The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC

Bringing the experience home.

Summer’s calling RPCVw...how far will you go?
President’s Corner: On behalf of the Board, I thank you all for your continued support of RPCVw. It really is you, our members, that drive the vision and success of RPCVw... Issue 2, June 2007

More Details
Upcoming Events:

PCPP Reception at Embassy of Swaziland! More details SERVE on the 2008 RPCVw BOARD!!!!!! Give back to the community that gave to you! More Details RPCVw Annual Picnic coming up in July~ More details Annual wreath-laying ceremony and wine tasting! More details In other news: Remembering Julia Campbell The late PCV who lost her life while giving serving in the Philippines will be remembered for her spirit and dedication. More details First glimpse into West Africa One RPCV’s memories (the rest starting on page 6) More details RPCVs from the same site at different times bond at the RPCVw Holiday Party (by Eneida Alcalde) A great personal account of how one RPCV met another PCV who’d served at the same site years before her... More details
West Africa Revisited...
Area RPCVs celebrate 45 years of Peace Corps by carrying flags in a commemorative ceremony, featuring Chris Matthews (Swaziland 68-70).

HATS!!!!!!!!!!!! Who Wants em? RPCVw is the only Peace Corps affiliate group to have permission to sell you these sweet sun-blockers! Choose from a couple of different colors to fit your mood… Show your spirit in style!

Hats are $10. And the money gets funneled back into active PCV activities. For more information, contact Itzel Fairlie at: development@rpcvw.org

West African RPCVs share what makes that region of the world unique... All of us RPCVs now have extreme international expertise...in one country. So, the newletters from here on out will pool our resources from different regions, so you can educate yourself about the areas of the world you didn’t visit. In honor of Peace Corps 45th Anniversary, the first region is West Africa, where Ghana was the first-ever country to host PCVS... More Details Not-So-Urban Legends Revealed

Compare “urban” legends with other ones from around the world
Everything comes out when you write in the rumors that were passed to you about PCVs from before your time…. More details

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC
Bringing the experience home.

Issue 2, June 2007, page 2

President’s Corner Dear RPCVw members,
On behalf of the Board, I thank you all for your continued support of RPCVw. It really is you, our members, that drive the vision and success of RPCVw. It is you who I encounter smiling at the Holiday party, you who laugh and share stories at happy hours, and you who continue your commitment to service here in our community of the greater Washington, DC, area. As spring turns to summer, RPCVw is offering a full plate of events to its membership. I encourage you all to dive into this Newsletter to learn more about each. Two areas I would like to highlight are the upcoming RPCVw Board Elections and the RPCVw Membership Campaign: 2008 RPCV/W Board Elections Elections for the RPCVw Board of Directors are almost here. This Newsletter contains Board Position descriptions describing each position. All those interested should contact the current Directors with all inquiries. To contact a specific Director, go to the Board page on our website and link to their RPCVw email. Personally, being a part of this year's Board has been a great experience. We are a fun, progressive group of RPCV go-getters who are truly dedicated to the RPCVw mission. As with each year, there will be those of us who will be staying on for another year, and others who will be moving on to new and interesting endeavors. I personally invite all of you who are interested to contact us and come to the upcoming events. Of special note is a Meet n’ Greet that we are planning for the evening of June 13th. This event will allow all those interested to come, share a bite to eat, and have a good interchange with the current Board. Additionally, as you might expect, we are continually organizing events and activities for you all on a regular basis. As you look for things to do throughout the summer, keep an eye on www.rpcvw.org! RPCV/W Membership Campaign A membership-based organization, RPCVw is dedicated to pursuing the vision, interests, and needs of its unique membership. This past year, the Board dedicated itself to a smooth and successful transferring of our website and membership database to our new system. That transition now complete, RPCVw is embarking on a campaign to increase and retain its membership. The mission for this campaign is not to request that local RPCVs join the group; rather, we look to offer events, activities, and programs that will encourage your participation and support. So, keep your eyes open, encourage your fellow RPCVs in the area to join the group, and together let’s make RPCVw the best it can be. I encourage you all to come out and enjoy the summer with your fellow RPCVs. Best Regards,

Jim Gore
RPCV; Bolivia (Agribusiness) '03-'05 president@rpcvw.org

BIG EVENT COMING YOUR WAY!
RPCVw annual Partnership Project Reception at Embassy of Kingdom of Swaziland
Every year RPCVw demonstrates our ongoing commitment to supporting the international development work of Peace Corps through the sponsorship of a Peace Corps Partnership Project. The project selected for 2007 is a collaborative effort between a Megan Guetzko, a PCV from Iowa, and the community of Ncabaneni, Swaziland. The Ncabaneni Community requested funds to support the reconstruction of a preschool that has fallen into disrepair and is unsafe for its young students. The preschool has become increasingly important for the health and survival of Ncabaneni’s children, as many have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. RPCVw has been raising funds from our members and other RPCVs in the DC area through our listserv-the response has been tremendous! We are continuing our fundraising efforts by holding our annual Partnership Project Reception at the embassy of Swaziland on the evening of Thursday, 31 May 2007 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Guests will enjoy a very special intimate reception as guests of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Swaziland and its distinguished Ambassador. This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn about a dynamic African nation and its culture, history and development, as well as support the Partnership Project. PCV Megan Guetzko at site. Space is limited so please get your tickets soon! Date: Time: Location: Tickets: 31 May 2007 6:00-8:00 p.m. Embassy of Swaziland, 1712 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, DC $50 for Members and $60 for Nonmembers (spend a little money and make a big impact!)

For more information and to purchase your tickets: Partnership Project Reception - 31 May 2007

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC
Bringing the experience home.

Issue 2, June 2007, page 3

Upcoming Events

SERVE on the 2008 RPCVw BOARD!!!!!!
RPCVw is currently accepting self-nominations for next year’s Board of Directors. Being a member of the Board requires commitment and a passion for service. Each Board member is expected to participate in the annual planning retreat in August, attend monthly meetings, lead a committee or task, conduct outreach to the membership pool, and be committed to RPCVw’s mission. Positions are elected annually, and Board members are expected to serve for one year starting after the Annual Picnic in late July.

The positions are:
PRESIDENT - Direct strategic planning and ensure that the board is taking action to meet goals and that all activities support RPCV/W’s mission and vision. Preside over meetings, plan board retreats, engage in fundraising, respond to general inquiries, and represent RPCV/W to media and other organizations. VICE PRESIDENT - Lead board in the absence of the president. Develop and monitor compliance with event protocol and surveys. Maintain and report on event tracker. Coordinate annual Peace Corps Partnership donation as well as Reception. SECRETARY - Record and distribute meeting minutes. Lead annual elections of new officers and coordinate annual report. Maintain archives. TREASURER - Make budget recommendations. Produce monthly financial reports on revenue, expenses, and cash flow trends. Maintain financial records; prepare deposits of member dues; oversee financial matters related to events and activities; and ensure financial compliance with any tax laws. WEB DIRECTOR - Produce the bimonthly newsletter; maintain the RPCV/W web site; and work with Communications Director to develop ways of conveying the overall image and mission of RPCV/W. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR – Keeps members informed of RPCV events. Serve as first point of contact for people who have general comments or questions. Write and edit content for newsletter. Work with other members in ways of conveying overall image and mission of RPCVw. PROGRAMS DIRECTOR - Organize educational events, such as author readings, film events, and lectures on a variety of topics including women in development, cross-cultural issues, and the environment. Gather and share information on similar opportunities in the region. DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR - Direct development efforts, including fundraising efforts such as raffles and the Holiday Party Auction. Research potential partnerships with businesses, including advertising sales and member benefits. SOCIAL ACTIVITIES DIRECTOR– Organize social events such as potlucks and monthly happy hours. Work with membership and new member chairs in recruiting new members. SPECIAL EVENTS DIRECTOR – Coordinate special events such as Annual Holiday Party, Cherry Blossom Picnic, and Annual Picnic. MEMBERSHIP DIRECTOR - Maintain the membership database; coordinate renewal notices; produce monthly reports on membership levels, including new, lapsed, and renewed members. Produce membership lists as needed for event organizers. Coordinate recruitment efforts with New Member Director. NEW MEMBER DIRECTOR – Connect and develop relationships with new members and potential members. Support new members with events (such as welcome brunches) and information for transitioning to living and working in the D.C. area. Develop ways to and help ensure that all events attract new members. COMMUNITY SERVICES DIRECTOR - Develop community service opportunities for members. Gather and share information on volunteer and speaking opportunities in the area, including opportunities with partner organizations and members needing volunteers. Coordinate annual wreath-laying event at JFK memorial.

Interested? Learn more—Attend our Meet N’ Greet on Wednesday, June 13th.
Email: specialevents@rpcvw.org for details and directions (or wait for a Listserv announcement).

NOMINATIONS DEADLINE IS WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20th.
To nominate yourself for a position, send a 200 word statement of interests and qualifications to: communications@rpcvw.org

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC
Bringing the experience home.

Issue 1, June 2007, page 4

What else we’re getting into:

RPCVw Annual Picnic coming up in July~
The Capital Yacht Club will be the place to be on Saturday, July 7 from 12:30-3pm. This annual event is one of RPCVw’s beggest ones. Mark the date in your calendar and stay tuned to the Listserve for more details and to purchase tickets!

Annual Wreath Laying Ceremony and wine tasting—tonight!~
Come join us in the yearly tradition of laying wreaths on JFK’s grave in honor of his birthday. 6pm, Arlington National Cemetery Take the Blue Line on the Metro, go to the Visitors' Center and look for us or ask how to get to JFK's site. If you choose to drive, plenty of parking is available (@ $1.25 an hour). For more visitor info, look here: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org/visitor_information/index.htm Afterwards, come out for an evening toasting JFK and all things Peace Corps at SONOMA WINE BAR on Capitol Hill (223 Pennsylvania Ave SE—Capitol Hill Metro station) — 7:30pm. In Memoriam: Julia Campbell The RPCVw community wishes to honor the memory of the late PCV Julia Campbell, age 40, who died April 8 2007 in the middle of her service as a university teacher in the city of Legazpi, Albay Province, the Philippines. A Fairfax, Virginia native, Campbell was a journalist based in NYC before going to the Philippines. She disappeared after leaving for a hike of the famed rice provinces in a aremote part of Ifugao province. She was loved and respected in her adopted community, and the memory of her ultimate sacrifice will live on. http://juliainthephilippines.blogspot.com/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j9LLgAYx0A Spilling water on sacred ground in Benin
Lessons learned in Peace Corps training come in many different forms. Some in the classroom, where culturally insensitive behavior can be obviated through discussion, explanation, and warning, and others, well, they are learned first hand… One afternoon, as three months of training wound down in Lokossa, Benin, facilitators gave a crash course in West African cooking. About to be removed from a cushy scenario in which three meals a day were cooked and served to me by my host family, I knew I had better learn quickly something I had neglected to learn the last three months at home, namely, how one cooks in Benin. Peeling vegetables, slaughtering chickens, and cooking with massive aluminum pots over charcoal, I was already taking in a number of different lessons in my head. Before slaughtering a chicken a drink of water must be given as a sign of respect. Noted. A chicken must be dunked in boiling water to help facilitate the removal of the feathers. Noted as well. With the potatoes finished boiling, I grabbed a full pot of steaming water and proceeded to dump the scalding water on the dirt ground. Bam. Before I knew what was happening, chaos erupted around me. Two Beninese women frantically spread cool water over the scalded earth while simultaneously lashing out at me for what I had just done. Dumfounded, my rudimentary French finally began to decipher what had just happened. Lesson in cultural sensitivity: In Benin, ancestors are ever present and tend to reside close to the ground. Unless you want to scald your neighbor's ancestors and get a tongue lashing at the same time, never dump boiling water on the ground in Benin. Noted. --Matthew Peterson, Benin 02-04
Julia Campbell, 2006 , the Philippines. Photo courtesy of www.foxnews.com

A tasty sample of what’s embedded further on in these pages

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC
Bringing the experience home.

Issue 1, June 2007, page 5

What we’ve been up to (con’t): RPCVs from the same site at different times bond at the RPCVw Holiday Party By Eneida P. Alcalde Bolivia 02-05 I had an amazing experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia living in Saavedra, Santa Cruz. In the two years I lived in this semi-urban, tropical pueblo I formed many friendships, ran away from too many dogs and tarantulas, attended over 100 women's group meetings, and danced until dawn on several occasions to celebrate birthdays, weddings, saints, and life. As the last Peace Corps volunteer of Saavedra, I had the privilege of learning of the many volunteers who had lived there before my stint as a basic sanitation "expert." There was Shawn who married a beautiful cambita; Rosario and her massive dog; Thadeus who had to abruptly leave; John who had beautiful eyes and worked his butt off. And, there was Alicia, the first volunteer in Saavedra, who set a high standard for the rest of us to continue as volunteers. I was always intrigued by Alicia since I mostly heard about her service. This might have been because many of my friends were her friends—Alicia’s best friend, Eliana (nicknamed "Pinky"), often spoke about her and their many adventures. Eliana had several pictures of Alicia in her house. When I would visit, Eliana would often talk about Alicia and, as I listened and looked at her prominently displayed pictures, I often thought about her experience and wondered if mine was similar. I never imagined that I would meet this girl I merely knew from a few pictures and many amusing stories. This world is small in a number of ways; and life, I believe, follows circular paths that unexpectedly lead you back to memories, experiences, and images you thought you had left behind. I came face to face with Alicia—the always seemingly larger-than-life girl in the pictures—this past December when I attended my first Returned Peace Corps Volunteer gathering, the DC Holiday Party. She must have thought I was slightly crazed when she caught me staring at her, but once I explained who I was and how I "knew" her, she quickly understood and we began swapping stories of our very different yet similar experiences as female PCVs in Saavedra. We made plans for brunch the next day and during this meeting I gained an almost 10-year insight into our town and the people who form it. We discussed Adriana, Pinky, las hermanas Zelaya, and many, many more individuals who impacted our lives for the better. We even had the opportunity to email our dear friend Pinky together from Alicia’s laptop. It was simply a beautiful way to further complete my life as a Saavedreña. The last volunteer met the first volunteer and, briefly, our lives became interwoven: adding rich layers—at least to mine—and a smile. Thanks, Alicia, for taking the time to share your experience and thanks to the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community in DC for facilitating this type of unbelievable encounter. Calling all RPCVs who served in Southern Africa!
So, we know that every RPCV is full of stories from their site. But that makes each of us only an expert in ONE area of the world. So, this and all upcoming issues will feature a different region of the world with notes on its quirks--loveable and/or interesting--from the Americans who know it best.

In honor of RPCVw’s Peace Corps Partnership donation to Swaziland, the second region featured will be the one that claims Swaziland as its own: Southern Africa.
So if you served in Southern Africa, send in a few lines that made the area unique. Gain immortality (ok, not really…)
Send your anecdotes to Lesley Pories at: communications@rpcvw.org Everyone's waiting!

Don’t wait for the Newsletter to stay updated on RPCVw! Be sure to check out our website: www.rpcvw.org

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC
Bringing the experience home.

Issue 1, June 2007, page 6

West Africa Revisited... West African RPCVs share what makes that region of the world unique... All of us RPCVs now have extreme international expertise...in one country. So, the Newletters from here on out will pool our resources from different regions, so you can educate yourself about the areas of the world you didn’t visit. In honor of Peace Corps 45th Anniversary, the first region is West Africa, where Ghana was the first-ever country to host PCVS...
Buy Me Bread Peace Corps Volunteers always have an interesting experience navigating the local customs of the country in which they serve. two year stay is a time to identify those customs, come to understand the nuances, and possibly even internalize some of them! One of the customs in Ghana that PCVs encounter right away is Ghanaian’s custom of commanding travelers to “Buy me bread!” from wherever they’re going. Every RPCV from West Africa has at least several harrowing tales of public transport

In my first year of service in Understanding Mali, I took a This phrase was shouted to me during training from numerous people I had never seen before as I would load onto a bus from my little break to travel out to Western Mali for a 4th of July party with some other homestay village to the city where we congregated on weekends. was baffling at first why anyone thought I should buy them bread volunteers. Our destination was Manatalli, a small town in Western Mali with – and the request was always for bread. trainers assured me and a large dam and a Peace Corps house. my fellow trainees that this was just a custom and people don’t really expect you to buy them bread. proper response is just to say Since there were no paved roads in Mali west of Bamako at the time, and since that yes, you will buy them bread, and then ignore it. the rainy season is was in full effect, the roads were exquisitely muddy and full During training, I accepted this answer at face value. But as I stayed in the country longer, I came to understand that this wasn’t of pot holes and washboards. Western entirely correct. first piece of evidence that made me think there is Mali is quintessentially African- miles something behind the “Buy me bread!” phenomenon is the town of of beautiful, lush, green landscape; Nsawam, just outside of the capital, Accra, on the road to the city small villages with thatch-roof huts; and awful ground transport. of Kumasi. town is the bread-producing capital of Ghana, and all along this stretch of road, women with street side tables and headThe bus on the way to Kita—about half borne wooden trays stacked high with bread run alongside the way—broke down four times on the buses, known as ‘tro-tros,’ selling their wares. whole bus mobiawful road. After 8 hours on the lizes at this juncture to pass money and loaves of bread through Kita bus, we spent an hour haggling for windows as the tro-tro continues to move through town. the services of a vehicle to drive us on Another convincing piece of evidence came to Manatalli-another 150 km. One guy wanted to rent us an open semi, but we when people I was close to in my village declined and found a pickup truck instarted bringing me bread when they traveled. if I took children on an excursion with stead. After furious bargaining, we me, they would insist they had to bring back shoved the nine of us volunteers, two Malians and the driver into a Toyota bread for their families. reason why bread extended cab. I sat in the back on the from simply elsewhere had a reputation for Peace being desirable still eluded me. it had some- luggage with a few friends. It was a classic African moment as we watched thing to do with the idea that anything from a city was of better quality. was in fact a couple varieties of bread that were available the sun set across the bush and drove off into the night. No one knew how far it in larger towns and not in the villages. sometimes a friend would was or where we were. We just kept bring me bread from his mother’s hometown, a village more redriving through the middle of nowhere. mote than ours with the exact same varieties of bread. bad road and a flat tire slowed us down Bread’s elevated place in the food chain never quite made sense to further. Finally, around 11 pm, we saw me. it’s valued because it’s something that not everyone can make the lights of the big dam. After 16 hours on the road, we arrived in the Peace at home. it has something to do with a campaign from when the U.S. was dumping wheat in Ghana that claimed bread would make Corps house after midnight, where the your children strong. any rate, it was a prized food, where a week volunteers greeted us with cold beer. of festivities at school could include a “bread eating day” the way --Andre Mershon; Mali, 01-03 a U.S. school might have a pizza party. by the end of two years, although I still would say yes and ignore the request of someone I didn’t know saying, ‘bring me bread!’ I learned to sometimes bring back bread to friends, to show I was missing them and thinking of them while away. bread was just one of the warm, friendly, and generous customs that came to seem normal in Ghana. —Becky Schaaf; Ghana (Education), 02-04

West African Symbols courtesy of www.wisegorilla.com/images/african/african.html

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC
Bringing the experience home.

Issue 1, June 2007, page 7

West Africa Revisited (con’t)...
West African RPCVs keep sharing what makes that region of the world unique...
Imbibing palm wine in Cameroon Oil palms are plentiful in Cameroon, and in neighboring countries of West and Central Africa. Although palm oil was grown for export in large plantations, in the heavily forested areas of southern Cameroon Friendship where I lived, villages typically had a few palm oil trees from which village residents harvested the fruit to get oil for cooking. It was also a common practice for people to climb the palm trees to tap a milky-colored liquid called “palm wine”, bring it down, and serve it from gourds. I was frequently offered palm wine when visiting people in various villages. It is sweet to drink when recently tapped, but ferments rapidly, producing alcohol. Both of these characteristics attracted insects, and it was common to see various insects floating in a gourd of palm wine. Tribal diversity in Burkina Faso
I was in the capital city, Ouagdougou, at a workshop preparing current PCVs and Burkinabe language trainers for the incoming group of PCTs. Sessions mainly helped the Burkinabe language instructors learn how to approach teaching Americans. Given Peace Corps' great reputation in language and cultural training, it was great to see how one country built its program from the inside.

One of the last sessions was on Diversity. To begin, a Burkinabe trainer was asked to stand up in front of the room beside another Burkinabe trainer. One was from the Bobo ethnic group, the other was from the Fulani group. Both rose from The amount of time a Volunteer had been in the country could be their seats and walked to the front of the measured by their palm wine drinking behavior, falling into three room, all the while mocking each other categories. The newly arrived Volunteer would see the floating insects, be repulsed, and furtively look around for a place to incon- under their breaths and calling each other "slaves", "unintelligent", "lazy", and spicuously dump the palm wine or just set it down. The Volunteer "inferior". The other Burkinabe trainers with just a few months in the country was braver, and would carein the room laughed. The PCVs were fully pick out the insects before drinking. The "veteran Volunteer" laughing, but uncomfortably. The Bobo would down the palm wine without hesitation -- bugs and all! man was asked to talk about his ethnic group, its history and values. He listed all --Don Hinman; Cameroon (farmer cooperatives), 80-83 of the aspects of being Bobo that make them superior. The Fulani man then begins to speak about his tribe. All of the Burkinabe in the room were now roaring with laughter and shouting, "The Fulani just care about their cows!" "They're all thin and their skin is so dark, and they live like nomads! Hahahaha!" Even the Fulani man found this hilarious. The Americans in the room just sat there ...nervously smiling. What are these two Burkinabe men doing? They are making fun of each others’ ethnicity. But they barely know each other! Then the PCVs were asked to do a similar exercise and talk about the differences between Americans. Two volunteers were singled out: one with Pakistani parents who lived in Saudi Arabia for 10 years, and a Bronx native with Columbian parents. They admitted that, as friends for more than a year, they felt comfortable teasing each other with comments like, "Your parents are terrorists", and "Oh look, your family's in the news again for bringing drugs into the country." But they would never crack jokes like that on a first encounter. Americans, we pointed out, are very proud of our roots, and hold them close to our hearts. The Burkinabe found this puzzling. Can we not laugh at each other? How do Americans know Hope when the moment is right to begin poking fun? One asked, should he not make jokes about Jackie Chan to new Asian-American volunteers? No, the PCVs replied, that would not be a good idea. The man's smile faded to a serious nod. The PCVs in the room nodded, too. We all sat there quietly a moment, contemplating this difference in cultures. And, as you can imagine with all of the news we’d been hearing on BBC radio about conflicts of religion, ethnic wars, and Iraq, I'm sure that most of the PCVs in the room, like myself, considered how incredible the Burkinabe were in this one fundamental aspect of their culture. Through mockery and jokes, they are able to avoid conflicts that so many other, more developed nations cannot. There is actually a term for this social phenomenon which Burkinabe and Malians use called "La parente a plaisanterie", which means “a kin-based joke.” Burkina Faso is one of the three least developed countries in the world, and has held that title fairly steadily for the past decade. The statistics always paint a bleak picture: There's a 40% chance when you are born in Burkina Faso that you will not live to see your 40th birthday. About 90% of the population is comprised of subsistence farmers, but only 12% of the country's land is even arable. Female adult literacy rate is 15%, etc. And yet, as underdeveloped as they are, as simple as their mud homes are and their way of living is, they build mosques next to cathedrals. Muslims celebrate Christmas with their Christian neighbors. Grown men hold hands walking down the road. They wave "hi" no matter where they are or what they may be doing. They allow themselves to poke fun at one another, maybe because they believe that community is more important than the individual; that despite our differences, "we're all heading to the same place" as one of my Burkinabe friends put it. In this one aspect of their culture alone, I am humbled to have been a PCV in Burkina. West Africa is often painted as being poor, disease-ridden, a "problem to be solved", etc. And I'm not about to deny the challenges that Burkina Faso faces. But I'd love some day to pick up a newspaper, and read about this instead--on the front page--with a headline, "Solution for Peace Found in Random African Nation". --Elizabeth Olson, Burkina Faso 05-07

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC
Bringing the experience home.

Issue 1, June 2007, page 8

NOT-SO URBAN LEGENDS REVEALED...

Compare your country’s “urban” legends with the other ones around the world
We’ve all got ‘em: the stories that were passed down from PCV group to PCV group about horrible or embarrassing things that happened long before you arrived at site. (Often enough, they end with a PCV being “wack-evak’d”) Are they true? Maybe... Compare the “urban” legends from your country with these...

The beignet lady. It goes like this: A female volunteer, in Cameroon's East Province (the most isolated) was supposed to meet a friend for vacation travel. When she did not show up in the regional capitol, the friend became worried, and after whatever amount of time, PC set out to check on her. They found her in her home amongst piles of beignets—deep-fried dough balls, made from anything from cassava to flour to corn—sold as 'street food' in Cameroon, the cheapest source of calories aside from 'gari' (deep fried remains of deep-fried [in palm oil] cassava remains or something, I forget). Reportedly, she was sitting there in the main room of her hut making batch after batch of beignets. This was a story that accompanied explanation of what we called the "Psycho-vac" (the mental version of the "Med-evac.") —Sasha Kishinchand "Peace Corps volunteers in Jamaica are placed there by the CIA to spy on Cuba" —PCV; Jamaica 91-93

Pit latrines, or choos (pronounced CHO) in Kenya were often an adventure but this was over the top.A newly minted PCV in a rural area has to relieve herself and can only find an old, decrepit choo with rotting wood planks to stand on.With few options, she pops a squat, the planks give way and she plummets to the bottom of the pit. So the story goes, she is rescued but psycho vacced (for good reason) from Kenya. That lasting image gave all of us volunteers pause every time we stepped into a choo for the next two years. --Dave London; Kenya 98-00 At our l987 Belize staging we heard a rumor about two guys who a few years earlier had been flown with their group to Belize and disappeared after landing, apparently taking off for an extended SCUBA vacation in the Cayes. We heard it took months for PC to locate them and give them the "PanAm Award," the old nickname for an Administration Separation. Back in 2002, when I was working as a program specialist at PC/HQ, I visited Belize to conduct some HIV/AIDS training and to do a session at a COS conference. At a reception, I heard this old tale one more time. As they say in Belize, "If it's not true, it's nearly true." --Terri Elders; Belize, D.R., Seychelles; PC/HQ, USA/ Katrina

A story told far and wide is that of a Volunteer who, after a long day of walking from one place to another to get an answer to the wrong question, stopped to relieve himself in a nearby pit latrine. The floor of the latrine, made of dirt and sticks and maybe a few crumbling bricks, promptly caved under the Volunteer's weight, sending him plummeting into an abyss of, well, human waste. Unable to crawl his way up the slippery walls of the enclosed, putrid smelling space, and too far from anyone to hear his faint cries of help, the Volunteer When I first came to Guyana, during our in-country training was quickly overcome by the horror of his circumstances and died. there was a rumor that a VolThere are many variations of this story in countries where launteer left his site in Europe and traveled around Europe to trines remain the primary solution to human waste disposal. Variaother Volunteer sites for like 3 tions include the gender of the volunteer, whether it was a slow or quick death, and how many days/nights the PCV's body was down in months and no one found out the latrine before being discovered by an unsuspecting villager. In a until he was already back. few, more hopeful stories, the latrine is filled so high with waste, that --Jason Rosen; Guyana, 97-99 the Volunteer only One "urban" legend that I remember from my falls a few inches and service in Cameroon involved the Peace promptly climbs out on his/her own accord. Corps Medical Staff annual site visits. The As with most lore of this nature (e.g. Hansel and Gretel), the story serves as a lesson. In this case, it is meant to make Volunteers feel overly cautious, if not downright paranoid, about where they do their business, as well as promote seeking the advice of an engineer, or at the very least APCD, when designing and building latrines. --Anita
story goes that some poor Peace Corps volunteer cracked at some point during their first year, and when PC Medical visited this person's house, they found the volunteer inside, sitting on the floor beneath their kitchen table, making hundreds and hundreds of beignets (similar to donut holes).... —Diana Herriman; TEFL, Cameroon 99-01

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC
Bringing the experience home.

Issue 1, June 2007, page 9

NOT-SO URBAN LEGENDS REVEALED, (cont’)...
The stories continue, and I find it amusing to see how many different “variations on a theme” exist across the board. It’s also fun to see how many different terms there are for mental medical separation as well as administrative separation. At the bottom you will even find a few stories that are actually real...so I’m told.

One of those legends for me included the stories of thieves robbing PCVs. The word to the wise was...IF you realize someone has broken into your place you just pretend to be asleep. IF you let them know that they have seen you, you are dead. Peace Corps Volunteers told us the story of playing as if they were sleeping while their room was stripped to the core. --Sue Anne Foster; Uganda 69-73

“All PCVs are CIA.” —Philippines
This one is about a volunteer whom I actually met and who shall remain unnamed. This PCV's site was in one of the eastern provinces. Mongolia, having a continental climate, is dry, dry, dry. In some respects, this is good (ie., your laundry dries fast), but in others, it's annoying (dry mucous membranes all the time lead to chronic nosebleeds for some). Well, for this PCV, the dry air became a fixation. In order to remedy the dryness of the air in his apartment, he began to put out glass jars full of water, the logic of which was that, as the water evaporated, the air would become humidified.

One story that was passed from earlier groups was about the one unfortunate volunteer who was in Mongolia several Peace Corps generations prior. It was said that, because of the isolation (somewhere in the Gobi), missing home, and the yearning for something familiar, this volunteer started to make donuts for himself. Unfortunately, this enterprise became an obsession, and after awhile (I'm not sure how long), he was no longer able to complete his duties as a volunteer. Staff went to investigate, and found him in his ger (the local dwelling), making donut after donut, apparently unable to stop. Needless to In Burkina, there was a brown envesay, he was lope package of pornography that was pysch-evac'd and passed -- nay, bequeathed -- from guy excused from to guy in each group. I don't think service. the girls ever saw evidence of this --Katie Church; Mongolia 99-00 tradition, which is why it goes in the Rural Legend category.
—Anne Knight; Burkina Faso

NOT an urban legend and can be verified by Dell Lewis who was Director, Western Region for some, but not all of the time between (1965-67). Another director was Brother Leo Ryan, who's chieftaincy can be largely attributed to the efforts of Fred Englander, Ado-Ekiti and me in the promotion of Yoruba language and culture, but THAT'S another story!

So, when PCVs were driving, hitchhiking or taking the train from Lagos/Ibadan to Kaduna or other points north, Dell Lewis would tell them to stop off in Ilorin (now the capital of Kwara State) and ask for Mel Schnapper, Nigeria XV, known far and wide as a fantastic host who provided great food (eba, egusi and anything else as long as it was Yoruba food), parties, a great accommodation right in the middle of town, near the Oba Oja (King's Market The water jars started out moder- now largely replaced by a huge mosque) and provided other ately: a few on this windowsill, a things that I can't share publicly (!), but those who were there, know whereof I speak. few on that radiator. After
awhile, however (and after not a few more kilos of fruit compote and pickles had been consumed), he began to put the jars anywhere there was space in his apartment: lining the walls, behind the couch, etc. Pretty soon, there were so many jars full of water that the only way to walk through the place was to walk through a path formed by the jars. The kicker is that this faithful PCV, fulfilling all of PC's goals, taught this practice to his counterpart, who followed his example in her own home. —Katie Church; Mongolia 99-00

PCVs would then ask Dell, "How do we find this goodly (if not Godly) Mel Schnapper?" And Dell would say, "When you get to the lorry park, just ask people for the Prison Yard and Mel's house is right across the street". Dell reports, and he says he has told this story hundreds of times, that the PCVs got back to him about doing that and the first person they asked "Where is the Prison Yard?", told them that the "Prison Yard is across the street from Schnapper's house!" or "Sinappa'" as local people pronounced it. So because of my Yoruba fluency (which even now is good and I now use daily while working here in Abuja with a local Yoruba consulting firm),my Yoruba dress, eating only local food (and was the only male PCV to put on weight), and my other habits (which I cannot discuss publicly), I had, at least, to a few people, replaced the Prison as a major landmark within Ilorin. --Mel Schnapper, Ph.D.; Nigeria (65-67)

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, DC
Bringing the experience home.

Issue 1, June 2007, page 10

NOT-SO URBAN LEGENDS REVEALED, (cont’ again!)...
A couple of real stories out of the way, the stories continue, and others have somehow noticed some of the trends—before this was even circulated! The final submissions are below, as well as a tally of the different themes that emerged across continents...

I've heard this one from different RPCVs who have served in different countries including those in Mongolia. So there's a volunteer who has a breakdown and locks themselves in their apartment. They stay up for days making doughnuts (or some local variation) and fill the apartment from floor to ceiling with the deep fried bread. All the while they keep muttering to themselves, "Time to make the doughnuts..." Eventually a PCMO breaks down the door and the story ends. --Shawn Kairis; Mongolia 01-03

Rumor has it (completely unsubstantiated) that there was

The urban legend that haunted me the most my first few months "au village" was the one about the volunteer whose latrine collapsed under him/her. In fact, a couple of us passed more than a reasonable amount of time mentally devising a safety harness of sorts "just in case." --Anya J Freedman, MD

Rumor was that there was had been a sleazy PCV (TEFL— University) who slept with his female students. Some of the local men in his community got angry and pushed him off a balcony, and he died. —Lesley Pories; Uzbekistan 03-05

I heard on that this volunteer in Tanzania mistook her antibiotics for her methloquin (malaria prophylaxis) and was taking 3 methloquin tablets a day, when you are only supposed to Funny— take it once a week. She only stopped taking the pills once she Again this was a story about started have vivid hallucinations (things flying at her) and a volunteer from many years called Peace Corps. I hear she is still a case study for National ago in a central but very Institute of Health in studying the effects of methloquin. remote area of the country
because of limited access —Laura Mack; Tanzania 99-01 (very few roads and even less transport). In The GamThere was a Volunteer—part Arabic—out bia, local donuts were called Pankettos, and story goes that this volunteer also went a little crazy and made Pan- in the middle of the desert who went crazy. She learned how to make doughnuts bekettos till they filled up her hut... and she also was psych-evac'd. cause they reminded her of home and she

baked them nonstop—filled her home with
I found it extremely interesting and amusing that two them. But then she would scream that she very different and far apart country's had almost an iden- hated Americans in Arabic. Eventually tical urban (or shall we say rural) legend. Peace Corps came and got her and sent her --Elizabeth Kaiser; The Gambia 99-01 I heard once that there was a volunteer in Kenya who went crazy. He was either in the bush for too long or he had something similar to cabin fever. The story goes that the Peace Corps Kenya staff hadn't heard from this particular volunteer for a while. They sent a Peace Corps vehicle out to his site to check and see if he was alright. When the car arrived in his village the PC driver and the APCD found him in his house. When they found him he was cooking bagels, which apparently he had been cooking for quite a while as he had piles and piles of bagels all around his house, stacked against the walls, in bookshelves, everywhere. Needless to say the Peace Corps staff determined his bagel cooking obsession was not normal so they brought him back to Nairobi in the car and Peace Corps Nairobi wacki vac-ed him. --Laura Mack; Tanzania 99-01

home. —Julia Strange, Uzbekistan 03-05
Breakdown of PCV “Urban” Legends: Crazy Doughnut maker: 6; Mongolia, Kenya, The Gambia, Uzbekistan & Cameroon (2) Pit toilet trauma: 3; Kenya & unknown (2) Secretly traveling all over the world: 2; Guyana & Belize PCVs are spies: 2; Jamaica & Philippines Meds overdose: 1; Tanzania Alcohol-related: 1; Haiti Water: 1; Mongolia PCV house better known than local prison: 1; Nigeria Porn: 1; Burkina Faso Robbery: 1; Uganda Death by locals: 1; Uzbekistan

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