The Peace Corps

Agency history, current news and stories of the people who are/were both on staff and Volunteers.

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RPCV Book Makes New York Times Summer Reading Book List
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Call Me by John Coyne (Ethiopia)
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“Somali Moon” by Jeanne D’Haem (Somalia)
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Transport Secretary & former Peace Corps Director Elaine Chao still owns road-paving company stock she promised to get rid of
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Jeffrey Tayler’s(Morocco) IN PUTIN’S FOOTSTEPS
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“The Eye Man” by Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala)
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Melinda Gates speaks to Women’s Issues on Book TV
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Holbrooke as a Country Director in the Peace Corps
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It’s Publication Day for Clifford Garstang’s The Shaman of Turtle Valley (Korea)
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Four Best Selling Books Published This May By RPCV Writers

RPCV Book Makes New York Times Summer Reading Book List

Only one book–of the many RPCV writers books published this spring/summer– has made The New York Times Book Review Summer Reading list published June 2, 2019. This thick section of the Times–67 pages–has in its “Roundups” section a Travel list and in it reviewer Liesl Schillinger, a critic and translator, singles out In Putin’s Footsteps: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia’ Eleven Time Zones published by St. Martin’s and written by Nina Khrushcheva and Jeffrey Tayler (Morocco 1988-90) calling the book a “fascinating account of their travels in 2017 between Kamchatka and Kaliningrad.” Their book, Schillinger writes, “delivers a unified impression of a ‘coherently incoherent’ Russia.”    

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Call Me by John Coyne (Ethiopia)

John Coyne will be one of the five published writers to lead panel discussions at the September RPCV Writing Workshop in Maryland. Read his short story below. Novelist, Short Story Writer, Poet, Editor Call Me by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64) It was not easy keeping in touch. There were so many demands and hundreds of ways that I was requested. The telephone and mail certainly, but also telegrams, meetings, and midnight visits. At all hours the doorbell rang and I asked through the keyhole: who are you and what do you want? “My name is Michael. I’m a friend of Sherri’s. She said to see you. That you could help.” I unlocked the lock and opened the door. I have been robbed and mugged this way but what else could I do? I only wanted to help. I had one wall of filing cabinets: steel, cardboard, makeshift files in boxes. . . .

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“Somali Moon” by Jeanne D’Haem (Somalia)

    Jeanne D’Haem will be one of the five published writers to lead panel discussions at the September RPCV Writing Workshop in Maryland. Read her Peace Corps essay below. — John Coyne   • Somali Moon By Jeanne D’Haem (Somalia 1968-70)   There was a night, fifty years ago, when people all over the world watched the sky.  They were not concerned with yet another tragedy of war or weather.  No one had blown up the world trade center or machine gunned hundreds of people at a park. On one special night in August 1969, they were watching the moon with wonder. Any baby boomer you know can tell you exactly what they were doing on August 20, 1969. Most will report they were watching the TV.  Riveted by a black and white, 15 inch screen.  There was plenty of parking in New York City and Grand Rapids; everyone . . .

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Transport Secretary & former Peace Corps Director Elaine Chao still owns road-paving company stock she promised to get rid of

    Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Dale Gilles (Liberia 1964-66) • Transport Secretary Elaine Chao could be in for a bumpy ride after The Wall Street Journal reported that she still owns stock in a road-paving company, more than a year after she promised to get rid of it. Chao’s holdings are in Vulcan Materials, which is the largest U.S. supplier of stone, sand, and gravel used in road-paving and building. The stock price has risen nearly 13 percent since April 2018, the month Chao said she would ditch the shares, meaning she’s gained more $40,000 since the promise was made. Shares valued at nearly $400,000 and were paid out to Chao in April 2018. They were given in compensation for her time on Vulcan’s board, before she was confirmed as secretary of transportation. Chao’s 2017 ethics agreement said she would receive a cash payout in April 2018 in exchange for . . .

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Jeffrey Tayler’s(Morocco) IN PUTIN’S FOOTSTEPS

Thanks to the ‘heads up’ of Marian Beil (Ethiopia 1962-64)     IN PUTIN’S FOOTSTEPS: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia’s Eleven Time Zones St. Martin’s Press By Nina Khrushcheva and Jeffrey Tayler (Morocco 1988-90) 320 pages February 19, 2019 $18.89 (hardback); $14.99 (Kindle); $24.60 (Audio CD)     From the Book Section of The New York Times Summer Travel Nina Khrushcheva and Jeffrey Tayler’s fascinating account of their travels in 2017 between Kamchatka and Kaliningrad. In its pages, you’ll learn that you can see China quite clearly from Russia in the harbor city of Blagoveshchensk, six time zones east of Moscow and 500 yards across the Amur River from the Chinese city of Heihe. Ferries transport Chinese and Russian traders back and forth daily. Khrushcheva made that shuttle trip and does not recommend it — the pushing and shoving and rude border control brought her to . . .

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“The Eye Man” by Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala)

Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991-93) will be one of the five published writers to lead panel discussions at the September RPCV Writing Workshop in Maryland. Read his Peace Corps short story below. — John Coyne     The Eye Man by Mark Brazaitis The eye man came to town with doctors and nurses who carried suitcases full of medicine and Bibles. They were accompanied by boys and girls who dressed up like daisies and frogs and sang religious songs in English in the park. The eye man wasn’t a doctor or nurse. And neither the doctors nor the nurses nor the boys and girls who dressed up like daisies and frogs knew, or would tell me, what he was. He was simply “the eye man.” He made eyes. I translated for the group of doctors and nurses during their two-day clinic in the Church of God, one of several Evangelical churches . . .

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Melinda Gates speaks to Women’s Issues on Book TV

(Thanks to Beverly Hammons (Ecuador 71-73) for this video reference) Melinda Gates, wife of Bill Gates, has written a book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, on her life and work with women around the world.  She discusses the book and her experiences working in the Developing World.  Empowering women and girls is a continuing program focus for Peace Corps.  For so many RPCVs, especially women, Gates’ experience and the concerns of the women with whom she talked and worked, will seem very familiar. More than fifty years ago, as a Peace Corps Health Education Volunteer, I would give “charlas”, little talks about health to women in my rural community.  After the talk, I would always ask what would they like to know.  The question varied, but always the same concern.  As one woman said, so eloquently,:  “I want to keep the children I have, alive, . . .

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Holbrooke as a Country Director in the Peace Corps

    Reading though George Packer’s (Togo 1982-83) 590 page book: Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and The End of the American Century I came across two paragraphs on Holbrooke’s brief career working for the Peace Corps. On page 144 of his book, Packer writes how Holbrooke left his position with Kissinger and the State Department and decides to leave the country. George writes, “After working on staffs for five years, he [Holbrooke] also wanted to be in charge of something. That was impossible for an FSO-4, which he had just become, on the normal unimaginative embassy career path. So he looked into the Peace Corps, asked for a country program to run, and studied Arabic at the Foreign Service Institute….” He was given Morocco by Joe Blatchford, the Peace Corps Director, and he lasted one year (1970-71) on the job. Packer writes: There isn’t much to tell you about the . . .

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It’s Publication Day for Clifford Garstang’s The Shaman of Turtle Valley (Korea)

About the book: Set in the 1990s, the novel is about Aiken Alexander, the scion of Scots-Irish settlers who came to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the mid-18thCentury. An Army veteran, Aiken is estranged from his wife, Soon-hee, a young Korean woman he fell in love with when stationed in Seoul. While Aiken is struggling to provide for Henry, their four-year-old, Soon-hee’s erratic behavior creates greater tension and her practice of traditional Korean shamanism is at odds with the Alexander family’s Appalachian folkways. On top of that, Aiken’s cousins seek to solve a Turtle Valley mystery that threatens to pull the family apart. Pre-publication Buzz: Amy Hawes of Book Club Babble calls The Shaman of Turtle Valley a “perfect book club read.”  If you or someone you know is in a book club and might be interested in choosing the book for one of your reads, Clifford would love . . .

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Four Best Selling Books Published This May By RPCV Writers

A young woman accuses a prominent local college athlete of rape. Convicted with the help of undisputable DNA evidence, the athlete swears his innocence and threatens both his lawyer and his accuser as he’s sent to prison. Not long after, there’s another rape and the DNA test shows that the same person committed both rapes―which is seemingly impossible since the man convicted of the first rape was in prison at the time. Phillip Margolin (Liberia 1966-68)         A groundbreaking revisionist history of the last days of the Vietnam War that reveals the acts of American heroism that saved more than one hundred thousand South Vietnamese from communist revenge. Thurston Clarke (Tunisia 1968)           Drawn by a fascination with Egypt’s rich history and culture, Peter Hessler moved with his wife and twin daughters to Cairo in 2011. He wanted to learn Arabic, explore Cairo’s . . .

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