Author - Marian Haley Beil

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BLUE MAGIC ON MUSHROOM ISLAND by David C. Edmonds (Chile)
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“Yang Gil-su” by Giles Ryan (Korea)
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ONCE THERE WAS A FIRE by Stephen Shender (Liberia)
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NEW — WALKING WITH EVARISTO: A MEMOIR OF CELEBRATION AND TRAGEDY IN THE LAND OF THE ACHí MAYA by Christian Nill (Guatemala)
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“Establishing the Peace Corps” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)
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Dr. Justin Bibee (Morocco) to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters
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New books by Peace Corps writers | March — April 2024
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Review — YOU TRY PAA by Cynthia Ann Caul (Ghana)
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“Photos from Afghanistan” by David Rodbourne
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Guy Toby Marion (Afghanistan) offers look at ’70s Peace Corps service
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“Photos from Afghanistan” by Bonnie Thie Cowart
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Glenn Blumhorst (Guatemala) Reports on Peace Corps Park
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Review | TALES OF AN IKUT SWAMI by Cristina Kessler (Honduras, Kenya, Seychelles)
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The Volunteer Who Has Been Highly Recognized for His contributions to the Creative Arts | Tony D‘Souza (Cote d’Ivoire)
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“Photos from Afghanistan” from Juris Zagarins

BLUE MAGIC ON MUSHROOM ISLAND by David C. Edmonds (Chile)

  by David C. Edmonds (Chile 1963-65) Add Blue Magic on Mushroom Island to the growing list of magical/realism/romance/ action-adventure thrillers in exotic places by David C. Edmonds! The story Adriana Alvarado, an American TV journalist in Nicaragua, is contemplating another romantic evening with the man she met at an US Embassy soiree when her rendezvous is ruined by a close encounter with gunfire and death. Blood is on her hands — literally — and she’s been in Nicaragua long enough to know that witnesses to assassination do not always live to tell their story. The US Embassy is no help. Neither is the embassy man who stole her heart. They want Adriana to cooperate with the dreaded Directorate of State Security. But if she cooperates, they’ll learn about her past and she’ll be in even greater danger. Her only hope for escape is to pretend to chase a story . . .

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“Yang Gil-su” by Giles Ryan (Korea)

  by Giles Ryan (Korea 1970 – 72)   When you were a Volunteer did you use your own name in country? Or did you have another name? Every Korea PCV had a Korean name based on a long-standing tradition going back hundreds of years to the earliest Italian foreign missionaries in China, and the Korean language teachers in the training programs simply assumed we each needed a name. The story below draws on this experience in Peace Corps/Korea. Years later, I was married in Korea and my in-laws still call me by this name.  • • •  Yang-sŏnsaeng We all receive a name at birth and carry this name through life. True, we may have a nickname, but typically this is only a shortened form of our formal name. But imagine, if you will, acquiring an entirely different name at a later time in life, and in a different language, and . . .

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ONCE THERE WAS A FIRE by Stephen Shender (Liberia)

• • • Nighttime. 1748. Hawai‘i Island (the Big Island). North Kohala. A child is born in a grass house. Outside, a raging storm muffles his first cries. Soldiers hunt for him amid the gale. Their king has ordered his death because a priest has prophesied that the infant will become a “slayer of chiefs.” But he is spirited away to a remote valley before the soldiers can find him. He will become Hawaii’s greatest warrior. When strange, pale visitors come from beyond the horizon, and other Hawaiians mistake their leader for one of their gods — returned to them in fulfillment of a prophecy — he’ll recognize these newcomers are men. He’ll use their guns and steel to defeat a succession of rivals for rule of the Big Island, and then the rest of the island chain, ending centuries of fratricidal warfare, and founding the Kingdom of Hawaii. Today, Hawaiians remember . . .

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NEW — WALKING WITH EVARISTO: A MEMOIR OF CELEBRATION AND TRAGEDY IN THE LAND OF THE ACHí MAYA by Christian Nill (Guatemala)

  “To do the thing that was necessary — wasn’t that at the heart of our mission? And wasn’t it obvious what we needed to do? Plant trees; teach others to plant trees; save the crops from the inexorable forces of erosion.  . . .  but was that the only task that would be needed of us?”   Walking with Evaristo is a gripping journey — at turns lyrical, occasionally boisterous — venturing deep into the heart of a breathtakingly beautiful country torn by strife. And as the story unfolds, it also becomes a radical exercise in the recovery of personal memory. Nill chronicles three turbulent years working as a Peace Corps volunteer in a deeply traditional Mayan community that fell under the shadow of the sinister forces of oppression. Immersing his readers in the vibrant tapestry of life in a town called Rabinal, the author gradually becomes a witness to Guatemala’s . . .

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“Establishing the Peace Corps” by John Coyne (Ethiopia)

  Let me start with a quote from Gerard T. Rice’s book, The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps “In 1961 John F. Kennedy took two risky and conflicting initiatives in the Third World. One was to send five hundred additional military advisers into South Vietnam; by 1963 there would be seventeen thousand such advisers. The other was to send five hundred young Americans to teach in the schools and work in the fields of eight developing countries. These were Peace Corps Volunteers. By 1963 there would be seven thousand of them in forty-four countries.” . . . Vietnam scarred the American psyche, leaving memories of pain and defeat, but Kennedy’s other initiative inspired, and continued to inspire hope and understanding among Americans and the rest of the world. In that sense, the Peace Corps was his most affirmative and enduring legacy. A historical framework Gerry Rice, in The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps, points . . .

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Dr. Justin Bibee (Morocco) to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters

RPCV in the news — Justin Bibee is assistant director of Refugee Resettlement at Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island. In this capacity, he oversees Rhode Island’s largest refugee resettlement effort. Leveraging his profound expertise and rich background in refugee assistance, he leads a dedicated team of resettlement case managers, serving as the primary point of contact for refugees arriving in Rhode Island. On May 11 Justin will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Rhode Island College, Bibee is also a Global Fellow (’24) at the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Studies at Brown University, where he actively engages in collaborative interdisciplinary research addressing the root causes of human rights abuses and seeking viable solutions to the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. His commitment and achievements in the field of refugee resettlement earned him a Providence Business News 40 Under Forty Award in 2022. He collaborated with . . .

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New books by Peace Corps writers | March — April 2024

To purchase any of these books from Amazon.com — CLICK on the book cover, the bold book title, or the publishing format you would like — and Peace Corps Worldwide, an Amazon Associate, will receive a small remittance from your purchase that will help support the site and the annual Peace Corps Writers awards. We include a brief description for each of the books listed here in hopes of encouraging readers  to order a book and/or  to VOLUNTEER TO REVIEW IT.  See a book you’d like to review for Peace Corps Worldwide? Send a note to Marian at marian@haleybeil.com, and she will send you a free copy along with a few instructions. P.S. In addition to the books listed below, I have on my shelf a number of other books whose authors would love for you to review. Go to Books Available for Review to see what is on that shelf. PLEASE, PLEASE  join in our Third . . .

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Review — YOU TRY PAA by Cynthia Ann Caul (Ghana)

  You Try Paa: A Love Song in Translation Cynthia Ann Caul (Ghana 2008–10) Independently published 88 pages $9.99 (paperback), $6.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Dan Campbell ( El Salvador 1974 –77 • • •  Cynthia Ann Caul’s You Try Paa offers readers a poetic journey through her experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana. The book weaves a tapestry of encounters and insights, embodying the spirit of adventure and human connection. Through her poetic narratives, Caul captures the essence of Ghanaian culture with an authenticity and affection that can only stem from genuine engagement and respectful curiosity. The title “You Try Paa” reflects a common phrase in Ghana that expresses encouragement and acknowledgment of one’s efforts. This encapsulates Caul’s experiences in Ghana — constantly learning, adapting, and trying, even amidst challenges. The poems are structured around various themes such as community, resilience, cultural exchanges, and personal growth, each telling a story . . .

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“Photos from Afghanistan” by David Rodbourne

  I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Afghanistan from December 1971 through early 1974. After training, my initial assignment didn’t materialize. In Fall 1972 I served with famine relief team in Ghor province. In Kabul I assisted the karakul sheep pelt export office with the English language correspondence. In 1974 after trekking with Peace Corps friends in Nepal, I took a distinctly not-Peace Corps summer job managing the pool at the USAID recreation compound in Kabul. After returning to the U.S. I worked as a recruiter for ACTION/Peace Corps/VISTA in Rochester, New York. A recent 2023 inspiring highlight of my life was the reunion in Denver for Peace Corps Afghanistan Volunteers.                    

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Guy Toby Marion (Afghanistan) offers look at ’70s Peace Corps service

RPCVs in the news   By Colleen Bidwill  cbidwill@marinij.com Marin Independent Journal April 1, 2024   • • •  When Guy Toby Marion joined the Peace Corps in 1971, it wasn’t his first choice to go to Afghanistan. In fact, the 22-year-old — whose previous travels were mainly family vacations to Mexico — wanted to go to South America to learn Spanish fluently. “I had a mentor in my college days who was from India,” he says. “I called him up and he said that the history of Afghanistan with Russia and India and all throughout from ancient times is fascinating. I was kind of swayed by that.” He took a position working as a high school science teacher trainer in Kapisa province, which he did for two school years, before teaching for three semesters on the faculty of engineering at Kabul University. He reflects on his experiences, from making moonshine out . . .

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“Photos from Afghanistan” by Bonnie Thie Cowart

  Picture the way it was —  My husband, Randy Cowart, and I taught English in Faizabad, Badakshan province for two years, 1972–1973. In 1974, we extended for a third year to teach English to employees of Ariana Afghan Airlines in Kabul. It was difficult to select only 8 photos, but we wanted to share the special beauty of Faizabad and the surrounding area, as well as hint at a few adventures.                        

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Glenn Blumhorst (Guatemala) Reports on Peace Corps Park

I am excited to write today with some great news on our latest fundraising effort. Last month we announced a $500,000 gift commitment for Peace Corps Park from Ms. Jacqueline Mars, provided that we raise an equivalent amount to match. In the four weeks since, we have met the first $250,000 of the challenge and are well on our way to matching Ms. Mars’ entire gift! The Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation board of directors and advisory board led the way, with dozens of others responding enthusiastically and giving our campaign heightened momentum. Meanwhile, Foundation board directors and our Peace Corps Park design team convened in Washington, D.C. with the National Park Service, as the final design is refined to perfection. Details like the placement of inscriptions on the granite benches, selection of lettering font, and accessibility measures are now nearly finalized. We anticipate approval of the final design by the National Park . . .

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Review | TALES OF AN IKUT SWAMI by Cristina Kessler (Honduras, Kenya, Seychelles)

  Tales of an Ikut Swami Cristina  Kessler (Honduras 1973–75, Kenya 1975–76, Seychelles 1976–78) [Cover design Frank Welffens; Photographs by Cristina Kessler] Self-published $12.00 (paperback) Reviewer — Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993–96) • • •  Cristina met her husband, Joe, in 1973 during training in Puerto Rico. As a volunteer, he was assigned to Peru and she to Honduras. Six months later he transferred to Honduras.  Peace Corps told them they could only serve together if they were married, so they agreed to risk it for a year.  That was 50 years ago this August!  They served from 1973 to 1978 in Honduras, Peru, Kenya and the Seychelles. Joe was later hired by CARE and they were sent to Sierra Leone. As an Ikut Swami — Malay for one who follows her husband — Cristina . . . and Joe spent twenty years in Africa, seven years in Latin America and two years in Asia, living . . .

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The Volunteer Who Has Been Highly Recognized for His contributions to the Creative Arts | Tony D‘Souza (Cote d’Ivoire)

Profile in Citizenship by Jeremiah Norris (Colombia 1963-65)  • • • Tony D’Souza served as a Volunteer in Cote d’Ivoire from 2001 to 2002, chronicling his life in a small African village, before, during, and after a Civil War. He was born in Chicago to an RPCV mother (India 1966-68) and Indian father. After graduating from high school, he rode a bicycle across Alaska, then went on to earn a BA in English in two and a half years at Carthage College. Afterwards, he earned a MA in English at Hollins University in Virginia, and then a Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) at the University of Notre Dame. Tony feels that this degree gave him two years to surround himself with people who loved books, commenting that “most of life isn’t as pleasant as that. Before his time in the Peace Corps, Tony managed to work in a kibbutz in Israel, and . . .

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“Photos from Afghanistan” from Juris Zagarins

Picture the way it was —    My wife Robin Varnum showed  me your article suggesting that she send you eight photos to share. Since I am the family photographer, I am sending you eight photos chosen by me and Robin, also a recent head-shot of myself. I worked for two years with Afghan “counterparts” in the Ghazni office of the National Science Center 1972-1973, visiting all the secondary schools in Ghazni province to help improve science instruction. Then I extended my tour for a third year, 1974, teaching physics and such at Kabul University Faculty of Engineering, as did my friend Guy Toby Marion. I took many, many photos, so it was very hard to pick eight. Robin and I decided mostly on images of individual Afghans.   • • •                    • • • 

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