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The 58th Anniversary of the Peace Corps
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A Writer Writes — “Harris Wofford: An Exceptionally Good Man” by Jerry Norris (Colombia)
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Lasting Value of Peace Corps Service (Washington, D.C.)
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Peace Corps videos of A Day in the Life
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A Writer Writes — “The Peace Corps: It Can Get in Your Blood” by Bob Criso (Nigeria)
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Review — A GAME IN THE SUN by John Coyne (Ethiopia)
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RPCVs Helping Refugees In El Paso
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A Writer Writes — “Rhythm of the Grass: Letters from Moritz Thomsen” by Mark Walker (Guatemala)
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Review — FARISHTA by Patricia McArdle (Paraguay)
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Review — LADYBOY AND THE VOLUNTEER by Susanne Aspley (Thailand)

The 58th Anniversary of the Peace Corps

    Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Bill Josephson, Peace Corps General Counsel 1961-66     The Sargent Shriver Peace Institute Quote of the week — “The idea [of the Peace Corps is] that free and committed men and women can cross boundaries of culture and language, or alien tradition and great disparities of wealth, of old hostilities and new nationalisms, to meet with other men and women on the common ground of service to human welfare and human dignity. And if this idea isn’t going to change the world, then this world is beyond redemption!” Sargent Shriver | New York, NY | December 11, 1963 • Our Quote of the Week celebrates the 58th anniversary of the creation of the Peace Corps. On March 1, 1961, President Kennedy signed the executive order to create the Peace Corps. Three weeks later, on March 22, he would name Sargent Shriver as . . .

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A Writer Writes — “Harris Wofford: An Exceptionally Good Man” by Jerry Norris (Colombia)

    A Writer Writes   Harris Wofford: An Exceptionally Good Man By Jerry Norris (Colombia 1963-65)   When reading Harris Wofford’s January 21 obituary in the Washington Post, it brought to mind a simple fact: it was through his office that I entered a glide path which led to my being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia. In January 1962, I had sent in an application but hadn’t heard back. Then, early that spring, having dinner one night with my family in Chicago, the telephone rang. My sister, Therese, rose to respond as she was closest. One minute later she came back into the kitchen, hands on her hips, saying in stark wonderment: it’s the White House that’s calling …and it’s for you! Soon, I was in discussion with a young woman who identified herself as one of Harris Wofford’s staff members. (At that time, he was Special Assistant . . .

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Lasting Value of Peace Corps Service (Washington, D.C.)

    WASHINGTON – Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and members of the diplomatic community March 12 had a forum at the State Department entitled “The Lasting Value of Peace Corps Service.” Hosted by the State Department employee affinity group Returned Peace Corps Volunteers @ State, the event was held in the Dean Acheson Auditorium and livestreamed for staff at U.S. embassies around the world. The roundtable conversation and Q&A focused on how Peace Corps service shapes the personal and professional lives of Returned Volunteers. “Serving in a rural area, being the only American that hundreds of people will ever meet—that is a really powerful thing,” said Emily Armitage, who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bulgaria before joining the State Department. Armitage recalled visiting with the people of her village in the months before Bulgaria entered the European Union and how valuable it was to be able to listen to . . .

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Peace Corps videos of A Day in the Life

    Peace Corps held a contest for serving Volunteers asking them to create a video  showing a  Day in the Life of people  they served.  The ten finalists are posted on You Tube and this Peace Corps link will bring you to the videos.  They are great!  https://www.peacecorps.gov/peace-corps-week/ (Personal Note, in my opinion. So many of the Peace Corps public records describe the Volunteer in terms of his or her relationship with Peace Corps Washington, despite Shriver’s inverted pyramid.  So many of the writings of RPCVs describe Host Country Nationals in terms of their relationship to us, the Volunteers.  These videos focus on the daily lives of Host Country people, their dignity, their work, their joy. They are beautiful. Please watch them and add to the number of views.) This is my favorite video . . .

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A Writer Writes — “The Peace Corps: It Can Get in Your Blood” by Bob Criso (Nigeria)

    THE PEACE CORPS: IT CAN GET IN YOUR BLOOD by Bob Criso (Nigeria 1966-67, Somalia 1967-68)  • The Reverend Nana Yaw Amponsah Antwi is pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Ghana, half a block away from my apartment. Every Sunday the street buzzes with women dressed in those resplendent West African prints and stylishly-sculpted head-wraps. Some of the men walk with obvious pride in their traditional robes, others just wear suits. The kids look like American kids but everyone looks so spiffed up as if they were going to a wedding. I overhear their melodic Twi which sounds similar to the Igbo that I studied for hours every day during Peace Corps training. Sometimes the women set up tables in front of the church after services and sell traditional foods like garri, yams and palm oil. These were the very staples of my diet in Ishiagu, Nigeria. If . . .

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Review — A GAME IN THE SUN by John Coyne (Ethiopia)

    A Game in the Sun and Other Stories John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64) Cemetery Dance August 2018 $40.00 (hard cover)  Reviewed by Andreas Martin (Ethiopia 1965–68) • A Game in the Sun and Other Stories is a fascinating collection of material by John Coyne. John has had considerable success as a writer of novels and short stories in the horror genre, as well as a number of books on the topic of golf, (together, horror and golf make a pretty good description of my golf game). This particular collection spans nearly 60 years and consists of twelve stories previously published in mystery and horror magazines and anthologies. In addition, there are two recent original pieces appearing for the first time in print. John has led a varied life and these stories reflect some of his background. I was particularly taken by the stories set in Ethiopia because John and I . . .

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RPCVs Helping Refugees In El Paso

On February 16th, I posted an article and request from the Bishop of El Paso—sent to me by his cousin Patricia Silke Edmisten (Peru 1962-64). You can read the Bishop’s request here:https://peacecorpsworldwide.org/rpcvs-needed-in-el-paso/ On February 19th, Dale Gilles (Liberia 1964-66 & PC/W 68-73 & 90-93) reposted my request on two Facebook pages relating to Liberia RPCVs and Friends of Liberia (FOL) which he follow closely from Thailand where he lives. In both cases he received a few “likes” and comments, and recently he wrote me, “in the last couple of day, I have indeed, once again, seen firsthand the positive power of communication, the internet and Facebook. Funny how the pebbles we drop make such ripples.” The following thread of emails come from Sean Sullivan, a long time friend of Dale and Peace Corps colleague, who was on the staff in Liberia 1971-73, and was also on the Peace Corps Staff . . .

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A Writer Writes — “Rhythm of the Grass: Letters from Moritz Thomsen” by Mark Walker (Guatemala)

    Rhythm of the Grass: Letters from Moritz Thomsen by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971-73)   Moritz  Thomsen (Ecuador 1965–67) was an extraordinary writer and influential expatriate who spent thirty years in Ecuador studying the culture and identifying with whom he lived. His first book, Living Poor, is ranked as one of the premier Peace Corps experience books, with editions in the U.S., UK, Germany and France. It has sold over a hundred thousand copies in the U.S. alone. All four of his remarkable books have been compared to the works of Paul Thoreau and Joseph Conrad. Although Thomsen only wrote four books, he was an avid letter writer. His missives numbered in the thousands, though according to one letter, he was only able to respond to five letters a day on his typewriter, often in the hot, humid jungle of Ecuador. According to author Tom Miller, Thomsen was a “wicked” . . .

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Review — FARISHTA by Patricia McArdle (Paraguay)

    Farishta by Patricia McArdle (Paraguay 1972–74) Riverhead Books 401 pages Riverhead Books 2011 $16.00 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Bill Preston (Thailand 1977-80) • In the Prologue to Farishta, we learn that twenty-one years earlier young career diplomats Angela Morgan and husband Tom were posted to Beirut. There, Tom was killed in a terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy; Angela, pregnant at the time, was injured and subsequently lost the child. Devastated, Angela was posted back to the State Department in Washington, DC. As the novel opens, Angela, now forty-seven and having worked at a series of unfulfilling dead-end positions at the State Department, learns that she is soon to be posted for a year with a British Army unit at a Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Mazār-i-Sharīf, Afghanistan. The PRT was a remote military outpost that conducted surveillance patrols in the northern provinces. Having hoped for an . . .

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Review — LADYBOY AND THE VOLUNTEER by Susanne Aspley (Thailand)

    Ladyboy and the Volunteer (Peace Corps Memoir) by Susanne Aspley (Thailand 1989–91) Peace Corps Writers November 2014 288 pages $13.99 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle Reviewed by Dean Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • Ladyboy and the Volunteeris a novel masquerading as a memoir. The protagonist, Susan, describes her adventures and misadventures as a Peace Corps Volunteer stationed in a rural village in Thailand in the 1990s. She gets to know many of the locals, but none is more interesting than Christine who helps support her family in the village by working as a prostitute in the city. Christine is a “ladyboy,” the term Thais use to describe transgender people born male, but dressing and living as females. The book is written in a conversational style, allowing the reader to experience emotionally what the protagonist is living. The imagery is vividly descriptive and at times raw. Because it . . .

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