||This version of the July 2002 issue of PeaceCorpsWriters.org is designed to be quickly and easily printed from any printer. It includes all articles in the issue as well as new items listed in such departments as Opportunities for Writers and Friendly Agents and Publishers.
It does not include any information that appears in the yellow sidebars, information on the Current Issue page which provides links to each of the articles, or links, book covers, photos or graphics that appear on any of the pages. Nor does it include listings from 40 Years of Peace Corps Writers: The Tour, archived copies of RPCV Writers & Readers, any bibliographic listings or "Links of Interest."
Peace Corps Writers July 2002
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Peace Corps Writers July 2002
First Conference on Peace Corps writers set for September
On the weekend of September 2729, Fishtrap, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting clear thinking and good writing in and about the West. will host a weekend of Peace Corps writers. (You can read more about Fishtrap in this issue.) While we have held writing workshops at NPCA Conferences, and RPCV writers have done readings, this is the first event that is focused on writers and writings by RPCVs as a literary event.
RPCVs and friends of the Peace Corps will meet in Enterprise, Oregon for the weekend. Featured RPCV writers are: Peter Chilson (Niger 198587), creative writing professor at Washington State University and a Fishtrap writer-in-residence in 2001; yours truly, John Coyne (Ethiopia 196264); Rich Wandschneider (Turkey 196567), creator and director of Fishtrap, and Richard Wiley (Korea 196769), head of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Nevada. These writers and others will spend the weekend discussing Peace Corps writing and helping writers turn their journals, novels, poetry, and stories into publishable prose.
This special weekend is open to teachers, librarians, and serious readers and writers. You need not be a published writer however. The weekend is limited to the first 80 people who sign up.
The weekend will begin with an overview and discussion of what Peace Corps writers have written and how it has been published. Time will be set aside to gather by genre of interest fiction, poetry, non-fiction and by times and places of service. Wiley, Chilson, Wandschneider and others will point out ways to pursue the various avenues of writing: workshops, academic programs, agents, magazines, grants, and publishing opportunities for those who have a story or novel in progress. This will be a weekend of practical advice on getting published as well as a time to share stories of the Peace Corps experience.
The registration fee is $100 and includes meals. Housing which is not included is available in nearby motels and campgrounds. The weekend begins with dinner Friday at 6 PM and runs through Sunday brunch.
For details on the weekend, email Rich Wandschneider at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 541-426-3623.
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In This Issue
The 40+1 National Peace Corps Association Conference in Washington at the end of June was a wonderful success and we have several articles that we hope will share the experience:
- Thanks to the huge effort made by Joe Kovacs (Sri Lanka 199798), over fifty RPCVs read about their Peace Corps experience at the conference. So that a wider audience might share in the readings, we will be publishing them online beginning with this issue. In this months issue is a poem by John Wayne Seybold (Brazil 196668).
- One of the emotionally charged moments of the Conference was the introduction of President Alejandro Toledo Manrique of Peru at the opening session. At the last minute, because of sudden unrest within Peru, President Toledo could not attend the Conference, but spoke to the gathering by telephone. He was introduced to the RPCVs by Joel and Nancy Meister who befriended the President when he was a teenager. In this issue, thanks to Joel Meister, we reprint their introduction of the President of Peru.
- We also report on the Peace Corps Writers activities and have some photos thanks to Don Beil (Somalia 196466).
The Things She Left Behind
When a PCV dies overseas, what do they leave behind, in their village? with other PCVs? and in memories that their family members hold and share with each other after the tears and regrets, and finally the acceptance of that death? Shelby Bond died in Africa last year and beyond the vivid memories her family and friends will always have of her, Shelby left behind possessions. Her sister, Jamy Bond, writes in A Writer Writes how her family gathered this last January to divide among themselves, and treasure forever, the things Shelby Bond left behind.
This issues folktale comes from West Africa, but it is a tale that is common to many African countries. The story of the hyena and the rabbit was sent to us by Jamie Rhein, a PCV in the Gambia from 1982 to 1984.
Andy Trincia is a Peace Corps Trainee in Romania. He will become official on Aug 16th. Before joining the Peace Corps, Andy was a corporate communications executive in the financial services industry. He sent us a Letter from Romania for this issue.
And there is much more in this issue, from books reviews to literary talk read on
Readings from the 40 + 1
A fortnight ago I backed up Danny
on Mandolin at his school reunion,
for the lads, he says, that put laughter
and poetry in his soul in their roarin days
when Sarah ODonnell was liftin him
out of his shoes with her smile.
He charged life down to their bones
with his guitar, they all said so.
His voice charms sweet butter from the cow,
and folks ask why he doesnt
promote himself and go for the bigtime.
No, he says, I sing where the love is.
Wherever he goes they ask for his Hands o Gold.
It starts slow and reflective, like a maiden
strollin a lakeshore in late afternoon.
It picks up tempo and slips
into a tappity syncopation, then broadens
like a rill-fed river surgin to an opening on the plain.
And Dannys voice was smooth that night.
With no signal between us we played through twice,
repeatin the refrain at the end. Danny swayed,
and his Gaelic lilt had no edge at all. I felt
the music vibrate in my eyes, the harmonies
blend in my throat and did my fingers
dance on the mandolin! Sweat dripped
from Dannys jaw; he smiled hard with eyes closed.
And when we struck the last soft chord together,
the lads and their wives sat
still as a midnight pasture. Danny was bent
like a listener, breathin husky, and I saw
it was tears that dripped. Ah, Michael,
he says to me, that time we came mighty close
to doin it perfect.
Jack Seybold recently retired after thirty-six years of teaching not counting his service on the Brazils Amazon River where he was a Volunteer, and where, he writes, I spent my honeymoon with my wife Sarah.
A report from the 40 + 1
PEACE CORPS WRITERS HAD a very full schedule of events and offerings at the NPCA Conference June 20th to 23rd at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington.
During the opening ceremonies that took place in beautiful Constitution Hall, John Coyne and Marian Haley Beil of Peace Corps Writers announced the winners of its annual writing awards. On hand to receive their awards were: Peter Hessler (China 199698), 2002 winner of the Paul Cowan Non-Fiction Award; Margaret Szmowski (Zaire 197374, Ethiopia 197475), winner of the 2002 Poetry Award and Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 19901993), winner of the 2001 Maria Thomas Fiction Award (which was to be presented last September). Each of these writers, and all other award winners received a framed certificate and $100.00.
The eleven writers workshops that we presented averaged 50 people in each session. The rooms were small, so in several of the workshops the audience tumbling out into the hallway. PeaceCorpsWriters.org is indebted to all the panelists for sharing their ideas and experiences.
The on-going readings that stretched over two days and were organized by Joe Kovacs (Sri Lanka 199798) averaged 40 people in attendance an any given time. While the readings unfortunately did not get the promotion that they deserved, conference attendees were finding the small room where they were held and had the opportunity to hear some great prose and poetry. Our thanks to all who read.
Meanwhile, in the Bazaar, nineteen Peace Corps writers sold more than a hundred of their epublished/small-publisher/out-of-print books at our booth. A special Thank You goes to Joanne Omang (Turkey 196466) who took the booth in hand and made it possible for these writers to get their books into the hands of interested readers.
Next door at the Politics and Prose booth, among the books they were selling were 88 different titles by 67 Peace Corps writers. We do not know what their sales figures were, but the booth was constantly busy, many writers did book signings and we heard that the supply of Jason Carters (South Africa 19982000) Power Lines sold out!
This letter is from Andy Trincia who is in training in Romania to become a business Volunteer (CED--Community Economic Development). He will become an "official PCV" on Aug 16th. Before joining the Peace Corps, Andy was a corporate communications executive in the financial services industry.
Dear Family and Friends:
I sat down at a tiny wooden table and was served fresh bread, cucumbers, salami and sheep cheese. Cornel and Silviana Mocanu, 30 and 28, and their daughter Ioana, 3 1/2, had just welcomed me into their home. I was the first American theyd ever met and I was their guest for the summer. Id been in the country four days.
They do not speak English and I exhausted my Romanian in a few minutes. I brought out my Romanian-English dictionary and started tossing out words, attempting to string them together into thoughts and phrases. We passed the dictionary back and forth, sometimes smiling, often confused. At one point, while asking me about the Peace Corps and how I left behind family, friends and a beach lifestyle, sold my car and most of my belongings to come to Romania, Silviana looked up a word and pointed to it: curaj Romanian for courage.
I gestured to them that they, in fact, were the courageous ones to share their home with a stranger from America. I pointed to the words for generosity and hospitality. I presented to them small gifts from the USA: framed photo of a sunset down the street from my apartment in California, Jelly Belly candies and fancy soaps. I showed them photos of my family and places Id been around the world. They loved all of it. By the end of the night, my fingers were stained with ink and the dictionary looked like it had been used for weeks.
So began my stay with a wonderful Romanian gazda, or host family. Peace Corps pays them enough per week to feed me and cover extra utilities, but they donate my room. As a result theyre all in the living room/bedroom for the summer. I asked them why they did this and they said it was a combination of curiosity about the United States and for the experience.
Cornel is an accountant at a construction company and Silviana is a high-school librarian. Ioana (ee-Juan-ah) is a beautiful pre-schooler with earrings and a lively personality, and she wonders why I drink their tap water through a filter. Right now she has chicken pox (thankfully Ive already had it).
They live in a small house on the industrial edge of Campina, an oil town of 40,000 almost two hours north of Bucharest. Im happy to report that this place is much nicer and less polluted, but has its share of stray dogs, industrial and Communist scars and ugly bloc apartment buildings. Overall, its a pleasant city and reminds me of the American Midwest with tree-lined streets and parks and a busy main street. But there are pockets such as the open-air market, and other areas where peasants and Roma people (Gypsies) congregate, where the ramshackle buildings and Third World-look could be Latin America.
The Mocanus keep chickens in the backyard we eat fresh eggs and they have a pig and a small garden from which we eat fresh onions, strawberries and raspberries. Silviana is a great cook but the totally organic food is repetitive soups, eggs, chicken, cheese, ham, bread, a polenta-like dish called mamaliga and of course, beer.
Every morning I see primitive, horse-drawn carts going by and hear roosters crowing and oh yes, dogs barking. Ive gone running a few times in the neighborhood, only to be stared at by old ladies in kerchiefs and have dogs chase me or dodge an occasional goat or unattended horse in the road. But I will not be deterred! Peace Corps provides dog dazers that emit the sounds that dogs hear that we cant it works.
The Mocanus have no car, but have a phone and cable TV, spartan furniture, a kitchen with Barbie-sized appliances and no other modern conveniences. Despite heat and humidity, air-conditioning is found only in nice restaurants and fancy stores. Unlike some towns in this area, we have running water every day, but its only hot for a few hours at night.
Theyve marveled at my laptop, Sony Discman and digital camera. They seem content, but like most Romanians, struggle to make ends meet, save little and rarely can treat themselves. Dining out twice a month, Cornel tells me, would wipe out most of their combined salaries.
We talk a lot about our respective countries, politics, the economy, the widespread corruption in Romania, the 1989 revolution here, all kinds of things. The money and opportunities in America blow their minds. One evening, Cornel asked about prices of cars back home. I tried to think of a moderately priced car, a VW Jetta. When we did the conversion from US dollars into Romanian lei, the E for error came up on my calculator with too few zeros. Sometimes I hear and see things that make me believe that EU membership for this place is still a long way off, perhaps a decade or more. The Economist magazine ranks Romanias standard of living between Libya and Lebanon and the per capita GDP is about par with Namibia and Paraguay, to give you an idea.
Im in Campina with a group of four other business Volunteers and the rest of our colleagues are scattered in similar towns in this county (like a U.S. state) within 90 minutes of here. We meet up as a large group in the pit that is Ploiesti once or twice a week for technical training (economy, teaching, medical, history/culture). Its been fun to hear everybodys stories and experiences most gazdas speak at least some English or have teenagers who do that seems to be the age bracket with English skills here, along with some professional people. The vast majority of people speak no English. I imagine this is different in Bucharest and large university towns.
Weve had some interesting speakers including some U.S. Embassy staff. One representative from the business area told us that a Hollywood film company is up in the mountains filming Cold Mountain [a novel by Charles Frazier]. While they are saving money here over the true setting of North Carolina, a quick legislative push in Bucharest raised hotel taxes literally overnight adding $3 million to the overall tab for the film. This is an example of why many foreign companies are still reluctant to do business here.
Training is going well but its tiring (3 people have headed home so far). After 4 hours of Romanian each morning, we work on group projects and presentations, run errands, maybe hit the Internet cafe before going home to the gazda for yet more Romanian. As a group, we spend a LOT of time together and thats been a challenge at times. Though still in training, were responsible for community projects. After meeting with Campinas mayor, a former Communist leader, we decided to develop a tourism brochure for the city, which has a couple of historic sites and is on the way to Transylvania and the mountains north of here. Additionally, we will be offering seminars to high-school students on resume writing, job interview skills, English business terms and finance. Today we met with a youth group to help us recruit students and learned that many students in town already heard about our arrival and plans. One joked that if we offered a session on obtaining a visa to the United States, that we could gather hundreds of students.
Last weekend I visited Busteni (boo-shten), a beautiful small town at the base of 8,000-foot cliffs in the southern tip of Transylvania, less than an hour from here. The mountains and towns of Busteni and nearby Sinaia were a pleasant diversion from Ploiesti and Campina and provided a first glimpse of the beautiful Romania wed heard about. One colleague remarked that for the first time since arriving in Romania, he felt like he was in Europe. The towns are touristy, in fact, among the few in Romania which Lonely Planet describes as the Wild West of Eastern Europe. Of course, touristy is relative compared to many other places in the world, but it was nice to see modern hotels and prosperity. Also notable were the many BMWs, Audis and VW Passats whizzing by carrying mostly wealthy Bucharest residents on weekend jaunts. We did a five-hour hike that showcased spectacular scenery but the trails are marred with obscene amounts of litter.
Theres one ancient cinema here and we caught the new Star Wars for equivalent of $1.15 odd that it was here already when all other films are very old. Also playing: Gladiator and Vanilla Sky. All are in English with Romanian subtitles. On a funny note on two occasions Ive had Romanian men on the street yell variations of the F-word at me, while smiling. They dont know what it means but know the word from American movies and think its some kind of greeting. This has happened to some other Volunteers.
Tomorrow, all of our small groups are being dispatched throughout Romania for 3-day visits with current PC Volunteers to watch them in action. Im being sent to Iasi (Yash), the 3rd-largest city in Romania, known for its major university and history. Its about 12 miles (20km) from the border of Moldova, formerly USSR, in the northeast part of the country. This will be my first experience on Romanian trains a 7-hour trip and Ive been bracing for the worst.
Thanks to all who commented on my last email. I really want to keep this up as a record of my experience and to inform friends in the States, as well as some of my foreign friends on this list. The Peace Corps mission is mainly to transfer skills and knowledge to poor countries, but the other two legs of the stool are to educate people in other countries about America AND educate Americans about other countries. I hope this will do that. Ive taken some digital photos and hope to send some eventually.
Internet speed has been terrible, so I wasnt able to reply to all. My apologies. But Ive found a faster cafe today, so things are improving.
A Writer Writes
The Things She Left Behind
by Jamy Bond
MY 2002 BEGINS NOT WITH RESOLUTIONS, but with the division of my dead sisters things.
My family makes a pile in the living room: stone-carved statues from Zimbabwe, straw-threaded wallets from Tanzania, tie-dyed Kabbas from Ghana, paint-splattered batiks from Mozambique. Shelby was only 25 when she died, but the pile is so vast, so filled with valuable worldly goods, that it rivals the possessions many of us will acquire in a lifetime. We flip a coin. Heads. I go first. I take a round, stone statue: two female faces pressed together, wide noses and broad, bold foreheads. My mother chooses something. My father. My older sister. And so on. It takes three hours. The minutes extend like the long, brave years she spent in Mozambique. A dream. A destiny. I want to be a pioneer, she told me once. And then she was off, traipsing that sun-scorched land like it was all her own.
Shelby was a Peace Corps Volunteer. She traveled from village to village, teaching young people about safe sex in a country where one in five are HIV positive. She lived at a boarding school in Namaacha, a dirt village on the border with Swaziland. I visited there just two months before her death. I remember a swirl of clay-red dirt kicked into the air by cars and scattering feet, sprayed onto everything white, including the smiles of her students. Her room was small and lightless, with dingy walls covered in a creeping green mold. Nice, my mother said as we stood there, our arms clasped, our breath held. Students swarmed around her, their white uniforms neatly pressed, but already stained with rust-colored splashes of dirt. My sister cared nothing about the grit, the smells, the discomfort; she wanted us to see her work, the dusty classrooms where she taught, the posters she designed, the schools play.
My older sisters turn: She takes the blue shoulder satchel Shelby carried with her the night she died. Inside we find South African currency, cherry-red lip-gloss, a notebook with a long list of things to do.
My fathers turn: he takes letters and postcards he has sent to her throughout the years, neatly stacked and tied together by a small blue ribbon.
My mothers turn: she takes a batik a waxy cloth stained in pastels. Three female figures carry overflowing water jugs on their heads; they are dark silhouettes against the glow of a yellow moon. It makes me think of Shelby, always in motion, the burden of her convictions carried with such grace, such sturdy movement, such power.
My turn: I take a marbled box I once gave her. I take her hairbrush, still packed with sugar-scented blond hairs, a silver locket, a leather bound journal, a wooden flower vase, a pair of hair clips. And it makes me sad that we are dividing her things, splitting her down the middle, into quarters, spreading her around: heres my pile of Shelby, theres yours. But then I see all the pictures. So many pictures. Image after image of her kind green eyes in a sea of young, black faces. And, suddenly, in death as in life, she is enormous again, spilling over, carving a shape all her own, on the move, as always.
Her boyfriend tells us that on Christmas Eve she dreamed it would happen. A premonition she almost listened to. But she wanted to celebrate New Years Eve with friends in Cape Town where she could lounge on a silver beach, and sip cherry wine at vineyards along the coast.
On the way there, sometime after dark, a tire blows, the driver falls asleep, something happens, and in an instant the car is rolling, turning once, twice, three times, continuing on a path all its own until finally, after eight rolls, it stops, and my baby sister is dead. And its not how she might have looked there, broken and bleeding, that I think about most, its the dream. Why didnt she listen? Why didnt she know to stop? But thats not who my sister was, I know. I can say with honesty, with envy, with love and regret that she was unstoppable.
I take my favorite picture from the pile: Shelby in the home of a Mozambican family. Mother and father are sitting side-by-side, their baby on its fathers lap, and Shelby stands behind them, leaning in, her arms wide open. On the babys shirt is a pink balloon that says, in English, Happy 2000. And I love this photo because its so genuine and everyone is smiling a truly happy smile. And when l can bring myself to hold it up and get a glimpse of my sisters sun-blistered, angelic face, I am overcome with admiration for my little pioneer and the remarkable work shes done for AIDS education. In a time when our country has all of its energy focused on one enormous, terrorist-inspired tragedy, I think about all the Volunteers out there who were focused on tragedy well before September 11th. The ones already in the trenches, so to speak, helping others, dedicated to the thousands of tragedies around the world that didnt end when the towers came down.
In one of the last moments I spent with my sister she told me that she loved Mozambique so much that she might never come home. And I saw in her face then such bravery, such raw emotion, such honest love. And I know now that even in death, even as she slipped from her own dead body and hovered above it, limp on the side of a South African road somewhere that my sister didnt stop. I see her simply turn away, watch her body become smaller and smaller below, as she transforms herself into wings that cut the air, and fly further and further away.
SHELBY BOND WAS BORN in Dallas, Texas on February 16, 1976. A natural leader and 1994 graduate of Countryside High School in Clearwater, Florida, she was Homecoming Princess and active on the debate team, cheerleading, in student government and in many other activities.
Shelby attended Stetson University in Deland, Florida for two years. There she was a political science major, secretary for student government, an Alpha Chi Omega sorority sister and was honored to study at the United Nations in New York as a representative for Stetson University.
She then transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she continued her major in political science and minored in African studies. She did further travel abroad as a student in Ghana, West Africa at the University of Accra. Shelby graduated from University of North Carolina with highest honors and distinctions in 1998.
Shelbys dream was to serve in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Being the pioneer that she was, she was among the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to open up an English education program in Mozambique in October 1998. She grew to love the country and its people so much that she extended her service there for a third year to work for Population Services International (PSI) as an AIDs educator at schools throughout Mozambique. Her plans were to return to the United States in April of 2002 to obtain a graduate degree in public health and further her service to others.
Shelby died on December 28, 2001 in Richland, South Africa. She had recently completed service as a PCV in Maputo, Mozambique.
Jamy Bond can be contacted at email@example.com
To Preserved and to Learn
Making a Difference: One Life at a Time
by Nancy and Joel Meister (Peru 196465)
Editors Note: While serving overseas, many PCVs take a host-country national youth under their wings. Many even provide these girls and boys help in school within their own country, and on occasion arrange scholarships for them to study in the U.S. Often this adopting of a young girl or boy is the first building block of life-long friendships and successful lives for these children. While often the Peace Corps kids of Volunteers go on to have productive lives within their own country, few of them become presidents of their nations.
At the NPCAs 40+1 celebration of the Peace Corps, Joel and Nancy Deeds Meister (Peru 196465) were scheduled to introduce the keynote speaker at the Opening Session of the Conference their student who did become president: Alejandro Toledo Manrique of Peru.
Because of sudden unrest within Peru, President Toledo could not attend the Conference, but spoke to the gathering by telephone. However, Nancy and Joel were on stage and in their introduction told the moving story of how they first met the teenage Alejandro in Chimbote, Peru, and how this chance meeting changed Alejandros life and their own.
With the Meisters permission, we are reprinting the introduction of their adopted son, the President of Peru.
JOEL: (President Toledo), Senator Dodd, Ambassador Wagner, Peace Corps Director Vasquez, National Peace Corps Association Chair Reilly, NPCA President Smith, Founding Director Shriver, members of the Ruppe family, distinguished guests and fellow Peace Corps volunteers:
Less than a year ago, Nancy and I were in Peru, celebrating the inauguration of our dear friend, Alejandro Toledo Manrique, as president. Peru was then and still is recovering from the corruption, abuse and neglect on a grand scale of the ten year regime of Alberto Fujimori.
We were elated by our friends triumph, but we were sobered by what we encountered in Peru extreme poverty, every institution of Peruvian society (all the branches of government, the legal system, the military, the press, education, health care Perus infrastructure) had been undermined, with very little social capital left to support the new government.
President Toledo is faced with an enormous challenge to rebuild trust and hope and stability while caught between the demands of an angry and frustrated people for jobs and a better life, and the pressures of skeptical foreign investors and the surrealism of the free market, the neo-liberal version of globalization.
The violence this week in Arequipa, Perus second city, is but one consequence of this dilemma in which Peru and its president are caught. President Toledo is trying to do the right thing, and that is why he cannot be with us today.
And Im afraid we helped get our friend into this fix.
NANCY: It was 38 years ago, in 1964, that 17 year-old Alejandro Toledo encountered us two brand new Peace Corps Volunteers who were looking for a place for me to live. Alejandros parents, Don Anatolio and Dona Margarita, were very skeptical the house was small and full of family, and they were poor when Alejandro diplomatically intervened, and they offered me a small room in the front of their house that was being used as a tienda, a small store. The Toledos became our family. When Joel and I were married a year later, Alejandros mother and father stood in for our own parents.
And what a joy it was, last July, to see Don Anatolio, a brick mason all his working life and frail but still vibrant at 89, seated in the front row of Perus Palacio del Congreso as Alejandro took the presidential oath of office. Don Anatolio turns 90 in two weeks, and we send him an abrazo muy fuerte. We also want to congratulate Primera Dama Eliane Karp de Toledo on becoming a Peruvian citizen.
JOEL: No sooner had Nancy moved in than Alejandro quickly recruited us to be the advisors to the Club Social y Deportivo Olimpo, which he had founded with a friend, and we recruited him to help us with a summer camp, Campamento Atahualpa, and many other community development activities. In the process we became close friends.
At one point Alejandro invited us to make a great journey up to the Andes to meet his grandfather. We left Chimbote by train and arrived, finally, two days later, on horseback at 10,000 feet, in the village of Ferrer, where Alejandro was born. On that trip, we all slept in the attic of a bakery and on the dirt floor of the unfinished city hall in Cabana, the nearby district capital.
Thirty-three years later, in 1997, we accompanied Alejandro on the same sentimental journey, but this time with the leaders of his party, Peru Posible. We arrived in Cabana late at night to a heros welcome for Alejandro, bands playing in the plaza, fireworks exploding and a reception and dance at the long since finished city hall.
NANCY: In between those years, as many of you know, Alejandro came to the United States to study, starting with English at an ESL program at the University of San Francisco and ending with a Ph.D. in economic development and education at Stanford. Yes, it is true that we and other Chimbote Volunteers who are here today helped him in many ways, but we know that he is the one who made it all happen. And the rest is . . . well, the rest is history in the making.
President Toledos remarkable career has included the World Bank, visiting professorships in Japan and at Harvards Kennedy School, a position in Fernando Belaundes government and a professorship at the Graduate School of Business in Lima.
An outsider in Peruvian politics, founder of a new political party, a key actor in bringing to an end the abusive Fujimori government; elected President in an election that most likely would not have taken place without his efforts, and now faced with the challenge of recreating a democracy and promoting development, justice and equity in an astonishingly beautiful and culturally rich land.
Friends and compadres, the President of the Republic of Peru Alejandro Toledo!
Tales of Wisdom and Cunning
Bouki, Leuk and the Bush Fire
The hyena and rabbit stories are common in The Gambia and Senegal where they are told to children as morality tales. Bouki, the hyena, is the trickster who never manages to totally outsmart Leuk, the rabbit. This is a retelling of a story that was told one afternoon by a professor from Senegal at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ohio. Jamie Rhein (The Gambia 1982-84
BOUKI, THE HYENA LOVED to stir up trouble. He loved to stir up trouble more than he loved to howl and laugh at the moon. He loved to stir up trouble even more than he loved to walk through the bush searching for something good to eat or to take a nap under his jujuba tree. Boukis favorite way to stir up trouble was by playing tricks on Leuk, the rabbit.
Bouki, the hyena, and Leuk, the rabbit, were never far from each other. Bouki was a sneaky fellow. He was the number one trickster of the bush and he loved to follow Leuk around looking for ways to outsmart him. Wherever Leuk went, Bouki was not far behind. Sometimes Bouki outsmarted Leuk, but not for long. Leuk always caught on to Boukis tricks, but Bouki kept trying.
One this particular day, when Bouki woke up and saw the sun shining through the branches of his jujuba tree, he said to himself, Today, Im going to stir up trouble. Im going to play a good trick on Leuk. But, Bouki was fresh out of tricks so he had to think of one.
Bouki walked down to the river for a drink of water. The river was a good place to think of tricks. When Bouki saw the suns reflection in the rivers water, and saw how the sun shone like a fiery ball, he said, Thats it! I know of the perfect trick! He laughed out loud and headed back to the jujuba tree to find Leuk.
Leuk, who had just hopped out of his hole, was doing his morning stretches when Bouki came running. At the moment Bouki showed up, Leuk was touching his toes.
Hurry, hurry! Bouki cried. He was all out of breath from running so hard. Hurry, hurry, Leuk! A huge fire is coming this way! Its the biggest fire I have ever seen! Hurry! We must run to tell the others!
Leuk touched his toes once more, not wanting to appear alarmed or fall for another one of Boukis tricks. He turned his head up so he could study Bouki closely. This isnt one of your tricks is it? he asked.
Would I be running so fast and be so out of breath if it was? asked Bouki. Cant you smell the smoke?
Leuk then stood on his hind legs, stretching as high as he could stretch and took deep breaths. He thought he smelled smoke. And Bouki did say there was smoke. And Bouki, who was lazy more than he was sneaky, was all out of breath.
I guess I do smell smoke, and you are all out of breath, said Leuk. We had better warn the others. Ill go this way, and you go that way, he said. Leuk hopped away in one direction as fast as his legs could carry him.
Bouki heard Leuk yell, Fire! Fire! Run! Run! every time Leuk passed by an animal, bird or reptile.
Bouki laughed and laughed. He figured it would be a long time before Leuk figured out there wasnt a fire and come back to the jujuba tree. In the meantime, Bouki decided he would take a nap.
Leuk didnt see Bouki lie down under the jujuba tree. He was too busy hopping as fast as his legs could carry him. Fire! Fire! Run! Run! yelled Leuk when he passed a group of gazelles. The gazelles started to run. They ran and ran and ran. When the gazelles passed a group of monkeys they yelled, Fire! Fire! Run! Run! The bush pigs started to run. Now, the gazelles, the monkeys, and the bush pigs ran and ran and ran. Every time the large group passed by a smaller group, they yelled, Fire! Fire! Run! Run! The larger group grew bigger and bigger and bigger. Soon all the animals, reptiles and birds in the bush were running together. Even the geckos and the parrots had joined in with the race from the fire.
Then Leuk saw Bouki fast asleep under a jujuba tree. Now, wait a minute. Why is Bouki sleeping when the rest of us are running? he said to himself. And why does that tree look familiar? Oh, I get it, he said. Thats Boukis jujuba tree! Leuk, who was very, very smart, figured out that the animals had run so far, they had run in a complete circle. He also knew at that moment that there wasnt any smoke and there wasnt any fire. This was another one of Boukis sneaky tricks.
Well see about that! said Leuk to himself and he ran towards Bouki and the jujuba tree. The gazelles, the monkeys, the parrots, the gekkos and the others ran close behind him. Luek ducked down his hole, but the others kept running in their excitement to get away from the fire. Leuk peeked out of his hole to see what would happen next.
Bouki woke up because of the commotion. The beating hooves and paws rumbled across the ground. The birds and monkeys calls pierced the air. Bouki shook his head to clear the sleep from his eyes. As far as Bouki could see, animals, birds and reptiles were running and flying past him. There were hundreds and hundreds of them running, flying and shouting.
Whats wrong? Bouki yelled to a grey hippopotamus that almost trampled Bouki as he ran by Boukis jujuba tree.
The hippopotamus yelled over his shoulder, Havent you heard?" You must be the latest animal in the bush to know. The bush is on fire! Run! Run! he shouted.
Bouki was so startled about the news of the fire that he did run. He ran and ran and ran because while Bouki was asleep he forgot all about the trick he played on Leuk.
Leuk came out of his hole to watch Bouki run and run and run. Bouki became smaller and smaller and smaller, the further he ran from the jujuba tree. It was Leuks turn to laugh.
Leuk watched Bouki become so small that he disappeared in a cloud of dust over the horizon. Then Leuk lay down for a nap under Boukis jujuba tree. He crossed his arms under his head. What a nice day for a rest, Leuk said and yawned and fell asleep.
Jamie Rhein worked with a Primary Health Care project in The Gambia. Currently, she is an 8th grade Humanities teacher at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India. She is also a freelance writer, and has been published in Teaching Tolerance, Ohio Magazine and New Mexico Magazine.
An interview by John Coyne (Ethiopia 196264)
FISHTRAP IS A NON-PROFIT EDUCATIONAL organization dedicated to promoting clear thinking and good writing in and about the West. The full-time director is writer and RPCV Rich Wandschneider (Turkey 196567) who created Fishtrap in the 1980s. Although Fishtrap is for writers, teachers, and readers from across the country, it is firmly rooted in Wallowa County of northeastern Oregon. What makes Fishtrap so special is the connection to Oregon, and the opportunity to meet people who live and work there on farms, ranches, national forests and in small town stores and offices. For those who live in Oregon, Fishtrap brings emerging and major writers from across the West, and occasionally from other parts of the country and other countries, to this remote spot, and thus provides a window on the world.
Having known and written to Rich for years, I finally had an opportunity recently to interview him for Peace Corps Writers.
Where were you a Peace Corps Volunteer and when?
I was a Rural Community Development Volunteer in Turkey from 1965 to 1967. I had the great good fortune to work in a refugee village Bulgarian and Greek and Yugoslavian Turks who had come to Turkey in the late 1930s surrounded by Kurdish villages in eastern Turkey.
After completing service, I spent a year in D.C. as a Peace Corps Fellow, and then went back to Turkey on staff. I was in Turkey as Peace Corps pulled out in 1970, a casualty of Kennedys assassination and the Vietnam War and all the bad feelings they engendered across the Europe and the Middle East. (In 1965, pictures of John F. Kennedy hung alongside pictures of Ataturk in small and remote villages.)
Tell us about Fishtrap? How did it get started? How does it work?
My wife Judy who was a childcare Volunteer in Turkey and I moved to a small town in eastern Oregon in 1971 with the Extension Service to do rural community development. In 1976, with the help of my old Peace Corps partner, Barb Bailey, who then owned the bookstore in Sun Valley, we opened the Bookloft in Enterprise, Oregon.
In the twelve years at the Bookloft, I met many Northwest writers Kim Stafford, Craig Lesley, Ursula LeGuin, etc. and developed a close friendship with historian Alvin Josephy, who has had a summer home here since the early 60s. Alvin was, and is, a leading figure in telling the American Indian story from an Indian point of view Patriot Chiefs, The Indian Heritage of America, Red Power, Now that the Buffalos Gone, 500 Nations, etc.
In the early 80s, Alvin had participated in a series of Sun Valley Conferences on the West , and Kim Stafford hosted Northwest Writers Gatherings at Lewis and Clark College in Portland in 1986 and 87. In 1988 we moved the Gathering to Wallowa Lake and Alvin invited some of his eastern friends to join us for a conference on Western Writing and Eastern Publishing. Kim and Craig and Ursula and Bill Kittredge and James Welch joined Naomi Bliven from The New Yorker, Marc Jaffe from Houghton Mifflin, and New York agent Julian Bach for the discussion, and Fishtrap just kind of took off.
We continue to have Summer Gatherings this July marks the 15th and we continue to build them around themes: this year, Writing in Troubled Times ; last year, The Legacy of Vietnam. The Gathering is a celebration of writing what someone called a revival meeting for writers rather than a toolbox for writing and getting published. We have, however, added a week-long series of workshops with the Summer Gathering (although were light on the marketing and critiquing and long on writing and generating new material).
Over the years very organically we have added:
- a Fellowship program which recognizes emerging writers;
- a Winter Gathering which focuses on public policy issues (e.g., Fire, Water, Violence, and next year some aspect of Sustainability");
- an annual community and schools Writer-in-Residence;
- April and October writers retreats at a remote donated cabin;
- and occasional readings and workshops throughout the year.
Last year, with the help of $60,000 in grants and $135,000 in private donations, we moved into our own facility an historic home in Enterprise. It provides offices for me the full-time director, and for a part-time education coordinator and a part-time business manager. It also has a reading/meeting space which seats 20 around a workshop table or 60 for a reading or lecture; a visiting writers bedroom; and a home for the Alvin Josephy Library for Writers in the West.
A steady stream of writers has already made use of the bedroom, and the library is gaining volumes and currently has one wall of bookshelves on the way to three. Three writers groups and a book club use the house, and a first Spring Lecture Series featuring journalism, Middle East politics, and the history of rodeo queens was a sell-out.
Who are some of the writers that have been to Fishtrap?
Over 150 writers have now read and taught at Fishtrap events. Ivan Doig and Sherman Alexie, Terry Tempest Williams, Gary Nabhan, Naomi Shihab Nye, David James Duncan, Pattiann Rogers, Ursula Hegi, and Yusef Komunyakaa have all been here. And so have new writers Kathleen Tyau and Andrew Pham and Aflredo Vea; agents Mary Evans and Gary Fisketjon; historians Richard White and Stephanie Koontz; and journalists Tim Egan and Ann Taylor Fleming.
In what ways do you think Fishtrap is special?
What marks Fishtrap as unique is that all kinds of writing are considered. Poets meet historians meet journalists meet song-writers. We dont jury people into our workshops, and we dont talk much about how to get my novel published. We encourage new writers last year Vietnam Vet Geronimo Tagatac, who has published only a handful of stories and no books, but to whom we had awarded a Fellowship the previous year, taught a workshop alongside Yusef, and he did a marvelous job.
Finally, we are not on a college campus or in a hotel room. We live in one of the most beautiful places in the country at the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness and a stones throw from Hells Canyon of the Snake River. Fishtrap attendees constantly tell us that what makes the experience here different is the contact with this Western place and the people who live and work here.
What did you do before you started Fishtrap?.
College, Peace Corps, Pentagon March, Poor Peoples Campaign, Oregon State University Extension Service, bookstore, Pika Press (small publishing company), Little League and Babe Ruth baseball and kids soccer coach, local school board, all of the above and more.
Is your interest the writers or the community in Oregon?
Writers and community are totally interwoven. Maybe especially in Oregon. The issues we deal with environment, agriculture, forestry, salmon, Indian affairs, violence, sustainability, social justice, downwinders . . . on a daily basis are what we think about and write about. Even science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula LeGuin, probably Oregons best known writer in any national or international sense, writes about environmental issues and issues of gender and class.
Our writers are wed to the themes of history and geography. I sometimes think that its because white history in the American Northwest is so new the last Indian War (the Nez Perce War) started right here in Wallowa County in 1877 (I literally shook the hand that shook the hand of Chief Joseph), and so much of what draws people to the Northwest to work and live is the mountains and rivers and forests and soil. We cant stretch to New England or Mississippi lengths for family history, or duplicate the ethnic mixes of New York or Chicago, but we have big sky, Indian ghosts, and utopia hunters as recent as the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh to inform our stories. Powells Bookstore in Portland, a symbol of the importance of writing and writers in the region and surely one of the finest bookstores in the land, employs writers and scholars aplenty. Powells was recently unionized. Thats community issues meeting the printed word.
What about your own writing? What have you published?
Ive tried to write about Turkey from time to time over the years, but have always put it aside and gone back to a day job. The bookstore brought day job a little closer to writing.
About 18 years ago I started writing a column for the local newspaper. Its called Main Street, and I shoot my face off about politics, the characters and events of my 31 years of living here, and once in a while a story from those Peace Corps days. In these writing years I was past 40 when I began the column and began writing seriously Ive had a couple of pieces of fiction published, but mostly essays. Theyve appeared in High Country News, Northern Lights, Adoption Magazine, The Oregonian, and other small regional publications.
Now that Fishtrap has reached some kind of solid citizen status, and with the inspiration of that 40th Peace Corps Celebration, Im turning to the old Turkey stories. But this time my idea is to write them for a Turkish audience. Maybe some younger Turks and some city Turks would enjoy tales of rubes on the frontier in their country a generation ago, when there were people who remembered coming in as refugees from Bulgaria, when Kurdish radio blared in from Iraq and Syria, when a John Kennedy half dollar generated conversation about assassination politics and sympathy for all Americans, when there was a heartfelt welcome to a couple of naive young Americans who had come to share their lives.
For more information about Fishtrap, contact Rich at:
40 Grand Street
PO Box 38
Enterprise, OR 97828
Literary Type July 2002
Mark Jacobs ( Paraguay 197880) has sold his next novel, A Handful of Kings to Simon and Schuster. Legendary editor-in-chief Michael Korda will edit the book which will be published next summer.
Mark is the author of critically acclaimed novel Stone Cowboy and his writing has been compared to that of Graham Greene and Robert Stone. A long-time foreign service officer, he has served in Spain and Paraguay, among other countries.
A Handful of Kings is about an American diplomat, Vicky Sorrell, who is ready to change her life. Shes leaving the Foreign Service and her lover at the same time. But before she departs the U.S. Embassy in Madrid for home, a well-known American writer shows up with a strange request. Vicky knows that what J.J. Baines really wants from her is not the same thing that hes asking for, but curiosity leads her to play along, and soon shes drawn into the same murky underground of terrorists and spies into which the writer has been reluctantly led. In this novel, Jacobs weaves a story that takes place over three continents and illuminates the unexpected ways people betray and defend one another and, ultimately, how they learn to love.
The work of photographer Bill Owens (Jamaica 196466) is currently being shown at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery [515 W 24 St] in New York in a show entitled American Standard: Normality and Everyday Life. Others in the show include Edward Hopper and Diane Arbus.
Meanwhile, uptown at the Whitney [945 Madison Ave.], Bills 4th of July from his book Suburbia, is being shown in the exhibition Visions from America: Photographs from the Whitney Museum of American Art, 19402001 which can be seen until September 22nd.
Recent books by Peace Corps Writers July 2002
Meditations for Healing and Living
by Madeline Ko-I Bastis (Ethiopia 196264)
Charles E. Tuttle Co., 2000
A Tango in Tuscany
by James A. Ciullo (Venezuela 196971)
Baltimore: Publish America, May 2002
September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond
(an anthology of essays, poetry, letters, and reflections)
edited by William Heyen;
contributor: Christopher Conlon (Botswana 198890)
Etruscan Press, July 2002
Souvenirs de Nancy
Journals of Nancy Coutu
by Nancy Coutu (Madagascar 199496)
Top Shelf Books, $14.95
Getting Back to Iran After 25 Years
by David Devine (Iran 197173)
Writers Showcase/iUniverse.com, Inc., 2001
Toward an Ethic of Citizenship
Creating a Culture of Democracy for the 21st Century
by William K. Dustin (Philippines 196668)
Excel Press/iUniverse.com, 1999
Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul
Stories to Celebrate the Spirit
of Courage, Caring and Community
edited by Mark Victor Hansen,
contributor: Susana Herrera (Cameroon 199294)
Deerfield Beach, Fl: Health Communications, July 2002
Best Resumes and CVs for International Jobs: Your Passport to the Global Job Market,
by Ronald L. Krannick (Thailand) with Wendy S. Enelow
Manassas Park, VA : Impact Publications, July 2002
Journey from Kilimanjaro
by Hoover Liddell (Nigeria 196769)
Writers Showcase Press/iUniverse, 2000
Read a review in this issue
Keeping Kennedy's Promise
The Peace Corps' Moment of Truth
(expanded second edition)
by C. Payne Lucas (Staff: Togo, Niger, Washington 196471) and Kevin Lowther (Sierra Leone 196365)
Baltimore: Peace Corps Online, June 2002
Seducing Mr. Heywood
by Jo Manning (Philippines 196162)
Five Star, June 2002
by Sandra Meek (Botswana 198991)
Elixir Press, February 2002
King Shaka's Fierce Battle on the Little Umkosi
by Dwight K. Whitfield (Kenya 197984)
Sandwight Publishing Co., 2001
To Africa With Spatula
A Peace Corps Mom in Malawi 19651967
by Jane Baker Lotter (Staff spouse: Malawi 196567)
Lotter Press, $15.95
P.0. Box 73234
Davis, CA 95617
Reviewed by Sharon Dirlam (Russian Far East 199698)
ANY RETURNED PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER with two years worth of letters home might want to take a look at To Africa With Spatula by Jane Baker Lotter. Tidy up the letters, put them in chronological order, add photos and accolades, and self-publish. What could be easier or more satisfying?
But a closer look at Lotters project will reveal two truths.
The first is that such a project is a tremendously complicated and time-consuming undertaking one that I believe Lotter herself will say was well worth the effort. It put her in touch with old friends, allowed her to re-experience those transforming years of her life, and caused her to organize her memories into a concrete package: a book. It is a treasure for all who knew her and for all who shared some of those experiences with her, as well as for anyone who is interested in the early years of Peace Corps in Africa.
The second truth is oh, what a book it might have been! All the ingredients are there life, death, tragedy, humor, compelling characters, conflict, a vivid sense of place and purpose.
Lotters letters are the delightful ramblings of a sunny optimist making the best of things in a very challenging setting. Here is a woman with four small sons and a nice life in Davis, California, whose husband wants to take two years out from his university career to work for the Peace Corps.
The truth is that Will had itchy feet, and I guess I must have had some sense of adventure too, she writes.
Lotter spends much of her time in Malawi working at an orphanage, holding tiny abandoned babies desperately in need of cuddling. She also shapes her familys experience, her sons adjustment to rigid British-style schooling, their attitude toward the Malawi children they play with, their reaction to the illnesses and traumas that they would never have confronted back home in Davis.
And about that spatula. One of the Lotter familys favorite activities was their pancake open house on Sunday mornings for any and all Peace Corps Volunteers who showed up, to give them a little touch of home. What a wonderful woman!
And there were not only African orphans and American children and Peace Corps Volunteers there were also pets: a baby antelope (so adorable that hes worth it), a chameleon (named Willie Mays because he catches so many flies), two guinea pigs, a turtle, puppies, a frantic monkey, a squawking hen and a hungry baby goat.
Lotters letters mention the now-famous travel writer Paul Theroux as a Volunteer who allegedly became involved with a rebel group, and the resulting furor that caused the Peace Corps country director to be called back to Washington and then transferred away from Malawi. There were other concerns about Volunteers living with African girls, Lotter writes. She notes, kindly, Some PCVs have admittedly carried their relationships a little too far. (Read Therouxs My Secret History for his story about Peace Corps service in Malawi.)
Lotter has an enthusiastic, optimistic, warmhearted voice. She does not inflict her fears on the recipients of her letters. She mentions just enough about the grief and hardship to let the reader know that these things do exist.
And indeed, she writes, Wanting to share our experiences in Africa and the Peace Corps has given me the mission and drive to write this book, and perhaps to encourage others to be open to opportunities for new life experiences.
Sometimes Lotter gives fine descriptive detail, such as in her note about the dreaded putzi fly that lays its eggs in wet laundry hanging on the line. You cant see the eggs or the larvae, but heat kills them. Therefore, unless you have a clothes dryer, everything needs to be ironed. Otherwise, the eggs get under your skin, hatch into little worms, which grow into bigger worms . . . . Once you figure it out, you actually have to dig out the worm, Lotter writes. But you never forget to iron anything after that.
Sharon Dirlam, journalist, a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, is the author of Two Years Beyond Siberia, a a yet-to-be-published nonfiction narrative about her Peace Corps service, and two stories published in Travelers Tales: A Womans World.
Journey from Kilimanjaro
by Hoover Liddell (Nigeria 196769)
Writers Showcase Press/iUniverse, 2000
Reviewed by Steve Manning (Nigeria 196566)
THIS BOOK IS AN OBSCURE TREASURE. It combines adventure, insight, and autobiography. It is worth a lot more publicity than it has gotten.
Though the Peace Corps is hardly mentioned by Hoover Liddell, it was his enabler. His book is part autobiographical and part existential. His unique styles most obvious manifestation is the use of the present tense to describe past events, and it is occasionally countercultural.
It is however mostly the story of challenge, survival and hope. Hoover suffered serious traffic accidents and disabling illness while overseas, and like most Volunteers, has experienced personal growth during and after overseas service.
The author is (1) an inner-city Black American; (2) a math teacher; (3) an educator; and (4) a school administrator. The reader is enriched by the authors insights regarding schools and their place in society, in Africa and in the United States.
Many of Hoovers experiences and impressions are as a Peace Corps teacher in Nigeria just before and during Nigerias civil war. They are described in a matter-of-fact way and are well told and informative about Nigeria, particularly in the Yoruba region.
The chapters of his life
The book is divided into the chapters of his life. Hoover opens the book with growing up in America, being a merchant marine, and adapting to teaching in western Nigeria and later in Kenya among Africans, Asians and other expatriates. It is this section that most Volunteers can identify with, while being thankful that the worst of the experiences did not happen to them.
San Francisco touches upon some of the authors life after the Peace Corps. In San Francisco he taught math in public schools and was a high school principal. The violence of some of the experiences impinging on his life there stands in contrast to his earlier days of teaching in Nigeria.
Conventional Objects covers Hoovers life as director of high schools and a consultant to the school district. It is a series of dramatic snapshots and often-tragic events that punctuated the lives of students and their families in this large school district. In poignant ways, he documents the underlying themes of violence, drugs and intimidation that are part of normal life for the community.
City Journey" often ventures beyond the school environment and describes and analyzes the components of life in a large American city, the common humanity; the contrasts between rich and poor; drug addiction; racial and ethnic tensions; entrapment; public housing; and some successes despite the odds.
The Adventure includes experiences of 9- and 10-year olds learning some calculus. Primarily, it emphasizes personal growth stimulated by individual long-distance running and group wilderness hiking and mountain climbing in the western United States. It leads to a return to Kenya, to not only climbing but also successfully descending Mt. Kilimanjaro and moving on from there. The description of this accomplishment is the books climax.
An authentic adventure
This book would be absorbing as fiction, but the authenticity of the
adventures lends a ring of truth which makes it even more compelling.
Journey from Kilimanjaro is action-packed and holds ones interest as an adventure story. It is inspirational an example of successfully meeting external challenges. It is insightful about the human aspects of the educational process. Above all it is real in that it chronicles actual experiences.
Journey from Kilimanjaro is well worth the purchase price for anyone concerned about improving schools or interested in personal growth, adventure, or yes, nostalgia for similar experiences, either overseas or in America.
Steve Manning (Nigeria 1965-66) is a professor of Biology at Arkansas State University in Beebe, Arkansas.
Inside the American Jesuits
by Peter McDonough (East Pakistan/Bangladesh 196163)
and Eugene C. Bianchi
University of California Press, $29.95
Reviewed by M. Susan Hundt-Bergan (Ethiopia 196668)
ON THE DAY I FINISHED READING this book, the first scriptural reading at Mass was from the Second Letter of Paul to Timothy. St. Paul charges Timothy to . . .
. . . preach the word, to stay with this task whether convenient or inconvenient . . .constantly teaching and never losing patience. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but, following their own desires, will surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears. They will stop listening to the truth and will wander off to fables. As for you, be steady and self-possessed; put up with hardship, perform your work as an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Paul goes on to speak of his own ministry
The time of my dissolution is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
St. Pauls unflinching words struck me as a touchstone for the testimony of the Jesuit priests who were interviewed for Peter McDonough and Eugene Bianchis book. In Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits, the authors evaluate the last forty years of the orders history through personal interviews and written statements from 430 men, divided equally between active Jesuits and former Jesuits. The interviews reveal the lack of a common mission, purpose and identity and reveal ambivalence about essential theological and doctrinal beliefs. The American Jesuits are in a steep decline. One wants to place St. Pauls bracing words before them and say, Straighten up! Love God, pray, serve his Church and his people faithfully and the rest will take care of itself! Membership in the order is less than half what it was in 1965. What has happened to the Jesuits in America and what are the prospects for their future? To try to answer that question and understand whats at stake, its useful to step back and a get a broader picture.
The broader picture
The Jesuits are an order, which in the Christian tradition can be defined as an association of men or women who seek to lead a life of prayer and pious practices and who are often devoted to some specific form of service. In the Catholic Church there are several types of these associations, including monastic orders such as the Benedictines and mendicant orders or friars, such as the Franciscans or Dominicans. The Jesuits are an example of clerks regular, a society of priests who make vows and are joined together for the purpose of priestly ministry. Some orders, such as the Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits, have a worldwide presence. The majority of priests in the United States diocesan, answer to the local bishop and generally spend their years of ministry serving the Catholics of a specific diocese, usually in a parish setting. (As of the year 2000, in the United States there were 30,940 diocesan priests and 15,465 order/religious priests.) Most nuns or sisters belong to an order.
All of the great orders of the Church were born of a passionate love of Christ and the desire to serve him and his people. St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Dominic and Mother Teresa all started orders that met the needs of the Church, the people of God, at a specific time and place in human history.
Ignatius Loyola founds the Jesuits the Society of Jesus
Ignatius Loyola, a Spaniard born the 12th and final child of a noble Basque family, founded the Society of Jesus in 1540. Ignatius youthful military career came to an end when a French cannon ball smashed into his legs. During his long convalescence the only reading material available to him was a life of Christ and a book on the saints. Reading and rereading these, he experienced a profound change of heart that called him to a course of prayer, pilgrimage, and years of study that opened both the spiritual and material world to him. During this period he began writing what would become his great work, The Spiritual Exercises. This transformative period culminated in his founding, with ten companions, the Company of Jesus. Ignatius and his friends took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience obedience to the superior general (Ignatius was the first elected to this office.) and to the Holy Father. They vowed to go wherever the Pope should send them for the salvation of souls. Ignatius, who was elected the first Superior General of the order, told his followers, Be all things to all men . . . Go and set the world ablaze.
Ignatius and his company went out into the world Ad majorem dei Gloria for the greater glory of God. The Jesuits were a new breed of congregation. They were fully engaged in evangelizing and teaching, not set apart in the quiet of a monastery. Their history has often been a tumultuous and dramatic one. The Society of Jesus grew quickly into a significant force within the church, sending their members to Japan and China and the New World, establishing schools and advising kings. Their influence within and without the Church grew until 1773, when in response to the demands of vexed rulers and jealous churchmen the pope suppressed the Society of Jesus. Forty years later, in 1814, the suppression was lifted so that the Jesuits could help the papacy counteract the aftershock of the French Revolution. In the decades between 1814 and Vatican Council II (196265), the Jesuits thrived, mostly associated with conservative heads of state in Europe.
The Jesuits in the U.S.
In the New World, Jesuits in the United States flourished as they ministered to Catholic immigrants and their children. Much of their effort in this country was devoted to establishing and staffing a network of high schools, colleges and universities, including Saint Louis University, Georgetown University, and Loyola University in Chicago. By 1940, the American Jesuits, confident and successful, were the largest national contingent in the order. The American Jesuits peaked in 1965 with about 8,500 members out of about 35,000 worldwide. Since then, the order has declined in numbers, until today there are about 16,500 worldwide, with about 3,000 in the U.S.
The decline in Jesuit numbers began as Vatican Council II, the twenty-first ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, came to an end. The Council, which began in the early 1960s, initiated profound changes in the Roman Catholic Church that are still reverberating. The sixteen documents produced by the council redefined the nature of the church, gave bishops greater influence in church affairs, and increased lay participation in the liturgy and parish life. Changes in the liturgy included replacing Latin with the vernacular as the language of liturgy; having the priest face the congregation during the Mass; and introducing new styles of music. It was an exhilarating and tumultuous time in the Church. In America, it coincided with a period of widespread social and moral experimentation. In the ferment of the time, many priests and religious in America reexamined their lives and chose to leave their vows for the secular world.
Addressing the decline of the Jesuits
What has caused the precipitous decline in the American Jesuits, both in attracting new members and in retention of the old? The authors offer various possibilities gleaned from the interviews:
- the priesthood is not as prestigious as it once was;
- the immigrant Catholic culture that produced large numbers of priests has become upper middle class and worldly;
- the ascent of the laity within the Church obscures priestly identity;
- the Jesuit educational mission no longer has the panache it once enjoyed;
- celibacy is a stumbling block for many.
The men in the order today are living a life much different from that of Jesuits of previous generations. In many cases, American Jesuits no longer have the sense of a common mission, lived in common for the greater glory of God. Jesuits generally live much more individualistic lives and worry about their careers, about fulfillment, about human relationships, etc. The apparently high percentage of homosexuals in the order brings with it a set of issues and problems that are profoundly troubling. Many Jesuits interviewed espoused views that are contrary to Church teaching. Many of those interviewed seem to have lost their way in life, and perhaps their faith in God.
A current perspective
The story of the American Jesuits makes no sense unless read in the context of the international Society of Jesus and ultimately, the context of the Roman Catholic Church.
In recent months Americans have been bombarded by stories of sexual abuse of children and young people by Catholic priests, who, when complaints surfaced, were waved on to a new assignments by their Bishops. The scandal has lacerated the Church over these last months and generated a demand that priests who abuse be removed. At the same time, all indications are that American Catholics still love their Church and they love their priests but that they would like to see more lay involvement at the diocesan level. Statements from the recent Conference of American Bishops, led by Bishop Wilton Gregory, indicate a deep sense of remorse and responsibility and a resolve to better serve Gods people. Many Catholics, clerics, religious and lay people, see the scandal as a penitential fire that will purify the Church and usher in a new period of holiness and justice.
Worldwide, the number of Catholics continues to grow and it reached 1.45 billion at the end of 2000 (although the general population is growing faster than the Church), with the most dramatic increases occurring in Africa. However, while membership is up, numbers of men and women in religious groups continue to decline, although more slowly than in recent years, and the numbers of men studying for the priesthood has begun to increase. (The increase in religious vocations is for the most part occurring in orders and in dioceses that adhere to the teachings of the Magisterium, that is, to the official, orthodox, teachings of the Church.) In short, the Church desperately needs more workers in the vineyard.
The work to be done
Who will minister to the Churchs billions? The entire liturgical life of the Catholic Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments. All the assembly celebrates the eucharistic liturgy with the ordained priest representing Christ. Similarly, several of the seven sacraments can only be celebrated by a priest. To compensate for the declining numbers of priests, many American dioceses are reinstating the ancient order of deacon for men, single or married, who can celebrate some of the sacraments. Lay people, men and women, are filling many essential roles in Churches and parishes, including presiding at prayer services. In addition, some dioceses are inviting foreign priests to minister here, a rich example of the Churchs universality. For example, the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, has a formal relationship with the Diocese of Owerri, Nigeria, and ten Nigerian priests now serve in various Wisconsin parishes. It goes without saying that there is no shortage of priestly work for the Jesuits to do in this country and in the rest of the world. Many of the American Jesuits quoted in this book seem self-indulgently focused on themselves rather than on Christ and his Church. A return to Ignatius of Loyolas passionate love of Christ and passionate sense of mission to the Church is imperative. The Church, an institution founded by Christ, will endure, as it has for over 2000 years, despite this books view of it as an authoritarian regime. Will the Jesuits continue to be part of the Churchs third millennium? One scenario would see the Jesuits fading from the American scene but continuing to thrive in other parts of the world such as India. That would be a sad finale to the saga of the Jesuits in America. St. Paul offers sound advice that should forestall that unhappy end: . . . . be steady and self-possessed; put up with hardship, perform your work as an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Although a useful book for any American Catholic, Passionate Uncertainty reads like sociology textbook. Finally, unless one reads to the very end of the final section of the book, entitled Notes on Methodology, you would not know the relevant information that both authors have personal experience with the Jesuits. Eugene Bianchi was a member of the California province of the Society of Jesus for twenty years but left in 1968. He is a founding member of CORPUS, an advocacy association of ex-priests. Professionally, he is Professor Emeritus of Religion at Emory University. Peter McDonough was never a Jesuit but spent nine years in Jesuit schools. He is a political scientist at Arizona State University where his work has focused on the study of authoritarian regimes and the transition to democracy in Brazil and Spain. This is his second book on the Jesuits.
M. Susan Hundt-Bergan lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her family. Recently retired from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, she is now a part-time environmental consultant and a student at the Diocesan Institute of the Diocese of Madison. Upon completion of the course of studies, she will be certified as a Lay Minister for her diocese. She is currently active in various ministries at her parish. Susan grew up in large German Catholic family in Wisconsin, on a dairy farm still owned by the family. Her oldest brother is a priest for the Diocese of LaCrosse.
James Ciullo (Venezuela 196971) published A Tango in Tuscany with Publish America in 2002.
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Opportunities for writers
Zeotrope: All-Story the magazine that presents a new generation of classic stories. Inspired by the Coppola heritage of independence and creativity . . . has announced its 2002 Short Fiction Contest. Judges will be Jane Smiley and William Keneally. All entries must be: unpublished; 5,000 words or less; postmarked by October 1, 2002. For more information, go to www.all-story.com/contests.cgi