Peace Corps Writers

Then Sarge Said to Me!
Kristen Gislason Callow was a part of Peace Corps’ Office for Volunteer Recruitment & Selection (VRS) from 1994–1998, serving as Special Assistant to the Associate Director. Kristen and her Aussie husband, Sean, live with their 16-month-old daughter, Juliet, in Singapore. She hopes that Juliet will one day serve as a PCV.

WHEN I FIRST MET SARGENT SHRIVER in the spring of 1994, I was a star struck new employee at Peace Corps Headquarters. On my first day of work, instead of sitting through one of those painfully dull HR overviews, I had the opportunity to hear the amazing Sargent Shriver speak to our team, as great fortune would have it. I was beyond excited because he had long been my personal hero.
     During the course of his speech, he mentioned how proud he was of his children, particularly his son, Mark, who was making his first run for the Maryland House of Delegates.
     I was a veteran of licking envelopes for the Clinton-Gore campaign while I was in law school, so I immediately sensed a “hook” by which I could meet my hero.
     I worked my way to the front of the crowd after Sarge had finished speaking, and as he was the shaking hands of my equally star-struck colleagues, I blurted out that I would be honored to volunteer for his son’s campaign . . . every weekend until the election. Sarge smiled, took my newly minted Peace Corps business card and said that his son would be thrilled to have such a zealous volunteer on board.
     Imagine my surprise when that Saturday, as I was mopping my kitchen floor in sweat pants, my phone rang. Sargent Shriver — Peace Corps founder, Ambassador, head of Special Olympics, father-in-law of The Terminator (!) — was calling for me. I nearly fainted! By the next weekend, I was wearing my “Mark K. Shriver for Maryland House of Delegates” t-shirt and canvassing the greater Montgomery County area with some college students from Mark’s alma mater, Holy Cross.
     Fast forward to October 1994. The Shrivers were hosting a wonderful family day event at their Potomac home in honor of Mark’s campaign and as a way of thanking all of the people who had given their support.
     There were probably a few hundred people at the event — friends of the candidate, volunteers and interested voters from the community. Because Sarge is a bit larger than life, some guests were a little bit star-struck, just as I had been upon meeting him for the first time. Most people would quietly edge up to him, quickly shake his hand (if that) and then excitedly scurry away.
But by the time this October event rolled around, I was at ease around the man I called “Mr. Shriver.” I had logged hundreds of miles of pounding the pavement in support of his son’s candidacy. I had escorted the Shrivers on some of their neighborhoods canvassing efforts. I had eaten hot dogs in their kitchen. I had been Sarge’s official escort at a number of Peace Corps headquarters events. Though certainly no insider, I had endeared myself to Sarge because I showed loyalty to two things that meant very much to him: his family & the Peace Corps.
     So on that fall day in 2004, I was pretty comfortable chatting Sarge up as hundreds of people milled around on the Shriver’s sprawling lawn.
     Just then, a band started playing that Glenn Miller classic “In The Mood.” My feet started tapping. I don’t know what compelled me to do it, but I asked Sarge if he would like to dance with me. As no one was on the dance floor yet, he politely stalled.
     “I don’t want to be the first one on an empty dance floor. I’m not a very good dancer.”
     “Oh, c’mon, Mr. Shriver,” I pleaded.
     No luck.
     “C’mon, Mr. Shriver,” I pleaded some more. “Come show everyone some of those great moves you used when you were courting Mrs. Shriver.”
     Then Sarge said to me, with a big twinkle in his eye: “My dear, she will tell you that all of my best moves came OFF of the dance floor.”
     (It turns out that he is a marvelous dancer, to boot!)

Sad news
Beryl Brinkman (Afghanistan 1967–69), editor of the second edition of The Funniest Job You’ll Ever Love: An Anthology of Peace Corps Humor, died suddenly on February 1, 2007. Beryl was a great friend and supporter of Peace Corps Writers, and a reviewer for our publication. She was also a great supporter of the Peace Corps, and of her Peace Corps country, Afghanistan. Beryl co-chaired the RPCV conference in Eugene, Oregon the summer of 1990 — one of the really great ones!
     Many of Beryl’s family and friends gathered in Eugene the weekend of February 3, 2007 to honor her. At her death Beryl was raising funds for the non-profit Kids4AfghanKids — funds she planned to take to Afghanistan later this year. If you would like to make a donation in her memory, go to and click on: Support>Get Involved.
     We will miss her smile.

In This Issue
How often have you turned on your computer to see that you can, with a little information, i.e., your bank code, SS#, etc., receive several million dollars in hard U.S. currency that is frozen in Lagos, Nigeria, or some other African country? You needs only give the sender your bank account # to transfer all that money to you! These scams are one of the topics I discussed with RPCV anthropologist and Brown University professor, Dan Smith (Sierra Leone 1984–87), whose new book, A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria, has just been published by Princeton University Press. Smith looks at fraud in Nigeria, the largest source of foreign income after oil for the nation, and what it all means to the future of Nigeria and West Africa.

Three writers write
Remember the 1950 film Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa? It became the cinematic archetype by telling the “facts” surrounding a rape and murder from four different and contradictory points of view, suggesting the nature of truth is something less than absolute. Well, we are trying to do something of the same by publishing different accounts of the same Peace Corps event. In “Pursuing Love, I Discovered the Peace Corps” John Krauskopf (Iran 1965–67) recalls his impressions of the night [October 14, 1960] when John Kennedy introduced the idea of a Peace Corps to students on the steps of the University of Michigan Student Union.
     Tony Zurlo (Nigeria 1964–66) has sent us some of his recent and wonderful poems. Also out of Africa is “Monsoon Time in Tanga, Tanzania, October 2006” by Mark Hankins (Kenya 1983–87) who lives and works in East Africa and it seems as though he will never come home.

And more
Since we began doing this site in July of 1999, we have published reviews of 213 books thanks to our many generous reviewers, and in this issue we are adding a record breaking nine more to that number. In addition we have a list of 16 new books published by Peace Corps writers, and 17 Peace Corps writers have been added to our Bibliography of Peace Corps Writers, bringing the total number of Peace Corps writers in the Bibliography to 896!
     Enjoy the wealth of talent.

John Coyne