101 Arabian Tales: How We All Persevered in Peace Corps Libya
by Randolph W. Hobler (Libya 1968–69)
Coming to LuLu in August
Review by D.W. Jefferson
Randy Hobler has taken on the herculean task of writing a comprehensive history of the Peace Corps in Libya, and a collective memoir of 101 Libya PCVs (102 including the author/editor).
He began by interviewing as many Libya RPCVs as he could find, along with asking them for any journals or letters from their Peace Corps years, to go along with his own. He then managed to meld all of that information into an engaging collection of tales covering everything about the Peace Corps involvement in Libya, from the training of Libya I, to the termination of Libya III before they left their training sites in the U.S. for Libya, when Muammar Ghaddafi kicked out Peace Corps.
Mr. Hobler began his project almost fifty years after joining the Peace Corps. Some of his interviewees have since died, but his labor of love is now finished and ready for publication. It is set to be published in August by LuLu Books, subject to potential delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Look for it at https://lulu.com/shop and on Amazon this fall. A podcast containing a summary of the work is available online at: https://mypeacecorpsstory.com/randy-hobler-peace-corps-libya/
Hobler writes in a conversational style that makes the book a pleasure to read. There are a few maps and many, many pictures. Many stories are humorous, though there are sad, tragic, shocking and downright scary ones as well. An example of shocking is when the Libya II training administrators decided that 30 of the trainees should ride the little Suzuki motorcycles, which they were learning to ride to use in-country, the 500 miles from their initial training site in Utah to another site in Arizona (without helmets)! The trainees eventually talked them out of this nonsense. An example of scary is having teenagers with automatic rifles order you around at checkpoints and in airports. This was common in the immediate aftermath of the Ghaddafi revolution.
If you enjoy reading about coincidences and anecdotes that venture well beyond the scope of a purely historical account, this book is definitely for you. And if you relish knowing trivia about Libya that will impress your friends, again, this is a book you must read!
D.W. Jefferson was a Peace Corps agriculture volunteer in El Salvador (1974-76) and Costa Rica (1976-77). A blog about his Peace Corps years is at: http://dwjefferson.blogspot.com He is currently retired from a career in computer software engineering.