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Remembering Bobby Kennedy
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Zurlo Reviews Meek's Biogeography
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RPCV Carol Beddo Wins Gold!
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Readjustment Blues
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In South Africa as a PCV
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RPCV Meyer Featured in New York Review of Books
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Film on Ethiopia's brutal past wins African Oscar
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Writing for the iPhone and iPod
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RPCV Tayler Travels the Back Roads to Beijing
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Launching the Peace Corps

Remembering Bobby Kennedy

The event at the Kennedy Center this week for Senator Ted Kennedy reminded me of the time that Bobby Kennedy came to Ethiopia back in the 60s. As I have written elsewhere, here is a little known story about Bobby Kennedy and the time he met up with PCVs in Asmara, Eritrea. We go back to the summer of ’66. Bobby had been to South Africa where he was a huge success with college students, and given his famous “Ripple of Hope Speech” that contains one of the most quoted paragraph in political speech making. The speech was written by Richard Goodwin and Adam Walinsky and delivered on June 6, 1966 in Cape Town. The famous paragraph went this way: “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot . . .

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Zurlo Reviews Meek's Biogeography

BOOK REVIEW Sandra Meek (Botswana 1989-91), associate professor of English, rhetoric and writing at Berry College, has been awarded the largest book-publication prize for poetry in the United States for her third collection of poems, Biogeography. The Dorset Prize consists of a $10,000 cash for the author and a guarantee of national and international distribution for the winning entry. Biogeography was released by Tupelo Press in spring 2008. Over the years Sandra has published in many of the poetry magazines, including Poetry, AGNI, The Kenyon Review, Conjunctions, Shenandoah, The Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner. Twice, she has been recognized with the Georgia Author of the Year Award for poetry by the Georgia Writers Association, first for Nomadic Foundations (2003) and later for Burn (2006). Her new book is reviewed by Tony Zurlo, (Nigeria 1964-65) a poet and long time supporter and reviewer for Peace Corps Writers. Biogeography by Sandra Meek . . .

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RPCV Carol Beddo Wins Gold!

Carol Beddo’s memoir essay, “Choices Rejected” was awarded Gold in the category: Love Story, the best account of love or romance on the road.  It is published in Best Travel Writing 2009, an annual collection of travel essays published by Traveler’s Tales and is a chapter from a book in progress about her Peace Corps years in Ethiopia, 1964-66. Congratulatons Carol! Carol is writing this book with her young grandchildren in mind, with hope that they will be inspired to contribute time and skills that will help to improve our world; however her six-year-old grandson now is annoyed that his little sister makes an appearance in this story, while he does not. 

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Readjustment Blues

This is a terrific piece by Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) published in Rice Paper, the China PCVs in-country newsletter that is put out by the PCVs, and was sent to me by a PCV named Dustin Ooley. This article by Hessler appears in Vol 4, No 2. Thanks to Dustin and Peter for letting me reprint it. It is a useful case study of how to make one’s way as a  writer, and how hard it to be an RPCV and a writer, but it can be done, and what Peter has also described is how the members of that first group of PCVs to China continue to be connected to the country. And it is written as only Peter can do it, with humor, honesty and insight. Post-Peace Corps Life by Peter Hessler After completing my Peace Corps service, I left China with amoebic dysentery, a mysterious problem with my lefteye, a positive . . .

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In South Africa as a PCV

BOOK REVIEW Nine out of ten “Peace Corps Books” are self-published. The reason — while the Peace Corps experience is life-changing and many RPCVs want everyone to know about their service, in most cases no commercial, small or academic presses are interested in publishing their stories. The good news is that because of self-publishing RPCVs can take matters into their own hands. Here’s one woman’s story of being a PCV in South Africa. Lasso the World: A Western Writer’s Tales of Folks Around the Globe By Starley Talbott (South Africa 2001) Plainstar Press 2004 Reviewed by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras, 1975–77) Lasso the World is a clearly written series of time resilient vignettes covering four of the seven continents. Written over a quarter century as newspaper and magazine articles, the compilation reads fresh like the desert in bloom. Starley (Anderson) Talbott, self-taught journalist, has stitched together a beautiful comforter for . . .

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RPCV Meyer Featured in New York Review of Books

The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed by Michael Meyer (China 1995–97) is the one of three books cited by Richard Bernstein, a former Time Magazine correspondent in China, in a long essay/review entitled “The Death and Life of a Great Chinese City” in The New York Review of Books, March 26, 2009 issue. After his Peace Corps tour, Mike Meyer spent three years living in a single room of an old courtyard house, using a public toilet and a public bath and out of this has come his fascinating portrait of life in a narrow backstreet of Beijing that vanished to make way for the Olympics Games. Bernstein makes the point that Michael is “no sentimentalist or preservationist ideologue. He writes, “It can’t be forgotten that life is a lot better for most people in the new Beijing, but then he . . .

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Film on Ethiopia's brutal past wins African Oscar

[Steve Buff (Ethiopia 1963-65) sent me this news. The director of this award winning film, Haile Germa ,virtually lived with Steve and John Coe (Ethiopia 1962–64) in Addis Ababa as a student. Later Haile Germa received support from Gwendolyn Carter, Director of African Studies at Northwestern, when he came to the States and studied film at UCLA. Here is news of Haile’s latest.] By Katrina Manson OUAGADOUGOU, March 8 (Reuters) – A film set in Ethiopia about a bloodthirsty regime under which political dissidents and village children alike were ruthlessly killed has won best movie award at Africa’s top film festival. “Teza,” a feature by award-winning director Haile Gerima set during Mengistu Haile Mariam’s 1974-1991 rule, won the top prize late on Saturday at this year’s 40th pan-African FESPACO film festival in Burkina Faso. Judges praised the film, 14 years in the making, for its strength, depth and poetry conveying . . .

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Writing for the iPhone and iPod

You might have read last week how Amazon.com just released a program for reading electronic books on Apple’s iPhone. Amazon now can sell their digital books to devices beyond its Kindle e-book reader. The Amazon executive puts it this way: “There are times when you’re going to be in a place where you happen to have your iPhone but not your Kindle. If I get stuck in line at the grocery store,” Ian Freed said, “I can pick up where I was reading with my iPhone.” This amazing program keeps track of where you were reading in the book, whether it was a Kindle or an iPhone. Amazon’s software can be downloaded (free) for iPhone and also iPod Touch users to read books purchased on the Web or through their dedicated Kindle device. What does that mean to the writer? Do any of us care whether our books are read . . .

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RPCV Tayler Travels the Back Roads to Beijing

BOOK REVIEW Murderers in Mausoleums: Riding the Back Roads of Empire Between Moscow and Beijing by Jeffrey Tayler (Morocco 1988-90; PC/Staff Poland 1992, Uzbekistan 1992-93) Houghton Mifflin 2009 Reviewed by Michael Meyer (China 1995-97) As SARS crippled Beijing in 2003, a handful of fellow former Peace Corps China volunteers and I waited out the weeks with bad red wine and the fear that comes from being thirty and far from home, uncertain how to continue freelance writing when editors stopped buying stories that were not about the virus and its cover-up. The Moscow-based Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Tayler provided unexpected succor then; we passed around his forward to Facing the Congo, a small masterpiece of an essay on existential angst and the desire to achieve something as a writer by age thirty-three — “the age of Christ!” according to the Russian saying. He accepted the challenge, and then some, setting off in . . .

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Launching the Peace Corps

To close out “Peace Corps Week” here’s a little history lesson on the beginnings of the agency for all the X,Y,Z Generations who ask, “how in the world did all of this happen?” Encouraged by over 25,000 letters responding to his call to serve abroad, Kennedy took immediate action to make the campaign promise a reality. He asked Shriver to direct a Peace Corps Task Force–the famous Mayflower Hotel gang–and within two months the task force had outlined “seven steps” to form the Peace Corps in a February 22, 1961 memorandum to Kennedy. This memo is interesting for several reasons. The first point Shriver made was that the Peace Corps should be established by an Executive Order within the Mutual Security Program. William Josephson, then the only lawyer in the ‘new’ Peace Corps was the principal author of the President’s Executive Order. [This is not entirely true for Shriver was . . .

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