Short Works about the Peace Corps Experience

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

1
A Writer Writes — “The Art of Medicine” by Jack Allison (Malawi)
2
A Writer Writes — “Stop the Killing” by Robert Wanager (Cameroon)
3
“East Meets West: An Account of a Trip to West Africa”
4
“The Other Kristen” by Kristen Roupenian (Kenya)
5
10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined The Peace Corps (Morocco)
6
4 reasons you should not hire a returned Peace Corps Volunteer
7
“The RPCV: An Example of a Successful Person” (Ethiopia)
8
“Hyena Man of Harar”
9
Finding “Teranga” from Senegal to the streets of Paris by Carrie Knowlton (Senegal)
10
“Tequila and Temblors“ by John Krauskopf (Iran)

A Writer Writes — “The Art of Medicine” by Jack Allison (Malawi)

    THE ART OF MEDICINE by Jack Allison (Malawi 1966-69) • “I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” — Billy Joel   I was immersed in seeing countless patients in my baby clinic when I was politely interrupted by Mr. Chitowe who requested an emergent consultation: “Jack, I have a most interesting patient to share with you.” “A woman has refused to be seen by me, demanding to be evaluated by the white doctor,” he explained calmly. “She claims that there’s a snake in her vagina, Jack.” “So what am I supposed to do, Mr. Chitowe? I may be white, but I’m no doctor, as you well know, sir,” I pleaded. “Please perform a basic pelvic exam on her, if you will. Otherwise, I won’t be able to . . .

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A Writer Writes — “Stop the Killing” by Robert Wanager (Cameroon)

  Stop the Killing by Robert Wanager (West Cameroon 1969-71) • I and my fellow Volunteers arrived in the grasslands of West Cameroon late in 1969. But, much too soon, I was back on the plane and leaving the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Now, in stories such as “Cameroon on Brink of Civil War” (Ashley Gilbertson, New York Times, Oct. 6, 2018), I learn that the grasslands have been assailed by horrors straight out of Southeast Asia. And that friends are dying, charred in cruel “Zippo missions,” wasted and left to die on dusty village roads…. And so, for the sake of the people I love I must speak out…. The West and the East joined to become states of the Federal Republic of Cameroon in 1961. But, the parts didn’t fit and the union really didn’t work. For example, the West, once part of Nigeria, was of . . .

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“East Meets West: An Account of a Trip to West Africa”

    East Meets West An Account of a Trip to West Africa – Summer, 1966 by Phillip LeBell (Ethiopia 1965-67) This is an account of a summer 1965 trip to West Africa of four Peace Corps Group IV volunteer teachers who flew from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where we had begun our service tours in January of that year. We were:  Sudy Harris and Judy Hagens (stationed in Kombolchia), Letitia (Tish) Coolidge (stationed in Addis Ababa), and me (stationed in Emdeber, Shoa province). We had known each other during our training at UCLA, California in the fall of 1964, but this was the first time we were reunited in this somewhat spontaneous adventure. Attached is a general map of our West Africa trip, along with a map of the itinerary.  Our first stop was in Khartoum, where we were well received by local residents who were both amused and surprised . . .

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“The Other Kristen” by Kristen Roupenian (Kenya)

Thanks for a ‘heads up’ from Bea Hogan (Uzbekistan 1992-94)     The Other Kristen Kristen Roupenian joined the Peace Corps to serve her fellow man, but she found herself trying to best the ultimate woman instead. • When I arrived in Kenya as a Peace Corps volunteer (PCV) in 2003, I was the youngest in my group. Life in an unfamiliar culture can be infantilizing: You’re dependent on others to teach you basic skills (this is how you dress, wash, use the toilet), your new language reduces you to baby talk (“Please where bus please?”), and you end the day exhausted by the glut of information your puny brain has taken in. Still, at 21, I was adept at dependence and incompetence, and in this case my expertise served me well. I was assigned to a site in rural western Kenya that was affiliated with an orphans center named . . .

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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined The Peace Corps (Morocco)

  Jesse Altman is finishing his tour in Morocco this December and has maintained a blog during  his Peace Corps years.  This is a recent item on Jesse’s blog, reposted with his permission. — JCoyne • 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Joined Peace Corps Close of Service Conference and my Last 4 Months in Morocco by Jesse Altman (Morocco 2016-18)     After closing out my summer work and the month of July, I headed off to Rabat for our Close-of-Service Conference! It is crazy and unbelievable that 23 months have gone by and less than 4 remain for my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. The conference was a lot of fun, but bittersweet as well. This was the last time that our entire staj (cohort) will be together since we all have different departure dates starting in a few months’ time. Having said . . .

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4 reasons you should not hire a returned Peace Corps Volunteer

  Thanks to the ‘heads up’ from Dan Campbell (El Salvador 1974-77) First published on the peacecorps.gov website.     4 reasons you should not hire a returned Peace Corps Volunteer By Caitlin Bauer (Ghana 2011-13)   Yes, you read that right: should not. The Peace Corps used to have a saying: “At Peace Corps we are practical idealists.” Those kind of crazy ideas make returned Peace Corps Volunteers terrible employees. Here are a few reasons why hiring a returned Peace Corps Volunteer will ruin your business. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) question the status quo. Business as usual is exactly what a PCV is trained to rebel against. We are indoctrinated to look for the status quo and squash it. Cashew farmers in Ghana were just given cashew trees when the great drought of the 1980s destroyed all the cocoa. They’ve continued farming the same way, because it works. But we taught . . .

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“The RPCV: An Example of a Successful Person” (Ethiopia)

  The only Peace Corps official to visit my classroom at the Commercial School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was Sargent Shriver. In November, 1962, he saw my tenth graders among other Volunteer classrooms he was visiting in his swing through East Africa. In his usual manner, he came rushing through the classroom door with his hand outstretched and bursted out, “Hi, I’m Sarge Shriver.” I flippantly replied, “No kidding?” It was uttered more in surprise than rudeness. I was thrilled by Shriver’s visit. It was the first time my students had been quiet since September. To rescue myself and the class, I  asked Sarge to tell my students about the Peace Corps in Ethiopia and his trip, and he told us all about seeing the Emperor, and having told His Majesty that there would be another 200 PCVs coming to the Empire the next fall. Our first group of PCVs numbered . . .

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“Hyena Man of Harar”

    Keeper of carnivorous beasts In this walled city of Abyssiania Where once Rimbaud sought asylum From man’s industry. What do you nocturnally seek Among these deformities? Whom you call by name, And bend to touch a hideous face. Do you find more tranquillity Than by day in the market place Where Oromos and Somalis Mingle in silent hate? The African born in the bondage Of tribal aversions Builds his society On ancestral malice. A hereditary disease. Here, however, there is peace Among these rapacious dogs Who cower for carrion. While Rimbaudian companions Hide from such intercourse; Slide like jackals Into the glove of night, And make there of camel dung A tukel that is addis ababa In the brush Forgotten under a cradle moon.   John Coyne November 1963  

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Finding “Teranga” from Senegal to the streets of Paris by Carrie Knowlton (Senegal)

  Teranga by Carrie Knowlton (Senegal 1999-01) • You can fall in love with a person, but you can also fall in love with moments in time, the sounds of drums on the beach, and roosters crowing while women pound millet at dawn. You can fall in love with the way the Atlantic Ocean smells at sunset and the way all those things come together to become your memory of a place. After two and a half years living in Senegal while serving in the Peace Corps, I was smitten. Senegal is that bump that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean just below the Sahara desert on the western-most tip of Africa. There is a beach in the capital, Dakar, where you can sit and eat a plate of fish and rice, watch the sunset, and listen to drumming and the call to prayer. The country is 92% Muslim and French is . . .

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“Tequila and Temblors“ by John Krauskopf (Iran)

  Tequila and Temblors by John Krauskopf (Iran 1965–67) PEACE CORPS TRAINING was intensive and stressful. Superficially, it seemed a lot like the college culture most of us had recently left. Walking around the University of Texas campus in Austin had a familiar feel since we lived in a dorm and attended classes much like any other students. However, the regimentation of fourteen-hour days was an unwelcome novelty. Back at the University of Michigan, when I put in a fourteen-hour day or pulled an all-nighter, I had arranged that torture for myself. In the Peace Corps training program, we surrendered complete control of our waking hours. Classes started at 7:00 am, and every minute was programmed until at least 9:00 pm. In the third week, there was a mini-revolt over the lack of time to go to the store or take care of personal business. The staff seemed to be . . .

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