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Re: [Gabon Discussion] Re: Peace Corps vs money to Bongo

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  • w Siemers
    RE: But don t you think the Gabonese remember what happened during the 1964 coup attempt and the subsequent illegal French intervention? Was it really a
    Message 1 of 15 , Dec 1, 2005
      RE:"

      But don't you think the Gabonese remember what
      happened during the 1964 coup attempt and the subsequent illegal
      French intervention? Was it really a coincidence that as soon as
      the coup failed both the Director of the Peace Corps and the USIS
      Director and his family were evacuated? The US Ambassador was
      subsequently asked to leave the country over the affair. I am
      convinced Darlington had no clue what the Peace Corps - or more
      correctly the director of the Peace Corps, as I don't believe the
      volunteers were involved - was doing. BTW, the director of the
      Peace Corps was Wilkes an ex-marine colonel that considered his work
      in Gabon as work in a "war-zone" and the volunteers as
      his "soldiers". That should tell you something about "helping the "
      poor".

      As a matter of reference. I do not recall when Darlington left Gabon,
      but the revolution in question was in early 1964 and Wilkes was still in
      Gabon in September of 1965 when I finished my service there.
      As for the "war zone" and "soldiers", that was pure Wilkes and I suspect
      had more to do with his basic temperment than any political overtone.
      Keep in mind this is the man who ordered antique "b" rations for food
      for the volunteers. He was also quoted early on describing the
      volunteers as living in conditions "worse than Guadalcanal."
      I have to take exception to the general commentary about peace corps
      being a propaganda tool . If propaganda is defined as information, perhaps.

      As for the college boy doing the "good works" This old boy was a "farm
      boy" who grew up more comfortable with a tractor than a text book in a
      small rural midwest town and happened to have a few construction skills
      he picked up from his father and grandfather. Although our project was
      officially building schools, there were those other element as well,
      community developement was the general catch all term that included
      medical services, health and sanitation work, nutrition, etc and even
      some work involving planting corn.

      There is a very real tendency to condemn the peace corps when its
      volunteers and staff don't walk on water. Unlike some groups, we never
      claimed that we did, but we did get pretty damn good at wading around in
      the mud.


      Pete Siemers

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    • bobutne
      Amin, I don t know your personal sources but mine include: Hubert Humphrey, the US Senator who originated the Peace Corps concept; Sargent Shriver; Top-Secret
      Message 2 of 15 , Dec 1, 2005
        Amin,

        I don't know your personal sources but mine include: Hubert Humphrey,
        the US Senator who originated the Peace Corps concept; Sargent
        Shriver; Top-Secret CIA intelligence data for five years when I
        worked in the Executive Office of the President; numerous members of
        Congress and State Department employees.

        Nowhere have I heard that the Peace Corps was developed to serve as a
        propaganda machine. USIA/Voice of America had this function.

        The Peace Corps was developed out of pure idealism and ran on
        idealism for most of its history. Humphrey had the original idea and
        Kennedy ran with it putting his brother-in-law, Shriver, in charge.
        During most Administrations, Peace Corps projects were based on the
        requests of host nations and not on the current US political agenda.

        With your background as an engineer with non-USA heritage, I fully
        understand that you have a difficult time in comprehending the Peace
        Corps concept. Providing construction and tech assistance may be the
        least importance of what the Peace Corps has accomplished. Assisting
        needy humans at the village level to improve the quality of their
        lives, to me, is what the Peace Corps was all about.

        Bob

















        --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, "Amin F. Abari"
        <aminabari@y...> wrote:
        >
        > Tom,
        >
        > I do like the Peace Corps – but for the reason I said. It simply
        > makes young volunteers better people. I have no doubt in my mind
        > that the benefits that the Peace Corps imparted to you are far more
        > than the benefits that you imparted to the hungry kids. By you
        > having acquired the experience, there is also no doubt in my mind
        > that during your lifetime YOU will do far more than you would have
        > done otherwise, to fight against injustice and poverty. There is
        > tremendous value in that.
        >
        > But that does not detract from the fact that the Peace Corps was
        > created to promote the US and the American way of life. That makes
        > the Peace Corps a propaganda machine, irrelevant of if the way of
        > life they are promoting is a better way or not.
        >
        > All I am saying is let's call a spade a spade. The Peace Corps is
        > NOT there to help the poor and the needy. I remember in mid 80s
        > when I tried to join the Peace Corps. At their office in DC the
        few
        > people present were almost ecstatic, an engineer with some actual
        > experience. They told me they hardly get people like me that want
        > to join. You should have seen their faces when they found out I
        > wasn't American. I couldn't understand what difference it made (I
        > was naïve). If you want to help the poor and less fortunate become
        > more self-sufficient and have better lives and you are willing to
        > sacrifice some of your own time to do that as a volunteer what
        > difference should it make where you come from? I was even willing
        > to pay my own airfare but needed logistical support and information
        > on where to go and how to go.
        >
        > I worked with VSO volunteers in Zambia in their 40s that took leave
        > without pay from 80,000 pound a year jobs to come and impart
        > knowledge in their fields. THAT is developmental work and
        > volunteering that really makes a difference on the ground. Not
        > American kids learning if chongololo is edible and what is the best
        > way to eat kapenta, and going back to tell stories of how they
        could
        > never bring themselves to taste a termite!
        >
        > Read what you yourself wrote. If you are there to help the poor
        and
        > the needy what difference should it make if Gabon was a French
        > colony or a Martian one? What difference should it make if they
        > speak French or Chinese?
        >
        > Most Gabonese are already bi-lingual if not multi. They speak
        their
        > own Gabonese language plus French, and might understand a couple of
        > other local dialects. No doubt learning a new language no matter
        > how many you already know is a good thing, I don't argue with
        that.
        > But when you see what is really needed to reduce their suffering –
        > hungry kids that have one chance in a million to ever set foot in a
        > university (if they survive disease and god knows what). Wouldn't
        > it better to teach them how to build a manual press using local
        wood
        > that can extract oil from sunflower seeds or palm seeds more
        > efficiently so they can have enough oil for themselves and more to
        > barter with or sell?
        >
        > Why do you think you were teaching them about Apartheid in South
        > Africa or about MLK's cause? Nothing wrong with teaching kids to
        > empower them with what is possible but did you also teach them how
        > the US government supported the Apartheid regime for so long? Did
        > you teach them about how life is in the inner cities for the poor
        > black children that MLK was fighting for? Could the choice of the
        > subjects that you were trained to teach had any political
        motivation
        > behind them? Aren't any other subjects that you could have used to
        > teach English that does not drill into their already suffering
        > brains more of the atrocities that man is capable of? These kids
        by
        > the time they make it to school have seen more suffering and
        > savagery than most Americans see in a lifetime, maybe while
        teaching
        > them English you could have used some subjects that would uplift
        > these children as apposed to "outrage" them, as you put it.
        >
        > Also, don't forget people have long memories. Why do you think no
        > Gabonese batted an eye here when the Peace Corps "pulled out" of
        > Gabon during an election year? Sure cost one was reason and one
        > that saves face. But don't you think the Gabonese remember what
        > happened during the 1964 coup attempt and the subsequent illegal
        > French intervention? Was it really a coincidence that as soon as
        > the coup failed both the Director of the Peace Corps and the USIS
        > Director and his family were evacuated? The US Ambassador was
        > subsequently asked to leave the country over the affair. I am
        > convinced Darlington had no clue what the Peace Corps – or more
        > correctly the director of the Peace Corps, as I don't believe the
        > volunteers were involved – was doing. BTW, the director of the
        > Peace Corps was Wilkes an ex-marine colonel that considered his
        work
        > in Gabon as work in a "war-zone" and the volunteers as
        > his "soldiers". That should tell you something about "helping the
        > poor".
        >
        > Finally, I am not justifying anything, as I don't know enough about
        > it one way or other – all I am saying is George Bush does not
        > control the World Bank via Wolfowitz and therefore cannot send 15
        > million to a project that these days with all international funding
        > under a microscope would be impossible to divert to any other cause
        > than the one it was meant for. A project that was over FIVE years
        > in the making and planning stages with numerous people both in the
        > World Bank, the Gabonese government, and the international
        community
        > working hard on to bring to fruition. Believe me, the puppet
        master
        > does not have such foresight or such power. Also, contrary to what
        > people think the donor funding that come from multilateral agencies
        > are not handed out directly to Bongo as a cash payments. There are
        > checks and balances in place. But I am just too tired to try and
        > explain anymore!! You can believe what you want on this subject.
        >
        > Amin
        >
        > --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, Tom LeBlanc
        > <tom_leblanc_chico@y...> wrote:
        > >
        > > Amin,
        > >
        > > Wow! Dude! Really way too hot to handle! Somebody
        > > pushed one of your hot buttons! That was quite the
        > > extreme tirade for someone who feels obliged to
        > > justify the World Bank's support to Bongo during an
        > > election year. Well, I guess we should all be grateful
        > > that you "like" the Peace Corps--can't imagine what
        > > you would have written if you didn't!
        > >
        > > BTW, I was "just" an English teacher in a francophone
        > > country (I had majored in English and French). But
        > > following your line of reasoning, who needs to learn
        > > to speak English in a former French colony that's been
        > > run by a neo-colonial French-supported dictator for
        > > almost as long as I've been on this earth?
        > >
        > > I must apologize in advance, but I take your remarks
        > > very personally. And yes, you did push one of my hot
        > > buttons....
        > >
        > > I'm grateful that I was one of those lost college kids
        > > "with no prospects for work." However, although I
        > > ended up teaching English at a "college" in the middle
        > > of the rainforest to kids who didn't always have a
        > > full stomach when they came to school, I don't recall
        > > any of my students begging me for money in English. I
        > > guess I taught them all the wrong things, like
        > > Apartheid in South Africa and MLK's "Free At Last"
        > > Civil Rights March speech in Washington, DC, or the
        > > meaning of the words to Bob Marley's song
        > > "War"--things they never heard about but were outraged
        > > to learn about when I exposed them to it. But I guess
        > > I was just part of the American propaganda machine.
        > >
        > > But you're right, I probably should have majored in
        > > economics and got a real job at a bank in the States
        > > after graduating from UMass/Amherst. Then I wouldn't
        > > have had to bother to experience what it's like to
        > > live in abject poverty. I wouldn't have gotten
        > > malaria, among a host of other things. And I probably
        > > wouldn't be working in developing countries 25 years
        > > later, trying to push education onto the masses so
        > > that they can beg rich people for money in English. I
        > > guess I should have just stayed in the States, bought
        > > a middle class house in a middle class suburb and gone
        > > to a middle class bar to watch middle class sports on
        > > TV...not that there's anything wrong with that, if
        > > that's what turns you on.
        > >
        > > But becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer has ruined those
        > > prospects for me. Ever since I left Gabon, all I have
        > > ever wanted to do is live in developing countries
        > > among poor people so that I can smile when they beg me
        > > for money in English knowing that the Peace Corps
        > > American propaganda machine is doing a fine job. God!
        > > I knew I should have majored in economics! Who knows,
        > > maybe I would have even become one of those World Bank
        > > economists who thinks it's a good idea to give one of
        > > the richest dictators in the world a few million bucks
        > > during his election campaign. Oh, but for that I would
        > > have had to have some international experience...like
        > > maybe in the Peace Corps....
        > >
        > > Tom
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > --- "Amin F. Abari" <aminabari@y...> wrote:
        > >
        > > > An NGO and the Peace Corps are antithesis of each
        > > > other. At least if you want to design an NGO
        > > > (non-governmental organization) ON a governmental
        > > > institution (!!) let it NOT be the Peace Corps.
        > > > Maybe you could consider VSO as the blueprint –
        > > > which is far more honest and better suited for
        > > > developmental work and it actually DOES what Peace
        > > > Corps implies it is doing.
        > > > http://www.vso.org.uk/about/(BTW, VSO recruits ANY
        > > > qualified volunteer irrelevant of their nationality,
        > > > just people wanting to help others – whereas the
        > > > Peace Corps recruits ONLY Americans in spite of the
        > > > lack in their qualifications! That should tell you
        > > > something.)The truth of the matter is that the Peace
        > > > Corps is a propaganda machine and it was openly
        > > > created as such. Now granted, by far most of the
        > > > volunteers in the program are idealistic,
        > > > open-minded kids (emphasis on kids) that want to
        > > > help – but don't know how. Also most are just out
        > > > of college with no real prospects of work (It is
        > > > tough these days for a 22 year old with a History
        > > > bachelors under his belt) and looking to "find
        > > > themselves" while partaking in a bit of "adventure".
        > > > So they join the Peace Corps for the free airline
        > > > ticket and the support group factor when out in the
        > > > bush.Now you can argue how much you help people by
        > > > teaching them a few words of English. People that
        > > > are living in abject poverty and don't know when
        > > > their next meal comes from – I guess it will
        > > > increase their chances of survival if they can beg
        > > > in more than one language. Granted Peace Corps does
        > > > other work too and the best they have ever done and
        > > > the best I have ever seen has been the schools they
        > > > built in Gabon.I remember a conversation I had with
        > > > a young girl waiting in the bank queue in Lusaka
        > > > some years back:"Peace Corps Volunteer?"
        > > > "Yeah! How did you know?"
        > > > "Oh, the clothes, Tevas, sunburn, cashing a check at
        > > > Citibank…"
        > > > …
        > > > "so what do you do in the bush?"
        > > > "I help them be better farmers."
        > > > "Really? Are you a farmer yourself?"
        > > > "Oh no! I'm an English major."Well, what was she
        > > > doing there? It essentially comes down to THE one
        > > > question that every Peace Corps volunteer gets asked
        > > > at some point and THE answer that goes with it.
        > > > After spending day after day doing grunt work and
        > > > plowing the field next to the poor farmer: "Are
        > > > they paying you a lot to do this?" "No I am a
        > > > volunteer – I don't get paid." THE question: "Then
        > > > why are you doing this?" "Because we AMERICANS are
        > > > not afraid of work – we are your friends – we work
        > > > side-be-side with you." (Or something to that effect
        > > > – BTW, it is amazing how the English, French, Dutch,
        > > > and … where so afraid of work but once they hopped
        > > > the pond and became Americans all that fear was
        > > > washed away!) OK, it makes the locals want to own
        > > > and wear a Nike T-shirt and now they know enough
        > > > English to beg for one. Great.All this said, I am a
        > > > fervent supporter of the Peace Corps and think it is
        > > > a shame they stopped the program in Gabon
        > > > (apparently cost was ONE reason) but not because I
        > > > think they are doing any great development work or
        > > > helping the poor in any perceptible way, but for the
        > > > sole reason that it gets a few Americans to leave
        > > > the shopping malls and come out of "their" world and
        > > > see what the "real" world looks like. Sort of a
        > > > reverse development organization for Americans
        > > > themselves. Social as opposed to Economic. Now,
        > > > only if some could make the Peace Crops recruit
        > > > exclusively from the red States. :-)
        > > >
        > > > --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com,
        > > > tamarawithers <no_reply@y...> wrote:
        > > > >
        > > > > Giving any money to the Gov't of Gabon is a HUGE
        > > > mistake. I think that
        > > > > funding would be better used given to an
        > > > international NGO somewhat
        > > > > similar to Peace Corps - the main difference being
        > > > that those working
        > > > > for the NGO are full time professionals in the
        > > > field that they will be
        > > > > providing aid. They should have their own
        > > > experience and training and
        > > > > the ability to provide capacity building and
        > > > skills transfer. PCVs
        > > > > were rarely ever able to adequately do so - they
        > > > most definately
        > > > > didn't receive adequate training nor did they have
        > > > access to
        > > > > sufficient resources. The best thing that the PCVs
        > > > had going for them
        > > > > was their knowledge of language, culture and their
        > > > living situation
        > > > > within villages.
        > > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > [Non-text portions of this message have been
        > > > removed]
        > > >
        > > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > __________________________________
        > > Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005
        > > http://mail.yahoo.com
        > >
        >
      • bobutne
        Amin asks, Why do you think no Gabonese batted an eye here when the Peace Corps pulled out of Gabon during an election year? I find that difficult to
        Message 3 of 15 , Dec 1, 2005
          Amin asks, "Why do you think no Gabonese batted an eye here when the
          Peace Corps pulled out of Gabon during an election year?"

          I find that difficult to believe. When I was in Kango, a few years
          ago, the local "mayor" asked me to help to get the Peace Corps to
          send him PCV's. "We have many problems in our villages and we know
          that Peace Corps Volunteers are able to assist us."

          I'd like to hear from Gabonese whether or not they believe the Peace
          Corps was a positive influence.

          Re Wilke's departure from Gabon, he claimed it was to treat his gout.
          There is no way that Darlington would have not been clued in if the
          US was involved, as the French have always claimed, in the planning
          of the '64 revolution. True that the French were the real villians as
          well stated in "The French Secret Services" by Douglas Porch.

          The real "war-zone" was getting 40 prinmary schools built with 24
          months. Thanks to my buddies and our Gabonese co-workers, Mission
          Accomplished....
        • Tom LeBlanc
          Thanks for your insightful comments, Amin. You made a lot of really good points. I had no idea you hadn t been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Gabon. I had assumed
          Message 4 of 15 , Dec 1, 2005
            Thanks for your insightful comments, Amin. You made a
            lot of really good points. I had no idea you hadn't
            been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Gabon. I had assumed
            that everyone in this discussion group was a Gabon
            RPCV. Sorry! But I'm glad you were able to do such
            excellent work in Zambia. I would also like to
            apologize to you about the ribbing I gave you on the
            WB money to Gabon. By that time I was running at the
            mouth! Cheers!

            By the way, the articles I introduced my students to
            are ones I picked myself. I created my own
            curriculum--and, yes, I did tell them that the US had
            supported the Apartheid regime and I made them well
            aware of the problems African-Americans face in the
            States.

            I'm not sure whether you've ever been there, but if
            not, you should probably be made aware that Gabon
            isn't exactly the poorest country in the world, and
            although a lot of people live at the subsistence
            level, they don't face the kinds of hardships one
            finds in other war-torn African countries like Liberia
            or DROC, etc., or even a relatively moderate
            transformational development state like here in Malawi
            or even Zambia.

            --- "Amin F. Abari" <aminabari@...> wrote:

            > Tom,
            >
            > I do like the Peace Corps – but for the reason I
            > said. It simply
            > makes young volunteers better people. I have no
            > doubt in my mind
            > that the benefits that the Peace Corps imparted to
            > you are far more
            > than the benefits that you imparted to the hungry
            > kids. By you
            > having acquired the experience, there is also no
            > doubt in my mind
            > that during your lifetime YOU will do far more than
            > you would have
            > done otherwise, to fight against injustice and
            > poverty. There is
            > tremendous value in that.
            >
            > But that does not detract from the fact that the
            > Peace Corps was
            > created to promote the US and the American way of
            > life. That makes
            > the Peace Corps a propaganda machine, irrelevant of
            > if the way of
            > life they are promoting is a better way or not.
            >
            > All I am saying is let's call a spade a spade. The
            > Peace Corps is
            > NOT there to help the poor and the needy. I
            > remember in mid 80s
            > when I tried to join the Peace Corps. At their
            > office in DC the few
            > people present were almost ecstatic, an engineer
            > with some actual
            > experience. They told me they hardly get people
            > like me that want
            > to join. You should have seen their faces when they
            > found out I
            > wasn't American. I couldn't understand what
            > difference it made (I
            > was naïve). If you want to help the poor and less
            > fortunate become
            > more self-sufficient and have better lives and you
            > are willing to
            > sacrifice some of your own time to do that as a
            > volunteer what
            > difference should it make where you come from? I
            > was even willing
            > to pay my own airfare but needed logistical support
            > and information
            > on where to go and how to go.
            >
            > I worked with VSO volunteers in Zambia in their 40s
            > that took leave
            > without pay from 80,000 pound a year jobs to come
            > and impart
            > knowledge in their fields. THAT is developmental
            > work and
            > volunteering that really makes a difference on the
            > ground. Not
            > American kids learning if chongololo is edible and
            > what is the best
            > way to eat kapenta, and going back to tell stories
            > of how they could
            > never bring themselves to taste a termite!
            >
            > Read what you yourself wrote. If you are there to
            > help the poor and
            > the needy what difference should it make if Gabon
            > was a French
            > colony or a Martian one? What difference should it
            > make if they
            > speak French or Chinese?
            >
            > Most Gabonese are already bi-lingual if not multi.
            > They speak their
            > own Gabonese language plus French, and might
            > understand a couple of
            > other local dialects. No doubt learning a new
            > language no matter
            > how many you already know is a good thing, I don't
            > argue with that.
            > But when you see what is really needed to reduce
            > their suffering –
            > hungry kids that have one chance in a million to
            > ever set foot in a
            > university (if they survive disease and god knows
            > what). Wouldn't
            > it better to teach them how to build a manual press
            > using local wood
            > that can extract oil from sunflower seeds or palm
            > seeds more
            > efficiently so they can have enough oil for
            > themselves and more to
            > barter with or sell?
            >
            > Why do you think you were teaching them about
            > Apartheid in South
            > Africa or about MLK's cause? Nothing wrong with
            > teaching kids to
            > empower them with what is possible but did you also
            > teach them how
            > the US government supported the Apartheid regime for
            > so long? Did
            > you teach them about how life is in the inner cities
            > for the poor
            > black children that MLK was fighting for? Could the
            > choice of the
            > subjects that you were trained to teach had any
            > political motivation
            > behind them? Aren't any other subjects that you
            > could have used to
            > teach English that does not drill into their already
            > suffering
            > brains more of the atrocities that man is capable
            > of? These kids by
            > the time they make it to school have seen more
            > suffering and
            > savagery than most Americans see in a lifetime,
            > maybe while teaching
            > them English you could have used some subjects that
            > would uplift
            > these children as apposed to "outrage" them, as you
            > put it.
            >
            > Also, don't forget people have long memories. Why
            > do you think no
            > Gabonese batted an eye here when the Peace Corps
            > "pulled out" of
            > Gabon during an election year? Sure cost one was
            > reason and one
            > that saves face. But don't you think the Gabonese
            > remember what
            > happened during the 1964 coup attempt and the
            > subsequent illegal
            > French intervention? Was it really a coincidence
            > that as soon as
            > the coup failed both the Director of the Peace Corps
            > and the USIS
            > Director and his family were evacuated? The US
            > Ambassador was
            > subsequently asked to leave the country over the
            > affair. I am
            > convinced Darlington had no clue what the Peace
            > Corps – or more
            > correctly the director of the Peace Corps, as I
            > don't believe the
            > volunteers were involved – was doing. BTW, the
            > director of the
            > Peace Corps was Wilkes an ex-marine colonel that
            > considered his work
            > in Gabon as work in a "war-zone" and the volunteers
            > as
            > his "soldiers". That should tell you something
            > about "helping the
            > poor".
            >
            > Finally, I am not justifying anything, as I don't
            > know enough about
            > it one way or other – all I am saying is George Bush
            > does not
            > control the World Bank via Wolfowitz and therefore
            > cannot send 15
            > million to a project that these days with all
            > international funding
            > under a microscope would be impossible to divert to
            > any other cause
            > than the one it was meant for. A project that was
            > over FIVE years
            > in the making and planning stages with numerous
            > people both in the
            > World Bank, the Gabonese government, and the
            > international community
            > working hard on to bring to fruition. Believe me,
            > the puppet master
            > does not have such foresight or such power. Also,
            > contrary to what
            > people think the donor funding that come from
            > multilateral agencies
            > are not handed out directly to Bongo as a cash
            > payments. There are
            > checks and balances in place. But I am just too
            > tired to try and
            > explain anymore!! You can believe what you want on
            > this subject.
            >
            > Amin
            >
            > --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, Tom LeBlanc
            > <tom_leblanc_chico@y...> wrote:
            > >
            > > Amin,
            > >
            > > Wow! Dude! Really way too hot to handle! Somebody
            > > pushed one of your hot buttons! That was quite the
            > > extreme tirade for someone who feels obliged to
            > > justify the World Bank's support to Bongo during
            > an
            > > election year. Well, I guess we should all be
            > grateful
            > > that you "like" the Peace Corps--can't imagine
            > what
            >
            === message truncated ===




            __________________________________
            Start your day with Yahoo! - Make it your home page!
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          • Amin F. Abari
            Bob, My sources are not any specific persons or publications, but are my general understanding of the situation over the years. Twenty years ago when I found
            Message 5 of 15 , Dec 2, 2005
              Bob,

              My sources are not any specific persons or publications, but are my
              general understanding of the situation over the years. Twenty years
              ago when I found out that no Americans could join I remember
              thinking this was a crazy rule that needed to be changed and did
              some research. I remember coming across and reading articles and
              documents way back then that made me realize why this was so. BTW,
              there were slew of Peace Corps documents at National Archives that
              were classified for reasons of National Security! You as an
              American have the right now to ask for their release through the
              Freedom of Information Act and find out what that is all about.
              Even Sargent Shriver's Peace Corps papers that were donated to the
              JFK library where classified until recently. I am not a historian
              and don't have that much of an interest (nor the access) but someone
              will eventually go through these and find out what was what.

              Looking around on the web just now I found the following:

              "…the program was an outgrowth of the Cold War designed to oppose
              the Chinese and Soviet political-ideological challenge to Western
              influence in the widely open Third World arena of superpower
              competition."

              "Concerned with the growing tide of revolutionary sentiment in the
              Third World, Kennedy saw the Peace Corps as a means of countering
              the notions of the "Ugly American" and "Yankee imperialism,"
              especially in the emerging nations of postcolonial Africa and Asia."

              "After the September 11 terrorist attacks alerted the nation to
              growing anti-U.S. sentiment in the Middle East, President George W.
              Bush pledged to double the size of the organization within five
              years as a part of his `War on Terrorism.' "

              These quotes are from Wikipedia entry.
              (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Peace_Corps) I am aware
              of the nature of Wikipedia and know that it is not always correct
              and that anyone can change the entries when they see fit, but I have
              found that everything I have researched on it eventually gravitates
              towards the truth when more and more people contribute and cross-
              check the information.

              The second of the three missions of the Peace Corps is:

              Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of
              the peoples served.

              Now, you are right that no where does it officially say that Peace
              Corps was created as a propaganda machine (or at least partly so)
              but I doubt you would find such a comment about USIS or Voice of
              America either but we all know better. In the case of Peace Corps
              you can draw you own conclusion from the statements above and from
              the way the Peace Corps conducts is business, mine is clear. (Other
              small and seemingly unrelated things that have made me reach my
              conclusion are things like the way the Peace Corps treats it's
              volunteers, by making them sign sort of "secrecy" documents and
              threatening to kick them out and in some cases doing it for
              publishing blogs or journals of what they are doing while still in
              the field. And other anecdotal evidence that I have heard over the
              years that I don't recall right now.)

              I also, personally heard Carol Bellamy talk about the instances the
              Peace Corps had been infiltrated by CIA agents and the problems they
              had caused and how one of her goals was to clean up the Peace Corps
              and bring it back to what Kennedy had envisioned.

              So you have to admit that not everything Peace Corps has done has
              been on the up and up or for humanitarian reasons.

              Finally, I don't believe my "non-USA heritage" has anything to do
              with it as the concept is not that complicated to understand. But
              even if that was the case, then something even greater is amiss with
              the Peace Corps because if I don't understand the concept then I
              guarantee that you would be hard-pressed to find ANY non-American
              that would understand it in that case. And then the Peace Corps
              would be doing a disservice to itself by trying to help people that
              have misunderstanding of what it is doing.

              I am sorry if you and Tom are slighted, that was not my intention
              but blind devotion that people sometimes have for a cause or a
              person gets under my skin and turns what should be a civilized
              dialogue into a pissing contest.

              Not that I have any reason to believe that either you or Tom are
              like that but I've come across so many "True Believers" with
              dogmatic tunnel-vision views and once in a while I have to vent off
              when I get a chance.

              Amin

              BTW, while looking around on the web I found the JFK's digitized
              radio address of March 1, 1961 – at least I think it was radio maybe
              it was TV – I've copied the file to the "file" area if someone wants
              to listen to it again.


              --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, "bobutne" <bobutne@y...>
              wrote:
              >
              > Amin,
              >
              > I don't know your personal sources but mine include: Hubert
              Humphrey,
              > the US Senator who originated the Peace Corps concept; Sargent
              > Shriver; Top-Secret CIA intelligence data for five years when I
              > worked in the Executive Office of the President; numerous members
              of
              > Congress and State Department employees.
              >
              > Nowhere have I heard that the Peace Corps was developed to serve
              as a
              > propaganda machine. USIA/Voice of America had this function.
              >
              > The Peace Corps was developed out of pure idealism and ran on
              > idealism for most of its history. Humphrey had the original idea
              and
              > Kennedy ran with it putting his brother-in-law, Shriver, in
              charge.
              > During most Administrations, Peace Corps projects were based on
              the
              > requests of host nations and not on the current US political
              agenda.
              >
              > With your background as an engineer with non-USA heritage, I fully
              > understand that you have a difficult time in comprehending the
              Peace
              > Corps concept. Providing construction and tech assistance may be
              the
              > least importance of what the Peace Corps has accomplished.
              Assisting
              > needy humans at the village level to improve the quality of their
              > lives, to me, is what the Peace Corps was all about.
              >
              > Bob
            • Amin F. Abari
              I doubt if any Gabonese read or know about this group but in lieu of that I will give you my one and only exchange with a Gabonese on the issue of the Peace
              Message 6 of 15 , Dec 3, 2005
                I doubt if any Gabonese read or know about this group but in lieu of
                that I will give you my one and only exchange with a Gabonese on the
                issue of the Peace Corps. This is about 3 years ago when we first
                came to Gabon and my French was a bit shaky (it still is) and some
                of the things he said were translated for me. So here goes an
                anecdotal hearsay conversation twice removed:

                I was at a house of French person I had recently met and how had
                lived in Gabon for over 30 years. He had at his house a friend of
                his visiting that was a village chief somewhere in the bush. When
                the chief saw me and realized that I spoke English he assumed I was
                American and started to tell me of other Americans he knows and who
                live in or near his village. When I inquired further he told me
                they were 2 children living there without their family and that he
                was very worried for them. I was taken aback and suddenly had an
                image of couple of 10 year olds stranded in the bush somehow. It
                took a while and a lot of hurried questions on my part to realize he
                was talking about PC volunteers. He went on to say that they had no
                money and did not eat well and out of genuine concern he had asked
                some local kids to visit them every so often and take them some
                fruits and vegetables so they wouldn't starve. I tried to find out
                what they did but he kept saying nothing and that they were just
                living there. I remember thinking at the time that he was an old
                man and didn't have a clue and that they were probably teaching or
                helping in a way that he wasn't aware of. I didn't want to push the
                subject but he was adamant that they did nothing and couldn't
                understand why their parents had sent them somewhere with no food or
                money and that if his village did not feed them they would die.

                Remembering that conversation now and based on what we've been
                writing back and forth here in the past few days, I had an idea.

                Wouldn't it better to change the mission statement of the Peace
                Corps in the developing countries to something that would be more
                indicative of what they are actually doing? I think the Peace Corps
                would be much better received and appreciated if it had a less of
                paternalistic approach of "we send our trained men and women to help
                you poor uneducated people who know nothing and teach you how things
                are done the right way" and had more of an approach in the lines
                of "we are here to live with you, learn from you, learn your culture
                and language, and also help in a way you see fit and we are capable
                of while also teaching you about our culture and our people." Sort
                of learn from each other attitude to further a friendship. This is
                what is really happening. Peace Corps could continue doing exactly
                what it has been doing and no one would accuse it of having a hidden
                agenda in the guise of humanitarian help.

                If that was the case not only the local people would feel more proud
                that someone is there to learn their ways (presumably no one would
                do that if they did not find value in it) but also in the case of
                the chief above, then they wouldn't think these kids were there
                doing nothing. They were there to learn. That is doing something.
                Also, I am guessing it would make the locals more amenable to
                approaching the volunteers and for example asking if they know how
                to better build a brick wall that is straight and does not topple
                over as apposed to just waiting for them to see what they have been
                sent out to do for them. Keep in mind that if they were sent there
                to teach how to indeed make that wall but the villagers were
                perfectly happy with the wooden or grass walls they had been using
                for generations and had not asked for it or needed it, not much
                would be gained. Just as if they had done nothing.

                Amin



                --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, "bobutne" <bobutne@y...>
                wrote:
                >
                > Amin asks, "Why do you think no Gabonese batted an eye here when
                the
                > Peace Corps pulled out of Gabon during an election year?"
                >
                > I find that difficult to believe. When I was in Kango, a few years
                > ago, the local "mayor" asked me to help to get the Peace Corps to
                > send him PCV's. "We have many problems in our villages and we know
                > that Peace Corps Volunteers are able to assist us."
                >
                > I'd like to hear from Gabonese whether or not they believe the
                Peace
                > Corps was a positive influence.
                >
                > Re Wilke's departure from Gabon, he claimed it was to treat his
                gout.
                > There is no way that Darlington would have not been clued in if
                the
                > US was involved, as the French have always claimed, in the
                planning
                > of the '64 revolution. True that the French were the real villians
                as
                > well stated in "The French Secret Services" by Douglas Porch.
                >
                > The real "war-zone" was getting 40 prinmary schools built with 24
                > months. Thanks to my buddies and our Gabonese co-workers, Mission
                > Accomplished....
                >
              • Amin F. Abari
                Tom, I can t tell if you are being sarcastic or not but hopefully my other 2 posts today clarify my points. I also stand corrected on the subjects you chose
                Message 7 of 15 , Dec 3, 2005
                  Tom,

                  I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not but hopefully my
                  other 2 posts today clarify my points. I also stand corrected on
                  the subjects you chose to teach English with. Apologies for having
                  jumped to an incorrect conclusion. Although that leaves begging the
                  question that why young people just out of college and presumably
                  with no background in teaching EASL are allowed to teach using
                  whatever subjects they choose without direction or supervision.
                  Could you have chosen to teach the English language using
                  pro "intelligent design" pamphlets or racist text? I hope not.

                  I agree with you about different level of hardships that exists in
                  different countries. I lived 3 years in Zambia and now it has
                  almost been 3 years here in Gabon and I am familiar with other
                  African countries as well so I understand what you mean. The choice
                  of Gabon in the dialogue was just dictated by the group membership.

                  Amin


                  --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, Tom LeBlanc
                  <tom_leblanc_chico@y...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Thanks for your insightful comments, Amin. You made a
                  > lot of really good points. I had no idea you hadn't
                  > been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Gabon. I had assumed
                  > that everyone in this discussion group was a Gabon
                  > RPCV. Sorry! But I'm glad you were able to do such
                  > excellent work in Zambia. I would also like to
                  > apologize to you about the ribbing I gave you on the
                  > WB money to Gabon. By that time I was running at the
                  > mouth! Cheers!
                  >
                  > By the way, the articles I introduced my students to
                  > are ones I picked myself. I created my own
                  > curriculum--and, yes, I did tell them that the US had
                  > supported the Apartheid regime and I made them well
                  > aware of the problems African-Americans face in the
                  > States.
                  >
                  > I'm not sure whether you've ever been there, but if
                  > not, you should probably be made aware that Gabon
                  > isn't exactly the poorest country in the world, and
                  > although a lot of people live at the subsistence
                  > level, they don't face the kinds of hardships one
                  > finds in other war-torn African countries like Liberia
                  > or DROC, etc., or even a relatively moderate
                  > transformational development state like here in Malawi
                  > or even Zambia.
                  >
                  > --- "Amin F. Abari" <aminabari@y...> wrote:
                  >
                  > > Tom,
                  > >
                  > > I do like the Peace Corps – but for the reason I
                  > > said. It simply
                  > > makes young volunteers better people. I have no
                  > > doubt in my mind
                  > > that the benefits that the Peace Corps imparted to
                  > > you are far more
                  > > than the benefits that you imparted to the hungry
                  > > kids. By you
                  > > having acquired the experience, there is also no
                  > > doubt in my mind
                  > > that during your lifetime YOU will do far more than
                  > > you would have
                  > > done otherwise, to fight against injustice and
                  > > poverty. There is
                  > > tremendous value in that.
                  > >
                  > > But that does not detract from the fact that the
                  > > Peace Corps was
                  > > created to promote the US and the American way of
                  > > life. That makes
                  > > the Peace Corps a propaganda machine, irrelevant of
                  > > if the way of
                  > > life they are promoting is a better way or not.
                  > >
                  > > All I am saying is let's call a spade a spade. The
                  > > Peace Corps is
                  > > NOT there to help the poor and the needy. I
                  > > remember in mid 80s
                  > > when I tried to join the Peace Corps. At their
                  > > office in DC the few
                  > > people present were almost ecstatic, an engineer
                  > > with some actual
                  > > experience. They told me they hardly get people
                  > > like me that want
                  > > to join. You should have seen their faces when they
                  > > found out I
                  > > wasn't American. I couldn't understand what
                  > > difference it made (I
                  > > was naïve). If you want to help the poor and less
                  > > fortunate become
                  > > more self-sufficient and have better lives and you
                  > > are willing to
                  > > sacrifice some of your own time to do that as a
                  > > volunteer what
                  > > difference should it make where you come from? I
                  > > was even willing
                  > > to pay my own airfare but needed logistical support
                  > > and information
                  > > on where to go and how to go.
                  > >
                  > > I worked with VSO volunteers in Zambia in their 40s
                  > > that took leave
                  > > without pay from 80,000 pound a year jobs to come
                  > > and impart
                  > > knowledge in their fields. THAT is developmental
                  > > work and
                  > > volunteering that really makes a difference on the
                  > > ground. Not
                  > > American kids learning if chongololo is edible and
                  > > what is the best
                  > > way to eat kapenta, and going back to tell stories
                  > > of how they could
                  > > never bring themselves to taste a termite!
                  > >
                  > > Read what you yourself wrote. If you are there to
                  > > help the poor and
                  > > the needy what difference should it make if Gabon
                  > > was a French
                  > > colony or a Martian one? What difference should it
                  > > make if they
                  > > speak French or Chinese?
                  > >
                  > > Most Gabonese are already bi-lingual if not multi.
                  > > They speak their
                  > > own Gabonese language plus French, and might
                  > > understand a couple of
                  > > other local dialects. No doubt learning a new
                  > > language no matter
                  > > how many you already know is a good thing, I don't
                  > > argue with that.
                  > > But when you see what is really needed to reduce
                  > > their suffering –
                  > > hungry kids that have one chance in a million to
                  > > ever set foot in a
                  > > university (if they survive disease and god knows
                  > > what). Wouldn't
                  > > it better to teach them how to build a manual press
                  > > using local wood
                  > > that can extract oil from sunflower seeds or palm
                  > > seeds more
                  > > efficiently so they can have enough oil for
                  > > themselves and more to
                  > > barter with or sell?
                  > >
                  > > Why do you think you were teaching them about
                  > > Apartheid in South
                  > > Africa or about MLK's cause? Nothing wrong with
                  > > teaching kids to
                  > > empower them with what is possible but did you also
                  > > teach them how
                  > > the US government supported the Apartheid regime for
                  > > so long? Did
                  > > you teach them about how life is in the inner cities
                  > > for the poor
                  > > black children that MLK was fighting for? Could the
                  > > choice of the
                  > > subjects that you were trained to teach had any
                  > > political motivation
                  > > behind them? Aren't any other subjects that you
                  > > could have used to
                  > > teach English that does not drill into their already
                  > > suffering
                  > > brains more of the atrocities that man is capable
                  > > of? These kids by
                  > > the time they make it to school have seen more
                  > > suffering and
                  > > savagery than most Americans see in a lifetime,
                  > > maybe while teaching
                  > > them English you could have used some subjects that
                  > > would uplift
                  > > these children as apposed to "outrage" them, as you
                  > > put it.
                  > >
                  > > Also, don't forget people have long memories. Why
                  > > do you think no
                  > > Gabonese batted an eye here when the Peace Corps
                  > > "pulled out" of
                  > > Gabon during an election year? Sure cost one was
                  > > reason and one
                  > > that saves face. But don't you think the Gabonese
                  > > remember what
                  > > happened during the 1964 coup attempt and the
                  > > subsequent illegal
                  > > French intervention? Was it really a coincidence
                  > > that as soon as
                  > > the coup failed both the Director of the Peace Corps
                  > > and the USIS
                  > > Director and his family were evacuated? The US
                  > > Ambassador was
                  > > subsequently asked to leave the country over the
                  > > affair. I am
                  > > convinced Darlington had no clue what the Peace
                  > > Corps – or more
                  > > correctly the director of the Peace Corps, as I
                  > > don't believe the
                  > > volunteers were involved – was doing. BTW, the
                  > > director of the
                  > > Peace Corps was Wilkes an ex-marine colonel that
                  > > considered his work
                  > > in Gabon as work in a "war-zone" and the volunteers
                  > > as
                  > > his "soldiers". That should tell you something
                  > > about "helping the
                  > > poor".
                  > >
                  > > Finally, I am not justifying anything, as I don't
                  > > know enough about
                  > > it one way or other – all I am saying is George Bush
                  > > does not
                  > > control the World Bank via Wolfowitz and therefore
                  > > cannot send 15
                  > > million to a project that these days with all
                  > > international funding
                  > > under a microscope would be impossible to divert to
                  > > any other cause
                  > > than the one it was meant for. A project that was
                  > > over FIVE years
                  > > in the making and planning stages with numerous
                  > > people both in the
                  > > World Bank, the Gabonese government, and the
                  > > international community
                  > > working hard on to bring to fruition. Believe me,
                  > > the puppet master
                  > > does not have such foresight or such power. Also,
                  > > contrary to what
                  > > people think the donor funding that come from
                  > > multilateral agencies
                  > > are not handed out directly to Bongo as a cash
                  > > payments. There are
                  > > checks and balances in place. But I am just too
                  > > tired to try and
                  > > explain anymore!! You can believe what you want on
                  > > this subject.
                  > >
                  > > Amin
                  > >
                  > > --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, Tom LeBlanc
                  > > <tom_leblanc_chico@y...> wrote:
                  > > >
                  > > > Amin,
                  > > >
                  > > > Wow! Dude! Really way too hot to handle! Somebody
                  > > > pushed one of your hot buttons! That was quite the
                  > > > extreme tirade for someone who feels obliged to
                  > > > justify the World Bank's support to Bongo during
                  > > an
                  > > > election year. Well, I guess we should all be
                  > > grateful
                  > > > that you "like" the Peace Corps--can't imagine
                  > > what
                  > >
                  > === message truncated ===
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > __________________________________
                  > Start your day with Yahoo! - Make it your home page!
                  > http://www.yahoo.com/r/hs
                  >
                • Katherine Vaast
                  Amin, I ve been following your discussion with Tom, and if you don t mind, I d like to add my two cents. I ve laughed and agreed and disagreed with things
                  Message 8 of 15 , Dec 3, 2005
                    Amin,
                    I've been following your discussion with Tom, and if you don't mind, I'd like to add my two cents. I've laughed and agreed and disagreed with things that both of you have said. First of all, let me introduce myself; I'm Kate. I trained and served with Tom as an TEFL teacher in KoulaMoutou. In the years since then, I've worked as a Peace Corps trainer around West Africa and I'm still teaching ESL, currently in Costa Rica.

                    As to your comment about why a bunch of young people just out of college were sent out to teach with no training, direction or supervision...well, it wasn't quite like that, we weren't exactly chosen at random. It still isn't like that. We were not chosen because we had degrees in education, because we didn't. I certainly never set out in life to be a teacher, but 25 years later, here I am, still a teacher. We were chosen because of our backgrounds, education, language abilities and interest in joining Peace Corps. We did have training. We had a long, intensive training with some very talented people who taught us the basics of what we needed to know. They gave us the tools necessary to start teaching, the rest came with experience and time. Now, years later, with ESL certification, a Master's degree and a lot of experience under my belt, I can tell you that I still use the things that I learned in our training sessions and classes in Lambarene and Libreville every
                    single day in my classroom. We weren't just parachuted out into the bush after training. One big advantage for education volunteers is that we actually work within a structure with support from Peace Corps and the Ministry of Education. We all went out to colleges and lycees where there were proviseurs, directors and fellow teachers. We had follow up visits from our program director and volunteer leader, we could request materials from Libreville and even the ICE office in Washington. We had to work with the curriculum provided by the Ministry of Education; we didn't just invent everything that we did. Our proviseurs supervised what we were doing, and although they may not have always understood what we were doing, they accepted what we did as long as we worked with the curriculum. The students in Gabon, like in many other countries have to be prepared for national exams. In Gabon, these were the BEPC taken at the end of 3eme, or 9th grade and the Baccelaureat taken at
                    the end of terminale, or 12th grade. English was and still is a required subject for those exams, a decision made by the Gabonese government, not imposed by the US. Depending on the school, there were books and materials available. Not always the greatest quality, the most up to date or usually not enough to go around, but there were the basics, so you had to improvise.

                    I've taught in schools both public and private in the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Togo, France, the US and now Costa Rica, and I have always worked with a year long curriculum imposed by the school and still create a lot of my own material to supplement and add more depth to what I teach. You know what? So does almost every other good teacher I've ever met over the years, regardless of the subject matter. So although Tom taught about aparthied and Martin Luther King - and I'm sure he managed to squeeze in some Greatful Dead along the way - he also taught present tense, irregular verbs, pronoun usage and writing skills. I taught with poetry, really bad stick figure drawings and Shakespeare but I prepared my students for those exams.

                    Education is about a lot more than just reading, writing, math and passing exams. Education is about teaching young minds to think, to question, to stretch knowledge and expectations often by example. It is all about teaching children how to listen, work with others, do their assigned tasks and learn to function in society. The subject matter is in many ways secondary. All of us have had encounters with great teachers, good teachers and not so good teachers over the years. The great ones inspire us to become the people we are today. It doesn't matter what they teach. In my lycee, there were great teachers, good teachers and bad teachers; but that has been the same in every school that I have ever been in. In KoulaMoutou I was lucky to have had some good colleagues to help me over the hurdles of being a new inexperienced teacher. Now, every year I work with new, young and inexperienced teachers in the schools where I work. Some become good teachers and some don't.
                    Peace Corps is no exception to this. At the time I was a volunteer, I didn't have all this experience and perspective, and we were a pretty cocky bunch, but on the whole, we were good teachers who sincerely cared about our students. I think that this is true of the majority of volunteers. Kids aren't stupid, they know which teachers really care.

                    So, after all these years, maybe most of my students are still living in KoulaMoutou and have never spoken English again, but I would like to think that they remember me as a teacher who made them think, laugh and question the world around them. You certainly can't eat by learning English, but isn't better to learn something rather than nothing? English is only one part of the puzzle of education and learning to fit into society.

                    Several years after leaving Gabon, I went back to do some volunteer training. I was so glad to be back in Libreville, and that first cold Regab and plate of fried plantains was heavenly. Even better though, one morning in a line in the bank, a young woman ran out from behind the teller's window shouting "MIIIISSS, MIIIISSS" to give me a hug. One of my former students. She couldn't really speak English with me, but that's ok. She was fine. Married, living in Libreville, working...just being an ordinary person. I went back to KM City to visit friends and see how things were. We stopped at a bush school built by the construction volunteers. Who was standing in one classroom, the teacher - another former student. He wasn't teaching English, he was teaching primary school. Did we, the many Peace Corps volunteers that he had contact with over the years have anything to do with the fact that he became a teacher? I certainly hope so.

                    So yes, I am a hopeless idealist. I think that Peace Corps for all its faults is a pretty cool thing. My niece is off in the Ukraine, a PCV, teaching English to a bunch of goofy highschool students right now. This is partly because of me.
                    I worked for many years as a staff trainer and I know that there are sometimes unhealthy relationships with the Peace Corps hierarchy and the US government types who work in the embassies. But, honestly, if the CIA needs information, sending out idealistic college students isn't the most efficient way to spy on a country. There are also occasional unhealthy relationships with any other run of the mill development agency or project, be it American, French, World Bank or Chinese and local governments. I don't think that Peace Corps is the worst offender by any means.

                    I married a French volunteer from KoulaMoutou. (By the way, the French won't let you be one of their volunteers either, unless you are French. I don't think the nationality law is an exception to volunteer programs.) He works in Agroforestry, small farmers and cash crops - hence our nomadic lifestyle. I have spent the last 25 years defending the Peace "Corpse" to people who find it very easy to criticize and see the negative instead of praise the things that work. Peace Corps is often misunderstood, but I don't know if that is a battle that will ever be won.

                    Kate (Twichell) Vaast



                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Amin F. Abari
                    Hi Kate, Thanks for clarifying the process. But just so you know I agree with everything you say about teachers and teaching. Both my parents are teachers
                    Message 9 of 15 , Dec 5, 2005
                      Hi Kate,

                      Thanks for clarifying the process. But just so you know I agree
                      with everything you say about teachers and teaching. Both my
                      parents are teachers (retired) and my father was in fact an English
                      teacher and a professor of linguistics.

                      I have absolutely no problem with teachers coming and teaching to
                      their heart's delight. I would actually support that. Go to Darfur
                      and teach the Japanese art of flower arrangement. As you say it is
                      better than teaching nothing.

                      One thing though, as I understand it the Peace Corps training does
                      not qualify you to teach in an American public school. One could
                      argue that if it is not good for the goose it sure as hell should
                      not be good for the gander. But don't dwell on that, it is not
                      important.

                      Teaching English or agronomy or what text to use are all incidental
                      side issues. Do not overlook the forest for the trees.

                      Although we are both operating in different paradigms and I doubt if
                      I could get my point across, I'll give it one last effort.

                      In passing you mentioned about being a "cocky bunch". That to me
                      hits the nail on the head. Bunch of cocky kids coming with a
                      paternalistic attitude wearing their hearts on their sleeves and
                      always, always radiating such sacrifice on their own part that it
                      becomes irritating to the rest of us. You don't want to get malaria
                      then don't come and learn a new language and meet new people and
                      learn about cultures and become a better person – a free education I
                      would call it. Stay in your hermetic house in the burbs and punch
                      the clock 9 to 5. And if you do choose to come then be gracious
                      enough to admit that you are doing it for yourself and trying to
                      make yourself better by learning new things and not
                      just "sacrificing" yourself for some lofty goal. That might wash
                      with some villagers but I have a feeling most people will see
                      through it.

                      My issue is with something far more fundamental. It comes down to
                      honesty. Do what you want to do the way you want to do it BUT be
                      honest about it. Put away the arrogance, the cockiness, and the
                      subterfuge. That way not only you will get better results you will
                      also have more respect.

                      It is a shame that you had to spend so much time in the past 25
                      years justifying the Peace Corps, but I disagree with you that the
                      reasons are because the PC is misunderstood. If "honesty" had been
                      part of the formula from the get-go you wouldn't have needed to
                      defend the PC and would have put all that energy to teach even more
                      kids and would have done even more good while partaking in the
                      cultural exchange experiment. "Learn From and Teach About" (My
                      motto for a more honest PC)

                      A day does not go by that if I see a news program that touches on US
                      or US foreign policy or the subject of US comes up in a conversation
                      with someone else that the comment "and they say the French are
                      arrogant" does not rear it's ugly head. I am sure that this happens
                      more often in Gabon due the French influence, but I have heard the
                      same exact comment coming out of the mouths of numerous nationals of
                      other countries. When I hear that it troubles me. My daughters
                      were born in the States and consider themselves American and I've
                      spent enough time stateside to know that this portrayal does not
                      need to be so. But at the same time and with each passing day it
                      rings more and more true.

                      Amin


                      --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, Katherine Vaast
                      <ktvaast@y...> wrote:
                      >
                      > Amin,
                      > I've been following your discussion with Tom, and if you don't
                      mind, I'd like to add my two cents. I've laughed and agreed and
                      disagreed with things that both of you have said. First of all, let
                      me introduce myself; I'm Kate. I trained and served with Tom as an
                      TEFL teacher in KoulaMoutou. In the years since then, I've worked
                      as a Peace Corps trainer around West Africa and I'm still teaching
                      ESL, currently in Costa Rica.
                      >
                      > As to your comment about why a bunch of young people just out
                      of college were sent out to teach with no training, direction or
                      supervision...well, it wasn't quite like that, we weren't exactly
                      chosen at random. It still isn't like that. We were not chosen
                      because we had degrees in education, because we didn't. I certainly
                      never set out in life to be a teacher, but 25 years later, here I
                      am, still a teacher. We were chosen because of our backgrounds,
                      education, language abilities and interest in joining Peace Corps.
                      We did have training. We had a long, intensive training with some
                      very talented people who taught us the basics of what we needed to
                      know. They gave us the tools necessary to start teaching, the rest
                      came with experience and time. Now, years later, with ESL
                      certification, a Master's degree and a lot of experience under my
                      belt, I can tell you that I still use the things that I learned in
                      our training sessions and classes in Lambarene and Libreville every
                      > single day in my classroom. We weren't just parachuted out into
                      the bush after training. One big advantage for education volunteers
                      is that we actually work within a structure with support from Peace
                      Corps and the Ministry of Education. We all went out to colleges
                      and lycees where there were proviseurs, directors and fellow
                      teachers. We had follow up visits from our program director and
                      volunteer leader, we could request materials from Libreville and
                      even the ICE office in Washington. We had to work with the
                      curriculum provided by the Ministry of Education; we didn't just
                      invent everything that we did. Our proviseurs supervised what we
                      were doing, and although they may not have always understood what
                      we were doing, they accepted what we did as long as we worked with
                      the curriculum. The students in Gabon, like in many other countries
                      have to be prepared for national exams. In Gabon, these were the
                      BEPC taken at the end of 3eme, or 9th grade and the Baccelaureat
                      taken at
                      > the end of terminale, or 12th grade. English was and still is a
                      required subject for those exams, a decision made by the Gabonese
                      government, not imposed by the US. Depending on the school, there
                      were books and materials available. Not always the greatest
                      quality, the most up to date or usually not enough to go around,
                      but there were the basics, so you had to improvise.
                      >
                      > I've taught in schools both public and private in the Ivory
                      Coast, Cameroon, Togo, France, the US and now Costa Rica, and I
                      have always worked with a year long curriculum imposed by the
                      school and still create a lot of my own material to supplement and
                      add more depth to what I teach. You know what? So does almost every
                      other good teacher I've ever met over the years, regardless of the
                      subject matter. So although Tom taught about aparthied and Martin
                      Luther King - and I'm sure he managed to squeeze in some Greatful
                      Dead along the way - he also taught present tense, irregular verbs,
                      pronoun usage and writing skills. I taught with poetry, really bad
                      stick figure drawings and Shakespeare but I prepared my students
                      for those exams.
                      >
                      > Education is about a lot more than just reading, writing, math
                      and passing exams. Education is about teaching young minds to
                      think, to question, to stretch knowledge and expectations often by
                      example. It is all about teaching children how to listen, work with
                      others, do their assigned tasks and learn to function in society.
                      The subject matter is in many ways secondary. All of us have had
                      encounters with great teachers, good teachers and not so good
                      teachers over the years. The great ones inspire us to become the
                      people we are today. It doesn't matter what they teach. In my
                      lycee, there were great teachers, good teachers and bad teachers;
                      but that has been the same in every school that I have ever been
                      in. In KoulaMoutou I was lucky to have had some good colleagues to
                      help me over the hurdles of being a new inexperienced teacher. Now,
                      every year I work with new, young and inexperienced teachers in the
                      schools where I work. Some become good teachers and some don't.
                      > Peace Corps is no exception to this. At the time I was a
                      volunteer, I didn't have all this experience and perspective, and
                      we were a pretty cocky bunch, but on the whole, we were good
                      teachers who sincerely cared about our students. I think that this
                      is true of the majority of volunteers. Kids aren't stupid, they
                      know which teachers really care.
                      >
                      > So, after all these years, maybe most of my students are still
                      living in KoulaMoutou and have never spoken English again, but I
                      would like to think that they remember me as a teacher who made
                      them think, laugh and question the world around them. You certainly
                      can't eat by learning English, but isn't better to learn something
                      rather than nothing? English is only one part of the puzzle of
                      education and learning to fit into society.
                      >
                      > Several years after leaving Gabon, I went back to do some
                      volunteer training. I was so glad to be back in Libreville, and
                      that first cold Regab and plate of fried plantains was heavenly.
                      Even better though, one morning in a line in the bank, a young
                      woman ran out from behind the teller's window shouting "MIIIISSS,
                      MIIIISSS" to give me a hug. One of my former students. She couldn't
                      really speak English with me, but that's ok. She was fine. Married,
                      living in Libreville, working...just being an ordinary person. I
                      went back to KM City to visit friends and see how things were. We
                      stopped at a bush school built by the construction volunteers. Who
                      was standing in one classroom, the teacher - another former
                      student. He wasn't teaching English, he was teaching primary
                      school. Did we, the many Peace Corps volunteers that he had contact
                      with over the years have anything to do with the fact that he
                      became a teacher? I certainly hope so.
                      >
                      > So yes, I am a hopeless idealist. I think that Peace Corps for
                      all its faults is a pretty cool thing. My niece is off in the
                      Ukraine, a PCV, teaching English to a bunch of goofy highschool
                      students right now. This is partly because of me.
                      > I worked for many years as a staff trainer and I know that there
                      are sometimes unhealthy relationships with the Peace Corps
                      hierarchy and the US government types who work in the embassies.
                      But, honestly, if the CIA needs information, sending out idealistic
                      college students isn't the most efficient way to spy on a country.
                      There are also occasional unhealthy relationships with any other
                      run of the mill development agency or project, be it American,
                      French, World Bank or Chinese and local governments. I don't think
                      that Peace Corps is the worst offender by any means.
                      >
                      > I married a French volunteer from KoulaMoutou. (By the way, the
                      French won't let you be one of their volunteers either, unless you
                      are French. I don't think the nationality law is an exception to
                      volunteer programs.) He works in Agroforestry, small farmers and
                      cash crops - hence our nomadic lifestyle. I have spent the last 25
                      years defending the Peace "Corpse" to people who find it very easy
                      to criticize and see the negative instead of praise the things that
                      work. Peace Corps is often misunderstood, but I don't know if that
                      is a battle that will ever be won.
                      >
                      > Kate (Twichell) Vaast
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      >
                    • Amin F. Abari
                      Hey Pete, I just saw your post. Somehow I had missed it earlier. The early volunteers did – in my view – far better developmental work than the work I saw
                      Message 10 of 15 , Dec 5, 2005
                        Hey Pete,

                        I just saw your post. Somehow I had missed it earlier.

                        The early volunteers did – in my view – far better developmental
                        work than the work I saw them doing now in Gabon. Surprisingly
                        enough that was a time when PC was under the State department and
                        not an independent agency. It could also be that the work early on
                        had more tangible and visible results (building schools as apposed
                        to teaching English) and that has influenced my judgment
                        superficially and maybe unfairly.

                        You are probably right on the Wilkes issue, I just don't know. All
                        I know from him is based on hearsay and based on that my conclusion
                        has been that he wasn't a nice person. Maybe even corrupt. But who
                        knows, someone should really think of getting all the papers
                        released from that period and see what was what. To give credit
                        where it's due, he did oversee building all these schools in such a
                        short period and was successful. No easy feat.

                        I know my tirade comes off just as criticizing for no good reason.
                        Maybe I am playing the part of the devil's advocate a bit too
                        vigorously but part of it is out of genuine concern.

                        But now for a change of subject. In one of your previous posts you
                        had written about the historical database you were working on. I
                        came across something sometime after that and had meant to get back
                        to you about it but never managed. This is as good a time as any.

                        I read about a study done some years back that showed that ALL
                        original inhabitants of the Americas from Patagonia to Alaska were
                        related and were descendents of the same 2 or 3 women that had
                        crossed the Bering Strait way back when it was frozen over. This
                        was done by doing genetic tests. This might be a better way to
                        track family members as last names change too often and too easily.
                        Plus in many cultures last names did not exist until recently. Also
                        someplace like Iceland, last names mean nothing as a family of four
                        (father, mother, son, and daughter) will have four different last
                        names!

                        Amin


                        --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, w Siemers <w.p.siemers@g...>
                        wrote:
                        >
                        > RE:"
                        >
                        > But don't you think the Gabonese remember what
                        > happened during the 1964 coup attempt and the subsequent illegal
                        > French intervention? Was it really a coincidence that as soon as
                        > the coup failed both the Director of the Peace Corps and the USIS
                        > Director and his family were evacuated? The US Ambassador was
                        > subsequently asked to leave the country over the affair. I am
                        > convinced Darlington had no clue what the Peace Corps - or more
                        > correctly the director of the Peace Corps, as I don't believe the
                        > volunteers were involved - was doing. BTW, the director of the
                        > Peace Corps was Wilkes an ex-marine colonel that considered his
                        work
                        > in Gabon as work in a "war-zone" and the volunteers as
                        > his "soldiers". That should tell you something about "helping
                        the "
                        > poor".
                        >
                        > As a matter of reference. I do not recall when Darlington left
                        Gabon,
                        > but the revolution in question was in early 1964 and Wilkes was
                        still in
                        > Gabon in September of 1965 when I finished my service there.
                        > As for the "war zone" and "soldiers", that was pure Wilkes and I
                        suspect
                        > had more to do with his basic temperment than any political
                        overtone.
                        > Keep in mind this is the man who ordered antique "b" rations for
                        food
                        > for the volunteers. He was also quoted early on describing the
                        > volunteers as living in conditions "worse than Guadalcanal."
                        > I have to take exception to the general commentary about peace
                        corps
                        > being a propaganda tool . If propaganda is defined as information,
                        perhaps.
                        >
                        > As for the college boy doing the "good works" This old boy was
                        a "farm
                        > boy" who grew up more comfortable with a tractor than a text book
                        in a
                        > small rural midwest town and happened to have a few construction
                        skills
                        > he picked up from his father and grandfather. Although our project
                        was
                        > officially building schools, there were those other element as
                        well,
                        > community developement was the general catch all term that
                        included
                        > medical services, health and sanitation work, nutrition, etc and
                        even
                        > some work involving planting corn.
                        >
                        > There is a very real tendency to condemn the peace corps when its
                        > volunteers and staff don't walk on water. Unlike some groups, we
                        never
                        > claimed that we did, but we did get pretty damn good at wading
                        around in
                        > the mud.
                        >
                        >
                        > Pete Siemers
                        >
                        > >>
                        > >>
                        > >>
                        > >>__________________________________
                        > >>Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005
                        > >>http://mail.yahoo.com
                        > >>
                        > >>
                        > >>
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >Yahoo! Groups Links
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        >
                        >
                        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        >
                      • w Siemers
                        Thought for the day: Related to Genealogy. The naming conventions of the many families of man can be a challenge. However, it isn t the family where the
                        Message 11 of 15 , Dec 6, 2005
                          Thought for the day:
                          Related to Genealogy. The naming conventions of the many families of
                          man can be a challenge. However, it isn't the family where the surnames
                          are different ie: Jonson, Olsdatter; Ericson, Ericdatter. It's the ones
                          where the same individual goes by four different names!

                          Concerning Wilkes. I am certainly aware that he played to mixed audiences.
                          A personal issue with him might be illustrative of that.
                          There was a peace corps regulation that required volunteers to take 30
                          days leave during the first calendar year overseas or lose it. The
                          intent probably being that the volunteer become better aquainted with
                          the host country. A volunteer could carry over the leave with written
                          permission from the director. Our construction project was running
                          behind and it was obvious that taking leave during that first year would
                          not be convenient nor practical. I wrote, in the best possible military
                          style with the To: From: subject: format requesting "individual,
                          specific and written permission" to carry over 30 days of leave. I
                          quickly got a reply from Wilkes advising me that under no circumstances
                          would he grant "individual, specific and written permission" to anyone
                          to do anything and that I was immediately authorized to take 30 days
                          leave. He added a post script to let him know my decision.

                          The deputy director delivered the reply, raised all kinds of hell with
                          me and accused me of all kinds of insubordination. I passed on the
                          leave and about a month or so at a conference encountered Wilkes. We
                          discussed the incident and his reply was, "You asked a question, you got
                          an answer, ain't that right lad?"
                          It was not my perception that he was upset, however the deputy director
                          was convinced otherwise.

                          Amin F. Abari wrote:

                          >Hey Pete,
                          >
                          >I just saw your post. Somehow I had missed it earlier.
                          >
                          >The early volunteers did - in my view - far better developmental
                          >work than the work I saw them doing now in Gabon. Surprisingly
                          >enough that was a time when PC was under the State department and
                          >not an independent agency. It could also be that the work early on
                          >had more tangible and visible results (building schools as apposed
                          >to teaching English) and that has influenced my judgment
                          >superficially and maybe unfairly.
                          >
                          >You are probably right on the Wilkes issue, I just don't know. All
                          >I know from him is based on hearsay and based on that my conclusion
                          >has been that he wasn't a nice person. Maybe even corrupt. But who
                          >knows, someone should really think of getting all the papers
                          >released from that period and see what was what. To give credit
                          >where it's due, he did oversee building all these schools in such a
                          >short period and was successful. No easy feat.
                          >
                          >I know my tirade comes off just as criticizing for no good reason.
                          >Maybe I am playing the part of the devil's advocate a bit too
                          >vigorously but part of it is out of genuine concern.
                          >
                          >But now for a change of subject. In one of your previous posts you
                          >had written about the historical database you were working on. I
                          >came across something sometime after that and had meant to get back
                          >to you about it but never managed. This is as good a time as any.
                          >
                          >I read about a study done some years back that showed that ALL
                          >original inhabitants of the Americas from Patagonia to Alaska were
                          >related and were descendents of the same 2 or 3 women that had
                          >crossed the Bering Strait way back when it was frozen over. This
                          >was done by doing genetic tests. This might be a better way to
                          >track family members as last names change too often and too easily.
                          >Plus in many cultures last names did not exist until recently. Also
                          >someplace like Iceland, last names mean nothing as a family of four
                          >(father, mother, son, and daughter) will have four different last
                          >names!
                          >
                          >Amin
                          >
                          >
                          >--- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, w Siemers <w.p.siemers@g...>
                          >wrote:
                          >
                          >
                          >>RE:"
                          >>
                          >>But don't you think the Gabonese remember what
                          >>happened during the 1964 coup attempt and the subsequent illegal
                          >>French intervention? Was it really a coincidence that as soon as
                          >>the coup failed both the Director of the Peace Corps and the USIS
                          >>Director and his family were evacuated? The US Ambassador was
                          >>subsequently asked to leave the country over the affair. I am
                          >>convinced Darlington had no clue what the Peace Corps - or more
                          >>correctly the director of the Peace Corps, as I don't believe the
                          >>volunteers were involved - was doing. BTW, the director of the
                          >>Peace Corps was Wilkes an ex-marine colonel that considered his
                          >>
                          >>
                          >work
                          >
                          >
                          >>in Gabon as work in a "war-zone" and the volunteers as
                          >>his "soldiers". That should tell you something about "helping
                          >>
                          >>
                          >the "
                          >
                          >
                          >>poor".
                          >>
                          >>As a matter of reference. I do not recall when Darlington left
                          >>
                          >>
                          >Gabon,
                          >
                          >
                          >>but the revolution in question was in early 1964 and Wilkes was
                          >>
                          >>
                          >still in
                          >
                          >
                          >>Gabon in September of 1965 when I finished my service there.
                          >>As for the "war zone" and "soldiers", that was pure Wilkes and I
                          >>
                          >>
                          >suspect
                          >
                          >
                          >>had more to do with his basic temperment than any political
                          >>
                          >>
                          >overtone.
                          >
                          >
                          >>Keep in mind this is the man who ordered antique "b" rations for
                          >>
                          >>
                          >food
                          >
                          >
                          >>for the volunteers. He was also quoted early on describing the
                          >>volunteers as living in conditions "worse than Guadalcanal."
                          >>I have to take exception to the general commentary about peace
                          >>
                          >>
                          >corps
                          >
                          >
                          >>being a propaganda tool . If propaganda is defined as information,
                          >>
                          >>
                          >perhaps.
                          >
                          >
                          >>As for the college boy doing the "good works" This old boy was
                          >>
                          >>
                          >a "farm
                          >
                          >
                          >>boy" who grew up more comfortable with a tractor than a text book
                          >>
                          >>
                          >in a
                          >
                          >
                          >>small rural midwest town and happened to have a few construction
                          >>
                          >>
                          >skills
                          >
                          >
                          >>he picked up from his father and grandfather. Although our project
                          >>
                          >>
                          >was
                          >
                          >
                          >>officially building schools, there were those other element as
                          >>
                          >>
                          >well,
                          >
                          >
                          >>community developement was the general catch all term that
                          >>
                          >>
                          >included
                          >
                          >
                          >>medical services, health and sanitation work, nutrition, etc and
                          >>
                          >>
                          >even
                          >
                          >
                          >>some work involving planting corn.
                          >>
                          >>There is a very real tendency to condemn the peace corps when its
                          >>volunteers and staff don't walk on water. Unlike some groups, we
                          >>
                          >>
                          >never
                          >
                          >
                          >>claimed that we did, but we did get pretty damn good at wading
                          >>
                          >>
                          >around in
                          >
                          >
                          >>the mud.
                          >>
                          >>
                          >>Pete Siemers
                          >>
                          >>
                          >>
                          >>>>
                          >>>>
                          >>>>__________________________________
                          >>>>Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005
                          >>>>http://mail.yahoo.com
                          >>>>
                          >>>>
                          >>>>
                          >>>>
                          >>>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>Yahoo! Groups Links
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>>
                          >>[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          >>
                          >>
                          >>
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >Yahoo! Groups Links
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >


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