Short Works about the Peace Corps Experience

Including essays, letters home, poetry, a song and Journals of Peace.

1
“An Education of Sorts” by Keith Quatraro (Tanzania)
2
Time in a Bottle by Jamie Kirkpatrick (Tunisia)
3
KARIN MCQUILLAN (Senegal) — “What I Learned in the Peace Corps in Africa: Trump Is Right”
4
A Writer Writes — Reflections from a Simpler Time (Philippines)
5
A Writer Writes — “A Season of Survivor Was Filmed on an Island Nicer Than Mine“ by Harry Seitz (Tonga)
6
“Leaving Guatemala, Part 4: ‘A year in the land of eternal spring’ ”
7
To the friends and family of recently evacuated Peace Corps volunteers — Katie Hamlin (Madagascar)
8
A Writer Writes — “Margarita Sonrise” a short short story by Chris Honore’ (Colombia)
9
“The Road Taken” — Hank Fincken (Peru): Fulfilling the Third Goal of the Peace Corps
10
“Our Wonderful Cook, Aragash Haile” by Richard Lyman (Ethiopia)

“An Education of Sorts” by Keith Quatraro (Tanzania)

  At the age of 31, the Peace Corps lured me in with their soul-taunting mantra “Life is Calling.” Before I joined, I was comfortably numb with my lifestyle. I volunteered at an after-school tutoring center, helped with various writing projects at local schools, and tended bar full-time to support my fledgling teaching habit. The Peace Corps sent me to Tanzania and I couldn’t have been happier. After nine weeks of extensive in-country language and cultural training, my classmates and I were sent to live in different villages throughout Tanzania. I said goodbye to my gracious Tanzanian family who let me live and learn with them near the coastal town of Muheza. Still naïve, a tad idealistic, and quite culturally dumb, I set out for Matui, a waterless village in the center of Tanzania. Western culture and ideologies were only pondered and fantasized in Matui. Dazed and confused, frustrations and . . .

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Time in a Bottle by Jamie Kirkpatrick (Tunisia)

  by Jamie Kirkpatrick (Tunisia 1970-72; APCD 1974-76) October 27, 2020 • It’s a sobering thought but I’ve reached the point in my life where I can count time in half centuries. To wit, it was fifty years ago almost to the day that I arrived in Tunisia. I was on my way to becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer: the first six weeks of my service had been spent in intensive language and cross-cultural training in America. For the next six weeks, I would be in total language immersion in my new host country. Did I mention that was fifty years ago? Sigh. Looking back, those fifty years have flown by. Four of them were spent in Tunisia, the first two in the Kasserine, a small town in the rugged mountains hard by the Algerian border and famous for a pivotal battle in World War II. Then there were two . . .

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KARIN MCQUILLAN (Senegal) — “What I Learned in the Peace Corps in Africa: Trump Is Right”

Note from the editor: Karin McQuillan is a novelist (one novel) who was a PCV in Senegal. (She ETed after a year. ) We published a few blog items about her back in January and February of 2018. This article has just been republished on-line by the American Conservatives. (They loved it.) Karin is a nice woman and a true believer in Trump and the Conservative element of our society. She is like our current (for two more weeks) Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen (Tunisia 1966-68) who, I’m told, is a great believer of President Trump and will follow him anywhere, do whatever he asks, so Jody may be back in the government if Trump rallies his base. Maybe as Secretary of State!  (I’m told she even has a crush on him, but I don’t believe it.) Meanwhile, Right Wing RPCV Karin McQuillan is making her case that Trump is . . .

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A Writer Writes — Reflections from a Simpler Time (Philippines)

Reflections from a Simpler Time By Ted Dieffenbacher (Philippines 1967-69) The covid-19 pandemic has forced people all over the world to change — to simplify daily living, to isolate themselves from friends, favorite places, and gatherings that had always enriched their lives. What follows is an odd COVID comparison, about a time when I had to make a dramatic lifestyle change during my time in the Philippines as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) from 1967 to 1969. Single and 22 when I arrived in Santiago, Isabela, I was suddenly challenged to change not only my daily routine but also my way of thinking (and what language to think it in). Peace Corps gave each PCV a cardboard book locker — a few shelves in a sturdy cardboard box.  Each had about 60 books in it, and because no two lockers had an identical selection, I was able every so often . . .

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A Writer Writes — “A Season of Survivor Was Filmed on an Island Nicer Than Mine“ by Harry Seitz (Tonga)

• I served in the Peace Corps in Tonga from 2014–2016. Some of the volunteers got sent to sites in the capital. They had electricity, running water, supermarkets, the works. A few of the others were sent to ’Eua, a large island close to the capital. Life was a little more difficult there, but they still had all of the basic amenities. The remainder and I were sent to Vava’u, the main island of which is relatively developed, but also much further away from the capital. I alone was sent to Ofu. While technically a part of Vava’u, it is an outer island. No roads, no restaurants, and very limited electricity. Ferries didn’t even run there. I had to hitch boat rides with my neighbors every other weekend to buy food on the main island of Vava’u. Lifuka (Survivor Island) Lifuka is a part of the Ha’apai group of islands. . . .

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“Leaving Guatemala, Part 4: ‘A year in the land of eternal spring’ ”

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Dan Campbell (El Salvador 1974-77) Nathaniel Smith (Guatemala 2019-2020) The Times-Independent Utah, June 18, 2020 A group of Peace Corps Volunteers watch the sunrise from the summit of the volcano Acatenango. Photos courtesy of Nathaniel Smith The van carried me away on the first leg of what would be a multi-stage journey from rural Guatemala to southern Utah. I gazed forlornly out the window as we wove through pine forest and out of the valley. My mind cycled through the list of things I had hoped to do in Guatemala over the next year. Though I planned to return someday, whether as a Peace Corps volunteer or not, this experience proved that even the best-laid plans go awry. That morning, when I still believed I would have the entire day, I made what I thought would be my final trip to the town’s thermal . . .

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To the friends and family of recently evacuated Peace Corps volunteers — Katie Hamlin (Madagascar)

As seen on the Ethiopia and Eritrea RPCVs Facebook page —      To the friends and family of recently evacuated Peace Corps volunteers by Katie Hamlin (Madagascar) Midwest to Madagascar.blogspot • As most people know, this week Peace Corps worldwide made the difficult decision to evacuate and early COS (close of service) all volunteers around the world. Many of us only had a couple days to say our goodbyes while some didn’t even get the chance at all. The evacuation process isn’t easy and the processing of returning to America so abruptly is even harder. So many feelings and emotions are happening all at once along with the upcoming reverse culture shock. In general reverse culture shock is often the hardest part of people’s services and that is even when they have had time to prepare. This new group of volunteers were abruptly sent home and now we don’t . . .

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A Writer Writes — “Margarita Sonrise” a short short story by Chris Honore’ (Colombia)

      Margarita Sonrisa By Chris Honore’ (Colombia 1967-69) • My mouth going dry, my heart side stroking toward my throat, I turned slowly, squinting into shadows. Suddenly, Margarita Sonrisa was standing there, wearing a long silk nightgown, wispy spaghetti straps, the outline of her lovely shape lushly revealed. She was something, Margarita Sonrisa. A come hither voice that could chase a note to the deepest corners. Her latte skin smooth, lovely, darkened by the shimmering white of her gown, the front marred only by a delicate spatter of blood. Margarita Sonrisa. You tell me. She sang at a local nightspot, Las Palmas, a dusty place off the strip, all white stucco and neon outside, dim and stale inside. Most nights she stood alone at a microphone singing desperate songs that snapped your heart and dropped it at your feet and made me, like all the other mooks in . . .

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“The Road Taken” — Hank Fincken (Peru): Fulfilling the Third Goal of the Peace Corps

      The Road Taken by Hank Fincken (Peru 1970-72) • In June of 1970, I arrived on the coast of Peru a week after the worst earthquake in the country’s modern history.  What a beginning! I saw PCVs at their finest; delivering aid, and I saw the military government at its worst, confiscating supplies — although it took me almost two years to know enough to talk about it. My Peace Corps work was with el Programa National del Arroz. Our goal was to make Peru self-sufficient in rice, no imports necessary. Because rice is a twice-a-day staple, self-sufficiency would provide huge national budget relief.  We succeeded and then we didn’t. To tell that story I would need to know that my readers suffer insomnia. I enjoyed the outdoor work, the people and the irregular adventures. For example, in early December, my Peruvian co-worker and I were sent . . .

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“Our Wonderful Cook, Aragash Haile” by Richard Lyman (Ethiopia)

    Our Wonderful Cook, Aragash Haile by Richard Lyman (Ethiopia 1962-64)   Marty Benjamin, John Stockton, Dallas Smith and I who shared a house in Gondar had the naïve notion that we were going to be self-sufficient and live without servants. Little did we realize that in Gondar servants had servants. It took us several months to put aside the quaint notion of complete independence and hire much-needed help. The fact that of the four of us only Dallas liked to cook should have been a red flag from the start. Within a week we opened a charge account at Ato Ghile Berhane’s “Ghile’s Store.” It was a wide glass-fronted store just around the corner on the Asmara road from the post office. Behind a tall counter were two engaging young men who would retrieve what we wanted from the floor to ceiling shelves. Our bulk purchases like rice . . .

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