Sunday, November 09, 2008

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Dinner

There are quite a few Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in Anchorage, but you wouldn't know it unless it somehow came up in conversation. We don't generally wear Peace Corps pins or have a secret handshake. But we do tend to be a little more cross-culturally sensitive than the average American. There's a relatively small group of RPCV's who meet for dinner when they can - either at a restaurant or at someone's home - and on a low key way they sponsor a number of projects - including helping in the recruiting and giving information to new volunteers. Saturday night we had dinner - the food is always great as people get out recipes from the countries where they served - and then elected new officers for this year.

Anyway, the dinners are always interesting - besides the good food, I love to meet with this group and see what they are doing now that they are back in the US. We also had a couple with us who are headed for Albania as volunteers next spring. BTW the dinners are open to anyone - there's usually a blurb in the newspaper, but you have to look carefully.

This post is going to stay minimalist since I just don't have the time or energy to pick up any of the possible threads this could lead into - the role of the Peace Corps internationally, changes in how the PC is run, why Peace Corps volunteers get significantly more and better language and cultural training than do teachers going to rural Alaska, the role of volunteers once they are back in the US, and on and on. This is just the tip. If you want to dip into some of this you can check on WorldView, the magazine of the National Peace Corps Association - a group made up mainly of returned volunteers and not a government organization.

If you want to see what Peace Corps Volunteers are doing around the world, here's a website with links to Peace Corps journals. Well, that's what it's called. I'm not exactly sure how blogs get up there - since mine is linked too in the Thailand section, which is how I know about this resource. But I think most are actual volunteers and not old volunteers who might write about visiting their countries of service or Peace Corps in general.

And while I'm on this topic, I've added a link to Bangkok Pundit on the right side. You can also get news of Thailand at the Bangkok Post or the Nation. But this is a blogger who tries to go behind the headlines. I'm sufficiently out of the loop on Thai politics these days that I don't know how accurate Pundit is, but it's at least a way to be aware that things are going on - such as the months of demonstrations in Bangkok in protest to the current government, that occasionally come into confrontations with the police or military.

To give you a sense of the blog - below, from tomorrow's post (they are a day ahead of us) he's quoting a BBC report and making comments (where it says BP:) on it:

The article continues:

"The problem of Thai political crisis is a class struggle", says Attajak Satayanutak, an academic from Thaksin's home town Chiang Mai.

"We have a wide gap between rich and poor. The poor did not receive anything from the state for a long time. Then, for the first time, Thaksin gave this opportunity for them."

The affection for Thaksin Shinawatra has held up remarkably well in the north-east, a poor and arid region known as Isaan.

Local people say his populist policies, like universal healthcare and the village loan scheme, brought big improvements to the quality of their lives.

BP: As a percentage of the government budget, both items are rather small - the village loan scheme was initially are a one-off payment (since expanded) and it is has low debts. Actually, the amount of government money spent and the non-perfomring loans is much smaller than all the forms of corporate welfare which is regularly given out.


  1. Boy, I didn't know that Studs Terkel died last week. I saw him talk at my college in the 1980's. He was an impressive man who appeared to have a lot of caring and integrity.

    I like your blog.


  2. Well the Hungarian army is not a serious stuff since World War II. We have like 10 jet fighters and I guess there are more Soviet tanks in museum than there are in use as far as I know we use Soviet tanks still, more precisely we would use them in trouble) and our army is 28 780. Its tasks are:
    1 to defend the country
    2, put down rebellions
    3, protocol stuff
    4, they are mainly serving as peace corps.
    I think they would be unable to satisfy the first point against a stronger army.

  3. Steve, Obama is likely to vastly expand Peace Corps not to mention other WPA type entities.

  4. Q, Sorry to be the bearer of sad news, but Terkel led a long and good life. Glad you found your way here though.

    Ropi, You tend to know a lot so I won't make assumptions, but your answer suggests you might be confusing Peace Corps with Peace Keepers. The latter are soldiers whose job it is to maintain peace in areas of conflict. The Peace Corps was established by John F. Kennedy to send Americans overseas to serve the needs of other countries - teaching, health care, public works, and more recently business.

    Steve, I cut out a sentence that talked about Obama's pledge to increase the number of PC volunteers. There are a number of issues I think should be addressed first.
    1) PC administration, particularly since 9/11, has gotten much more controlling. Volunteers who are found riding on motorcycles are sent home on the first offense. While I understand that motorcycle deaths are relatively hight, they also are very strict about other rules with questionable rationales, like having a student live with you. As a volunteer, I would have had to turn down many, many events if I couldn't ride on the back of a motorcycle, and one of my students likely wouldn't have been the first AFS student in his community had he not moved in with me where he could speak English all the time.
    2) Selection and training are a key part of producing excellent volunteers. I'd like to see the administrative issues handled first, and then slowly expanding capacity so that it is done well. While I'm probably being conservative here, the Peace Corps almost 50 years later, still has a good reputation. I'd like to see that continue.

  5. Assumptions? Such as? I think the Hungarian Army is a 2 in 1 thing because it has both functions. And the Hungarian army was established "a bit" earlier that John F. Kennedy lived. :P

  6. Ropi, I wouldn't challenge you on the Hungarian army. I thought your comments on that interesting. Just trying to make sure you and I were talking about the same thing when we talked about the Peace Corps.

  7. Oh, I thought I had to make excuses for knowing something.


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