Short Works about the Peace Corps Experience

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

1
Morton E. Braunstein (Philippines 1966–68)
2
Bob Bookman (Dominican Republic 1967–69)
3
Carolyn LaDelle Bennett (Sierra Leone 1964–66)
4
Marsha L. Allen (Senegal 1984–86)
5
Myrna J. Aavedal (Chile 1967–68)
6
A Writer Writes: Kitchen Diplomacy

Morton E. Braunstein (Philippines 1966–68)

Monday, November 21 6:03 pm ANDY WARHOL PREDICTED in the 1960’s that “in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” Well, I was famous, rich, and handsome too for 21 months while teaching in a small city on Mindanao, Republic of the Philippines. The constant attention wherever I went — focused on me, my American background, on my teaching — forced me to be more aware of how I impressed those around me. Naturally, I wanted to present a good image. Working on that image and the interpersonal relationships with co-teachers, friends, and my Filipino “family” contributed greatly to shaping me and my personality. I learned a lot about myself, my values, and what is important to me as an individual and as an American. That is perhaps the most valuable gift I received from the Peace Corps experience; that is the springboard from which I enact John . . .

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Bob Bookman (Dominican Republic 1967–69)

Monday, November 21 7:33 pm A SUGAR TRAIN STRAINS through the campo. Its dim light fading in the night. The drone from its engines drowns out the common sounds of old ladies spitting up flem, babies coughing, and fourteen-year-old men coming home from work. It is the time of the harvest. There is no sleep. A black boy comes into the general store. There is no light in his face. His skin reflects this absence of light, for it is not the type of black skin that smiles. His face is dirty, his hands are ripped, and his soul is bare. He must have seen the future for he walks with his eyes closed. He is one of 16 children his grandmother must feed. No one cares for him except the ticks licking the sores of his feet. No star shines for him for he is coarse black. Old lady, . . .

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Carolyn LaDelle Bennett (Sierra Leone 1964–66)

Monday, November 21 3:45 pm MY TOUR OF DUTY 22 years ago informs my idealism today. It founds my belief in “community,” in brotherhood, in peaceful co-existence among people, races and nations of the world and within my own country. The memory of those years sustains my hope. And sustains my devotion to the principles of my country – a devotion which transcends politics and the rise and fall of passing ideologies. Twenty years ago I had grown up in a segregated society with no sense of connectedness to my country, save the compulsory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National anthem and hymns. But in serving in the Peace Corp in Sierra Leone (West Africa), I became a part of the greatness of America – a living beneficiary of the high esteem in which the people of Freedom, Sierra Leone, placed my country. For . . .

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Marsha L. Allen (Senegal 1984–86)

Monday, November 21 7:03 pm DURING MY TWO YEARS I learned many things: A new language, how to adapt to a new culture, how to cope with the sometimes intense and almost unbearable heat, and more importantly, I learned to make life for the people there a little easier. I learned to care about a group of people who thought of me as their daughter, their sister, their friend. I learned to laugh with them and cry for them. I learned the importance of being with them for the good times as well as the bad. I learned both patience and persistence – two very important factors in the life of any Volunteer. I also learned all about that feeling you get when it’s time to leave. That sinking feeling in your stomach. The one that makes tears swell in your eyes. It’s that same feeling that makes your heart . . .

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Myrna J. Aavedal (Chile 1967–68)

Monday, November 21 6:54 pm MR. PRESIDENT, I want to tell you about my experience in the Peace Corps. I was 24 when I went off to training at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque – still a bit unworldly as I left my home in Montana. At the time I, of course, wasn’t sure what was in store for me, but I wanted adventure, travel, and an opportunity to use my nursing skills to help people in need. I was very proud that I had been selected to serve. Yes, I did get the adventure and travel, and I did use my nursing skills among needy people. I also got a lot more. The first surprise came when some of the Trainees who looked so good and talked so wise washed out of training or gave up and went home early. For me the Peace Corps was a . . .

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A Writer Writes: Kitchen Diplomacy

    Kristin Ruger, who served in Kazakhstan,  just received her Master’s Degree in Peace Studies and while it hasn’t (yet!) enabled her to get a job, it has helped her understand why “nations and people do the crazy things they do to each other.” Kristin currently lives, she writes, “with the woman of her dreams, whom she met while in the Peace Corps, and is currently searching for the ultimate brownie recipe.” Here is what Kristin has to say as she looks back at her Peace Corps career in Kazakhstan. • Kitchen Diplomacy by Kristin Ruger (Kazahkstan 2005-07) Very early into my Peace Corps training period in Kazakhstan, I got into the habit of walking through Qapshygay with my friend Greg. Qapshygay has seen better days.  Although it is a “recreation zone” due to its proximity to a huge man-made resevoir, the main industry of the area had closed . . .

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