September - October 2002 -- Volume 15, Number 5
It's China All Right
Marilea Swenson, Ethiopia (1971-73), a longtime member of SDPCA, here writing under the pseudonym of Madam Wu, shares with us a travel diary written home to family and friends on her 2001 (in this issue) and 2002 (next issue) pilgrimages to China.
May 9, 2001: It's China all right--leaving this Saturday, May 12 with a group of 40 friends and friends of friends. Twelve-plus hour flight from Los Angeles to Beijing, arriving local time Sunday about 5 pm. China spans five time zones but the whole country is on one--Beijing time. That might confuse me, I'm not sure--lots of things confuse me. Preparing for the trip, I've tried to do lots of reading, but: the history of the dynasties --Ming, Tang, Song, Qing, Yuan, Xing--talk about confusion!
We arrive in Beijing in time for dinner and sleep. Monday morning the regimen begins--The Great Wall: the Ming Dynasty began the wall in the fifth century BC but the Great Wall as we see it today is more from the 16th century; Ming Tombs, cloisonné factory, Peking Duck dinner. Tuesday, Tian'anmen Square, Forbidden City: the Imperial Palace of 24 emperors from Ming to Qing (OK, from 1421 to 1911) it covers 170 acres; Summer Palace, Peking Opera Show. And it doesn't slow down.
From Beijing, we head a bit south to the Yangtze River to cruise for four days. We'll see the new Three Gorges Dam under construction. This is to be a colossal structure--but maybe not a wise one. I forget the numbers of feet, gallons and people, but there are towns and villages and cities that will be submerged--forever to be lost. Farms and factories and archeological sites. International environmentalists shudder at the gunk that might leech into the reservoir--from which people will drink and in which fish will swim. Historians are saddened at the loss of sites not even investigated or even discovered.
And think of the people displaced from the comfy little neighborhoods and now up the slopes to highrise apartments. Fun for the younger people, but rough on the older ones. And this is an expensive project. One of the reasons they like the tourist dollar. Anyway, we'll see several of the sites and gorges that will be flooded, including pagodas, temples and villages--I believe it will start to fill in about three years.
May 16: Wuhan, you say? Yep, Wuhan is a pretty large place--about eight million. It's on the Yangtze which we'll start cruising Thursday night after seeing the Yellow Crane Pagoda. Today we saw the tomb and museum of the Marquis Yi, discovered in 1977 filled with groundwater but also filled with treasures--mostly metal--bronze, I think: bells for music and armor/weapons, cooking/serving pots--all unbelievably decorated. The coffins of the Marquis and his musicians (yes, they went when he went)--were of lacquered wood and were preserved unbelievably well for soaking in water for 2400 years.
We saw a residence built for Mao, a kind of retreat by the lake. It contains a meeting hall and conference room as well as bedrooms. There is still something left of a reverence for Mao, although he was responsible for the Red Guard which destroyed so much art, literature, and history, among other questionable things he did. Many of his statues are gone, however, although the big painting of him still hangs at the entrance gate to the Forbidden City. A new one is installed each year. His body lay in a crystal coffin in a memorial at Tian'amen Square and thousands lined up to view him. Ours is a whirlwind tour so we didn't have the time.
Yesterday we climbed the Great Wall--only a little bit as its length is about 4000 miles long, but the part that is closest to Beijing--maybe 1.5 hours away--has been restored and when they say "climb", it is a climb--not unlike the Inca Trail or Ayers Rock or, say, Everest. The steps are pretty uneven in height so it makes for more of a challenge. We climbed just a few miles we actually climbed and then came back down.
We saw a cloisonné factory and the Temple of Heaven also yesterday and then made a foray into a Beijing street market. Not enough time to purchase all that there is here! We are getting a very good feel for Chinese tradition and culture, as explained by our tour guides, who have been excellent. Our national guide has been nicknamed by some earlier tourist group as Forrest Gump. He's a delight--funny and clever and generous and has a perfect command of English and Americans. Tony was our Beijing guide; what happened when they were learning English in school was that the teacher gave them American names (not Forrest Gump, that was a later dubbing) and we have Vivian here in Wuhan, although her Chinese name is Wong Wai. Wong is the family name--our last name. So, she'd be Miss Wong.
The Chinese invented paper, printing, the compass and gunpowder (originally for fireworks). (And we Americans are credited with inventing electricity, the telephone, the computer and the internet.) Do you know why Chinese writing goes from top to bottom in a straight line.....and then they start another column????--because before paper was invented, they wrote on thin strips of flattened bamboo.
I'm in an internet shop, across from our hotel, the Holiday Inn Tian which has 51 computers. It's open 24 hours a day and costs 3 yuan for an hour; 8.2 yuan = $1, so 3 yuan is about 40 cents, a bargain. The hotel has a business center which charges, after the first 15 free minutes for hotel guests, 1 yuan for 1 minute. So 30 minutes for $4 about.
Traveling in a large group kind of keeps us immune from Chinese people beyond hotel and restaurant employees, so this foray is an experience! Sharon, my Prague and Provence emailing buddy, isn't on this trip and Barbara is sacked out in the hotel so I'm solo. It's so hard, nearly impossible, to get information, although so many folks are so nice and are really trying! I was trying to figure out this afternoon here in this shop the price and the hours of business. Nothing is written in English and while they all recognized hello and "I speak a little English", I couldn't communicate "when does it close?" "finish" or then the ol' universal gesture-- finger slash across the neck.
But here I am, in really the only place I've encountered smoke, as in cigarettes. Smoking is not permitted in many areas and there are nonsmoking rooms and areas and all the flights have been nonsmoking. I guess these things are getting to be requirements for the general tourist business, even in Asia.
I can say that I have mastered chopsticks and I'm doing pretty well. I could cheat and use a fork, but I'm hanging in there. We've had seven Chinese meals; breakfasts are western: omelets, French toast, bacon, etc. Dessert is always watermelon or pineapple. Soup is served at the end of the meal.
So, signing out now from central China, 15 hours from San Diego which makes it, I don't know, it's nearly midnight here, what time is it there?
--Madam Wu [aka Marilea Swenson]
Second journey continues next issue... Photographs by author.
2001 Journey to Poland
From Katherine Melcher, Togo (1995-97), a new addition to our Pacific Waves crew, personal travel reflections on 2001 journey to Poland
Warsavians call it the wedding cake or the sandcastle. The sand-colored Palace of Culture and Science, garnished with neo-Baroque spires, was the second tallest building in Europe and the only skyscraper in Poland when it was built in the 1950s. As a "gift" from Stalin's Soviet Union to the people of Warsaw, it still dominates the city center of Warsaw.
Now the hall that hosted the Communist Party Congress hosts the annual Jazz Jamboree. The building now also contains a cinema, a gift store, and a casino. The larger-than-life Socialist realist sculptures of industrious and cultured men and women are now joined with neon signs and billboards for Hondas. The square surrounding the Palace, the largest square in Europe, is now covered with a conglomeration of market stalls, food vendors, and parking lots.
Last summer I came to Warsaw as a Landscape Architect to study historic preservation. My work focused on Renaissance and Baroque palace gardens, but the current complexities found in the city's form became my true fascination. Attempting to decipher how the city got to be the way it is today occupied my free time.
Some sights were not so easy to decipher at first glance, like Warsaw's Old Town. The 14th century charming town square and colorful medieval buildings are actually reconstructed. The Old Town was almost completely destroyed in World War II, and was carefully rebuilt in the 1950s using historic drawings, descriptions, and paintings.
Some sights were all too familiar, like the large shopping centers, big-box retailers, and movie complexes growing on the outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, the IKEA downtown was holding a going-out-of-business sale, car sales were rising, and traffic congestion was becoming unbearable.
Some were inspirational and curious adaptations, like the conversion of the Ujadowski Palace into a contemporary art museum. In a strange mix of cutting-edge innovation and historic preservation, the palace hosts international exhibits of contemporary art. On the terrace overlooking the former palace grounds, now a public park, artist-intellectuals have lively discussions over nouveau Polish cuisine and beer. I smile at the saying "Far Too Many Things Fit into So Small a Box" painted unobtrusively on the palace's wall.
But the Palace of Culture and Science with its complexities and contradictions seemed to me to embody the difficult changes Poland had been undergoing in the recent decades. Maybe the Palace is not the symbolic heart of the city but it is the functional one located next to the main train station, subway connections, and most of the downtown shopping centers.
Many wished that the monolithic Palace would be demolished once Soviet influence left Poland. It still stands but, I assume, dramatically altered from its original state. I imagine that it originally was alone on the square, tall, uniform, gray and brown. Now colored, garish advertisements are added to the sandy gingerbread. The tower is almost out of sight when you are among the vendors competing for your attention. Magda, my host in Poland, described to me how colorful she found Western Europe when she was a child. On a trip to West Germany with her father, she found a fluorescent orange reflective sticker on the ground. Fascinated by the bright color, she kept it as a treasure.
The market stalls on the square connect to the central shopping district in Warsaw. On the other side of the street are McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. When I first arrived in Poland, the weekly English newspaper had an article about how American fast food restaurants is increasing obesity in Poland. But, in turn, fast food is encouraging the growth of new businesses, such as the diet industry. Luckily, they have not yet adopted the American taste for litigation as well.
On the opposite side of the Palace, leading towards the train station, is another sight. Sitting around a fountain that does not work, are men, in dirty brown clothes, smelling of stale alcohol, asking for money. Unemployment in Warsaw is high (12% in 1999). One woman I met on the bus said, "Before, everyone had money, but there was nothing to buy; now, there is plenty to buy, but no one has money."
Towards the end of my three-month stay, I traveled north to Gdansk, a city on the Baltic and home of the Lenin Shipyards. With an hour to kill before catching my train, I stopped by the Solidarity museum, where the changes now visible at the Palace of Culture and Science were put into historical perspective for me.
In 1980, spurred by a government raise in food prices, shipyard workers staged strikes and protests. They succeeded getting their demands for free trade unions, free access to media, and another 21 points approved by the government. Although martial law came in less than a year later, the protest started the end of Soviet rule in Poland.
This struggle for basic freedoms, free speech and free assembly did not happen in some remote historical text for us. As a student of history, I had grown used to finding all significant events in old texts created long before I was born. But here were amazing historic events happening while I was alive, and I had known so little about it.
I saw that this struggle, this protest for human rights, was what the recent changes in Poland were originally about. They were not about monuments versus McDonald's, plazas versus parking lots, or Culture and Science versus chicken shacks and "Sexy Beast". These things are just the mess that came after change. Trying to decipher just how and why is just as confusing as trying to find your way through the maze of wood and plastic market stalls, dodging puddles of rain, with music blaring, vendors yelling, and smells of garlic and beer in the air. As someone said at the celebration of the USA Bicentenniel, "Freedom is something that must be worn on a regular basis."
[Photographs from Katherine Melcher, the author]
Ask not what
your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your
From the President
Bringing It All Home
Well---Bush is beating his chest over Iran; California's Davis has a larger war chest than most countries' reserves (but we still don't have a state budget passed); parents in the U.S. are worrying about child-napping; the Israelis and Palestinians are blowing each others brains out. Do things seem more messed up than usual, or am I just getting forgetful?
A friend had been talking about "getting out of here" ever since I'd met her and she'd quizzed me about Costa Rica. She left the other day with dog and husband in tow for San José (then, presumably the beach) to begin a new life. I wished her the best and will surely look her up when I'm down that way. There are times for many of us when we decide to end something and begin something else: what a sense of excitement and freedom it generates! I remember each time---when I felt master of my fate and moved mountains to make something happen.
Upon reflection, it is that feeling that I envy her. She did it. She took her dream and made it come true. I know it because it is something we have experienced as Peace Corps Volunteers. And then after---as Returned PCVs---how we continue to work and share our dreams.
We bring it all home in so many individual ways to build peace in a troubled world. I proudly envy us all.
From CFO Frank Yates
Note: The largest outlay, by far, is our ISF field grants to SD PCVs in the field, so please keep your dues current! AND our largest source of monies is from Entertainment Books and Calendars... so keep on buying them!
Where our Monies Go
Where our Monies Come From
Free Beer for SDPCA Speakers!
Although their eyes may glaze over occasionally, and sometimes they seem more concerned with the latest episode of "American Idol" or who J-Lo is dating, there are a lot of people in the States who do want to hear about your experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer. If you are interested in talking to local groups about the things you did, saw, ate, caught, learned, smoked, taught, gained, stole, whatever, as a PCV, please let me know.
The SDPCA gets requests all the time
for RPCVs to speak to groups of all sorts, from the Girl
Scouts to the San Diego Shuffle Board Association. We need
RPCVs from around the county who are willing to take an hour
or less of their time to bring the world back home! Please
e-mail me at email@example.com
and let me know what types of groups you would be willing to
talk to, when, and where. For each community group you speak
to, I will buy you a beer (I'm serious)!
Did You Miss the E-vite??
We have now set up an e-vite invitation email list to make sure you are informed of events going on with SDPCA, international events that may be of interest to you or late-occurring alerts that couldn't make the newsletter. We have successfully used e-vite to notify many members about the Volunteer Day at Dodger stadium in September, but a number of addresses came back undeliverable... Was this you?? Make sure your e-mail is on file and up-to-date with SDPCA. Send your updates to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strategic Planning for a Better SDPCA
On Saturday mornings July 13 and August 3, your SDPCA board completed its first ever strategic planning sessions. After much discussion, we felt this was necessary for the organization to continue grow, develop and flourish over future years. The planning included updating our vision and mission statements as well as setting new strategic goals.
Chairs of the committees are now being commissioned to put the strategic goals into action. Keep your eyes open for the new Vision and Mission in the next issue of the SDPCA newsletter. This is an exciting time for the organization, and if you're interested in helping us grow, finding new ways to bring the world back home and would like to donate a few fun hours a year to serve on one of the committees, please contact email@example.com.
Conversations with Director Vasquez
About 20 SDPCA members gathered for happy hour Friday, August 2, at the Boathouse Restaurant to meet with Gaddi Vasquez, new director of Peace Corps, and several members of the DC and LA Peace Corps staff. The tenor of the evening was casual and Director Vasquez made himself accessible to answer many questions, most of which were quite direct and candid.
In speaking to the entire group, Vasquez informally stated his two most important principles: the safety and security of volunteers in the field as a first priority for countries who want to host volunteers [also see GAO report on PCV security, below], and maintaining the quality of the volunteer experience which includes engaging RPCVs in more vital decision making roles as well as increasing greater diversity among volunteer ranks. He briefly mentioned his professional background as being in law enforcement and international business, as well as public service.
Among currently applying countries
which want to host PCVs (some of them having been previous
hosts), he listed East Timor (which now has volunteers),
Peru, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Eritrea,
Azerbaijan, Botswana, Swaziland, and the Central African
Republic. He also stated that preliminary discussions are
being held with Mexico. "I have the best job in Washington,"
he stated several times during the evening before he left to
spend the weekend with his wife and son who live and work in
Calendars & Entertainment Coupon Books
Sales of Calendars and Entertainment Books continues to be a major means of making the monies for our International Support Fund grants---with great pride, our major expense yearly.
RPCV Spy Dies
RPCV, CIA operative and USA defector Edward Lee Howard died last month in Moscow. While it is there is an absolute prohibition against anyone who ever worked for a US intelligence agency ever serving in the Peace Corps, many do not know that former volunteers may go to work for the CIA after a five year waiting period. Edward Lee Howard was one such former PCV who became a CIA operative.
Howard was a PCV in the Dominican
Republic and Colombia in the late 1960s, after which he
worked for USAID, then applied to the CIA. He later defected
to the USSR. Edward Lee Howard was a disgrace to the CIA and
a disgrace to the Peace Corps. Many volunteers think it is a
further disgrace that returned volunteers are even allowed
to join the CIA and that there isn't an absolute prohibition
on their future employment in the intelligence community.
Come to the Peace Corps Online website to read the complete
story and leave your opinion at:
Post Office Rejects Freedom Corps Colleague Spying
The United States Post Office announced that it will not participate in a new Justice Department program that encourages American workers to report suspicious activity they see at work because they do not to create mistrust between postal workers and the community. Operation TIPS is called "a national system that allows workers to report suspicious activity," according to a federal notice.
TIPS will be a sister organization to
the Peace Corps as part of the USA Freedom Corps. There is
opposition to TIPS across the political spectrum. Many
volunteers have expressed concern with TIPS and the
integrity of the Peace Corps. Is it really a good idea for
the Peace Corps to be associated with an organization whose
mission is domestic spying? If the Post Office can speak out
as an independent organization, then why aren't the men and
women who lead the Peace Corps willing to speak out to
protect the agency?
GAO Reports on Peace Corps Safety and Security
The GAO issued its long awaited report on Peace Corps Safety and Security July 25. It said that assaults against Peace Corps volunteers around the world have doubled in the past decade and that Peace Corps' efforts to safeguard volunteers are not consistent.
The report also offered
recommendations to improve security. Director Vasquez'
background in law enforcement seemed ideal to implement
these changes and when he appeared before the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee last year; during his confirmation
hearings he said that he would make safety and security of
volunteers one of his top priorities. Read the complete GAO
report and Director Vasquez's response on what he will do to
improve volunteer security at:
Peace Corps Legislation
The new Peace Corps legislation
continues to move through Congress. Two more Senators
publicly co-sponsored it for a total to seven. Congress will
soon be adjourning for recess to their home districts. RPCVs
should contact their representatives and express their
wishes re passage of Senate Bill S2667 and House Bill HR
4979. It is expected that the bill will be considered in
Then Jesus took his
disciples up on the mountain and gathering
them around him, he taught them saying:
Blessed are the
poor in spirit for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they
which do hunger and thirst after
righteousness, for they shall be
filled. Blessed are the
merciful for they shall obtain
mercy. Blessed are they
which are persecuted for righteousness
sake, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven. . . . Rejoice and be
exceeding glad, for great is your reward.
. . Then Simon Peter
raised his hand and said, "Do we need
to write this down?" And Andrew whispered
to Mark, "Are we supposed to memorize
this?" And Philip said,
"Are you going to collect our
notes?" And Mark said,
"Teacher, I REALLY gotta go to the
bathroom." And Luke said,
"Teacher, Matthew hit me!" Then one of the
Pharisees present as a community member
asked to see Jesus' lesson plans and
inquired of Jesus his terminal objectives
in the cognitive domain... . . .and Jesus
Then Jesus took his disciples up on the mountain and gathering them around him, he taught them saying:
Blessed are the
poor in spirit for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the
merciful for they shall obtain
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . .
Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward. . .
Then Simon Peter raised his hand and said, "Do we need to write this down?"
And Andrew whispered
to Mark, "Are we supposed to memorize
And Philip said,
"Are you going to collect our
And Mark said,
"Teacher, I REALLY gotta go to the
And Luke said,
"Teacher, Matthew hit me!"
Then one of the
Pharisees present as a community member
asked to see Jesus' lesson plans and
inquired of Jesus his terminal objectives
in the cognitive domain...
. . .and Jesus wept.
From the NPCA 40+1 Conference
Reports--Official and Personal
Intro: SDPCA was fortunate to have
had five sets of RPCV eyes reporting to us from the NPCA
40+1 conference this past June 20-23. Here are those
reports, some "official" and some more "personal."
I felt especially honored by the SDPCA Board to represent our SDPCA membership at this conference. Upon arriving in Washington, D.C. on Friday, June 21, I made the necessary inquiries to find the best way to represent our association. Subsequently, I attended the Presidents Forum on Saturday, June 22 and the Annual General meeting held on the same day.
The Presidents Forum
The main areas of discussion were: NPCA membership fee increase, The Vasquez nomination and advocacy issues. As per the previous SDPCA deliberations on the membership fee increase of $10 to $35 per year, I voted in favor of the increase. The issue surrounding the Gaddi Vasquez nomination as the Director of the Peace Corps resulted in the following vote: 12 yea, 7 nay and 20 abstentions. I, (for SDPCA) voted Yea.
The advocacy issues and resultant resolutions dealt with setting an advocacy program agenda for the NPCA for the next year. Among the issues were: advocating for Country of Service issues, advocating for programs that would provide water to the 2.5 billion people of the world who currently do not have safe and adequate water, advocating for minority representation in the NPCA, advocating for Peace Corps programs in countries that do not have PCVs and advocating for the support of programs that address global economic issues.
During the discussion on the latter, I took umbrage with the wording of the major resolution dealing with global economic assistance. I stated that I would vote against it: it utilized the phrase, "third world countries." I was taken aback that RPCVs would speak of countries representing "the developing world" in such terms. After some discussion, my point was adapted as a friendly amendment to the resolution, changing the verbiage to reflect a more positive intention when referring to developing countries where economic assistance programs may be initiated. The meeting was well run and attracted open, vibrant participation from almost all who were in attendance. (No surprises there!)
The NPCA Annual General Meeting
This open meeting was well attended and lively. A pro forma agenda was followed. When coming to the agenda item of "Newsletter and Web site Awards" my interest piqued. The SDPCA newsletter, Pacific Waves received third place award among all of the newsletters published by the myriad of Peace Corps Associations throughout the country, for "content." With pride, I accepted the award on behalf of the SDPCA and the Pacific Waves editor, Brenda Terry-Hahn. I want to again thank the SDPCA for allowing me to represent the association at the conference. It was an interesting and I think, worthwhile experience.
And so, my fellow Americans:
ask not what your country can do for you--
ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of
--John F Kennedy, from
"Innaugural Address" Jan 20, 1961
I arrived In Washington, D.C. with anticipation. The only other NPCA National Conference that I have attended was when the SDPCA was the host association for the 1997 annual conference. At that conference I did not have the opportunity to link up with any of the people with whom I served in 1962. Would this conference be any different? Would I see and visit with those that I trained and served with after 40 years? Life is replete with change; what changes have occurred for those of us who, in our budding youth, latched on to a program espoused by the then president, John F. Kennedy?
The SDPCA and the One World, Our World School Program sponsored an event that took place on Friday, March 1, 2002 in San Diego's Balboa Park. RPCV Stephanie Palau was going to embark on a cross-country bicycle ride promoting recruitment for the Peace Corps, the Third Goal of the Peace Corps and being an Ambassador of Goodwill and Peace. I participated in that particular sendoff. I was further honored by having the opportunity to formally welcome Stephanie to Washington during the NPCA Zoo Fest Conference event held at the Smithsonian National Zoo on Saturday, June 22. It was poignant to be present to greet her for SPDCA, from which she originated, upon the completion of her almost 4,500 mile trek.
As I readied my introduction to welcome Stephanie (at left ,photo by Hank Davenport), a man approached me and presented himself in a most animated way: it was Tim Fisk, face bright with enthusiasm, surprise and joy. We had trained together in Boston and Puerto Rico! I rushed to go on stage and welcome Stephanie with much apprehension: I didn't want Tim to disappear for another 40 years! Sensing an internal frustration that I wouldn't, among the 1,700 RPCVs present make further contact with my past, I seized the opportunity while at the microphone to cry out to the masses of RPCVs gathered that "I was here, where were you?"
Upon voicing that appeal, and with Stephanie exiting after having been acknowledged for her wonderful and courageous achievement, another man, wearing the widest grin on his face that I have ever seen, came running up to stage right. It was Ron Inskeep, my first roommate in PC service while stationed in the small town of Izcuchaca, 25 kilometers from the central Andean City of Cuzco!
As my spirit soared with these two friends and later with Ron's wife, Judy who also served with us in Cuzco, the years melted away. I saw them as they were at that time, 40 years ago, fresh, vibrant, glowing, youthful and comparably innocent. Afterward, through catch-up conversations and sharing, the reality of time set in and the 40 year gap became evident to me. They all stated that I hadn't changed. Yet I knew that we all have changed (haven't we?). With anecdotes flying our times together in service were recaptured as clearly as if we were living them again.
It was evident to me that during those precious moments of reconnection there was a necessary catharsis for all involved. Questions that remained unanswered for 40 years were resolved. The circles that remained incomplete for so long were finally whole. New circles of life were started by offers of renewed, mature friendships and genuine gestures of hospitality. Coincidences abounded as we excitedly (and cryptically--few words were needed) related in moments our lives for the past 40 years. It didn't seem to matter, for the common bond we shared then was the bridge that allowed us to accept each other now as we are and to move on, almost with reckless abandonment, little care given to details.
The air was jovial, intense, exhilarating with the release of soul-friends reconnecting, as we touched each other in reassurance with our eyes, voices and hearts. Subsequently, I met up with others: Bob and Judy Blomberg and Jim Bass. Bob and Jim had also been members of our training group. At the Parade of Flags gathering alongside the Lincoln Memorial, another man introduced himself as Mike Dixon. He recognized me as one of his trainers at Cornell University, a position that I took after my volunteer experience.
Was our Peace Corps experience such an arduous, adventurous one? Was it so life-changing that our being together in this manner was the final proof that all the quiet power we thought we'd perceived really did occur? Or is it just a simple case of convoluted camaraderie, born of individual desire to have an opportunity to make a difference. We each had an individual desire to make a difference in a grand way. Yet not one of us chose to continue our connection. Yet somehow, in the magical world of shared experience we were together again in one brief weekend as if the aftermath of our Peace Corps aspect of our lives never separated us.
On flying home, I mused over the
weekend's events. It occurred to me that I was able to
reunite generationally with those I had trained with, served
with and later trained! I realized how blessed I was and am,
for we are now continuing the experience and have been in
contact since the conference. As usual for me, life is a
series of circles. During our journey, we will experience
the completion of some, although not all, of these circles.
I am so grateful that some of the Peace Corps circles of my
life that were incomplete are now whole. I now quietly
wonder whether our 40 years of memory and unforgotten
attachments, rooted in such unique camaraderie, are similar
to those who serve in other life-changing experiences: wars,
natural disasters, major soul-shifting events.
Reporting as President, Friends of Ghana, and NPCA Board Member
The conference opened on Thursday evening with a welcoming Congressional reception in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress. The upper balcony was completely packed with the 2,500 RPCVs and former Peace Corps staff members enjoying food, meeting old friends, and listening to the occasional speech by a member of Congress and Peace Corps and NPCA officials.
Friday morning we gathered in the Hall of the Daughters of the American Revolution and listened to excellent live Peruvian music, remarks by Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez, NPCA Chair of the Board Pat Reilly, NPCA President Dane Smith, Sargent Shriver, and others, interrupted by brief periods of apprehension, waiting to see if a satellite video connection had been made to Peru for the keynote speech by President Alejandro Toledo. President Toledo, a former student of a Peace Corps volunteer and one who is globally vocal about his appreciation of our work, was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the conference in 2001, postponed due to 9/11, and was at the last moment unable to travel to Washington, DC because of recent unrest in his country. We were finally successfully able to hear him speak to us via telephone.
Friday afternoon I attended a workshop on Worldwise Schools, presented by Annie Schleicher, NPCA's Global TeachNet Program Coordinator, and Wayne Breslyn, Peace Corps Worldwise Schools Program Manager.
On Friday evening, I attended the Friends of Ghana RPCV gathering at the Ghana Cafe, a small restaurant a few blocks from the conference center. Friends of Ghana shared the small restaurant and sidewalk cafe space with RPCVs from Togo, Burkina Faso, and Mali. We enjoyed fufu, kenkey, groundnut soup, jollof rice, fried plantains, and several other Ghanaian dishes, all well prepared. The owner of the restaurant even had a few cases of Club beer flown in from Ghana just for the event!
Saturday morning I attended the Presidents' Forum, representing the Friends of Ghana (at which Hank Davenport represented SDPCA). The longest discussion centered around the proposed increase in NPCA dues. Country-of-service updates were held on Saturday afternoon at George Washington University.
Saturday evening I attended the Salute to Giants Banquet at the hotel. This event was televised by C-SPAN. The three giants were C. Payne Lucas, Marjorie May, and Sargent Shriver. A silent auction was held which raised $25,000 for NPCA programs, including $10,000 for grants to help form new RPCV affiliate groups.
On Sunday morning many RPCVs assembled on a lawn near the Lincoln Memorial. We marched across the Arlington Bridge to the Arlington National Cemetery with the flags of each of our Peace Corps countries. At the entrance to the Cemetery, the flags were loaded onto a pickup truck while we continued our march past the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy and on to the Amphitheater. At the start of the memorial ceremony, the flags were carried into the amphitheater. Songs were sung, speeches were given, and the flags were paraded out at the end.
Sunday afternoon I also attended the
NPCA Board of Directors meeting as an NPCA board member. The
Board approved the dues increase from $40 to $50 for
individuals, effective January 1, 2003, with the same rebate
of $15 to be given to the designated affiliated group. The
board also approved the next Presidents' Forum for Portland,
Oregon in early August, 2003 and the next National
Conference in Chicago, Illinois in early August, 2004.
SDPCA former board member Ron Ranson, Nepal (1964-66 "before television"), who served with the Editor, attended the conference as an RPCV, along with two other members of our group, Laurence Leamer and Suzanne Smith-Cluett. Ron has traditionally published a Nepal IV newsletter, the Dal Bhat Digest, and pressed Larry and Suzanne into service to write reflections for a special edition.
The Dal Bhat Digest, "Especial Edition," September 2002
Namaste, everyone: Just to keep the communication system alive before the next reunion in Idaho, here is an "Especial Edition" of Dal Bhat Digest, the first on email (hard copies will be sent to those few still in the 19th century). NEWS: The Peace Corps celebrated its 40th+1 anniversary with a huge gathering in Washington, D.C. in June. The official celebration was originally scheduled for October 2001, but the climate following 9/11 necessitated the postponement until this year. Here are three reports from our highly paid and well placed correspondents:
I didn't participate in any Peace Corps events except the ones about Nepal. On Saturday, June 22, the Friends of Nepal (centered in Washington, D.C. - check out their website) arranged for an afternoon "breakout" session at the Mt. Everest Restaurant near Dupont Circle. About 50 RPCVs and Nepalis attended the delicious buffet lunch and two in-depth presentations and discussions.
The main topic was a history of the Maoist movement in Nepal given by a reporter from the Kathmandu Post. My summary of the two-hour talk is that the situation is almost hopeless: The Nepali Constitution does not permit representative government except as mentioned by name in the official document...and the Maoists are not on the list...and the government doesn't seem interested in changing the Constitution. The government seems to still think they can put down the Maoists by military force. (It hasn't worked so far.) The second presentation was about doing business in Nepal with the Nepali language by an RPCV who specializes in organizing craft co-ops for women.
That evening at 6 p.m. the Nepali
Ambassador hosted a reception and dinner for nearly 100
RPCVs and local Nepalis at the same restaurant. We were
treated to many very touching speeches and stories about the
Peace Corps in Nepal--both in English and Nepali... (several
of the RPCVs spoke in Nepali while several of the Nepalis
spoke in English). The main event was a Nepali cultural
show--complete with a Radio Nepal singer...who had his CDs
on sale at the reception table, of course. My son Andy (who
lives in Annapolis) attended both events with me and had a
permanent smile on his face for days afterwards. It was a
Man, so that's where the ambassador was. He was supposed to sit next to me at the dinner. The two seats were empty, and I was with the Algerian ambassador. There was almost no one with a Nepali name tag at the dinner. Now I know why. I don't know what to say about the evening. The thing was that I expected all these twenty somethings and here were all these women and men my age, God help us, and older.
It was quite sentimental as good old Sarge came roaring in on a motorcycle. My sense of it was how much the world has changed in all these years and also how little. Now the Peace Corps will double in size, and one looks out at that room and those lives and wonders what was the difference. The difference, I guess, is more here than over there.
There were at least half a dozen
members of Congress there, and all kinds of people who have
done interesting worthwhile things in their lives that they
might not have done otherwise. Moyers said that his three
years on the staff were the best years of his life, and I
think everyone in the room figured he was telling the truth,
and they could have said the same.
On Friday, June 21, I joined five other male RPCVs on a panel to discuss "Peace Corps Impact on Philanthropic Careers." Each of the six panel members is now working with a U.S. foundation. A common theme expressed by each panel member was the extent to which they had been influenced by their Peace Corps service and had become broadly empathetic to the needs and problems of developing country populations. This, in turn, had led each of them to seek a career initially in a nonprofit organization and, subsequently, to a career in philanthropy. Peace Corps service for the panelists was definitely a life changing experience.
On a beautiful summer Sunday, June 23,
Ron, Ron's son Andy and I met at the Lincoln Memorial with
approximately 1000-plus RPCVs and their families to begin
the two-mile walk celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the
Peace Corps. Starting at the Lincoln Memorial, the walk
proceeded across Memorial Bridge to the John F. Kennedy's
gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. In typical Peace
Corps fashion, the walk, scheduled to begin at 8:00 am,
started at 9:10 am. The bridge was closed to traffic and a
small fireboat on the river saluted us with a plume of
water. The flags of each of the over-130 countries where
Peace Corps has served were proudly carried by RPCVs. Ron,
Andy and I walked with approximately 20 others behind the
Nepalese flag. It was a colorful and moving event culminated
by a ceremony in the Cemetery Amphitheater remembering those
PCVs who died during their service.
Host Country Updates
Peace Corps and America's Image
Consider this op-ed piece from the New
York Times by Thomas Friedman, author of the Lexus and the
Olive Tree, on the three faces that America shows the world
- the face of the Peace Corps, the face of multinationals
and the face of American military power and his sense that
lately the balance has gone wrong and the only face of
America we see now is the one of military power and it
really frightens the world. Check it out at: Peace Corps
Niger: RPCVs Continue to Serve
Four service RPCV projects include
Friends of Niger hosting the 2002 Niger AIDS Education Bike
Ride organized to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and to teach
people with no formal education about how they can protect
themselves. The Friends of Niger is one of the partner
organizations officially supporting the Ride along with
Africare, CARE International and Family Care International.
Check it out and comment at Peace Corp Online.
Malawi: RPCVs Continue to Serve
RPCV Kevin Denny and members of Malawi
Children's Village is featured on "NBC Nightly News." Malawi
Children's Village helps 37 tribal villages on the southern
shore of Lake Malawi by providing medical care, food and
education to African children orphaned by AIDS, and
devastated by famines and homelessness. The charity serves
3,000 orphans in the Mangochi district. Read about it at
Peace Corps Online:
Russia's war in Chechnya is spilling
across its border with Georgia, worsening already tense
relations between the two countries. Russian fighter jets
and helicopters have repeatedly crossed into Georgian
territory in recent weeks in pursuit of Chechen fighters,
according to senior Georgian and European officials. In
August Russian aircraft bombed a gorge in Georgia less than
two miles from the border, Georgian officials said. Russia
has denied this but in increasingly pointed remarks Russian
officials have accused Georgia of harboring rebels fighting
Russian forces, which shares with Georgia a rugged 50-mile
mountain border cleaved by innumerable passes.
The Chinese version of Yahoo! risks becoming an online policeman for China's communist government if it investigates potentially subversive content, a human rights group has warned. New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a letter to the CEO Terry Semel of Yahoo! Inc., said the Chinese government's restriction of the Internet and its efforts to punish subversive content should not be aided by a company committed to free online expression and wanted to express "deep concern'' and discuss free expression issues in China but Yahoo! has not yet responded. The company's Beijing office confirmed last month that it HAD signed the pledge. One of the Internet's most comprehensive catalogs of Web sites, Yahoo! has cultivated an image of anarchic creativity and Internet freedom. Originally, the site's name was an acronym for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.''
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
announced that he is standing by an eviction order that
requires most of the country's white farmers to abandon
their farm livelihoods for an uncertain future. Mugabe said
he was determined to redraw the colonial map that had left a
tiny white minority with more than half of his country's
fertile soil. Nearly 3,000 white farmers were ordered to
leave their farms, though many have defied the order. The
president said that land would be turned over to landless
blacks by the end of the August. But he extended an olive
branch to those white farmers who agreed to abide by the
government's decisions. He said cooperative farmers who took
part in the land redistribution program would be allowed to
keep portions of their farms.
Brazil and other Latin American
governments have followed Washington down the free-market
path, only to find they are now losing control over their
economies. The immediate consequences are most visible here
in Brazil in the midst of an important national election.
Latin America's largest country has just engaged a $30
billion lifeline from the International Monetary Fund, one
that imposes strict policies on the next government with a
strong chance it will be a left-leaning one that promises to
improve the lives of the poor left behind in the economic
An Indonesian court found former East Timor governor Abilio Soares guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to three years in jail for failing to stop the 1999 army-backed militia rampage after the territory voted for independence. The Jakarta conviction was the first verdict in a series of East Timor human rights trials conducted by the Indonesia. It carried special weight because the Bush administration has been pressing for convictions that would hold the military accountable for the blood bath. More than 1,000 civilians are estimated to have died during the killing spree after the referendum went against the wishes of the Indonesian military.
Also, Indonesia's highest legislative
body rejected Islamic law here in the world's largest Muslim
country and closed its annual session today with
constitutional changes aimed at enhancing the democratic
nature of the state. The rejection of a proposal to
introduce Islamic Shariah law came even before it was put to
a vote by the 700-member People's Consultative Assembly. The
United Development Party of Vice President Hamzah Haz, one
of the main proponents of Shariah law, and two coalition
partners withdrew the amendment when it became clear it
would lose. Indonesia has a history, dating to the 1940's,
of resisting Shariah as the law of the land.
Promoted by a slick advertising campaign, gutka, an indigenous form of smokeless tobacco, has become a fixture in the mouths of millions of Indians over the last two decades. It has spread through the subcontinent, and even to South Asians in England.
But what has prompted particular
concern is the way that gutka&endash;as portable as gum and
sometimes sweet&endash;has found its way into the mouths of
children who have become consumers in large numbers in what
doctors say is an oral cancer epidemic. That has prompted
the state of Maharashtra, which includes Bombay, to enact a
five-year ban, the longest permitted by law, on the
production, sale, transport and possession of gutka, a $30
million business. Several other states have undertaken
similar bans, although some have been stayed by the
The Russian Foreign Ministry has not renewed visas for 30 of 64 volunteers seeking a second year of service in Russia, meaning they will be recalled to the USA, according to the agency. The next Peace Corps class, which is scheduled to arrive soon, has been cut in half and might be canceled. Country Director Jeff Hay said Russia has given no reason for the denials. Several Foreign Ministry officials said they knew nothing and could not comment.
However, the situation appeared to reflect long-brewing resentment over a U.S. aid program initially designed to help developing countries; although many communities across this vast country welcome the Peace Corps volunteers, some officials grumble that Russia is treated as if it were simply another Third World backwater and that the American volunteers are ill- prepared for their assignments in this former superpower.
Another explanation is that the
Russian government is using this to send a message in the
overall U.S.-Russian relationship. More on Peace Corps
SDPCA received a letter recently from ISF Recipient Jayne Jamieson, who works with the Home of Hope (target population: developmentally disabled children) in Amman:
We are proud and pleased to
announce the arrival of three sets of swings. They were put
to immediate use as you can see to everyone's pleasure and
satisfaction. The pads in the large swings also have
waterproof covers. At present the large swings are inside
and the smaller one is outside. They are all well made and
strong and should last a long time.
Please enjoy the
pictures[see one below]as much as we do and know
that your gift is much appreciated by all and will be in the
If you have any contacts in our
area we would be pleased if they visited us and could
reaffirm our gratitude to you after seeing the results of
Thank you again,
Sincerely, Jayne Jamieson, PCV,
When one door of happiness closes,
another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door
that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
Members, please note: Send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org in order to receive Board-approved immediate news flashes from the Secretary. We have an active email notification of news that occurs between the newsletter mailings.
You will ONLY be notified of important things and your email will NOT be shared with other groups.
For You Websurfers
Under the heading of "Dream on..." a site of a global island sales broker with links to other island websites and information; click on to see your island of dreams!! http://www.vladi.de
Another dream site, but with more availability, especially to those with flexible travel schedules: Sky Auction lists global class hotel packages, air tickets, and combinations for auction with a minimum bid of $1. It's fun just to surf and dream, but also was recently reviewed along with other similar sites in the New York Times as a good travel bargain bet as long as one reads the fine-print carefully: http://www.skyauction.com
This is a neat local activist collaborative site to log onto current events, news, op-ed pieces, etc. (i.e., Peace Resource Center): http://www.activistsandiego.org/calendars.html
San Diego World Affairs Council Events
[619.325.8200 or http://www.sdwac.com/events.html]
...to Julie and Craig Schwab, who relocated from San Diego to Costa Rica August 23. Julie served on the SDPCA Board in several positions. Julie describes their dream: "We will begin our new life in the small coastal town of Nosara located on the southern Guanacaste Peninsula on the Pacific side. We plan to open a small restaurant, perhaps eventually move further south where the waves are more isolated and start a small hotel geared toward surfers, as Craig's a professional chef and excellent surfer. I will put my marketing, people-loving, and bookkeeping skills to the test, although my biggest goal and greatest challenge will be learning to surf myself! (How does that popular song go?....Wipeout!)
I do have a favor to ask you all. In the beginning we will be going online via internet cafes (paying by minute) so please send only personal mail, no forwards. The one exception: Surf Aid International--guys, we want to continue to hear about the awesome work you are doing so be sure we receive any email newsletters that you send out.
Our email address-- email@example.com
--is one that I forward
through the provider of my choice so save into into your
address book and you will always be able to find us.
Finally, all of you come visit!! Costa Rica is beautiful and
diverse country with gorgeous beaches with warm crystal
clear water, tropical rainforests, volcanic mountain ranges
with natural hot springs, billions of plant, bird,
butterfly, reptile and other wildlife species, and more.
Costaricans, Ticos as they call themselves, are the warmest
people I've ever met.
National Geographic Society Education Foundation Grants
The National Geographic Society Education Foundation announces two grant programs:
Projects in underserved urban regions are particularly encouraged. Grants range from $50,000 to $70,000. Nonprofit and educational organizations are eligible. Contact for both programs is Tel: 202-857-7186 or 800-638-6400, ext. 7186. or online: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foundation
--From NPCA online updates
Days of Remembrance
The District of Columbia Board of Education has declared September 11-13 as "Days of Remembrance," to address issues related to eliminating racism, intolerance and hatred and promoting peace, locally and globally. Global TeachNet and the Peace Corps community have been asked to join the DC schools on those days to match an RPCV with each district school for a one-on-one classroom connection on the rich experience of volunteer service, and how that can be a catalyst to peace and global understanding. There are approximately 150 public schools in the DC school district. It is our goal to match them all, but we need you! Interested returned volunteers should mark their calendars now.
In the meantime contact Global
TeachNet for more information. Teachnet@rpcv.org
Welcome, New Members!Welcome, New Members!
We of SDPCA extend a warm welcome to our newest members. (If we received your membership late because you joined us through NPCA, this is beyond our control but we apologize anyway.) We've seen some of you at our events already and we want all of you to get involved in our activities. Let us hear from you!! You can reach us by the contact information listed on page 2. Old members, use this section as your SDPCA Membership Directory update.
New members are listed (whenever this information is given) by name, country and years of service, current occupation, area of residence, email and phone number(s). Where San Diego is the area of residence, zip code is given for possible SDPCA neighborhood contact and carpool possibilities.
The PC Palate
Cafe Caspian, Persian Eatery and
Cafe Caspian is open daily at 9 a.m. for all meals (except Monday, closed) with excellent Persian cuisine. "Proud to be vegetarian, vegan, and environmentally friendly." Meat dishes are also available.
The entire SDPCA Board approved this one! Excellent cuisine in the style of Persian families at home, great friendly service, small intimate environment suffused with Middle-Eastern folk decor, reasonable prices (entrees begin at $4.65). In addition, traditional readings of your Turkish coffee grounds offered Sunday mornings 10-1 p.m.
Pacific Waves is published six times a year by the San Diego Peace Corps 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:
Please send to Editor, SDPCA, P.O. Box 26565, San Diego, CA 92196 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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