Category Archives: Newsletters

Experiencing a New Culture through Food

In the collection of Alan Crew, who served in Nigeria from 1965-1966, is a copy of “The West African Gourmet” by Bill and Bee Welmers in which they advised, “As any shrink can tell you, the sine qua non of relating to a strange diet is flexibility, sensitivity, happy anticipation.” Peace Corps Volunteers had to adjust to various diets and delicacies during their time abroad. PCVs learned and adapted many local recipes and resources to fit their American taste-buds.

Holly Reed served in Senegal from 1979-1982. Like all PCVs, she could sometimes find familiar foods, but she also had to adjust to new ones.

The Welmers compiled a list of tips and tricks for anyone visiting or staying in Western Africa. Their humorous anecdotes shed light on the differences in food selection and preparation. From mangoes to mushrooms, the Welmers detail all types of food available for consumption. For example, there are three different types of Guavas, each tasting like strawberry, peach, or pear. They also offer tips and tricks to keeping and storing food. Upon finding ants in one’s food, the Welmers advise, “Putting the food, dish and all, on a warm stove will give the ants a hotfoot; but don’t overheat or you’ll have fried ants.”

Many PCVs would taste authentic meals prepared by the locals they worked alongside. Picture by Holly Reed.

Peace Corps Volunteers newsletters could include native recipes for PCVs to try. Alanna Randall served in Belize from 2001-2003 and received the Toucan Times, the Peace Corps Belize newsletter, during her service. The Toucan Times contained everything from crosswords to articles. Jill Hepp, a fellow PCV, created four recipes to share in the Toucan Times‘ Winter 2001 edition. Hepp’s recipes range from “The-You-May-Nevah-Go-Back-To-Salsa-Casera-Salsa” to “Fresh Ginger Muffins.” All of her recipes feature local ingredients. The recipe for Polenta includes adjustments to turn it into a pizza.

PCVs could also learn new ways to prep and serve food. Pictured here, local women use mortars and pestles to grind ingredients. Picture by Holly Reed.

Even after PCVs finish their service, the food they consumed leaves a lasting impression. BarbaraLee Toneatti Purcell served in Nigeria from 1962-1964 and included a recipe for Groundnut Stew in her memoir. She made adjustments to the list of ingredients to replicate the methods her local cook used.  Both immediately after serving and many years later, PCVs can look back at the meals they ate and remember the different tastes of culture they experienced.

 

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu.

Debby Prigal in Ghana

Debby Prigal

Country of Service: Ghana
Place of Service: Ho
Service Type: Math Education
Dates in Service: 1981-1983
Keywords: Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School, Ho, Volta Region

Accession Date: October 12, 2015, March 31, 2016, April 15, 2016
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Application Materials
  • Training materials
  • Passport, WHO card, Peace Corps ID
  • Completion of Service materials
  • Photographs (slides and prints)
  • Letters
  • Talking Drum PCV Newsletters
  • Articles Written About Ghana
  • Sample exams
  • Tape of student chorus
  • Log of photos sent to family with film
  • Resume

 

Susan Shepler in Sierra Leone

Susan Shepler

Country of Service: Sierra Leone
Place of Service: Gbendembu
Service Type: Education
Dates in Service: 1987-1989
Keywords: Gbendembu

Accession Date: October 7, 2015
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Language learning notes and language manual
  • Peace Corps Sierra Leone newsletter, De News De
  • Swearing in Ceremony Program
  • Volunteers Guide to Freetown
  • Sample exams
  • Gbendembu Secondary School staff list, letterhead and program

The Peace Corps, Disaster, and the Written Word

"Toucan Times: July, August, September 2002"

“Toucan Times: July, August, September 2002”

One of the official goals of the Peace Corps is to “help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.” Peace Corps volunteers achieve this goal through immersion within their respective communities. Peace Corps volunteers also form and maintain relationships and bonds with each other. Unofficial newspapers created by Peace Corps volunteers help foster community bonds between volunteers. These newsletters contain editorials, poetry, recipes, book reviews, and announcements relevant to volunteers.

One such magazine, the Toucan Times, documented PCVs serving in Belize. In 2001 and 2002, the Toucan Times devoted much space to how PCVs dealt with the effects of Hurricane Iris. Hurricane Iris hit Belize in early October of 2001. The disaster caused approximately 250 million dollars worth of damage and left thousands homeless. Several Peace Corps volunteers, including Alanna Randall, relocated to new homes. Alanna Randall, an environmental education and community development volunteer and one of the editors of the Toucan Times, expressed her emotional turmoil via a newspaper article. She wrote how, “many of the familiar landmarks were missing or moved, I almost didn’t even recognize where I lived…Stepping carefully around scattered pieces of plywood, I spotted my fan lying near a gravesite. Feeling numb and disbelieving, I sifted through the rubble. Random items were unearthed until I felt satisfied that all that could be was recovered.”

"In the rubble of my house"

“In the Rubble of my House”, Toucan Times, April/May/June 2002. 

In a message home, Randall wrote, “I’m officially a refugee of Hurricane
Iris. My peace corps family is sheltering me and searching for funds to get me started again…I’m doing fine. Anyway,”there’s nothing left to
do, but smile, smile, smile.”

The Peace Corps assisted with Alanna’s move to Cristo Rey Village and later San Ignacio. This story highlights the resilience of Peace Corps volunteers in the face of unpredictable hardships. Alanna’s hardships also show how Peace Corps newsletters like the Toucan Times provide volunteers with creative space to express and share their Peace Corps experiences.

“The Comrade Corps”

During a speech at San Francisco’s Cow Palace on November 2, 1960, soon to be President Kennedy spoke of the need for Americans to take action to ensure friendly relations abroad. He told the audience, “Out of Moscow and Peiping and Czechoslovakia and Eastern Germany are hundreds of men and women, scientists, physicists, teachers, engineers, doctors, nurses, studying in those institutes, prepared to spend their lives abroad in the service of world communism… being prepared to live their lives in Africa as missionaries for world communism.” Kennedy therefore proposed, that the U.S. create “a peace corps of talented young men and women, willing and able to serve their country in this fashion for 3 years as an alternative or as a supplement to peacetime selective service.” Even before the election, Kennedy had already a foundation for what would become the Peace Corps.

While serving in Africa, several Peace Corps volunteers worked alongside what one American termed “the Comrade Corps.” This organization consisted of teachers and volunteers the Soviet Union sent to developing countries, the same men and women Kennedy spoke of in his speech at the Cow Palace.

In 1965, Ray Silverstein, a Peace Corps volunteer, wrote to the Tilley Lamp, a Nigerian Peace Corps Volunteer newsletter, chronicling his encounter with these Russian volunteers. He told readers, “One has to seek them out. Once this is done, many of them will open up, eager to socialize and talk English with someone “who can correct” them…One girl that I met acknowledged the West’s superiority in twist music and rock n’roll, and mentioned that the Charleston is the rage in Russia now.”

Elizabeth Cobb Hoffman discusses Russian volunteers and PCV relations in Ghana in her 1998 work All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s, “The volunteers’ attempts to be friendly towards the Russian youth would…prove the intention of the United States to wage the Cold War peacefully…The Peace Corps teachers, who shared accommodations with volunteers from other countries, reported that the Russians returned their sociability (Hoffman, 162).”

Despite Cold War tensions, Russian and American youth workers shared cultural experiences and perspectives with each other during their respective service across the world.

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Northeastern New York

RPCV Northeastern New York
Date of Materials: 1986-2004

Accession Date: October 9, 2014
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Membership lists
  • Minutes
  • Newsletters
  • Newsletters from other RPCV groups

Duane H. Hudson in Nigeria

Duane H. Hudson

Country of Service: Nigeria
Place of Service: Apapa
Service Type: Science Education
Dates in Service: 1963-1965
Keywords: Nigeria, Apapa, Science Education, United Christian Secondary Commercial School, Tilley Lamp

Accession Date: September 23, 2014
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.25 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Reports
  • Publications
  • Newsletters

Norm Heise in Nigeria

Norm Heise

Country of Service: Nigeria
Place of Service: Jos (Northern Nigeria)
Service Type: Education at Toro Teaching Training College
Dates in Service: 1963-1965
Keywords:  Education, Youth

Accession Date: December 21, 2010; Friends of Nigeria Archive
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: Two items

Document Types

  • Photographs
  • Publication (Peace Corps Chronicle)