Welcome to the Portland Peace Corps Association

logo for Portland Peace Corps Association, Portland, Oregon President’s welcome, by Phyllis Shelton (Honduras 1986-1988)

Welcome to the Portland Peace Corps Association (PPCA) web page! We are a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers living in the Greater Portland, SW Washington area.

As you probably already know, those of us who share the Peace Corps experience have a unique bond, and it doesn’t matter what country you served in or what decade you were there, it just feels right to sit down, share a meal and a story or dive into a meaningful service project shoulder to shoulder. CRPCA is a place where people who served in the 60s are just as apt to attend a pub night, service event, book club, potluck or special fundraising event as the volunteer who is so freshly returned they are still suffering from reverse culture shock! Family friendly events are important to many of our members, and networking for jobs or making friends when you are new in town are a big attraction too.

We are committed to ideals of service and community, both at home and abroad. Every year we collectively spend hundreds of hours on local service projects, give out thousands of dollars in grants to well vetted projects sponsored by returned or currently serving volunteers, so the good work continues. We are also happy to welcome prospective volunteers at our events. Come meet us and find out what it is really like; we are happy to share stories.

Our calendar is full of interesting events, check it out and see what is coming up, we would love to see you at one of our events soon.

Connect with us via Facebook, our website crpca.org, or by viewing our 50+ years of newsletters.

September 2019 Book Club Selection

Little Bee
Cleave, Chris: Little Bee (2009)

Discussion: Wednesday, September 11, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at Rose City Yacht Club, 3737 NE Marine Dr in Portland. When you arrive at the gate, call or text Liz Samuels at 503-701-6218, and she will give you the code for the keypad to get in. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Kirkus Review: Cleave follows up his outstanding debut (Incendiary, 2005) with a psychologically charged story of grief, globalization and an unlikely friendship. The story opens in a refugee detention center outside of London. As the Nigerian narrator—who got her nickname “Little Bee” as a child—prepares to leave the center, she thinks of her homeland and recalls a horrific memory. “In the immigration detention center, they told us we must be disciplined,” she says. “This is the discipline I learned: whenever I go into a new place, I work out how I would kill myself there. In case the men come suddenly, I make sure I am ready.” After Little Bee’s release, the first-person narration switches to Sarah, a magazine editor in London struggling to come to terms with her husband Andrew’s recent suicide, as well as the stubborn behavior of her four-year-old son, Charlie, who refuses to take off his Batman costume. While negotiating her family troubles, Sarah reflects on “the long summer when Little Bee came to live with us.” Cleave alternates the viewpoints of the two women, patiently revealing the connection between them. A few years prior, Sarah and Andrew took a vacation to the Nigerian coast, not realizing the full extent to which the oil craze had torn the country apart. One night they stumble upon Little Bee and her sister, who are fleeing a group of rapacious soldiers prowling the beach. The frightening confrontation proves life-changing for everyone involved, though in ways they couldn’t have imagined. A few years later Sarah and Little Bee come together again in the suburbs of London, and their friendship—in addition to that between Little Bee and Charlie—provides some salvation for each woman. Though less piercing and urgent than his debut, Cleave’s narrative pulses with portentous, nearly spectral energy, and the author maintains a well-modulated balance between the two narrators. A solid sophomore effort, and hopefully a sign of even better things to come.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

August 2019 Book Club Selection

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Roy, Arundhati: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017)

Discussion: Thursday, August 8, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Mimi Sanders, 318 SW Palatine Hill Rd (big yellow church) in Portland, 503-293-6195. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Publishers Weekly: Appearing two decades after 1997’s celebrated The God of Small Things, Roy’s ambitious, original, and haunting second novel fuses tenderness and brutality, mythic resonance and the stuff of front-page headlines. Anjum, one of its two protagonists, is born intersex and raised as a male. Embracing her identity as a woman, she moves from her childhood home in Delhi to the nearby House of Dreams, where hijra like herself live together, and then to a cemetery when that home too fails her. The dwelling she cobbles together on her family’s graves becomes a paradoxically life-affirming enclave for the wounded, outcast, and odd. The other protagonist, the woman who calls herself S. Tilottama, fascinates three very different men but loves only one, the elusive Kashmiri activist Musa Yeswi. When an abandoned infant girl appears mysteriously amid urban litter and both Anjum and Tilo have reasons to try to claim her, all their lives converge. Shifting fluidly between moods and time frames, Roy juxtaposes first-person and omniscient narration with “found” documents to weave her characters’ stories with India’s social and political tensions, particularly the violent retaliations to Kashmir’s long fight for self-rule. Sweeping, intricate, and sometimes densely topical, the novel can be a challenging read. Yet its complexity feels essential to Roy’s vision of a bewilderingly beautiful, contradictory, and broken world.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

July 2019 Book Club Selection

Dream of Another America
McMahon, Tyler*: Dream of Another America (2018)

* RPCV El Salvador (1999-2002)

Discussion: Tuesday, July 2, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Bill Stein, 4308 SE Lexington St in Portland, 503-830-0817. Participating in our discussion will be Tyler McMahon, the book’s author, via Skype. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Kirkus Review: A Salvadoran father attempts the perilous journey to America while his wife and son stay behind in El Salvador to await his return. McMahon (Kilometer 99, 2014, etc.) spins a beautiful but heartbreaking tale of the classic migrant story, one of sacrifice, danger, and small victories for those who have left and those still at home. Jacinto, his wife Mina, and their 13-year-old son Wilmer live in a small rural town in El Salvador, still reeling from the destructive civil war that left thousands dead and many more permanently changed. Wilmer has asthma, which is a life-threatening condition in their small Salvadoran town that lacks electricity and clean running water. After a particularly serious asthma attack, Jacinto accepts a local smuggler’s expensive offer to get him to the United States, where he hopes to work and save enough to buy the medicine Wilmer needs. Jacinto faces an enormous setback early on, when his group gets lost in the Mexican desert, resulting in five deaths and his capture. He prepares to be bussed back to El Salvador, but in a strange twist of events, he finds himself with a second chance to cross the border into America. Back home in El Salvador, Mina and Wilmer attempt to maintain their livelihoods without Jacinto and without any updates on his whereabouts. The smuggler that arranged Jacinto’s original journey demands an exorbitant interest on their down payment and Wilmer is bullied at school by those who believe his father is dead. Without Jacinto to bring in an income and to stand up for his family, hope for Mina’s and Wilmer’s survival gradually deteriorates. These two parallel stories collide at a moment when all three appear to have little left to lose. Their story of suffering and sacrifice is devastating yet also embedded in love. Every sacrifice made on behalf of a loved one is a testament to human resilience and the fight for a better life. McMahon’s contribution to the body of immigrant literature is entrenched in questions of nationality, poverty, and family. He achieves a storytelling feat by creating an incredibly realistic narrative that is as poignant as it is breathtaking.

Where to find it:
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble