Deadbeat 

1/01/02 Vol. 7

The official Friends of Benin Newsletter

Official Friends of Benin Website- www.friends-of-benin.org (Check it Out!)

 

News and Updates from the Executive Committee:

Officers:

Pres. Peter de Groot- peterd@zygo.com
VP- Jessica Duke - dukeurb@yahoo.com
Treasurer- Lori Killpatrick- Lkillpat@aol.com
Deadbeat Editor- Chris Starace- CStarace@yahoo.com
Grapic Designer- Chris Robbins- fosotima@hotmail.com

Web Master- John Boe - johnmboe@hotmail.com

Join Friends of Benin Group!

                Friends of Benin is a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have served in Benin as well as anyone who has an interest in Benin.  Some of our goals are to help members keep in touch with each other through the FOB website, this newsletter, reunions,  keep up with what’s going on in Benin, support current Benin PCV’s, support Peace Corps’ third goal of brining our experiences back home, and to help members keep their Peace Corps experience alive.  We are a young group and need your participation!

Attn. Current PCV’s:  We will be sending several free copies to PC Cotonou for every edition and we encourage current volunteers to send contributions to the U.S. “Deadbeat” to Chris Starace, 124 Shippan Ave. Stamford, CT 06902.  Let us know what you are doing, give updates on what’s going on in Benin, PC Benin (most of us are quite out of touch), and let us know how we can support you.  Send us copies of your “Deadbeat” so we can include portions of it in ours.  Feel free to include articles from the FOB “Deadbeat” in the PCV Deadbeat. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Registration Form:

Friends of Benin                   National Peace Corps Association (NPCA)
___New                                 ___New
___Renewal                          ___Renewal
Name:________________________


Street Address:____________________________

 

City, State, Zip:____________________________


Telephone: Home_________________Work____________________


E-mail:________________________


Current Employer:__________________________


Current Occupation:________________________


Peace Corps Job:___________________________


PC Country:________________     Years of service:__________

 

___Associate members - I am not an RPCV nor RPCS


I am interested in: ____________________

 

Select one membership category:
___Newly returned RPCV - 6 months free
___$40 NPCA/FOB dues (this is fixed by NPCA and can't be changed!)
___$55 Family NPCA & FOB
___$15 FOB
___$22.50 Family FOB
 
Additional contributions for NPCA:
___$1000 Director's Circle
___$500 Patron
___$250 Leadership Club
___$100 Sustaining
___$10 Overseas Mail
Hotline Subscription:
___$20 (member of NPCA)
___$30 (other RPCV)
$____TOTAL AMOUNT


Make check payable to Friends of Benin and send to: Lori Killpatrick, 3119 Clairemont Drive #2, San Diego, CA 92117 so you can get on the mailing list for the next Deadbeat issue (published 3-4 times a year).   Membership begins on the date in which payment is received and ends one year later.  A reminder will be sent before your membership expires.   Don’t forget to renew your membership and please encourage your fellow non-member Benin RPCV’s to join.

Send or E-mail articles, ideas, comments, photos, etc. for the next FOB Deadbeat to Cstarace@yahoo.com. or 42 Linden Ave. Ossining, NY 10562

There are only a few Friends of Benin t-shirts left! Get yours before we run out. The beautiful khaki shirts with forest green design are only $15.  Please include $2.50 for shipping and handling and mail your check made out to Friends of Benin to: Lori Killpatrick, 3119 Clairemont Drive, San Diego, CA 92117.  Don't forget to include your size.

News from the OVAL OFFICE
(well, more like a cubicle…)

Greetings fellow Friends of Benin!

I had hoped to meet many of you in person September 22, the date planned for our reunion soirée and Benin embassy visit in Washington DC.  As you know, this event was planned in conjunction with the 40th Anniversary celebration in Washington D.C., and there was a “between Deadbeat” mailing to make sure everyone was up to date and had an opportunity to attend.  We all felt this took priority over mailing a full issue of the Deadbeat.  Many FOB members worked hard on the reunion arrangements and it was sure to be a successful fête. 

Alas, the NPCA elected with good reason to postpone the 40th Anniversary until next year, when we hope that our attention may be focused once again on Peace and Friendship.  

We are particularly delighted with our new members, and continue with our objective to build and strengthen our community of Peace Corps Benin alumni, volunteers, staff and supporters. 

With this expanded issue of the Deadbeat we wish to thank you for your support of FOB, and for your patience as we regroup for the new reunion plans.  In the meantime, keep in touch!  Use the Listserve, send each other and us mail, and keep the experience alive.

A bientôt - Peter

FOB Upcoming Activities and Events:

The 40th anniversary Peace Corps conference has been rescheduled for the weekend of June 20-23.  Please join us as we reschedule our Friends of Benin reunion for the same weekend.  Mark your calendars now for Saturday, June 22, 2002.  We hope you will be able to join us.

At this point, we anticipate a reception at the Beninese Embassy Saturday night, followed by an evening rooftop soiree.  Everyone will be expected to wear their best Beninese garb and drink lots of sodabi.  Stay tuned for more details. 

Questions?  Contact Jessica Duke at dukeurb@yahoo.com

Updates on Members/ Message Board

Announce Marriages, moves, engagements, new addresses, new children,, new jobs, say hi to old friends, locate a long lost postmate ...

Chris Starace (Allada SBD 95-97) and Cara Viggiano were married on Oct. 7th in Ridgfield and are living in Ossining NY now.

Welcome New FOB members!

 Abernathy, Harry  99-01
Allen, Meredith 00-01
Appe, Susan
Beard, Brian 99-01
Bellisle, Peter
Bowmaster, Kristofer
Boyer, Melanie 99-01
Cohen, David 99-01
Curtis, Joseph 99-01
Decabooter, Laura
Dewland, Jason
Glasmann, Allison 99-01
Gurian, Rhett 99-01
Hagerty, Kristen 99-01
Hampton, Hermoine
Hinson, 1 L
Johanson, Todd
Kavanagh, Ryen 98-01
Kays, Lisa 98-01
Korzep, James
Lautze, 99-01Jonathan
Melo, Carol
Morgan, Michelle
Mosier, Chad 99-01
Murrie, Matthew
Nguyen, Peter 99-01
Oberg, Kelly
Rickert, Melissa
Robinson, Sarah 99-01
Rosen, Deborah
Slaine, Shirley 98-01
Smedley, Bryce
Stafford, Damian 99-01
Stapleton, Heather 98-01
Sweeten, Erin 99-01
Sweeten, Gary 99-01
Vinup,  Kristin  9-01
Werner, Miriam 99-01
Wilson, Seth 99-01

Vingtage Overheard submitted by Aurther  Wallin:

Does mefloquine destroy brain cells? Of course it destroys brain cells!  I'm a billionaire when it comes to brain cells.  Right?

Anonymous

Parakou 1993

Reuniting…And it feels so good

By Paul Assis

OK, cheesy title, but not one of the 15 out of 20 from our stage who made it to our ten-year reunion would say that it did not feel good.  In fact, it felt like what we’d all idealize family to feel like. 

Most of you reading this, probably, were not blessed (cursed it felt at the time) to have had five months of training with a two-month stint at Penn Center, St. Helena Island, South Carolina.  The wonder of Penn Center is best reserved for another article.  Suffice to say that this former school for freed slaves and the cultural heart of the Gullah culture is a special place that, for our stage, already brought us to Africa before even leaving the States.  We also formed strong bonds there, isolated as we were, before setting foot in Benin.

Ten years later, Penn Center proved a logical place for a reunion. It was part of our Peace Corps experience, but a more practical location than Benin itself.  It is also comfortable. Gone are the days of cockroaches and stepping over holes in the floor of Benezett Hall; Penn Center is now a series of spacious homes with air-conditioned, polished floors and modern kitchens that remain true to their historic heritage.  Throw in the reasonably-priced dining service with Gullah cuisine, run of the spacious and lush (remember the Spanish Moss) campus and new on-site Gullah history museum, proximity to historic Beaufort, and peace & quiet, and Penn Center is about the most logical place for a PCV reunion imaginable, even for the stages who didn’t train there.

More bang for the buck

Although a stone’s throw from Hilton Head Island, St. Helena Island remains a largely residential island of the Gullah people. Penn Center, in particular, is a non-profit organization that depends heavily on grants, visitors to its museum, and groups like ours renting its facilities to maintain its social service programs and cultural heritage research.  Remember that Peace Corps hasn’t used the center for training in years, taking away a previous form of steady income. Our stage can feel good about having spent its tourism dollar wisely; it was both a good value, and we helped out a very worthy cause.  We also had a significant chunk of change left over that we donated to Penn Center, with many sincere thanks from the director.

Thinking of a reunion? Think Penn Center

If you’d like to follow suit and organize YOUR reunion and Penn Center, I urge you to do so.  Here’s how I did it:

1)       Once you’ve picked the dates, call Penn Center and reserve: 843-838-2432, ask for Carrie in conference services.  She will forward you menus, prices, a map, etc.

2)       Reserve a van for the Savannah airport (the nearest), to transport your group to and from Penn Center.

3)       Determine how much money you’ll need from everyone to cover the house rental, food (depending on length and number of meals at Penn), van and gas.  E-mail everyone to send you a check for that amount.  [I charged $200 a piece, initially counting on 3 nights. We ended up staying 2 nights, leaving the aforementioned surplus that we donated to Penn Center.]

4)       Once you’ve received enough money to ensure that you won’t get burned, mail in a deposit or the full amount of the House rental to Carrie at Penn Center.  Food can be paid for then, too, or when you arrive.

5)       Determine which menus you will choose from the dining service.  This can be determined up to one week before arrival.

6)       As everyone will arrange their own flights, determine when everyone will arrive for van pick-up.  [We ended up with over half driving, so those flying fit into one van.]

What I learned and would caution a reunion planner

I started planning two years ahead of time, but still had people who showed up at the last minute without warning.  You must go with the flow, allow plenty of time to track everyone down, and expect that not everyone will commit when you ask them to.  A related benefit of Penn is that every house can sleep a range of people, and you pay by the house, not the number of guests.  Even the kitchen seemed flexible about adding people. So you can always add more at the last minute.

My educated guess is that it would be difficult to motivate as many to a reunion anywhere that was not meaningful to the stage as a whole.  In other words, the beach may be lovely, but which beach? Everyone has a different idea of beauty, fun and ease of location.  Some would simply rather be in the mountains or a city.  Penn Center is not easy to get to, but it’s the one place in the US that has meaning to all of us. 

If you are seriously considering hosting a reunion at Penn Center, please contact me at Passis@aol.com or 202.265.9321, and I will be pleased to discuss our reunion further with you.   I highly recommend it; we remain close because of it.

News From Benin:

Transmit news from your in-country contacts and post messages from current Benin PCV’s:  Current PCV’s:   Send us letters and articles from your Deadbeat!            

Dear Friends and Family,



As a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, I'm in the process of trying to bring a number of 
Francophone African films here for volunteers to show in schools and elsewhere, both as a way 
of bringing up questions of identity and development and in order to share with Africans art 
that was created with them in mind, but that unfortunately has become a cultural export.  The 
distributor I've contacted, the Library of African Cinema, has a great selection of films that
could serve as materials for a film viewing and discussion club that any volunteer could run
(with little effort) as a secondary project.  If I can get enough help, there's no reason why,
with the help of volunteers, these films couldn't be distributed in every country where they 
were created.



 The time has finally come to make your donations to help bring African films to
 Benin.  We'll be collecting the donations stateside for purchasing the films.  Please send 
your checks to RPCV Kathryn
Tyrrell at our collection point:
 



Katy Tyrrell
445 W. Barry #327
Chicago, IL 60657
 



Whether or not you're able to contribute, please feel free to send this message on to others 
who may be interested. I want to stress that since I was unable to arrange a Partnership for
 this activity, the film donations are NOT a Peace Corps activity and are not sanctioned by 
Peace Corps in Washington, although we intend to turn this into a SPA project once the films 
arrive.  The logistics of doing this through the American government were just too daunting 
and time-consuming.  Please contact me if you have any concerns regarding this point.



The Library describes Clando as "a call to action from one African to his fellow Africans - a 
heart-felt conversation we are privileged to overhear".  But like all of these films, the 
message is only intercepted, and never received by its intended audience.  I've never met a
 Beninois who had seen a real African film (not counting the gory and pirated Nigerian 
operatics, one step above Punch and Judy); most, raised on the worst of French, American and
Indian cinema, are amazed to learn that such a thing exists.  And I can't help but feel that 
this lack of validation of African vision, in cinema and all the arts, directly relates to the
resignation and passivity, the feeling of
inferiority, that I encounter here.  African films are as important in the fact of their 
existence as in the ideas that they engender.



Please send your contributions as soon as possible.  We're hoping to purchase the films by
 October 30th at the very latest, so your promptness would be greatly appreciated. 



Thanks for your time, and I hope that you can help out.  Yours,



Micah Boyer
Volontaire du Corps de la Paix
BP 971  Cotonou
Republique du Benin

micahboyer@yahoo.com                  

Note from the editor:  Donations were to be sent no later than OCT. 30 and obviously that date has passed.  Micah said that he had rec'd enough donations for the purchase and shipment of one film.  Any future donations will go towards the purchase of more films once the project is underway.            

WID (Women in Development) Scholarship Fund:


Cheres Benin RPCV's

Warm greetings from Benin. Here's to hoping that you woke up well, that your family is safe and happy, your health is good and that all your business affairs are successful. Remember the marathon greeting sessions that were so necessary to life in West Africa? How long has it been since you've eaten "pâte and snot" or survived a ten hour bush taxi ride? If it's been nine months or nine years, I'm sure that you hold many fond memories of your time spent in Benin. Now, even though you've returned to the land of the "bonnes choses", there are still ways that you can support the efforts of volunteers and Beninese nationals.

While serving in Benin I'm sure many of you participated in the PC Benin Women in Development (WID) program. If you did, some if this information might be old news to you so please bear with me. Our girls scholarship program, one of several nationwide WID initiatives, has been active since the mid-nineties and has grown considerably since it's genesis. This year we will provide tuition and school supplies to over 400 Beninese girls. These girls are highly motivated, academically successful individuals, who would not otherwise be able to pay for school, for various reasons. We hope to recognize and reward the commitment of these girls, despite harrowing odds, to their education.  After an application process, including an interview with the applicants' families to determine financial need, the scholarships are given to girls in elementary, middle and high school, and provide tuition, as well as school supplies and much-needed books.  There are no overhead costs, as the volunteers themselves administer every aspect of the program.

However, as you may remember, volunteers are poor, poor people.  We rely on fundraising among our family and friends to provide these scholarships.  One girl receives a year of education for only $25.00, and the sponsor, in return, will receive a letter and photo from the girl s/he sponsored. Contributing to this fund is a great, easy way to support the efforts of volunteers to continue the education and development of Benin's girls and women.

Donations for scholarships are welcome at any time.  Any donations received after this school year's cut off date will carry over to next year's fund.  Please make checks payable to Peace Corps Partnership, and write "Benin Scholarships Project 680-073" on the check.  All donations are tax-deductible.  Checks can be sent to:

Peace Corps Partnership
Benin Scholarship Project
Project Number 680-073
US Peace Corps
1111-20th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20526

Thank you for your recognizing the work and potential of Benin's girls and future women.

April Peetz
98-00

LES RECETTES CULINAIRES DANS

LES REGIONS DU TOGO

(Recipes from Togo)

Favorite Recipes

This cookbook contains over 60 recipes gathered in Sokodé (central Togo), with samples of Cotocoli, Ewe, Losso, Mina, and other cuisines.  Many of these foods are prepared throughout West Africa.  PCVs and others who have lived in this region will find their favorites: fufu, pâte de maïs, sauce d’arachide, watchi, beignets, kolikos, bouillies, ...

 

Grassroots Charity & Peace Corps Legacy

Les Recettes ... is a collaboration with Charité-Action-Directe (C.A.D.), a Togolese charity.  C.A.D. provides school fees, school supplies, uniforms, food, and tutoring for needy children, currently 40 kids in Sokodé, from primary school to lycée.  This charity started 10 years ago when a young Togolese wished to extend the same help to neighborhood children with their education that he had received from Peace Corps volunteers.  He has been joined by several other residents of Sokodé who have realized some measure of success in their own lives, due in part to help they received from PCVs and other foreigners in Togo.  Charité-Action-Directe is a registered non-profit corporation in Togo.

 

Ordering & Information

A complete list of recipes can be found at www.cushings.com/rpcvs/cad_toc.htm.  Contact Mike Cushing, RPCV Togo ‘80-’83, at michael@cushings.com or at the ordering address below for additional information.  The original edition of the cookbook, with recipes in French and background material in English, is now available for $12 (postage included).  Pre-paid orders at this price are being accepted for the all-English and the all-French editions, expected to be published in August and September of 2001, respectively.  (Prices are then expected to rise by $2.)  All proceeds go to C.A.D. This is a project of the Sacramento Valley RPCVs , a 501(c)(3) corporation (www.cushings.com/rpcvs/).  All contributions are tax-deductible in the U.S.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Order form

 

Name:                                                                          Street:

City, State, Zip:                                                             e-mail:

 

[ ] Recipient’s name(s) and address(es), different from above, are on the back of this form.

 

[ ] I am enclosing a check for (see above for information):

            Original edition:                        ___ copies @ $12 =            ________

            All-English edition:            ___ copies @ $12 =            ________

            All-French edition:            ___ copies @ $12 =            ________

            Contribution to C.A.D.:                                                ________

                                                                        total =            ________

 

[ ] Please send an announcement when the all- English/French (circle one or both) edition is available.

 

Please make check payable to Sacramento Valley RPCVs and send order to

Sacramento Valley RPCVs, c/o Mike Cushing, 2110 Venus Dr., Sacramento, CA  95864.

Benin Related Web Site Reviews:

www.friends-of-benin.org  -Check out the New Official FOB website!  John has done a great job of putting together an interesting website and he needs our help to ensure it will continue to improve.  E-mail him at johnmboe@hotmail.com.   We have past copies of the Deadbeat posted incase you missed some editions.

The Winds of Revolution…

By Peter de Groot

When I was 23 and Ronald Reagan was elected president the first time, it was cool and even a little reasonable to be a radical leftist.  After all, Reagan, the very symbol of capitalism, seemed to have very little grasp of reality and even less understanding of the suffering of the average world citizen.  It was an act of noble defiance to declare oneself a socialist. 

Even better was to be a communist, if you could somehow get past all the obvious and egregious wrongs committed worldwide in the name of Marxism Leninism.  The trappings of communism are alluring.  Flags, berets, songs, and raven-haired Latin women in combat uniform.  I read John Reed, Anna Louise Strong, Emma Goldman, and Rosa Luxemburg--all of the historical icons of the international revolutionary struggle. I went to meetings for the American Socialist Party and attended an election rally for the CPUSA featuring Angela Davis.  Dabbling with the extreme left lets you into an exclusive club, surrounded by instant comrades with which you can be self-righteous in your condemnation of the portly capitalist bosses in pinstriped suits, all racist enemies of the people.  All of this comes for free, if you are young, have nothing to lose, and are not in a position to do any real damage by playing the radical.

And so much of my post-Vietnam generation fancied itself socialist.  Many young nations did as well in the 1970’s and 80’s, often for the same reasons.  Dahomey believed it had little to lose by electing in 1974 to become a Marxist vassal state.  The subsequent anti imperialist ranting was given a big boost by an abortive (and possibly faked) invasion by mercenaries a few years later, an event celebrated in Bruce Chatwin’s short story “the Coup”.  The invasion demonstrated to many that communism was the only security against neo colonialism.  The doctrine of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat also provides a convenient explanation for the absence of a free political life.  Without communist dogma, the rule of force requires more feet shuffling to explain.

The political situation in Benin in the late seventies caused an effective suspension of Peace Corps activities until my group arrived for training in 1980.  There were forty of us that year, quite an increase from the one or two remaining volunteers at that time.   So we were pioneers, really, starting a new program from almost nothing.  Our training was astonishingly poor, which added to our pioneer spirit.  We learned by doing.  It was as if we were the first Peace Corps group ever anywhere in the world, and it made us a cohesive group, at least at times.  We did all this in the People’s Republic of Benin, a land where according to the national radio the winds of revolution were blowing steadily.

  When I was a volunteer in Ouidah, fresh from leftist pot luck dinner parties in Seattle, I was tickled to be working in an official communist country while living off a US Government stipend.  I wasn’t exactly a great supporter of soviet communism, actually far from that, but there was much that the US was doing internationally at the time that deserved thrashing.  There was a little bit of Jane Fonda in my attitude.  Anyway, I did not mind at all that a large mural on one of the local buildings showed a patriot kicking the white neo-colonialist pig out of Africa.  There was a valid point here. 

“Down with imperialism! Ready for revolution! Forward, the struggle continues!”  This was how my comrade students greeted me every morning, standing at attention as I entered the room every morning to teach physics and chemistry.  There were posters and flags in Cotonou proclaiming the dawning of the socialist age.  Every hour, the radio rang out with children singing the communist international, a song I learned and still remember.  “Rise up, rise up, oppressed peoples, it’s the final battle!”  Then the great comrade in struggle Mathieu Kerekou would speak, extolling the toiling masses to unite against colonialism and work together for greater economic production. The hand-painted portraits of Marx, Engels and Lenin over the blackboard were part of the local color.  They added spice to my Peace Corps experience.

But in fact, the communism in Benin was never more than skin deep.  I remember once visiting a school in Togo, a land blessed at the time with a free-world style military dictatorship, and the students asked intensely how things were behind the walls of neighboring Benin, in the clutches of communism.  I remember thinking the question peculiar.  From my perspective, coming from the US, the two countries were essentially the same.  The climates were hot and humid, the food was tasty but not always clean, the people were friendly and loved life, but almost everyone was poor and had few prospects.  Both countries had Peace Corp volunteers.  Togo did have one thing that Benin lacked: Casinos.

Apart from the satisfaction of thumbing one’s nose at the old colonial powers, the benefits of communism in Benin were few.  The Russian advisors who lived in Cotonou were an odd lot, evidently chosen because they did not speak French and cared little about Africa or its peoples.  A couple of us volunteers wandered into their closed camp one day to find out who they were and what exactly they were doing there.  They were so surprised that they greeted us warmly, at least for a while.  Through sign language we had a nice long conversation with a propaganda expert from Sebastopol.  He had lovely picture postcards.  Eventually we were politely escorted away by someone who looked important but who did not fancy making friends with disheveled American volunteers who asked too many questions.

The Chinese built a nice sports stadium.  The North Koreans built a monument to the fallen heroes of the mercenary invasion and provided thousands of bound copies of the collected works of Kim Il Sung.  Libya helped chop down all the trees in Cotonou, in principle to help widen the streets, but mostly so that it would look more like the desert that Khadafi loves so well.

The revolution hurt many people.  Not in any spectacular, media-worthy way, as there were no gulags nor killing fields, no mass roundups of dissidents nor extermination of the intelligentsia.   Rather, the revolution simply made it even harder to advance oneself.  Foreign investment was crushed.  The attractive aid and assistance packages available at that time were tossed aside in favor of an austere self-reliance.  Talented professionals left the country to find better opportunities in Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire or France. 

So it was that after more than a decade of decorating Benin with red flags, one day the politicos gathered together and declared that enough was enough, the revolution was over.  Kérékou stepped down, only to be reelected several years later as a born-again non-communist president of a new Benin.  This all happened long after I had finished by volunteer service.  To me Benin, a place that I love, will always be the Peoples Republic. 

In my mind’s eye, I still see clearly the gigantic banner over the pothole-encrusted main coastal highway announcing that  “Socialism is the only road, Marxism-Leninism is the only guide.”  Yet I also remember that underneath this banner was another, equally large, which advertised “The Beninese National Lottery: Your next chance to be a Millionaire”

 


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