What has happened to our Peace Corps?
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I’m not too surprised as the Peace Corps is a massive bureaucracy and their legal department’s influence seems to have grown over the years. I was interviewed for a Country Director position a little over a year ago and after two days of interviews and meetings, I was told that I was qualified but not for the positions they were looking for (I think they were focused on French speaking countries). My biggest surprise was that nobody asked one question about program development or monitoring and evaluation-not a peep. All questions related to hypotheticals–what if so and so is raped, or so and so is kidnapped, our so and so is taking drugs??
The next day I actually met the program director of Peace Corps Guatemala at a reception and asked a few questions since this was my PCV site and I’ve worked their a total of eight years with various international NGO’s. I asked about their agricultural based programs since I was involved with fertilizer experiments in the early 1970’s and was told, “We don’t really have that many because we can’t work in many of the areas where the needs are greatest due to security restrictions.” Okay, what’s happening in Baja Vera Paz? (since that was one of my sites and I met my wife there), “Oh we can’t work there because the volunteers would have to drive through Guatemala City.” Turns out that the PCV’s can’t live in Guatemala City nor can they take a “campo bus” on the Pan American highway because of security risks–they must be transported in PC shuttles.
All of this felt too restrictive for me with a focus on taking care of the volunteers, so I haven’t reapplied. But just two weeks ago, I sent some local Antigua Rotary Club contacts to a PCV involved with reproductive health care programs outside of Chimaltenango and she thanked me but said her ability to network was limited since her curfew starts at 6pm! So,how you get to know the culture or network from your home each day is beyond me. This effort is part of a new Peace Corps affiliate, “Partnering for Peace” which is enhancing the partnership between Rotary and the Peace Corps https://www.facebook.com/partneringforpeace/ So I’m obviously still big on the Peace Corps (and Rotary) but have been impressed by all the new security restrictions and limitations which determine how and where the volunteers can work.
Up until the mid-80s, Country Directors could be asked about their political affiliations. Now, the application process is neutral, as are all other foreign service or federal civil service positions. Applicants can not be asked about their political opinions or affiliation. Maybe, back in the day, the appointment process was far more personal and maybe Country Directors applicants were known to Peace Corps appointing authorities.
Villon wrote the poem in a Paris prison….sentenced to hang, he was instead banished from Paris in 1463 for ten years. He was never heard from again. Dante Gabriel Rossetti was one of the first to translate the famous ballade into English, coining the word “yesteryear” to capture the sense of the French “anten” or “antan,” which means “last year” but also “once” or “in the past.”
WHERE ARE THE SNOWS OF YESTERYEAR.
Ulysses BY ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON (EXCERPTED FROM THE 82 LINES)
……………………………………… always roaming with a hungry heart ………………
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs:
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Thanks Edward! I hear this phrase and think of Heller’s meme: “Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?” Of course, the tragic death of that fictional WWII bombardier is no longer what comes to mind when we hear Snowden’s name. What a strange and unfortunate twist!