January 2015 Newsletter

Contents of January 2015 Newsletter – Volume 35, Issue 1

  • Letter from the editor
  • Announcements
  • Celebration of Peace Corps in Korea
  • Kúkátónón Children's African Dance Troupe Annual Gala
  • Global Oneness Project
  • Book Group Update
  • CRPCA January to March events

Originally sent via Mailchimp.

Letter from the editor

At the beginning of December, the Korean Consulate of Seattle sponsored a dinner of appreciation for RPCVs in Oregon who had served in Korea; in this month's newsletter, we have a reminiscence from that event by Greg Caldwell, Honorary Consul for the Republic of North Korea/North Oregon. We also have announcements about the White Elephant Party at the beginning of January, as well as a Book Club update. If you have anything you would like to share, particularly about how you stay connected with your country of service (or third goal activities you do in Portland), please do get in touch. I'll also be sending out reminders in the weekly update. If you have any announcements or information that you'd like shared in the February newsletter, send it my way before January 25. Happy New Year!

— M.F. Corwin, Armenia 2008–2011 & Mongolia 2011–2013


White Elephant Post-Holiday Party. Mark your calendars for the White Elephant Party! It will take place on Saturday, January 3, 2015, from 6:00pm to 8:30 pm at the Lucky Lab Tap Room on 1700 N Killingsworth. The White Elephant Party is an annual celebration of CRPCA! Throughout the evening, we will project on the big screen never-before-seen images from past CRPCA events. Come and enjoy the fun and good conversation! Further details in the events calendar below.

¶ Copies of the 2015 International Calendars are still available. We'lll have them at all CRPCA social activities through the end of the year, but you can also contact your neighborhood representative (info on the CRPCA website) to get your calendar(s), or you can make an order through our checkout page. Proceeds from the calendar sales support the CRPCA grants program.

¶ Wayne Hess, father of RPCV Tracy Hess, has been making regular trips to Guatemala since visiting his daughter during her service in the mid-1990s. After helping with a Habitat for Humanity build in 2004, he has been raising funds and donations to support the school at La Pedrera. Wayne will be returning to Guatemala in February 6, 2015 accompanied by nine people interested in the project. He is looking for donations of laptops, WIFI capable with sufficient memory to run Microsoft Office. They can be shipped to him USPS Flat Rate Box at Wayne Hess, 5316 SW Erickson Ave, Beaverton, OR 97005-3849. He will pay the postage. Such donations would be tax deductible.

A Celebration of Peace Corps in Korea

Peace Corps in Korea

The article below was taken from a speech given by Greg Caldwell, Honorary Consul for the Republic of Korea/Northern Oregon, in December 2014. The occasion was a Korean Consulate dinner in Portland celebrating the work of Oregonians who served in the Peace Corps in Korea in the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

I was part of “K-17,” the 17th group of Peace Corps volunteers to arrive in Korea. We landed in Seoul in the dead of winter in January of 1971. I remember coming out into the small, crowded arrival area at Kimpo Airport and being confronted by a vast wall of unfamiliar Korean faces. The crowd was very noisy and seemed to be shouting in a language that I had studied for several months, but that I could barely recognize that evening. Everything was different— the people, the dress, the sounds, and even the smells. For me, it was an outright assault on my senses. And, when we finally made it into the city and to our yogwan (“motel” would be a loose translation), I have to admit that I was pretty darned scared!

In all honesty, I didn’t like the food. I especially didn’t like the bathrooms. I didn’t like the freezing cold. And, I didn’t like the poverty that I saw all around me.

In case my descriptions make you feel a bit uncomfortable, especially since there are Koreans with us tonight, I have found that most citizens of that country today, especially older Koreans who lived through that time, freely admit that Korea was very poor in 1971 and that could only be described as a “third world nation.”

On the long bus ride to Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province, my home for three years, I remember proudly offering my Korean co-teacher a cookie I had brought from the US and, instead of a “thank you,” I received a scolding.

“You should always offer food to the Principal first,” he said sternly. “That’s the Korean way,” he emphasized, with little explanation.

On my first morning at Jeongeub Boys Middle School, it was absolutely freezing outside, with a bit of sleet falling. I was huddled by the lone stove in the teachers’ room with my overcoat still on. My co-teacher approached me and said, “We are going outside to the parade ground for the morning meeting. Take your coat off and follow me.” And, I remember thinking, “Why in the world should I take my coat off to go outside in this weather?” But, having gone through Peace Corps training and hearing, so many times, the mantra “Do as the Koreans do,” I took off my coat and did not complain.

I stood before the students, hundreds of boys standing at attention in neat rows on the playground, and I tried my best to introduce myself in the Korean language. I have no idea what I said that morning. But, worst of all, neither did they! I don’t think the students or teachers understood one word. But, my attempt at the speech created a rolling wave of laughter among the students and it took at least 10 minutes for the principal to gain control of the crowd once again.

At my home, with a Korean family, the food seemed unfamiliar and unappetizing. I slept on a traditional “ondal” (heated by charcoal from below) floor which kept me warm enough while under the covers, but water would freeze in a glass on my desk at night.

So, for me, those early days in Korea, particularly the bitterly cold winter months, were especially long and challenging. But, day by day, I slowly adjusted. I started looking forward to “kongnamul kook” (soybean soup) and a steaming bowl of rice in the mornings. I began to understand a bit more of the Korean conversations around me. Over time, I was able to make my basic needs known in the language. I got used to the bathroom facilities. I fell in love with the “mokyoktang” (public bath) because it was the only place you could get warm in the winter. Sleeping on the “ondol” floor became quite comfortable. And, I found great joy in my students and in teaching them English.

Somewhere during that first year, I stopped worrying about the things that I was missing and I started appreciating the new things that Korea offered. That is when my love for Korea started. It grew day by day and it has never diminished.

In terms of teaching, I had wonderful students, but I often questioned the wisdom of the Peace Corps. I continually asked myself, “Why would Peace Corps send us so far into the countryside to teach English?” My instinct told me that my students, poor as they were, would never have the opportunity to travel outside of Korea and that they would never need or use English in the future.

In retrospect, I was wrong and Peace Corps was right.

In 1982, ten years after I left the Peace Corps, I returned to Korea on a Fulbright Scholarship and I was astonished at the progress and development that had taken place in that short period of time. Color televisions and refrigerators were in most households I visited. Bathrooms had moved indoors. Cars replaced bicycles for most teachers. Thatched roofs disappeared and yielded to tile. It was one of the fastest periods of growth and development in Korea.

Think about these statistics. In 1966, when the first group of Peace Corps volunteers arrived in country, Korea’s per capita income was $130 per year. When the Peace Corps left in 1981, it had risen, with great effort, to $1,960. Today, it is over $32,000 per year.

For the past 30 years, I have returned to Korea almost every other year. The pace of progress and the urgency with which the Koreans approach it, still amazes me. The Koreans are a very hard working, motivated and determined people.

Today Korea ranks as the 15th largest economy in the world. It is often referred to as the “Miracle on the Han,” for the Han River that runs through Seoul and for the rapid growth, industrialization, urbanization, and rise in living standards that Korea has experienced. Korea is now seen as an economic model that many less-developed countries are trying to emulate.

Korea became an OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) member country in 1996, basically joining the ranks of “developed” or “first-world” nations. Koreans are proud of the fact that they are the first and, so far the only, OECD country to move from recipient nation to donor nation.

In recent years the world has witnessed the phenomenon of the “Korean Hallyu” or “Korean Wave,” referring to the increase in popularity of all things Korean: television dramas, K-pop music, Korean films, the web sensation “Psy,” Korean foods, and so on. As Peace Corps volunteers, it has been interesting to watch others become fascinated by a culture that we know so well.

Finally, Korea now has its own Peace Corps, KOICA’s Overseas Volunteers. KOICA is based on the U.S. Peace Corps model. KOICA sends college graduates to developing countries around the world to work in the same fields in which we Peace Corps volunteers served. Recently, KOICA and Peace Corps signed a cooperative agreement in which the two groups work together on certain projects and in specific countries.

For the last fifty years the US and Korea have journeyed forward together. But, now in many ways, we seem to have come full circle, haven’t we?

Korea has never forgotten the Peace Corps volunteers who served there. From 2008 through 2014, the Korea government invited the former volunteers to return on all-expenses-paid, weeklong trips to see the changes throughout the country. Korea is the only country that has invited Peace Corps volunteers to return in this way. It vividly illustrates the appreciation that Korea has for the 2,000 Peace Corps volunteers who served there between 1966 and 1981. We should feel proud of that fact.

Gregory Caldwell and four of his students in Korea.

RPCV Greg Caldwell with two of the students from the newsletter header photo. From Left to Right: Greg Caldwell, Lee Young Ho (VP for SK), (Park Min Guy was my student at L&C, not in the Peace Corps), and Pang Doo Won (attorney).

Kúkátónón's Children's African Dance Troupe's Annual Gala

Kúkátónón Children's African Dance Troupe

The Kúkátónón Children's African Dance Troupe would like to invite all members of the CRPCA to attend Kúkátónón's Children's African Dance Troupe's 2015 Annual Gala. This is a wonderful, fun opportunity to connect your passion for international service to the diverse cultures of Multnomah County's growing African immigrant community! Kúkátónón's Children's African Dance Troupe's 2015 Annual Gala, Dance Your Heart Out! will take place on Saturday, February 14, 2015 from 6 PM – 10 PM at The Madeleine Parish Hall, 3123 NE 24th Ave, Portland, OR 97212. Our Gala will feature African drumming, homemade West African cuisine prepared by Portland’s African immigrant community, and electrifying performances by the troupe itself, which is comprised of 31 schoolchildren ages 7-14 who attend 17 different elementary and middle schools in the Portland (Oregon) metro area. The evening will also include a live auction and other opportunities to raise money to support our award-winning performing arts program. which is available to our youth without charge. Tickets go on sale starting January 5, 2015 at the Kúkátónón Children's African Dance Troupe website.

Global Oneness Project

Current and future PCVs might be interested in the Global Oneness Project – a free multimedia education platform, which features films, photography, and essays with the focus on the arts, culture, and the environment. In January 2015, Global Oneness Project will re-launch their site to include free lesson plans to accompany their stories geared for middle and high school students. Their lessons and stories have been featured on TED Ed, NY Times Op Docs, The Atlantic, PBS, among others. Global Oneness Project is in the early stages of partnership with Encyclopedia of Life out of Harvard, Arizona State University, and The Buck Institute.

Book Club Update for 2015

The next 14 CRPCA Book Club selections are now listed at on the CRPCA website. Here are the highlights:

  • 12 of the books scheduled between February 2015 and February 2016 are those selected through our Book Selection Survey for 2015, which was administered in spring 2014.
  • 2 of the books on our schedule (January and March 2015) are by Oregon RPCV authors who will appear in person at our discussions of their books.
  • 2 of the books on our schedule (April and June 2015) are by authors who will participate via Skype in our discussions of their books.
  • 4 of the books on our schedule are by RPCVs, 2 are by Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 1 was awarded a National Book Award, and 1 was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

As always, we invite participation in our Book Club by all who have read that month's book, RPCV or not, CRPCA member or not. Here's the full list of books currently on our schedule:

  • Jan 13, 2015: Heyn, Michael: In Search of Decency: The Unexpected Power of Rich and Poor (2013)
  • Feb 10, 2015: Boo, Katherine: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (2012)
  • Mar 10, 2015: Cornelius, Gary: Dancing with Gogos (2014)
  • Apr 14, 2015: Goyal, Rajeev: The Springs of Namje: A Ten-year Journey From the Villages of Nepal to the Halls of Congress (2012)
  • May 12, 2015: Kidjo, Angélique, with Rachel Wenrick: Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music (2014)
  • Jun 9, 2015: Meisler, Stanley: When the World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and Its First Fifty Years (2011)
  • Jul 14, 2015: Patchett, Ann: State of Wonder (2011)
  • Aug 11, 2015: Tayler, Jeffrey: Angry Wind: Through Muslim Black Africa by Truck, Bus, Boat, and Camel (2005)
  • Sep 8, 2015: Betancourt, Ingrid: Even Silence Has An End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle (2010)
  • Oct 13, 2015: Ebadi, Shirin, with Azadeh Moaveni: Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope (2006)
  • Nov 11, 2015: Johnson, Adam: The Orphan Master’s Son (2012)
  • Dec 8, 2015: Mandela, Nelson: Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (1995)
  • Jan 12, 2016: Hosseini, Khaled: And the Mountains Echoed (2013)
  • Feb 9, 2016: Fuller, Alexandra: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood (2003)

Between now and Memorial Day, Bill Stein (Book Club's activity lead) is collecting titles our members would like included in the Book Selection Survey for 2016, which will be administered in summer 2015. No book is guaranteed for inclusion, as each book in our survey requires wide library availability and selection by our survey winnowing committee, but we like to start from a list that includes all books of members' interest. To recommend a book, please e-mail bookclub AT crpca.org.

Happy reading in 2015 and beyond!

Book club update courtesy Bill Stein, Book Club activity lead

CRPCA January to March events

January 2015

Saturday, 01/03/15, 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm – 15th annual Post-Holiday White Elephant Party – The Lucky Lab Tap Room, 1700 N Killingsworth in Portland. Please bring a wrapped, non-holiday-themed gift for the gift exchange. Suggested $5 donation per person at the door to help cover the cost of renting the space. Food and beverage will be available for individual order. The White Elephant Party is an annual celebration of CRPCA! Throughout the evening, we will project on the big screen never-before-seen images from past CRPCA events. Come and enjoy the fun and good conversation!

Sunday, 01/11/15, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm – Potluck Gathering2373 NW Pettygrove St. in Portland. Please bring a dish to share to the 6pm potluck dinner. After dinner, starting at 7pm, Chuck McConnell will talk about his two election monitoring trips in Ukraine.  Hosted by Maria & James Beebe, (971) 229-0780.

Tuesday, 01/13/15, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm – Book Club25 Garibaldi St., in Lake Oswego. The book to read is In Search of Decency: The Unexpected Power of Rich and Poor by Peru RPCV Michael Heyn (2013). Participating in our discussion–in his own home–will be CRPCA's Michael Heyn, the book’s author! See our Upcoming Book Discussions page for more information. Feel free to bring snacks to share. Hosted by Michael Heyn, (503-534-1968).

Monday, 01/26/15, 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm – International Development Happy Hour – Lucky Labrador Tap Room, 1700 N Killingsworth St.in Portland. Co-hosted by CRPCA, Jubilee Oregon, North West Fair Trade Coalition, Portland Area Global AIDS Coalition and RESULTS-Portland. An informal gathering to share information, resources and network and just plain chat over food and drink. Note the location and time change from our usual Soirées.

Wednesday, 01/28/15, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm – Job Search Support GroupLloyd Center in Portland.  Informal gathering of CRPCA members and friends who are seeking new work. Location at Lloyd Center in Portland. Meet 7pm at the Food Court (3rd floor) exiting the elevator to the left side of the food court, looking for CRPCA sign plate overlooking the ice rink edge, or call Gordon Young at 206-351-6465 for our location if you arrive later. Contact Gordon at networking AT crpca.org for more information.