NEWS - August, 2007

Huge Turnout for the Northwest Regional Campout

The Northwest Regional Campout was hosted by the West Cascade Peace Corps Association (WCPCA) at the Broken Arrow campground on Diamond Lake (near Crater Lake) in Oregon, about three and one-half hours east of Interstate 5 at Eugene. There was a huge turnout; approximately 60 to 70 RPCVs attended from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and even Arizona. There was a good mix of singles, couples and families of all ages.

There were sign-up sheets available for various hikes and a Crater Lake tour, as well as opportunities for boating, fishing, viewing waterfalls, soaking in hot springs and a place for the kids to swim at Diamond Lake Resort. A variety of Peace Corps t-shirts were available for purchase and, as usual, Sam Greer brought souvenirs for the littlest campers. At night, there was a gigantic bonfire (estilo Michael Le), marshmallows, various tasty beverages of all sorts, and singing of camp songs. People also enjoyed conversing in smaller groups, so that the din of engaging discussions increased every night. One somber moment was a remembrance of Beryl Brinkman from Eugene whom we lost this past year.

The WCPCA did a wonderful job of hosting. Friday night turned out to be a huge success with so many delightful international dishes prepared potluck-style by most everyone who attended, Saturday night was a hearty vegetarian chili dish served by WCPCA, and Sunday morning was the traditional Idaho group pancakes/chorizo sausages/coffee and juice buffet. Be sure not to miss next year's trip, which will be hosted by the Inland Northwest Peace Corps Association (INPCA) in Spokane.

Annette Clothier (Czech Republic, 1995-97)

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Member Focus: Temma Pistrang

What led you to join the Peace Corps?

I had always wanted to do so, ever since President Kennedy founded the Peace Corps in 1963. At the time, my husband Marvin and I were very inspired by Kennedy's call for people to join the effort to "give back" to our country, but we were told we could not do so because we had 3 small children. Marv, who was a geologist, worked for the US Geological Survey and subsequently had opportunities to work in Brazil and Uganda, which never came to pass due to political unrest. We were disappointed, but never gave up on the idea that someday we might be able to serve overseas. Finally, about 1970 or so, a colleague of Marv's told him of a new policy established by the Nixon Administration, that would allow federal employees to take leave to serve in Peace Corps with a guarantee that their original, or equivalent, position would be held for them upon their return. The Peace Corps had also changed its policy and would allow volunteers with families to join. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for us.

Tell us about your PC service

We had originally wanted to go to Latin America, due to our knowledge of Spanish. However, we were finally sent to Kenya, about a year and a half after applying. We were told that it took a while to find a site suitable for a family. We, along with our children then ages 9, 12, and 14, were posted to Nakuru, Kenya's fourth largest municipality, and the provincial capital of Rift Valley province. Marv's position was at Lake Nakuru National Park, where he served as a staff trainer and program planner, helping to develop educational and naturalist programs. His job was part of the PC science program that was created during the Nixon years. Despite assurances by PC that positions would be avail be for both of us, I actually had to find my own job once in Nakuru. Due to the philosophy held by some PC administrators at that time, an assumption had been made that, as a "non-matrix spouse," I would not work outside the home, despite my professional qualifications. Through my own efforts, I was able to find a position as a high school math teacher.

What impact has PC service had for you?

Our time in Kenya has had a profound impact on the lives of our whole family. The connection that we developed to Kenya has been, and still is, a key part of our lives, something that I maintain to this day. I think we were better accepted there as a family than were some of the young single volunteers. Also our relatively "older" age and life experiences were respected and valued, and that made it easier for us to develop close friendships with local people. After Peace Corps, Marv and I became very involved with supporting environmental projects and education in and about Kenya, and went on to lead safari trips there. Our sons' choice of careers was also influenced by this connection, starting with their spending their teen years in Kenya: one is a botanist, and the other an environmental analyst. Marv passed away in 2003, and he requested that his remains be buried in Kenya, keeping the link with our other home. I now continue to lead educational safaris to Kenya at least once a year.

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SEAPAX Campout - Start of Something Good

The first annual SEAPAX campout was a great success! 22 RPCVs, spouses, children, and canines met at the newly-renovated Middle Fork Snoqualmie National Forest, about 75 minutes outside of Seattle. The attendees, however, came from as far away as Eugene and Idaho (thanks, Sam!) for two days of hiking, catching up and swapping stories around the campfire. The laid-back atmosphere allowed for plenty of relaxation, and although meals were prepared separately, most were shared from table to table -- just as the babies were passed from lap to lap!

The Middle Fork campground was only opened this season and offers beautiful views of the Garfield mountain group and the Snoqualmie river. Although the 10-mile graveled road leading to the park makes it seem remote, it is close enough to Seattle for a convenient trip and already seems quite popular for fishing, hiking and camping. For the most part, the weather cooperated too. While Sunday brought rain, Friday and Saturday were sunny and fairly clear, and most folks were able to do some hiking and exploring.

All in all, the weekend was a lot of fun and a chance to reconnect with fellow RPCVs from the Seattle area. Thanks to Michael Le and Annette Clothier for organizing the event; we are looking forward to the second installment next year!

Jen Nicholas

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Host an International Student through FIUTS at UW

Memo to SEAPAX members, from FIUTS Director Era Schrepfer,
RPCV Dominican Republic 96-98

The Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS) is a community nonprofit at the University of Washington with more than 58 years experience enhancing international exchange and global understanding through friendship.

More than 800 new international students from over 150 countries will join the University of Washington this fall, and many of them would love an opportunity to learn about American culture from a host family. Welcoming a new international student to Seattle is a perfect way for RPCVs to foster international goodwill here at home.

Most FIUTS homestays last one week, and hosts come in many different forms, including families, single individuals, couples, and international student alumni.

To receive more information, please contact: Alicia van der Veen, Homestay and Community Relations Coordinator, 206-616-7025

Direct link to the Hosting and Friendship Program description and online application.

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US Postal Service Discontinues International Surface Mail (M-bag)

Thanks to Annette Clothier for bringing this matter to our attention.

In mid-May of this year the US Post Service (USPS) announced, with very little notice, that it was discontinuing International Surface Mail or M-bag service. The surface mail option utilized cargo ships, and was a mainstay for many nonprofit groups including RPCV groups, families, and friends of overseas community based organizations and their workers, to send books, educational materials and supplies. Currently, the USPS offers air mail service only, with rates 3-4 times the cost of the previous surface mail rates. For many groups, airmail fees are simply unaffordable, and there is expected to be a major impact on many overseas programs, including various humanitarian book projects.

What you can do: The National Peace Corps Association, together with other interested groups, has recently formed the Coalition to Restore International Surface Mail Service, and is now actively contacting members of Congress who serve on committees handling postal issues, and also gathering signatures on petitions asking the USPS and Congress to restore the M-bag service.

An NPCA background page on the issue can be found at: http://www.rpcv.org/pages/sitepage.cfm?id=1746

Change.org has a page on the issue at: Affordable Overseas Shipping for Humanitarian Projects

Friends of Malawi Books Project is sponsoring this petition: "Save the USPS International Surface Mail Service for Humanitarian Projects"

Another petition: "Bring Back the USPS International Surface Mail Service"

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Best of the Web

Best of the Web is a feature of our newsletter and website listing resources for learning more about events, news, discussion, and organizations that share the international and multicultural interests of SEAPAX. We invite you to submit your favorites to share here. This month's listing highlights a UW resource site on African American history.

We continue to welcome submissions to our listserv (as per Submissions Guidelines) , but there is so much going on in the Puget Sound area, that we can't possibility list everything nor in a timely manner. Thus, we want to alert you to good resources where you can find out more on your own. As this list grows, entries will be organized into ready reference categories. Please send your submissions to: news@seapax.org

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