, the PCVs were only to teach English. As Wiggins told me, “Our cardinal rule in crafting ‘A Towering Task’ was . . .

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Anybody Want Some PCVs? — Part 3

  Warren Wiggins would tell me in an interview I did with him in January 1997 (published in RPCV Writers & Readers) that the greatest weakness of the original idea of the Peace Corps was that it didn’t have a constituency beyond “the youth of America.” The Peace Corps, Warren said, “was not an outgrowth of development experience. It didn’t have a constituency in the Congress, the press, or other leadership institutions in the U.S. nor did it have a constituency abroad.” This proved to be an immediate and immense problem. Kennedy had created a Peace Corps and no one wanted it! There were 25,000 potential PCVs waiting to go do something for America, but no Third World country asked for them. Getting requests for PCVs was a major problem. “Shriver almost terminated me in those early months,” Warren recalled in his interview. “He would never admit that, and I . . .

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LBJ Saves The Peace Corps! Part 2

  The signs that the special role for the Peace Corps in foreign aid was in trouble were all over Washington. Wofford ran into Ralph Dungan in the White House mess (Wofford was then a Special Assistant to the President on Civil Rights) and Dungan told him the Peace Corps would be a subdivision of the new AID. “Not if Sarge has anything to say about it,” Wofford tossed off, half joking, but also firmly believing Shriver walked on water. The truth was that all these “new guys” Shriver brought in to work for the Peace Corps believed Sarge could get anything he wanted from the White House. But Shriver was scheduled to leave D.C. and the U.S. Who would carry the fight that was developing in D.C.? Before leaving for his ’round the world trip to secure placements for PCVs, Shriver lobbied Sorensen, Dungan, and Labouisse, trying to persuade . . .

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Review — ANGELS OF BASTOGNE by Glenn H. Ivers (Liberia)

  Angels of Bastogne: A Remembrance of World War II by Glenn H. Ivers (Liberia 1974-1976) Peace Corps Writers February 2022 web site: angelsofbastogne.com 315 pages $19.95 (paperback), $9.95 (Kindle) Reviewed by Philip Fretz (Sierra Leone 1967–69) • Angels of Bastogne is an exceptionally comprehensive telling of the conditions faced by a team of medical personnel in WWII.  Although it deals with one battlefront over the course of only several days, it is an emotionally riveting account. As Bastogne, Belgium is surrounded and under siege, desperate conditions in a makeshift aid station overcrowded with wounded bring out a level of dedication and compassion inconceivable in any other situation. The American Army doctor and the Belgian nurses who are the chief protagonists of the story turn to each other for emotional support in the face of unrelenting bloodshed and trauma. Together, they overcome exhaustion and despair to find the courage to face . . .

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Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo — How the Peace Corps was established, Part 1

  REMEMBERING THE CREATION OF THE PEACE CORPS ON THIS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND   This is an early blog I posted on  the website Marian Beil set up some thirty years ago. It focuses on the creation of the agency. JC  • Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo Peace Corps! At the time of Shriver’s February 22, 1961 memorandum to President Kennedy — stating that the Peace Corps should be established as a semi-autonomous agency — there was a lot of professional resistance to the whole idea of sending young Americans overseas to do good. Career diplomats like Elliot O. Briggs described the Peace Corps’ team cry as “Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo. Let’s go out and wreak some good on the natives,” as Wofford reports in his book, Of Kennedys & Kings [1992]. Throughout the State Department diplomats were indifferent to hostile to the whole idea of a Peace Corps. But not Dean Rusk, Kennedy’s new Secretary . . .

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Kansas City RPCVs host fundraiser for Ukraine, Friday, May 27

  KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two Kansas City Peace Corps volunteers, Amber King who served in Ukraine, are hosting a fundraiser for the country Friday, May 27. Money raised at the event Friday night in Kansas City, Missouri, will benefit Ukrainians on the front lines of Russia’s invasion. “It’s terrifying because this is one of the biggest, powerful countries in the world attacking a peaceful country that’s just minding its own business with families just living and working,” Paige Barrows said. Barrows is organizing the event called “Our Village: A Kansas City Benefit for Ukraine” alongside Amber King. The two women spent years in Ukraine serving with the Peace Corps. In the days after the invasion, Barrows began raising money to send to her contacts in the country. Her efforts snowballed as Kansas Citians caught wind. Soon, she had raised more than $15,000 and sent more than 100 pounds of . . .

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Melissa Cole — Artist, Writer, Traveler, RPCV (Dominican Republic)

Cole was born in Oregon and raised in London, Hong Kong, and India. She graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Zoology. She has spent time working in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic (1990-92) in environmental education, as a dive guide in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, and as a naturalist guide in Baja, Mexico. She has written over 30 children’s natural history books, and travels with her husband Brandon, who is a wildlife photographer specializing in marine life. It is from these amazing encounters that she derives much of her inspiration for her vividly colored, heavily textured and patterned paintings and mosaic sculptures. Drawing from her background in science, Cole creates vibrant examinations and celebrations of nature with glittering accents of glass and other mixed media. Melissa writes . . . Over the last fifteen years I’ve been delighted to discover that with the most . . .

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FIVE FINGER FEAST by Tim Suchsland (Kazakhstan)

  From a “mad tea party” infused with vodka and the sheep-head delicacy called beshbarmak (“five fingers”), to places less traveled like the dying Aral Sea, A Five Finger Feast is a story about a young American in a foreign land. A Five Finger Feast is a collection of “lessons” and coming-of-age stories by RPCV Tim Suchsland set to the backdrop of Kazakhstan. It’s about the ups and the downs, the excitement and the thrill of living abroad as a young person. A Five Finger Feast is a story about the Peace Corps, an institution at the heart and soul of what it means to be American. It is a memoir about growing up and better understanding what is “home” while living far away. Through Suchsland’s story, he unfolds a place of contrast and beauty. He discusses the tragic, yet hopeful history of Kazakhstan and its people, helping to give . . .

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PCV Credits His Teacher for His Dedication to Service (Colombia)

Peace Corps Volunteer credits Wilmette teachers for his dedication to service work     After a two-year wait, Wilmette resident Robert “Bobby” Richards is one of the first Peace Corps volunteers to return to overseas service since the agency suspended global operations in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Richards is serving in Colombia in the education sector of the Peace Corps, an international service network from the US government that pairs volunteers with communities seeking support in education, health, environment, agriculture, economic development and youth development. Richards will work in the school system alongside teachers and educators, focusing on curriculum and lesson-planning techniques and strategies. He was expecting to start with the Peace Corps in September 2020, but the pandemic upended those plans before he could even leave the country. “It’s something I’ve been looking forward to since 2019,” Richards said in a phone call from . . .

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THE WORLD AGAINST HER SKIN by John Thorndike (El Salvador)

  Virginia and Joe Thorndike have been married for twenty-two years, and now she’s in love with a surgeon thirteen years her junior. She leaves her husband and flies to Miami to start living with Rich Villamano, but there he tells her he has changed his mind and they must go their own ways. In an instant their four-year affair is over. She takes off in his car, heading north with no luggage, no hope or destination. She buys a bottle of gin and drinks it straight. Afraid that she’ll kill herself or someone else on the road, she abandons the car, flies to New York and takes an airport hotel room. She has no home and nowhere to go. In this biographical novel, much is remembered and much imagined. Flashbacks from Virginia’s youth expose the sexual abuse by her father, an affair with her high school diving coach, and her marriage . . .

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KNOCK OFF THE HAT by Richard Stevenson aka Richard Lipez (Ethiopia)

  NPR Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan selects Dick Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64) writing as Richard Stevenson’s last novel—Knock Off the Hat: A Clifford Waterman Gay Philly Mystery The circumstances of this last recommendation are unusual. Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64) who wrote under the penname Richard Stevenson, was a groundbreaking author of gay detective novels featuring private eye Donald Strachey. Decades ago, I reviewed one of those Strachey books, and Dick and I became fast friends. He died in March, but one of the things he left behind was the first novel in what would have been a new series about a gay private eye in 1940s Philadelphia. Knock Off The Hat may be the best novel Dick ever wrote. Its main character, Clifford Waterman, is a former police detective dishonorably discharged from the Army during World War II for an “indecent act.” Cliff gets drawn into helping a man who’s nabbed in . . .

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