Archive - February 2024

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The Volunteer who became a noted playwright | Rajiv Joseph (Senegal)
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Peace Corps Week features film screening Feb. 29 at University of Nebraska
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Review | A BOUQUET OF DAYS by Fran Palmeri (Benin)
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Jane Albritton (India) answers NY TIMES writer
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“Photos from Afghanistan” from Toby Marion
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Katie Rotramel (Nicaragua) joins RD team of Grand Challenges Program / U of Md
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Review | THE LAST BIRD OF PARADISE by Clifford Garstang (Korea)
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Tree Bernstein (Cambodia) has Peace Corps book: MISTRANSLATIONS
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“Hello Alice!” with Elizabeth Gore (Bolivia)
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Review | FINDING MISS FONG by James A. Wolter (Malaya)
11
American Law Society recognizes Alec Allen Ross (Mali)
12
“Fire in the Huts!!!” by John Chromy (India)
13
A Short Story | “The Paperboy” by Chris Honore’ (Colombia) 
14
DYLAN by David J. Mather (Chile) — A story of relationships
15
Review | THE MYSTICAL LAND OF MYRRH by MaryAnn Shank (Somalia)

The Volunteer who became a noted playwright | Rajiv Joseph (Senegal)

  ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Jeremiah Norris Colombia 1963-65. Rajiv Joseph served for three formative years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal, 1996-98. About his time there, he wrote: “Being in Senegal, more than anything else in my life, made me into a writer.” His time there helped him develop the discipline of daily writing and inspired “his fascination with the power of language.” After Peace Corps, Rajiv earned a Master in Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2004. His first play, Huck & Holden, debuted at the Cherry Lane Theater in January 2006. The play also had a West Coast run in the Black Dahlia Theater in Los Angeles the following year. Rajiv stated that the story about an Indian college student arriving in the United States is based on his father’s experience coming to the U. S. Rajiv’s mix-race background has given . . .

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Peace Corps Week features film screening Feb. 29 at University of Nebraska

    A screening of the documentary, “A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps,” will be presented at 5 p.m. Feb. 29 in the Nebraska Union’s Swanson Auditorium at the University of Nebraska. In the film, host country nationals, Peace Corps Volunteers and staff, and scholars and journalists take a closer look at peace building, economic development, and political independence through the Peace Corps’ more than six decades of trials and transformations. “A Towering Task” asks what role should the Peace Corps play in the 21st century? Sponsored by the Global Experiences Office, School of Global Integrative Studies, and Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, the screening is free and open to the public. Popcorn and soda will be served. Learn more on the events calendar and RSVP by Feb. 28. This event takes place during Peace Corps Week (Feb. 25 to March 2), which commemorates March 1, 1961, . . .

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Review | A BOUQUET OF DAYS by Fran Palmeri (Benin)

  A Bouquet of Days: Rambles through the Natural Beauties of Florida by Fran Palmeri (Benin 1967–68) Blurb 200 pages January 2024 $32.87 (paperback) Reviewed by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96),  • • • Fran Palmeri and her husband Bob, who was with the USIA, were assigned to  Dahomey (now Benin) in 1967/68, and helped set up the Peace Corps program there.  She is a member of the RPCV Gulf Coast Florida group.  An award-winning writer/photographer, Fran has been exploring natural Florida for fifty years. A Bouquet of Days is divided into four chapters, one for each season.  Fran guides us through the manifestations of Florida’s seasonal changes as they affect the weather, plants, animals, insects, birds, trees and whatever else lives on this tiny tongue of the planet.  She also tells you through her expressive words and color-splashed photographs how the changes affect her.  “Sometimes when winter overstays its welcome a . . .

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Jane Albritton (India) answers NY TIMES writer

On February 20, 2024 journalist and political commentator, Nicholas Donabet, published in the New York Times a column where he called on young people to Study Spanish in Bolivia. Or teach English in South Korea. Or volunteer in Nepal. Never once did he mention THE PEACE CORPS! What does he think we have been doing since 1961? Well, today Jane Albritton (India 1967-69) in an “Op-Ed” letter,  answers the New York Times commentator with Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone With Travel Feb. 25, 2024, 11:00 a.m. ET To the Editor: Re “The Isolationism Antidote,” by Nicholas Kristof (column, Feb. 11): I was surprised that in his column addressing the need for Americans to spend time abroad Mr. Kristof failed to mention the fact that the Peace Corps has been doing exactly that since 1961. In 2011, the Peace Corps celebrated its 50th anniversary, and for the occasion three other . . .

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“Photos from Afghanistan” from Toby Marion

In-country photos — At the end of 1971 at age 22, Toby Marion went to Afghanistan to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer, where he worked as a high school science teacher trainer in Kapisa Province for two school years, followed by teaching at the faculty of engineering of Kabul University for three semesters. His recently published book published by Peace Corps Writers  “Afghanistan: Crossroads and Kingdoms: My 1970s Peace Corps Service and Recent Afghan History,” is available on Amazon. Toby gives  talks about his work in the ’70s and the difficult past fifty years of history in Afghanistan. In Kabul, he lived through the 1973 coup d’etat against Afghan King Zaher, the Soviet invasion in 1979, the mujaheddin resistance of the 1980’s which defeated the Soviets, the 1990’s civil war, the American and NATO nation building from 2001 after 911, and the ultimate victory of the Taliban in 2021. . . .

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Katie Rotramel (Nicaragua) joins RD team of Grand Challenges Program / U of Md

  In the news   Katie Rotramel (Nicaragua 2002-04) joined the Research Development team in early 2024 as the Project Manager of the Grand Challenges Program at the University of Maryland. Prior to coming to UMD, Katie served as the Director of Institutional Giving for the Humane Rescue Alliance (DC) and St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center (NJ), where she had ample opportunity to thoroughly understand grant proposals and reporting processes for a large variety of funders. Her project management skills were essential in managing a DC catering business for five years, as well as a decade working in the international development field. She kicked off that career through Peace Corps service in Nicaragua and then spent another eight years as a Program Officer for several international nonprofit organizations and the Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA). A Philadelphia native, Katie received her B.A. in Environmental Policy and Spanish from Albright College and has . . .

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Review | THE LAST BIRD OF PARADISE by Clifford Garstang (Korea)

  The Last Bird of Paradise by Clifford Garstang (Korea 1976-77) Black Rose Writing 340 pages February 2024 $6.99 (Kindle) $23.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Bill Preston (Thailand 1977-80)  • • •  Reading the Author’s Note following this remarkable novel, I was struck by several ways Clifford Garstang’s experience has resembled mine. He first visited Singapore, the setting of the novel, in 1978, “as a young backpacker, touring Asia after spending two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Korea.” I also traveled to Singapore in 1978–from Thailand, between Peace Corps teaching assignments. I too was fascinated by the emerging city-state, an oasis of calm and order compared to bustling, chaotic Bangkok or Jakarta. Six years later, he returned to Singapore, first as an associate and later as a partner of a U.S. law firm. Some years prior to Peace Corps, while working with Legal Aid attorneys as a VISTA volunteer, I . . .

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Tree Bernstein (Cambodia) has Peace Corps book: MISTRANSLATIONS

  Tree Bernstein served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cambodia (2015-17). She taught writing and literature at the Brooks Photography Institute for over a decade. Before serving in the Peace Corps she was the area coordinator for California Poets in the Schools and poetry coach for Poetry Out Loud. Bernstein holds a MFA in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University. Her book of short stories, The Last Tourist in Bali, was published by Baksun Books in 2020. Her memoir Mistranslations is about her journey as a 65-year-old Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English and Art in a rural Cambodian village for two years. Her work has also been anthologized in Thus Spake the Corpse—An Exquisite Corpse Reader, Black Sparrow Press; Low Down & Coming On! Poems About Pigs, Red Dragonfly Press; If Bees Are Few—a Hive of Bee Poems, University of Minnesota Press; Askew Poetry Journal, and other journals and . . .

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“Hello Alice!” with Elizabeth Gore (Bolivia)

In the news — ‘Hello Alice,’ A Company That Offers Funding To Black Businesses, Is Moving To Get A Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Dismissed) Jasmine Crowley UPDATED DECEMBER 14, 2023   A company long-known for advocating for the advancement of women and minority-owned businesses is fighting to get a historic racial discrimination lawsuit against them dismissed. Hello Alice, co-founded by former Peace Corps Volunteer Elizabeth Gore (Bolivia 2003-05) and Carolyn Rodz, provided $25,000 grants t0 Black-owned small businesses earlier this year, and is now being accused of infringing on non-Black business owners’ civil rights. The move comes as a wider campaign unfolds that was enacted by a group of conservatives instrumental in the affirmative action ban, per a report by Press Democrat. The outlet writes that the lawsuit was filed in August in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division by America First Legal, Mitchell Law PLLC and Ashbrook Byrne Kresge . . .

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Review | FINDING MISS FONG by James A. Wolter (Malaya)

  Finding Miss Fong by James A. Wolter (Malaya 1961-63) Atmosphere Press 382 pages November 2023 (pre-order available) $ 18.99 (paperback); $27.99 (hardcover); $8.99 (Kindle)   Reviewed by Sue Hoyt Aiken (Ethiopia 1962-64) • • •  Based on the author’s own life, this novel will provide the reader with what a 22-year-old college graduate was thinking, doing and imagining at the turn of the decade just as President John F. Kennedy issued the first call for Peace Corps Volunteers. Those of us of that generation may recall the excitement of a young charismatic President as well as First Lady, Jackie! At that moment in time there were no major world-wide military clashes involving the United States. Some of the boys might have enrolled in ROTC while students,  and were off to military training that unfortunately would put some on the road to Vietnam. But mostly it was a bright future. Jim Wolter, . . .

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American Law Society recognizes Alec Allen Ross (Mali)

In the news —   Feb 18, 2024 The American Law Society proudly announces the addition of Alec Allen Ross, Founder and Trademark Attorney at The Trademark Place, to its prestigious ranks of America’s Top Lawyers. Handpicked by the esteemed American Law Society Board, Ross’s selection underscores his outstanding professional track record, legal expertise, and commitment to the highest ethical standards expected of esteemed lawyers.   With six years of experience, Alec Allen Ross has made a significant impact in the field of Intellectual Property and Trademarks. His passion for intellectual property law and dedication to client service have garnered him recognition, making him a prominent figure in the legal community. Ross’s legal career began with years of service as a trademark attorney and managing attorney at the largest trademark law firm in the United States. Motivated to enhance the client experience, he founded The Trademark Place, emphasizing simplified processes . . .

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“Fire in the Huts!!!” by John Chromy (India)

by John Chromy (India 1963–65)   • • •  Late one afternoon in November of 1964 my Peace Corps housemate, Gordon Louden and I were working at our desks in the Gramsevak Training Center, when we smelled smoke and began to hear people shouting and running toward some informal huts on the outer edge of our Training Center buildings. In India there are numerous wandering, almost gypsy-like, tribes of working people who move to locations where there is seasonal or temporary work to be had. One of those tribes, the Lombardi people had come to Gangawati to work on the construction of feeder lines of the Tungabhadra Irrigation Project. They had established a semi-formal camp of about 50 huts on government-owned land about 40 yards north of our Center. These huts were constructed of a wooden framing, walls made of sticks and shrubbery and roofs covered with straw, coconut leaves and other . . .

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A Short Story | “The Paperboy” by Chris Honore’ (Colombia) 

By Chris Honoré (Colombia 1967-69) • • •  My elementary school was called Allendale, a name I never gave much thought to. It was a massive, pale green, two-story Victorian building on a quiet neighborhood street. I wanted to be a paperboy Two years before I headed off to Jr. High School, I suggested to my folks that being a paperboy would build character, or wobbly words to that effect, and solve my financial situation — I was always short of pocket change for, say, a Superman comic or baseball cards wrapped in waxy paper along with a square of pink bubble gum. To sweeten my argument, I pointed out that the “newspaper shack,” where a cohort of boys gathered each afternoon, waiting for the hot off the presses bundles of newspapers to arrive, was less than a block away from Allendale. “Fine,” my parents said, with some reluctance. “Let’s see how . . .

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DYLAN by David J. Mather (Chile) — A story of relationships

      Dylan David J Mather (Chile 1968 – 70) Peace Corps Writers, 2024 306 pages $14.95 (paperback), $7.99 (Kindle)   • • •  Donald MacGregor is a writer who values his freedom above all else. He wants no responsibilities.  He travels to the quiet Honduran Bay Islands to finish writing a blockbuster novel.  On New Year’s Eve, however, he makes a big mistake with his beautiful neighbor and a year later a black baby boy is delivered to his doorstep.  The baby’s eyes are as blue as Donald’s.  Both commercial fiction and family saga as well as multicultural, Dylan will appeal to anyone who has raised or tried to raise a child. It is a novel of 91,000 words about a white man raising his black son alone on an island off Honduras. Several islanders become surrogate family and rally around Donald and his son Dylan.  However, Donald’s father, James . . .

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Review | THE MYSTICAL LAND OF MYRRH by MaryAnn Shank (Somalia)

  The Mystical Land of Myrrh (short stories) MaryAnn Shank (Somalia 1967–69) Dippity Press February 2019 222 pages $13.99 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle), $13.97 (audiobook) Reviewed by Eugénie de Rosier (Philippines 2006-08) • • •   MaryAnn Shank has brought us a fictionalized tale of her time in Somalia, working as a teacher of middle-school children in the rural bush country of Baidoa. The author was 50 years distant from her tour when she published The Mystical Land of Myrrh, and thanked those who refreshed her memory of life there. The tantalizing use of the word myrrh drew me in, and how appropriate, as myrrh originates from the commiphora tree of Somalia. The author unspooled her stories and vignettes with a goddess, and circled to the gripping end, when Moria, Shank’s narrator, beseeched Arawello to assist its women. Teaching is an honored profession in Somalia. Peace Corps brought English to, and built schools . . .

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