Peace Corps Writers — November 2001

    A Worthy Nominee
    The effort to secure a suitable director of the Peace Corps — and not Gaddi Vasquez — continues. The Committee for the Future of the Peace Corps presented their objections to the nomination of Mr. Vasquez on Wednesday, November 14, 2001at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Committee will meet to discuss and vote on the nomination during the first week of December. For those who could not attend the hearing, we have including in this issue our side of the discussion.

    Peace Corps readings are still happening
    The celebration of the Peace Corps’ 40th anniversary continues with readings by published Peace Corps writers in cities across America.
         Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991–93) read at the Beaumont Branch of the Lexington Public Library on November 12 in Lexington, Kentucky. Thanks to efforts by Angene Wilson (Liberia 1962–64), the Lexington libraries dubbed November “Peace Corps Month,” are highlighting RPCV writings, and have made Peace Corps recruiting materials available — our Third Goal work continues.
         Mark also read at Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s historic home in Tarrytown, New York, on October 24. This was the second reading done by Peace Corps writers for The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center there.
         One of Peace Corps Writers’ most active supporters, author and book publisher Geraldine Kennedy (Liberia 1962–64), has organized three readings in California. The most recent was in Santa Monica at the end of September. At that reading, Lawrence Grobel (Ghana 1968–71), who has written a number of books and done celebrity interviews for Playboy, told the audience, “I owe my career to my experiences in the Peace Corps. The books I’ve done are with people like John Huston, James A. Michener, Marlon Brando, Truman Capote, Oliver Stone, Saul Bellow, Alex Haley, and others, all of whom had this in common: they were and are interested in the world around us. What I had to bring to them were my stories, the three years I spent in Ghana, traveling around Africa: stories about visits with fetish priestesses, with people who spoke of ghosts, with getting locked in the dungeon of a former slave fortress, with dancing to the beat of a different drum. My stories allowed me to entertain these people, and they in turn were willing to open up and tell me their stories.”

    More in this issue . . .
    We Are All Sisters
    Tanya Elders (Malawi1997–99) is undertaking a project that is very dear to her heart, and one that is worthy of us all. It is a website called “We Are All Sisters” that features stories about women in every country where Peace Corps Volunteers serve or have served. This website is completely nonprofit and is built and maintained with donated manpower. Tanya’s goal is to launch this website by March 8, 2002 — International Women’s Day. “We Are All Sisters” would serve as a place where women in developed countries could learn about women in developing countries, where they could experience a piece of another woman’s life and perhaps find relatedness in their lives. We tell you how you can participate.

    Hearts & Minds
    Peace Corps Volunteers serve for two years, and when they leave their assignment, they take with them part of the country of their service. For many, a day doesn’t pass where their host country doesn’t come back to them in odd ways. The late novelist and short story writer Maria Thomas, who served in Ethiopia, once wrote, “If you ask people who ever lived in Ethiopia, they tell you that you never put it behind you.”
         The same is true for Tom Gouttierre, and his country, Afghanistan. He has never put Afghanistan behind him. Tom went as a PCV to Kabul in 1965 to teach English and stayed for ten years — as a Volunteer, a Fulbright Fellow, and finally, as the Executive Director of the Fulbright Foundation. He came home to set up the first (and only) Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Today, after more than 37 years, he is a leading expert on Afghanistan and the region. Lately he has appeared on CNN, C-Span, and NPR Radio and has written about the country in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Time Magazine. We spoke to Tom in early November about his Peace Corps experience, Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, and the war that is raging.
         We also have much more in this issue. Please read on . . .

    John Coyne