Tag Archives: Peace Corps

Peggy and Randy Ford Authors- FOUND OUR WAY 1st Installment


By Peggy and Randy Ford

PEPEEKEO (Peace Corps)

1. We took off from the Big Island. It was before Hilo had international flights. We had been living in a schoolhouse surrounded by sugarcane with well over two hundred people. It was sad to leave it behind but exciting to get on with the business at hand.

2. The days there were long, and our studies were so intense that energy was at a premium. We were living just outside a small community called Pepeekeo in an abandoned school that was made into makeshift dorms and classrooms. The school was in pretty good shape and not abandoned because it was falling down, but old classrooms don’t make the most ideal bedrooms.

3. The married couples (there were 14 couples out of 228 people) had private rooms, but the walls didn’t reach to the ceiling and were so thin that every squeak of the bed could be heard in the next room. Our doors were shower curtains, and some of the rooms were divided into two by shower curtains. That made it pretty rough on couples who had only been married less than a month. We were old-timers in the married world there. We had a big laugh when we put our trunk away in a cabinet, and it ended up in our neighbor’s cabinet.

4. We gave away the following possessions before entering the Peace Corps.

Books and more books
A typewriter
Pressure cooker
Coffee pot (electric)
Electric skillet (except for washing it, we liked it better than our plain frying pan)
Bun warmer
Goose-neck lamp;
Rug (brown, orange & red, about 2’x4’)
Card table

5. We ate much like we would in the Philippines, with lots of rich and goulash-type dishes. No good old American food such as bake potatoes, steaks and pork chops, and no sweets.

6. Language proficiency was a must, or that was what we were told. And we were beginning to know enough Tagalog to carry on simple conversations and to make appropriate remarks. We concentrated on verbs, which are very complex. We were given a standardized government language exam, which was divided into five levels of proficiency. By the end of training we were supposed to have reached S-2 level, which meant being able to hire an employee, give a brief autobiography, describe the geography of a familiar location, describe the purpose of the Peace Corps, as well as some of the more basic things we learned for S-1. How well did I do on the final exam? I almost made S-1. On the whole my wife was better than I was, and as for almost making it, it was apparently good enough.

7. We felt that nothing was more unjust than the process of deselecting. Midway through training bigwigs at the site and several people from Washington met and discussed each trainee in terms of his or her potential as a successful volunteer. At this time they predicted that four people would not make good volunteers and sent them home. Several others were warned that if they didn’t improve they would be deselected at the end of training. The process of deselecting caused a lot of hard feelings toward those who made the decisions. We were told that anybody who had a problem would be given a chance to work the problem out. Many of us felt that a couple of people weren’t given this chance.

8. Another factor that caused hard feelings was peer ratings. About 10 days before the process of deselecting began we were given a form to fill out. On the form we were to list the five volunteers that we would like most to be assigned with, the five we thought would make the most successful volunteers, the five we would least like to be assigned with, and the five we thought would be the least successful. We were told to put five in each slot – even if we didn’t want to. There was only one volunteer who Peggy (my wife) thought would be unsuccessful, but she forced herself to put down four others even though she didn’t think that they would necessarily be unsuccessful. One of the five she put down was almost deselected because several people put him down. She later thought that he would make an excellent volunteer – and there were others who agreed with her. Because of how the ratings were used most of the volunteers decided that when the final peer ratings came along they would not put down anybody unless they felt very strongly that someone would make an unsuccessful volunteer.

Peggy and Randy Ford

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Richard Sitler Author- MAKING PEACE WITH WORLD, a commemorative book celebrating the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps

a commemorative book celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps

by Richard Sitler

In June 2009, Richard Sitler embarked on an epic journey to document Peace Corps Volunteers serving communities around the world. Over the next two years, Richard would find himself traversing the planet while staying with Peace Corps Volunteers, experiencing their communities and work sites, and documenting what it’s like to be a Volunteer in the modern Peace Corps.

Richard discovered that the values President Kennedy had imagined for the Peace Corps in his famous 1960 speech at the University of Michigan continue to be evident in the organization today. However, the Volunteer has evolved over the years.

Volunteers today are no longer required to conform to the stereotypical image of young idealists giving up their comfortable lives to live in a grass hut. Rather, Richard discovers Volunteers are using modern technology, such as laptops and cell phones, to not only enrich their experience, but to impact their community as well. He sees how retired professionals bring years of experience and knowledge to their organizations. And how, as it always has been, Volunteers are changing lives while being forever changed themselves.

This is the story of Peace Corps and its Volunteers, fifty years after conception.

Help the author recover his costs by donating to his campaign on:

The Point: http://www.thepoint.com/campaigns/making-peace-with-the-world

Order MAKING PEACE WITH WORLD, a commemorative book celebrating the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps, at Other Places Publishing: http://www.otherplacespublishing.com/mpwtw.html

The book is also available at Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/Making-Peace-World-Photographs-Volunteers/dp/0982261985/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1302058785&sr=1-1

A portion of publisher proceeds from this title will go to Peace Corps projects around the globe.

(Ideas: Order a copy of the book for yourself, order a copy as a gift for family and friends, order a copy for a person who might be interested in becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer, order a copy to donate to your local library, high school library or college library).

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Gary Robson Author- Two books: Peace Corps Experience in the 1980’s & his experience as Father to a Chess Prodigy

Gary Robson Author- Peace Corps (The Philippines) in the 1980’s & Father to a Chess Prodigy

I left my full time job in January to give myself the time to finish the two books that I had write. The first is about my Peace Corps experience in the 1980’s: the second is about my experience as father to this generation’s American chess prodigy. Order online at NipaHutPress.com, or send a check for $12.06 for the Peace Corps book, $19.99 for the prodigy book, or $25.74 for both books to Nipa Hut Press, 2340 Anna Ave., Clearwater, Fl 33765

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      by Martin F. Feess, Ph.D 

      Returned Peace Corps Volunteer- Jordan 

      e-mail: martinfrankfeess@yahoo.com

      website: martinfeess.com 

      blog: martinfeess.bogspots.com

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Randy Ford Author- Flight

      She looked after their bags as he ran to the restroom.   It was her old role, playing nurse with their luggage, hovering over the various pieces so that they wouldn’t run off.   If they weren’t in such a busy terminal it wouldn’t have been so critical.   Not all the people lounging around were catching a flight, leaving Manila as they were; the terminal was full; that airport would soon prove to be a very dangerous place, and Susan and Ted with their heads filled with worries about getting into Singapore didn’t exactly blend in.

      Many of the passengers in the waiting areas were going great distances.   Susan and Ted were in for a relatively short flight, a relatively simple hop; other passengers on their plane would fly on to Bombay.   Other planes began to load.   Ted came out of the restroom; it seemed to Susan that he had been in there forever, as if he had endured a line for a urinal, the kind of line she anticipated when she took her turn.   And after some weeks of anticipation they now had only a half an hour or more left and they’d be on their way, starting a new phrase of their life, new adventures to write home about.   Some people seemed more in a hurry than they were; but their flight hadn’t been called yet; and they seemed to have plenty of time since they had already cleared customs.   Clearing customs was always like playing a game; and it would always amaze Susan how thoroughly customs went through the luggage of nationals returning to their country while they generally had no problems at all.   It was as though their American passports gave them an automatic pass, with some exceptions; and this time would prove to be one of those, though they got through the first huddle, customs, without a problem.

      For while, especially after they cleared customs, it looked as if no one would show up to see them off; and it seemed probable at that point that it would be the case, that no one cared enough to come, and Ted felt disappointed.   But then, when they least expected him, Don showed up.   He couldn’t come into the area where they were; there was a clear-plastic barrier that prevented that; and Ted didn’t think they had enough time to go back through customs.   They could still communicate and wave.   Very quickly they exchanged greetings, a short while later good-byes, a scene that Ted would always remember and seemed so unnatural; and then their flight was called; and Don said that they probably would never see each again.   They had hoped that going through immigration would be routine.   Now they felt their confidence rise.   All they were looking for was a perfunctory glance at their passports; and their passports stamped, and they would be on their way (with a few regrets but by and large great satisfaction; at least they hoped that would be the way the Peace Corps viewed their service).   Nerves began to mount up, while they tried to look as unemotional as possible, which seemed the best way to get through immigration; standing in line you’d hope everything would go smoothly.   In front of them for most of the passengers it only took a minute or two.   For some it took a look a little longer; it depended on the nationality of the person; and it began to look as if they were picking on certain people.

      This led to a lot of uncertainty.   The immigration official, when it became Susan and Ted’s turn, had to ask them for their passports twice.   Ted was that nervous.   They each had their own passport; Ted could see one of them being held up for some idiotic reason; especially so considering his draft situation.   Maybe they could see that they were running from something.   So seconds turned into long minutes; after which a second official stepped up and pulled them aside.   It didn’t take long for things to get out of hand; and Ted could clearly see that because of this “baloney” they could end up missing their flight; who knew if they would hold the plane for them or not.   It didn’t look good.

       In a small office off to one side Ted and Susan managed to stay reasonably calm.   Before, the Peace Corps would’ve run interference for them; how different it was compared when they arrived in Manila and were whisked through immigration and customs and were given a welcome speech, a warm welcome when everything seemed so foreign.   Ted was readier than Susan was to accept whatever.

      Ted asked him what the problem was, sir…like everything else there had to be a remedy, but first he had to find out the problem.   He asked him what, precisely.

      “Hum!”   This was all that initially came out of the official’s mouth.   Clearly the official had within his power to make or ruin their day.   “Hum!”   The silence that followed seemed interminable.   He was dressed in a smart uniform and, with pomp and a badge, wore an official hat.   Ted, at that moment, imagined that he was going to be sent to jail for some unnamed crime connected, or unconnected with his activities at the university.   Somehow they knew and set a trap for him.   He felt like blurting out, “I’ve been a Peace Corps volunteer for almost two years; and I’ve done what I could for your country.”   Yeah, right, if you called joining the Communist useful…and maybe it was a good thing that he didn’t have an in-depth conversation what that official.

      He asked them about a stamp they didn’t have in their passports.   It would cost them a hundred pesos each.   And then could they board their plane?   “Of course,” the official said.   So they paid it and got their passports stamped.   And stamped again, when they went through immigration a second time.

      Susan later said, “They want us to go away with a good impression.   That’s why DeRoy Valencia was such a stickler over his bathrooms in the Luneta.   You see Alfred was right all along.   The time came for him to pee.   He was then a Mormon missionary in Hawaii.   Everyone has to pee.   That’s right, everyone, even a Mormon missionary on a mission.   And if he were in Manila instead of Hawaii, he could’ve peed almost anywhere: behind a building, on a tire, a tree, anywhere.   But in Hawaii, he would have to hold it, but sometimes he thought he couldn’t, and one of those times he got in big trouble.   What was he going to do?   He would do what he always did: he would find a building, a tire, a tree, or whatever and pee.   And low and behold, in Hawaii he got arrested for it.   Now was that fair?   I mean, he was in foreign country for Pete sake.”

      Her parents had never been out of the United States, unless you count the few times they crossed into Juarez on foot, and Susan thought that shouldn’t count.   Here they were about to get off a plane in Singapore.

      She said to Ted, “I’ve been angry at you.   Back in the States I was blind-sighted by the prospect of marrying you.   How could that be?   How could that be with someone like me?   I thought one day you’d be famous.   Before I met you I knew nothing about the theater, except…all the people I knew about in the theater were all very famous, so it stood to reason…I guess I was fooling myself.   My dreams were buried back there in the theater building I hated.   It took so much of you away from me.   I was lonely.   I could’ve died when I smelled the cigarette smoke.   My husband was among the living dead.   And I knew that if I didn’t do something quick that I’d drive myself crazy.   So I suggested the Peace Corps.   I didn’t really think you’d really want to go.   I felt good when you did.   I thought, oh boy, now I can get my husband back.   Of course, I was scared to death.   Scared and pissed, and that accounted for my pissiness.   Of course, I didn’t tell anyone.   Now half the people on the plane know.”

      He leaned over to be close to her and said, “So I drove you crazy.   So now what’s up with you?”

      “I don’t know.   I would hope that I’m stronger now.”   She went on to say, “You didn’t drive me crazy.   Even when you were at your craziest, you didn’t.   I was feeding off my own frenzy.   I could say I was waiting for you to become a famous such and such.   But I’m more realistic than that.   I saw my mother; how she was stuck on that piece of dirt near Midland.   And look at us now: on an airplane flying into Singapore.   Why not Singapore?   We could stay in Singapore.   Singapore sounds so exotic.”

“I have news for you. They won’t let us stay in Singapore.”

      “Shucks!  Or rats!   Is Singapore a country?”

      By the time Singapore broke away from Malaysia it was already becoming the financial hub of Southeast Asia.   It didn’t take Susan and Ted long to learn how to get around in this super-clean, super-organized city-state.   There were sights to see.   And a great amount of pressure was off them.   By and large Ted thought they had succeeded in disappearing.   And this realization came on the heels of an attempted assassination of the Pope.   Nick returned to his home in Central Luzon.   The guerrillas there learned from past mistakes and became more successful, as politics in Manila turned more deadly.   In many ways, it was a good thing that Ted got out of there when he did.   They raided Angeles City and ambushed some American airmen and raised the stakes for everyone everywhere in the Philippines.

      Then the question arose: what would they do if Susan became pregnant?   Susan had said that she didn’t know how many times she could move, and Ted had said a good time to settle down might be when they had a kid.   Then there for a while in Singapore they thought Susan might’ve been pregnant.   For several days they lived with that unknown and until they discovered the wonders of socialized medicine.   They didn’t have to pay a thing; and the results set them free.

       Life then presented them with questions.   Seeing Singapore meant, among other things, eating on a junk in the harbor; and this place was own by American expatriate; and you could catch a water-shuttle to it for lunch and dinner.

      While they were eating the owner appeared, and Ted asked him how he managed to acquire a junk and turn it into a restaurant.

      “It wasn’t easy,” he said.

      When he came back later with the bill Ted said to him, “We just came from Manila.   We grew tired of Manila.   Any advice?”

     “None whatsoever.”

      And Ted said, “I’m lucky to have this woman here.   I couldn’t live without her.   I have another question.   If you had nowhere, where would you go?   And don’t say Singapore and that you would live and work on a junk.”

      Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- running amok on those last days

      Sonja came to the lunch Alfred planned for them.   She considered bringing them a small gift, something very small that would fit in their luggage, as a token of appreciation, and but that idea got lost as she rushed about.   She wanted to see Ted off not because he had worked for her for over a year and half, not because of his contributions to the theater, not even because she had counted on him and he had always come through, but for cultural reasons she had to make sure that his departure went smoothly.   She said, “We really thought Ted would be with us for a much longer time.”   Here she succeeded in making him feel good and this without relying on anyone else.   She also knew what else to say, when she said, “like you, I’ve found what I really want to do.  Like you, I love theater; and I was hoping that that love could be translated into convincing you to stay.”   At that point Susan didn’t want to hear that, and said, “Oh, no you don’t.”

      Alfred said, “Um! Ted, I think you better listen to her.   And why not, she’s your wife.   And Ted, when do you think we’ll hear from you again?”

      Within a few seconds, Alfred had saved the day.   Neither negotiator nor a judge, he took over the conversation by bringing Ted up to speed on the progress of the play in the dungeon.   To Alfred HINDI ACO PATAY was the perfect play for down there.   He wanted to thank Ted for the Katipunan flag, which on the nights of performance he planned to fly under the Filipino flag at Fort Santiago.   Ted agreed that that could be considered seditious and said he was glad he would be out of the country.   But he felt at home, and they had to laugh.

      Ted made one last trip to Diliman and caught Nick between classes.   Nick asked him if he would like to sit down.   He no longer had a Chinese flag hanging on his wall and tried to explain why, “Once upon a time I was more radical than I am now, and then one day they came and arrested me.   And it seemed ridiculous for me to be in solitary confinement, when I could’ve been more useful on the outside.   It seemed so ridiculous that I signed a pact with myself, which means I’m smarter now.   I should go home at the end of the semester.   It’s heating up up there.   It’s getting hotter all the time; and I suspect it won’t be long before it’s adios Uncle Sam.   I guess we’re both learning.   So, you and the Mrs. are going home.”

      “Not exactly,” Ted said, and they had to laugh.

      “You know, it’s beautiful in Mindanao right now,” Don said.   “With the dense forest and that blue sky and the blue sea, it’s heaven.   Don went on to explain why he left Mindanao this time, a heaven to him, and how his heaven had turned into hell.   The Moros held Marawi, and the college there probably had as many Muslim students attending it as any other college in the Philippines.   Very colorful people and Don had always felt safe there and enjoyed the lake.

     “What happened?”

      “Give me an opportunity to explain.   I’ve got to get this out of my system. ”

      Ted asked him again what happened.

      “I am easy, generally.   And I’d been to Marawi many times and knew the town.   I had no sense of fear, but I know when my gut tells me something’s wrong.   I know it’s a warning I need to heed.   Neither the students nor I were looking for trouble; rather I thought one of them was showing off with a Kris.   He had it in his hand.   High above his head.   Yelling.   I don’t play around with someone with a knife, or running amok.   As far as I was concerned, my life was in danger, period, no ands or buts.   By the time he was stopped by a bullet, he had decapitated someone.   In fact, soon after my arrival in idyllic Marawi, I caught a glimpse of him running and yelling, somewhat like a kamikaze.   Marawi, where there are all of those intellectuals.   My stomach, which is very weak, and was upset from a bumpy bus ride anyway, couldn’t take all the gore; but since I was only temporarily there, I fled; and I won’t go back.

      The last thing they did was to check the Peace Corps office for mail.   From home they sent them a care package.   Susan swooned over the chocolate chip cookies.   The few people watching her said she wept, or did she die and go to heaven?

      They almost didn’t make their flight.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- emotional vomit

      Don found them.   They hadn’t expected to see him again.   He explained in his quirky way that he found heaven in Mindanoa.   Then he said, “But heaven wasn’t enough for me.   At age twenty-one, twenty-two, getting a degree, Chase Western, no, none of it was enough, not for me.   In Mindanoa, I was reading about Venezuela, and down there in heaven it had become required reading.   Until then I hadn’t thought of Venezuela, and then finally I was able to see where I wanted to go.   Indeed before coming up here, I hadn’t thought it through; but now, seeing how you two are ready to go, I’m ready too.   I’ve had enough Peace Corps.   So I’m off to Venezuela.   Why Venezuela?   I haven’t a clue.”   And they all three laughed.

       Late one night, right before they were scheduled to leave, Susan woke Ted up.   She couldn’t sleep.  She was in the lightweight summer pajamas she always wore to bed.

      She said, “Ted, I’ve got to get out of this room.   It’s too quiet.   This is not Manila.”   Until then she had thought she was some place else, or had she been dreaming?   In deed, as she lay there next to Ted, she laid out all their plans for the week, including all they had to do when they got to Singapore in a day or two.   But she was so completely in charge that she could hardly believe it, so full of energy that she could no longer lie there next to her husband.   She had to wake him up.   For some time she realized she no longer heard the clamor and the chaos of Manila, that she had grown accustomed to it and had concluded that Manila had become her home.   She had tried to sleep.   She was reminded of all of the kids she taught in school and felt sure that one of them would one day become president of the Philippines.   To hell with Marcos!   Who never showed up!   The bastard!   What had her all fired up?   Now what?   A flight to Singapore.

      She recalled how daunting those first flights were: first to San Francisco, then Hawaii.   How when she landed there in Hawaii she was expected to be someone else, to have changed on the flight.   She was constantly tempted to quit.   There was always more training, more reflection, so on.   She found she first had to do what? She first had to decide what.   Just as she now needed to decide.   “Ted get up!”


      “Let’s go for a walk.   Something’s missing.”

      “At this hour?”

     “Yes!”   She wanted to say, “You’ve dragged me half way around the world and now you want me to” and of course she couldn’t/wouldn’t say it right.   Forget all those bad memories.   “Ted get up!”

      They went to the elevator and there was no elevator operator at that time of night.   They looked for the fire escape when Susan insisted that she needed air.   She had lived through an earthquake.   So she could live through this.

       She had never confided her doubts to Ted in any comprehensible way, and he started talking about how he wished they could afford to buy a jeepney, an untouched jeepney with all the color, pomp and circumstance, and tour the world in it.   She told him that since age four she had been scared to death.   Yes, age four.   Did he hear her?   All he did all the time was talk about Borneo, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand; and in so doing, he once again left her behind.   Stand your ground girl.

      “Ah, he said, “But we’d have find a way of shipping the darn thing.”

       When he said that, she didn’t know what he was talking about.

      It was a typical night.   She asked to be held.   She was learning.   He held her tight.   Ted felt how she relaxed in his arms.   She returned to the same things out of her past over and over again: masturbating by definition.   She was learning to forget to edit.   Many might’ve found the exercise passe and even useless, but it wasn’t to her.   She was doing well and mostly by herself.   How often had she remembered her father doing everything for her and not allowing her to do things for herself?   But what if that wasn’t true?   What difference would it make?

      Susan said, “I don’t know if I can adjust to another place.”

      He said, “I think you can.”

      Walking the streets of Manila.   That was it.   That was all they did for a week.   And without direction.   Perhaps it was because they didn’t need direction.   Manila had become their home.

      She said, “I want you to promise me something, that you won’t die on me.   Just think if something were to happen to you in a place where they didn’t speak English.”

      Randy Ford

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