Peace Corps Writers
 Howls from a Hungry Place

Part I
Living Poor

Part III
The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey on Two Rivers
My Two Wars

To preserve and to learn
Howls From a Hungry Place, Part II
Mortiz Thomsen’s
The Farm on the River of Emeralds

by Mark Covert

 More Peace Corps history:

A Peace Corps Test    

 Establishing the PC   

Living on the Edge: Paul Theroux   

The Marjorie Michelmore Postcard

Outward Bound -
Puerto Rico training

2/15/62 - PA newspaper doubts future
of Peace Corps

PCV Accused of
Murdering His Wife

The Real Job of the Peace Corps - a ’60s staff member’s view

March 1, 1961

Schickele Peace Corps film

The Museum of the Peace Corps Experience

Moritz Thomsen's Living Poor

MORITZ THOMSEN (Ecuador 1965–67) ENDS HIS FIRST BOOK, Living Poor, on a vague note; not really knowing what do to once his Peace Corps duty comes to an end in 1968, he simply leaves the town of Rioverde,Printer friendly version spending an unsettling last few weeks in the town he had hoped to transform three years earlier. “My last weeks in Rioverde were punctuated by screams,” he writes in his last chapter, as well as goodbyes to those who had long since given up viewing the gringo as a novelty, and a final, slow unraveling of the cooperative he had worked to form in the little fishing town. So, too, does it appear that his ties to Ramon Prado and his family (wife Ester and baby daughter Martita) unravel: “But as I stepped off the porch to leave, Ester screamed, and I turned to see her, her face contorted and the tears streaming down her cheeks. We hugged each other, and Ramon rushed from the house and stood on the brow of the hill looking down intently into town.”
     Thomsen’s exit from Rioverde itself proved to be a lasting one, but he spent not even a full year back home in his native Seattle, Washington before he was back in Ecuador looking to keep a promise he made to Ramon: to come back and buy a farm with him, and to work as equal partners. He chronicles the first six years of their tumultuous partnership in his second book, The Farm on the River of Emeralds, published originally in 1978. He mentions his father Charlie in passing once again — “my father has just died, I have ten thousand dollars in my pocket” — and just as quickly, the elder Thomsen is dropped from the narrative. The plan seems so simple: Thomsen provides the money and know-how gleaned from his years as a pig farmer in the States following his service in WWII; Ramon, a much younger man than Thomsen (who has just turned 53), provides the toil and guides the old gringo in the ways of the Ecuadorian jungle; on a deeper level, Ramon is to play the son to Thomsen’s new role as cranky elder, together to forge a new life on their own terms. They find a farm on the Esmereldas River (“River of Emeralds”) and grin through their terror as they agree to buy it and enter into “that most delicate and intimate of relationships — a business partnership.”
     “Now we had it,” Thomsen writes of the sprawling jungle farm, “or it had us.”
     And in no time at all Thomsen’s dreams of living peacefully as an equal to all around him, brought back to life by a perfect relationship — Thomsen as teacher and the young, fully alive Ramon as pupil, living an idyllic existence in the finest tradition of “the brotherhood of man” — crashes down around him. A cast of characters materializes from the jungle, ready to join Thomsen, the lone gringo, and Ramon, with his pregnant wife and young daughter. He finds himself once again a subject of curiosity among the locals; they come to him for jobs, treating him as the new patron or “big daddy,” unable to fathom the idea that Ramon, a black man like them, seemingly as poor as they, could really be half owner of the huge farm, an equal to the strange white man who has come to live among them. The ensuing struggles for power and respect and survival drive Thomsen’s book through to its explosive conclusion six years later.
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