Peace Corps, the Musical

Five years ago, I flirted with writing a musical based on ‘the generic Peace Corps experience.’ I tabled the idea quickly. The unique nature of volunteer service set abundant hurdles. Peace Corps Africa and Peace Corps Latin America are different beasts. The organization’s six decades presented another problem. We’d moved from the era of ‘Drop … Continue reading Peace Corps, the Musical

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Elevatorwala

Mumbai has a wallah for everything, no task too big or small. Outside my 14th-story flat, one of four elevatorwalas pushes the button that takes us to the street and back again. The other night we ate our first dinner at a Parsi restaurant called---this is all one word---Sodabottleopenerwala. It’s a chain. Derived in part … Continue reading Elevatorwala

Maximum City

We are neither here nor there. The carpets are up and the curios down. The boys are packed and shipped off south for a week with Naniji. A week from tomorrow the packers arrive. They'll invade for 3 or 4 days to box up several categories of shipment: 700 lbs of air freight; 7k lbs … Continue reading Maximum City

Fly America… Call the Philippines

When your official government travel orders authorize advanced seating to guarantee a seat beside your child during an international move---old home packed, new home empty... ...but the airline won't confirm your seat more than 23 hours before you fly... ...and you spend hours on the phone... ...talking to the travel agent... ...and talking to the … Continue reading Fly America… Call the Philippines

Diplomatic Training

Sixteen years ago I spent ten months at the Foreign Service Institute training for my first diplomatic assignment to Saudi Arabia. This week I returned to campus with my sons, eight and ten, so they could begin their own indoctrination to the diplomatic life. They were enrolled in a course called Young Diplomats Overseas Preparation. … Continue reading Diplomatic Training

Sex Ed: Anne Frank in Africa

Without telling us the punchlines, Dutch researchers announced this week the discovery of four dirty jokes papered over in Anne Frank’s diary. I taught the diary as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi two decades ago, curious from the start why it was on the curriculum. My students faced a lifetime of grinding poverty, endemic … Continue reading Sex Ed: Anne Frank in Africa

Answer Coming Soon

When I feel ornery about the state of world affairs, I turn to Dan Whitman for a cure. Because he gifted me a large stack of his books, he doesn’t always know this. Whitman’s essays reflect on wide-ranging issues for the foreign affairs professional. They cut across decades (mostly post World War II) and continents … Continue reading Answer Coming Soon

The Impact of Public Diplomacy

Reflecting on U.S. Diplomacy. An excerpt: The next-to-last time I saw Mohamed---11:15 a.m., December 6, 2004---a blast-resistant window separated us. The day’s final applicant, he was alone in the waiting room when the high-low alarm started wailing. An Afghan male taking refuge in Saudi Arabia from the time of the Soviet invasion of his country, … Continue reading The Impact of Public Diplomacy

Take Your Child to Work Day

My favorite work day of the year. The cafeteria never seems so alive. The visitor hall buzzes with energy. At State our children take the same oath of service---to uphold the constitution---that we took when we came on board. “I stachername, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United … Continue reading Take Your Child to Work Day

Review–Memoir from Paraguay

Latest review posted at Peace Corps Worldwide, home for Peace Corps-affiliated writers who publish stories from around the world. Mark Salvatore  writes simple, declarative sentences. His Peace Corps memoir, Shade of the Paraiso, is stripped to fact and detail, observation and truth. Even its replication of time — passing slowly at first, building inexorably over months, … Continue reading Review–Memoir from Paraguay