Back issues are archived and links in them may not be current
January – February 2006— Volume 19, Number 1
Does PC Need a Makeover?
Check out an op-ed that was published in the Monday, October 24 edition of USA Today entitled Peace Corps Needs Makeover by freelance writer Laura Vanderkam.
While we are always interested in looking at ways to strengthen and improve the Peace Corps, the NPCA staff feels that this op-ed devalues the meaningful development work that PCV’s do, fundamentally misunderstands the historic mission of the Peace Corps and misrepresents the Peace Corps experience.
Please share your opinions with USA Today. Letters to the editor can be sent electronically to USA Today and email NPCA below:
Report to Mark J. Tonner International Support Fund
ISF Grant: New Computer System
letter and pictures come from Erik Fritz, a PCV in Kyrgyzstan Republic.
His community received an ISF Grant in 2004 for a New Computer System,
in the amount of $525.-Ed.
Dear San Diego Peace Corps Association,
It is with great pleasure and pride that I write you this letter of appreciation and gratitude. It has been a long time in the making (two years), but with your generous support, we have finally finished the school computer and Internet center. In fact, the smell of new computers is still in the air as we just installed the final three computers yesterday. All of us at school #1 are so thrilled that we can barely contain our excitement!
Let me tell you more about this marvelous project. Even though we are one of the best schools in Jalal-Abad, none of our computers were operational, save for one computer that stopped working about a month ago. The poor students (around 1,100) would sit facing blank and dusty computer screens and write down computer theory from books made over a decade ago. Now, thanks to your help, we have eight brand new computers, a new printer, scanner and the best of all, Internet access. We gathered a total of $3,000 from sponsors across the United States. I was so touched at how giving my fellow Americans are.
In addition, our school director begged and pleaded with the parents of our school and amazingly garnered a whopping $2,000. It may not sound like much but for a place where a teacher’s average salary per month is around $25, it’s just short of a miracle
For the past few months, I have been working hard to bring teachers and students up to speed with the modern world. Over 15 teachers have signed up to my beginning computer course and they are such a pleasure to work with. One teacher said to me the other day, “Now I see why kids are always in front of a computer screen; it’s so addictive!” Teachers have already used word processing to make their lives easier by updating their class lists and schedules through the computer instead of rewriting everything from scratch each time.
Countless students have begun to reap the benefits of Internet access. One student, Nazgul aged 16, said, “The information I’m getting for my Economics class can’t be found anywhere else than on the Internet.” I have big plans to work with teachers to assign projects that will encourage students to work in groups to find and distill information from the Internet. Future plans include opening a beginning computer course for the parents of the school. The possibilities are truly limitless.All of this could not have happened without your support. Along with my director and entire school, we would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are eternally grateful.
With warm regards,
–Erik Fritz, PCV,School #1, Jalal-Abad, Kyrgyzstan
Getting By On a Smile
I have been a resident of Carpuela now for almost two weeks. I will be a resident of Carpuela for another two years. The reality of that statement hit me as hard as the stares from every man, woman and child I passed as I stumbled off the bus with more in my REI backpack than whole families in Carpuela will ever have, minus the huge pots families hang (fashionably?) on the walls of their kitchen. Those definitely would not fit into my backpack, or the suitcase I left at another volunteer’s house, not wanting to overwhelm anyone, including myself, with all the “stuff” I own.
By my estimate I looked like an overgrown turtle, carrying my home on my back. But to them I was just a white girl and nearly every child I passed felt it his civic duty to remind me, just in case I forgot, at the top of his lungs: “Gringita!!”
How I wished I were a turtle, how I longed to hide myself as a turtle can when he is scared, how I wanted to darken my white skin that immediately labels me as an outsider in Carpuela, an entirely Afroecuadorian community in the Chota Valley of Northern Ecuador where I am the only person who does not have black skin, the only one who is not a “negrita” as the Afroecuadorians prefer to be called.
I will not lie. Those first few days here I was ready to go back home, or at least back to uptown Quito where hotels have televisions, kids wear clothes and flies do not bite. I remember asking myself one night, as I tried to situate myself under my mosquito net in such a way that would prevent it from touching my skin, “Kendra, what the hell are you doing here?” It is likely I would have heard crickets, but he dogs were barking too loudly.
That third night in Carpuela, working out the logistics of getting back home as quickly as possible, I really only needed something familiar, something from home, something to carry me back to the comfort of the west coast, USA, but only long enough to remember whey I made the decision to come here in the first place. In every foreign land I have traversed, music has always held such power.
I have heard it drifting out of my indigenous guide’s guitar on a trek through the Karen villages of Northern Thailand, blaring from the $2.00 speakers of dusty pasals in the Nepal terai, and shaking the sidewalk stands featuring pirated CDs in the mercados of Guatemala City. In each of these places, Bryan Adams and Celine Dion have taken me back to the comfort of my homeland. How, I wonder, is it possible that the Thais, Nepalis and Guatemalans all have an affinity for horrible American music? How is it possible that Air Supply and Toto have stood the test of time in each of these corners of the world? How is it possible I actually enjoy this music outside the borders of the United States?
After hearing “Hotel California” in Cambodia, Costa Rica and Copenhagen, one can imagine I was hardly surprised to find this soundtrack of my life abroad tuning in above the crying babies occupying the waiting room of Carpuela’s health center. Sure as the biting flies, Don Henley’s voice carried me back home.
And in this same health center I was comforted by the unparalleled vision and clarity with which Cat Stevens described my new world. Baby, Baby, it’s a wild world. Three months ago a washing machine was washing my clothes, I was buying burritos made in under 60 seconds at a drive-through window at 11 PM. Heck, three months ago I was driving myself wherever I wanted to go. And now I am beating my clothes on a washing rock, eating homemade soup twice a day containing twice as many potatoes as I dreamed I could consume, and waiting on a highway for a bus driven by a man who would never even qualify to take the behind-the-wheel test at the DMV.
But while Cat’s chorus certainly begins with a prolific message, he had clearly never been to Carpuela. Indeed here in northern Ecuador, I am getting by just upon a smile.
I taught my first health lesson to the seniors at the local High School and I am pretty sure I would not have made it through without a smile. When I beat Don Octavio, the president of my community, in a pit-of-the-obito (an Ecuadorian fruit) spitting contest--twice--I definitely smiled way graciously through that experience. And again, when I do not understand 75% of the proceedings of a village meeting, but get called upon to give my opinion, I just have to smile
Yes, it is a wild world. And
all the wilder now that I am in Carpuela. But I assure you that I love
this place, these people, I no longer want to go home, and that I am getting
by, at least for now, just upon a smile.
From Training to PCV in Mozambique
So another week has passed and I only have a week more until I find out my site location. It is an exciting time, because in only one week I will know where I will be living for the next two years. Last night I lay under my mosquito net listening to the rain pour on my tin roof as I read my new favorite book, The Kite Runner. The water was dripping in through the cracks and spraying the bed. Nonetheless, I live in a sturdy cement house, and so I can only imagine what families in mud or reed homes were doing. You would think their homes would just slip away, and apparently they do. I was told those types of homes only last about three years, yet people continue to choose those homes to cement ones because in the moment they need a home and they cannot financially plan, so they do what they can, even if it is not enduring.
This last week was extraordinary, I love being in the classroom and I really felt connected with the students, after only a week I knew many of their names and now I am constantly seeing them around the village. My host mom has started calling me Ó senora professora; she is way too sweet to me. When I come home from school she grabs my arms, puts them around her neck and we share this awkward moment where she praises me.
Everything is bizarre here, I wish I could explain the random events that occur everyday, but it is something better understood with the eyes. This morning, for the first time, I realized how hard it was to open a can of jam, without a can opener. The simple things that are so essential to our life in the States are complete unknowns here. So I watched as my sister open the can with the only knife we have in the house. It is one of those internal moments where you go “Wow!” I prepared Mac and Cheese (compliments of Mama’s care package) and my family thought we were fine dining. They went crazy for it, especially the fact the cheese was powdered. It has been a while since I have eaten processed foods, and it was brilliant.
Mac and Cheese has never taken so long to make, especially when you have to build a fire by scratch, I can hardly do it with a Duraflame. And amazingly, they do it nearly five times a day. In moments like this I feel incredibly guilty for taking a warm bucket bath. Cold ones have started integrating into my day.
So next week, I teach a 45 minute lesson everyday. I will be working with students who have never had English before, so lots of gesturing and drawing will be necessary. I’ll have about 60 students and that is all I know until Monday. Tomorrow I will probably settle under an unripe mango tree in my family’s compound, sit on the mat a neighbor made for me and prepare my lesson plan.
I also have a meeting with the man in charge of site placement. I can’t decide whether I want a roommate or whether I want to venture off on my own. I know that I will integrate better and learn more Portuguese if I live alone, but I already feel so bonded to many of the volunteers. I try to remember that I came here alone and that I need to maintain that confidence in myself.
My host family really wants me to go to this island site, which is very close to them, tempting! They said they would visit me every weekend and that I can always come back to “my room.”
It is a beach community with a small, rural village feel to it. So we’ll see. At that location, I would be alone, but would have my “family” only a boat ride away. Like I said, very tempting. Nonetheless, I do believe I will be happy where ever I am placed, my experiences thus far have taught me that I am more adaptable than I thought.
So for Turkey day next week, I will celebrate with the other volunteers. It should be fun, but I have to admit...I will miss how my family does it up! Attached is a photo of my niece and I.
My host family was so excited that I wanted to learn how to carry a child in the “traditional” way. It was great, a bit nerve wrecking, because it’s just hard to believe it is secure, especially when it is someone else’s child. They tried to get me to run with her on my back, they are entirely crazy. Then they wanted to top it off with the bucket on my head, so there I am, Mozambican style.
–Stephanie Cantrell, PCV, Mozambique (photo from author)
Katie Conlon is a USD Grad who also did volunteer work at the World Beat Center before her departure as a PC Volunteer.
From Gao With Love
So, I gave up waiting for a white Christmas to come. Now I’m singing Frosty the Sandman.
Hope you are all well, and enjoying the festivities–where ever you may be. I must say, Muslims don’t really get in the Christmas spirit, but I’m still having a good time here.
Life in Gao has been very busy for me. These first three weeks I feel like an ambassador when I ride on my bike waving and making salutations where ever I go. People are very friendly, and I am making headway in Songhai. I’ve been waking up before the sun rises to go running– the sun comes up when I’m en route in a shockingly bright orange. The scenery is sparse with Joshua-like trees and desert palms. Yesterday I saw a few Tuareg’s walking their camels to ????
There are definitely a lot of things for me to learn and discover here. I’ve already been invited over for lunch and tea at the homes of some of the artisans I work with. We sit around on mats, and ‘faajikaari’ (chit chat).
Family life for the Songhai is central to everything. It is very different for a woman to live alone, unmarried (unheard of) and I already feel like people try to adopt me - Which is good I guess, never a dull moment. I have permanent invitations to spend time at all the neighbors.
I bet I could even just camp out in their yard and they would be ok with it, and continue to serve tea into the night. The weather right now is very nice too, kind of like a honeymoon time. I guess I should not be deceived the real HEAT will come. My big battles for the moment are ants in my kitchen, birds in the garden (little buggers try to eat everything, but I will get a cat soon to solve that), and a reoccurring battle against some kind of bacteria that has found it’s way into my system. Gotta be more careful with what I eat I guess. No more picking up food after I’ve dropped it on the ground (just kidding, if I did that here, I’d really be in trouble!)
What else to say?
I can’t help but feel like I have already gotten used to things
here that would for others be cause for culture shock. Is it weird to
listen to Takumba music with guys wearing turbans and selling large swords??
My response: No. Is it normal to have visit after visit of African neighbors,
young and old, who just plop themselves down in your chairs, just to chill
and see what you’re up to? Again: No. Is it true that I am starting
to think in French now, instead of English? Oui ,I mean Yes. And the test
question for if you can live in Gao: Do you know how to bike in sand and
dodge blue motos at the same time? Of course! Ah, this life in Gao! I
encourage everyone to come and visit if you’re up to the adventure.
NPCA National Gatherng Is Rescheduled
NPCA has rescheduled its 45th Anniversary National Gathering. It will now take place Sept. 15-16, 2006. Please update your calendars!
If you haven’t checked the NPCA website lately, we want to remind you that NPCA is continuing to keep you up-to-date on the PC military recruitment issue. Thanks to you and our membership-at-large, we are making real progress. NPCA President Kevin Quigley had an op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune that once again brings national media attention to this expanded Defense Department recruiting initiative linking PC service to military service.
Since the op-ed piece further action has taken place:
Late last night on a voice vote, the United States Senate completed congressional action on the Department of Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006**. Included in this comprehensive defense legislation is language to remove Peace Corps from the National Call to Service (NCS) military recruitment program. This action will end the link between military recruitment and Peace Corps that may have changed perceptions of volunteers and thereby affected their safety and effectiveness, as well as potentially challenging Peace Corps’ independence.
The Defense Authorization bill was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this week
Before the Defense Authorization bill becomes law, President Bush needs to sign it. While it may be several weeks before this occurs, all indications are that the President will sign the bill, thereby removing Peace Corps from the NCS program and ending this formal linkage between military recruitment and Peace Corps.
(**The Defense Authorization bill is different from the Defense Appropriations bill, which has been the subject of extended and contentious debate, primarily over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.)...
–Jonathan Pearson, Micronesia 87-89–Advocacy Coordinator
To take action, stay up-to-date,
or to view Kevin’s recent op-ed piece on this NPCA advocacy campaign,
visit our website at
For more information on NPCA Advocacy, visit the Advocacy Network webpage at http://www.rpcv.org/advocacy
In celebration of the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, currently serving and former Volunteers-and their friends and families-will share their overseas experiences, participating in commemorative events that begin during Peace Corps Week, February 27-March 5, 2006, and continue through the end of the year.
Peace Corps Week provides an ideal opportunity for you to share your overseas experiences with your community. Register online http://www.peacecorps.gov/pcweek to receive a free presentation kit which includes informational resources and fun audience souvenirs to help you prepare for and promote your presentation. Visit the Peace Corps Week website for community outreach ideas, presentation suggestions from past participants, and online resources.
Please join us in celebrating
the enduring legacy of Peace Corps service during our 45th anniversary
celebration. If you have any questions, please email Peace Corps Week
at email@example.com, or
call 800-424-8580, ext. 1961.
Peace Resource Work Party Nov. 19
On November 19, twenty-seven RPCVs, nominees, and friends got their hands dirty at the third work party for the San Diego Peace Resource Center. This was the largest group we’ve had so far so a lot of work was accomplished!
Among the participants of this volunteer event we had the gracious help of a few young men from the San Diego Choice Program and it was thanks to their hard work that so much was accomplished.
As part of the Peace Resource Center’s effort to promote earth-friendly living, they have included in this project a permaculture lot which will emphasize the use of renewable natural resources and the enrichment of local ecosystems. This lot will include a variety of local plants and many fruit-bearing trees. During this last work party, the San Diego Peace Corps Association and its friends worked together to clear the lot for this plot and even started digging holes for planting trees and trenches for laying the pipes for irrigation.
The Peace Resource Center was happy to have been awarded a grant for this permaculture project and is now excited about beginning the setup. The trees, some about 12 feet tall and many with fruit hanging, along with the amended top soil and fertilizer have just recently been delivered and the SDPCA is looking forward to planting these trees at our next work party scheduled for January 21st.
As always, we are looking for all the help we can get so please join this fun, educational and rewarding project. The Peace Resource Center is particularly looking for someone who could help manage and maintain this permaculture plot so if you have experience or interest in agriculture or gardening please let us know as we would love to have you involved.
If you have any questions or comments about this project please contact SDPCA’s Community Action Chair:
No Place for a Poet at a Banquet of Shame
Taken from: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20051010/olds
The New York Times has hailed Sharon Olds’s poetry for its vision: “Like Whitman, Ms. Olds sings the body in celebration of a power stronger than political oppression.”
Award-winning poet Sharon Olds declined an invitation from the first lady to read at the National Book Festival in DC on September 24, 2005.
She wrote Mrs. Bush:
She then delivers this powerful condemnation that I wouldn’t excerpt if you begged me to:
–submitted by Brend Terry-Hahn, Nepal (1964-66)
We have two wonderful ways to support our Global Awards Fund that make great gifts your friends and family will appreciate for the whole year.
The 2006 Calendars are here, ready for pickup ($10.00) or mailing ($12.00) and the San Diego Entertainment books are available at 18 Postal Annex+ stores (check the list) for $40.00.
List of Postal Annex Store Locations:
–Sean Anderson, Romania (2002-04)
Great Food and Fun at The Little Lizard
What new aromas, flavors and
sounds would we experience this time?
On Saturday, November 12 we were to go and have lunch at a restaurant called La Lagartija, The Little Lizard. We piled into three taxis at the south side of the border and began our adventure. Upon our arrival, we knew that we were in for a “different” treat. The restaurant didn’t appear any different than the neighboring shops and houses! Trusting that our senses would be tantalized, we clamored from the taxis through the narrow door and into what may have been a past living room/dining room area. Our hosts greeted us with incredible affability and so commenced our gastronomical adventure.
What seemed to be an endless array of tasty delights native to Mexican cuisine was presented to us over the next two hours. To add to the warm and “filling” ambiance, a musician, Guadalupe “Lupe” del Villa skillfully serenaded us with a variety of Latin music on authentic instruments. Our mood was so lightened by the feasting and merriment that initially a few of those present were able to join in the musical menu. Before long, the whole group was heard (who knows what the neighbors thought), flexing their tonsorial muscles with a certain glee only encountered in similar aeries where RPCV’s are known to inhabit.
After being satiated, we all
agreed that our adventure was exceptional and that we looked forward to
when we will have another opportunity to spread our bellies to the delightful
and teasing menus provided by restaurants such as the Little Lizard. (La
Largatija, Rio Colorado No. 10121, Col. Revolucion, Tijuana, Baja
California. Tel. 686-39-56)
As usual, Jer outdid himself, and as usual, the buffet of central Mexican cuisine was out of this world. Dishes none of us had ever sampled, delicate seasonings and perfect preparations. Jose and family were excellent cooks and attendants, always on the spot just when one was thinking of ordering something or asking for a refill.
And–ta dah–a charming,
very skilled and talented solo musician, Lupe, whose authentic medieval
(1500 CE) instruments (two made of armadillo shells) and music thrilled
us all. ALL of us were singing along, and a few courageous ones danced
! A truly enchanting afternoon!
We need in every community a group of angelic troublemakers. –Bayard RustinFrom the President...
The New Year is Here
I missed seeing many of you at the SDPCA events in November and December, but I was with you in spirit! I had the opportunity to deploy to Louisiana in support of hurricane relief efforts and spent some time overseeing construction of temporary levee repairs and the new morgue facility where the remains are identified.
The devastation in Plaquemines Parish, my first stop, was quite amazing. I think my awe was much like that of a newly-arrived PCV, though it was the ruin caused by “mother nature” holding my attention this time, rather than poverty or lifestyle. But much like my Peace Corps experience, it is the people I have met and work with that give me such great memories and make me glad that I was able to participate and help in some way. The experience was just what I needed to end 2005 and “jump-start” 2006, and a reminder that there are many ways to continue with the Third Goal, whether in Mauritania or in Louisiana
I look forward to sharing more with you in an upcoming PacificWaves, but until then, Happy New Year!
–Nikol Shaw, Mauritania (1999-01)
In Attendance: Sean Anderson, Lynn Jarrett, Gregg Pancoast, Sira Perez, and Lisa Rivera attended both meetings. Don Beck, Liz Brown, Marjory Clyne, and Rudy Sovinee attended in November.
Minutes were approved as amended.
President’s Report: See committee reports.
Financial Report: Gregg provided members with financial reports up through the end of November. Revenue is coming in from sales of calendars and entertainment books, however total profit will be less due to money owed the publishers. Gregg also reported that Katie in Nicaragua finally received her award money.
Membership: Lynn reported that the SDPCA membership is at 179, with 51 past due, 24 free members, and 9 new members within the last two months. There are currently 118 NPCA members. For North County, satellite leaders Patsy and Cindy have been sending out letters asking members to verify contact information in order to update the database.
Community Action: Screening of Save the Children went well, possible upcoming second event. The 3rd Peace Resource Center event was held on 11/19/05 with 27 volunteers, the most to date. The Snow Goose Thanksgiving Celebration was held on 11/20/05. Next Peace Resource Event is tentatively set for 1/21/06.
Fundraising: Sean reported sales of entertainment books and calendars are going well. Please contact Sean Anderson if you are interested in purchasing entertainment books and/or calendars.
Global Awards: Global Awards Committee is reviewing proposals. SDPCA’s Global Awards are gaining recognition; the Assistant Director of Peace Corps, Judy Olson is aware of these awards. Committee will review packets Nov. 26th through Dec. 10th and reach a decision by Dec. 15th.
Communications: Next newsletter deadline is 12/10/05. Rudy Sovinee will check the voicemail for the month of December.
Social: Past and present activities are covered in newsletter stories.
Speaker’s Bureau: Panel discussion on Business RPCVs was held on 11/17/05. Please see article.
New Business: Newsletter will be available in paper form and online.
Next Meeting: 6:30 PM, 1/11/06, at the home of Marjory Clyne.
–Sira Perez, Kazakhstan (2001-02)
ultimate measure of a person is not where one stands in moments of comfort
and convenience, but where one stands in times of challenge and controversy.
–Martin Luther King Jr.
& Website Award Winners
• 2005 NPCA Website
Award [Both are AWESOME-Ed]
NPCA Newsletter Award
Go to: http://www.rpcv.org/pages/survey.cfm?id=58 to complete our limited-time online survey. At last count, more than 1200 surveys had been completed, but we want to ensure that each of our group leaders takes a few minutes to share their feedback too. We want to hear from you! Thank you.
Brand New Affiliate
Welcome New Members!
SDPCA extends a warm welcome to our newest members. We’ve seen some of you at events already, and we want all of you to get involved in our activities. Let us hear from you!
• Henry Loeser,
Czech Republic (1993-96)
–Lynn Jarrett, Ukraine (2001-2003)
Pacific Waves is published six times a year by the San Diego PeaceCorps Association which is fully responsible for its content. Except for copyrighted material, articles may be reprinted without permission with credit to the SDPCA.
Contributions are encouraged: e-mailed text file on disk- Mac preferred, or typed copy.
Please send to Editor, SDPCA, P.O. Box 26565, San Diego, CA 92196 or e-mail:
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