Short Works about the Peace Corps Experience

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

1
“Leaving Guatemala, Part 4: ‘A year in the land of eternal spring’ ”
2
To the friends and family of recently evacuated Peace Corps volunteers — Katie Hamlin (Madagascar)
3
A Writer Writes — “Margarita Sonrise” a short short story by Chris Honore’ (Colombia)
4
“The Road Taken” — Hank Fincken (Peru): Fulfilling the Third Goal of the Peace Corps
5
“Our Wonderful Cook, Aragash Haile” by Richard Lyman (Ethiopia)
6
“Remembering Zewale Zegeye” by Richard Lyman (Ethiopia)
7
“Learning to Make Lasagna in Kyrgyzstan” by Jia Tolentino (Kyrgyzstan)
8
A Writer Writes – “The Potato Caper” by Evelyn Kohl LaTorre (Peru)
9
A Writer Writes “Hurricane Mitch, Honduras, A Baseball Memory”
10
A Writer Writes — “Development Is Down This Road” by Abigail Calkins Aguirre (Cameroon)

“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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“Remembering Zewale Zegeye” by Richard Lyman (Ethiopia)

    Remembering Zewale Zegeye by Richard Lyman (Ethiopia 1962-64)   It was better than any college or high school reunion to see old friends and colleagues with whom 49 years ago I shared an adventure and life-changing experience. On September 13th, The Embassy of Ethiopia, in honor of the fiftieth year anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps, hosted a reception and delicious Ethiopian buffet for Peace Corps volunteers who served in Ethiopia from 1962 through the start of the turmoil in the ’70s. It was my honor to be a member of “Ethiopia I,” among the first 280+ Peace Corps teachers invited to Ethiopia by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1962. At the time the secondary schools of Ethiopia were a bottleneck through which too few students were able to graduate and pass on for additional training and/or attendance at the University. Twelve of us were assigned to . . .

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“Learning to Make Lasagna in Kyrgyzstan” by Jia Tolentino (Kyrgyzstan)

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Bea Hogan (Uzbekistan 1992-94)  • Learning to Make Lasagna in Kyrgyzstan In the Peace Corps, cooking gave me a sense of purpose. Or did it just distract me from the purpose that had brought me halfway across the world? by Jia Tolentino (Kyrgyzstan 2010)   I have never been less enamored of “seasonal and local” than I was the winter of 2010. I was living in a small village in the western mountains of Kyrgyzstan, teaching English in the Peace Corps. I had moved to the Central Asian state the previous March, and my arrival had coincided with the beginning of a period of instability there: a coup, a rash of nationalist violence, two militarized evacuations for my earnest cohort. (I had also, due to reasons admittedly within my control, almost gotten kicked out of the program on multiple occasions.) I had lost some . . .

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A Writer Writes – “The Potato Caper” by Evelyn Kohl LaTorre (Peru)

 The Potato Caper by Evelyn LaTorre (Peru 1964-66)) The morning of March 25, 1965, dawned dry and warm in the town of Abancay, altitude, 7,000 feet, where I lived as a Peace Corps volunteer. The moisture that fell during the night had been unexpected because the rainy season in the Andean mountain area of Peru had usually ended by February. The cloudless day meant my clothes would dry if I washed them. So I snatched the galvanized steel bucket from the porch and headed to fill it from the nearby faucet in the big water basin. “After laundry duty,” my roommate Marie shouted from inside our 12×15-foot cinderblock home, “let’s hike up the side of one of the mountains.” “Good idea,” I said, turning on the faucet. “We can pack some cheese sandwiches, apples and cookies and have a picnic.” I filled the bucket with water, still frigid from its . . .

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A Writer Writes “Hurricane Mitch, Honduras, A Baseball Memory”

  Hurricane Mitch, Honduras, A Baseball Memory By Donald Dirnberger (Antigua 1977-79)   The year was 1998. Hurricane Mitch was the second-deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, causing over 11,000 fatalities in Central America, with over 7,000 occurring in Honduras alone. Due to the slow motion of the storm and catastrophic flooding. It was the deadliest hurricane in Central America, surpassing Hurricane Fifi-Orlene, which killed slightly fewer people there in 1974. The thirteenth named storm, ninth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season. Mitch formed in the western Caribbean Sea on October 22, and after drifting through extremely favorable conditions, it rapidly strengthened to peak at Category 5 status, the highest possible rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. After drifting southwestward and weakening, the hurricane hit Honduras as a minimal hurricane. Mitch drifted through Central America, regenerated in the Bay of Campeche, and ultimately struck Florida as . . .

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A Writer Writes — “Development Is Down This Road” by Abigail Calkins Aguirre (Cameroon)

    Development Is Down This Road by Abigail Calkins Aguirre (Cameroon 1987–90) FEW RECOGNIZE ME without my trademark Suzuki. Now I have this red Yamaha DT they gave me to replace it. I’m still white, though, or so they keep insisting as I pass by the shouting voices trying to get me to stop to do a favor, chat, or taste the latest in palm wine. I know I have a bike, but how do you say “I’m not a taxi” in the local language? I’m late, I’m in a hurry, I’ve got to help a women’s group plant rows of plantains and pineapple in their community farm. This road could jostle my insides right out of me. My thighs are sore from being abused as non-stop shock absorbers. Yet, nothing beats a forestial commute: a time to take in the bushmeat hanging for sale along the way. Someone . . .

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