Short Works about the Peace Corps Experience

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

1
“Round ’em Up and Move ’em Out!” by Jerry Redfield (Ecuador)
2
“Hitching a Ride to Tikal” by Alan Jackson (Belize)
3
A Writer Writes: Value of Life by Susan E. Greisen (Liberia)
4
“An Education of Sorts” by Keith Quatraro (Tanzania)
5
Time in a Bottle by Jamie Kirkpatrick (Tunisia)
6
KARIN MCQUILLAN (Senegal) — “What I Learned in the Peace Corps in Africa: Trump Is Right”
7
A Writer Writes — Reflections from a Simpler Time (Philippines)
8
A Writer Writes — “A Season of Survivor Was Filmed on an Island Nicer Than Mine“ by Harry Seitz (Tonga)
9
“Leaving Guatemala, Part 4: ‘A year in the land of eternal spring’ ”
10
To the friends and family of recently evacuated Peace Corps volunteers — Katie Hamlin (Madagascar)

“Round ’em Up and Move ’em Out!” by Jerry Redfield (Ecuador)

  This is a “slice of life” from a Peace Corps Volunteer that captures the adventures and frustrations of one newly arrived volunteer living in a new culture in southern Ecuador.  It is from a “work in progress” entitled “While You Were Out”, by Jerry Redfield. Peace Corps Volunteers, Jerry, Joe Orr of Utah, and Doug Strauss from New York had arrived in a remote mountain top little village about two months earlier as their initial in-country assignment working on a school construction program. This covers the time between the end of that assignment and the transition to a new one. John Smith was the Peace Corps Area Representative, and Steve Caplin, the Peace Corps doctor assigned to the Area.   Round ’em Up and Move ’em Out! by Jerry Redfield (Ecuador 1963-65) As November ended and the cold winds of December started to roll in, the time in our . . .

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“Hitching a Ride to Tikal” by Alan Jackson (Belize)

Alan and Keith were Peace Corps Volunteers in Belize, Central America, from 1976 to 1978. Alan was stationed in Belize City where he was assigned to the Fisheries Unit Laboratory, and boarded with a young Belizean family. Keith was posted to the Mopan Mayan village of San Antonio in Toledo District and advised a beekeeper and honey cooperative. Keith lived in a thatch hut without electricity or running water. • Hitching a Ride to Tikal By Alan Jackson   Both Keith and I had to work the annual Agricultural and Trade Show on Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23, 1978, in Belmopan, Belize. The Ag Show is like a small county fair with dozens of thatched booths displaying the various goods and products of government and private industry. The British military usually had some of their weapons on display, too. The two-day fair also included food stalls, horse racing, . . .

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A Writer Writes: Value of Life by Susan E. Greisen (Liberia)

A Writer Writes    Value of Life by Susan E. Greisen (Liberia 1971-73; Tonga 1973-74)   Scaling a thirty-foot tree for palm nuts with bare feet, using a belt fashioned out of a vine, could lead to disaster. The men and boys who managed the task were quite skilled, and equipment failure was rare. But I cringed at the news when I learned of a farmer who had fallen out of a palm tree and sustained a severe injury. Peter, the health assistant from our small clinic, and I, a Peace Corps health volunteer, were summoned to his home. Walking thirty minutes to his village, we found Abdou lying flat in his round thatched hut. This soft-spoken father of four — ages two, three, five, and seven — had two wives, one pregnant. His supportive family was willing to do whatever was necessary to help him. After quickly assessing the . . .

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“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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