April 24, 2003 - PCOL Exclusive: Dennis Lynch's Service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Colombia: Peace Corps Colombia : The Peace Corps in Colombia: April 24, 2003 - PCOL Exclusive: Dennis Lynch's Service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, April 24, 2003 - 10:13 am: Edit Post

Dennis Lynch's Service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia

Read and comment on excerpts from an email from RPCV Dennis Lynch reprinted with his permission that recounts some of his adventures during and after Peace Corps service in Colombia at:

Dennis Lynch's Service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Dennis Lynch's Service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia

Here's some more detail, if you wish to use it. Forgive its length--20 years in a city that was founded 1533 is bound to be pithy (even George Washington's half-brother, Lawrence, was part of a naval attack on Cartagena during his day, and was responsible for the naming of our Mt Vernon after that ill-fated attack led by the British Admiral/pirate Vernon).

I taught English at the Colombian Naval Academy for three years after PC, then opened a retail (handicraft) store which grew to an export business and a second store, design and manufacture of my own crafts and garments, printing and distribution of artsy post cards. Paul Feyling, one of my PC roomates from Boston (now a film maker in San Francisco), taught me basic photography in the waning days of our PC tour, and which I went on to teach Colombian Naval officers during my tenure, then later used in making an export-products catalog.

In the mid 70's I accepted the post of direcctor of the Centro Colombo Americano after serving on their board of directors, and later resigned that post to found my own ESL school (The Sound Institute), having converted one of my two stores into a language academy during the off-months of tourism. I designed an ESL method based on word frequency and presented it thru popular music--one of the most fun projects I launched while there (Colombians love to sing), getting paid for listening to all the oldies-but-goodies from Simon & Garfunkel to the Beatles to Sinatra.

Interestingly, my biggest export item for years happened to be a wall hanging from the coastal city of San Jacinto, designed by an early 1960's PCV named Phil Carroll--he taught the weavers to make his wall hanging (called a "Divisorio") on the same looms they had traditionally made hammocks, and the divisorio soon became the main article of commerce in that city, eventually employing over 5,000 women working in their homes, and they continued to weave hammocks too. I recall that in 1978 we filled two entire Boeing cargo jets with over 40,000 of those Peace Corps-designed hangings. They still remember PCV Phil Carroll in San Jacinto.

Unfortunately, fraudulent use of the Colombian export subsidy by unscrupulous individuals in the early '80's flooded the US market with the wall hangings, destroyed all competition (including me) and the product diisappeared from the export market altogether. On my first return trip to Colombia in 2000, I attempted to reconstruct my business with that product (now as a would-be importer), but the city where it's made is now within the guerrilla-controlled zone and there was no safe way to penetrate the ongoing civil war.

I discovered the fraud on a visit to Pier One Imports in Dallas where they were (unknowingly) purchasing the wall hangings at below cost. The total effect of that fraud killed the legitimate market and literally put 5,000 women out of work--demand for utilitarian hammocks could never compete with the decorative wall hanging, though the PCV responsible for creating the Divisorio is one of the shining examples of what Peace Corps has done in sleepy, rural Latin America.

My company, Artexpo, became the largest handicraft exporter on the Atlantic coast of the country (I actually had a friendly competitor, ex-PCV John Sonen, who lived in the neighboring city of Barranquilla, and who sold me silver and gold jewelry he manufactured for sale in my stores in Cartagena). Jon and I (and our respective importers) became regular exhibitors on the Trade Show circuit around the US in places like NY, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco.

As my main store was located in the Palace of the Inquisition on the Plaza de Bolivar in Cartagena, lots of PCVs stopped into the store for visits over the seventeen years I occupied it (the Academy or History of Cartagena, to whom I paid my rent, even restored the centuries-old torture chambers during the time I was there, with permission from the Catholic Church!).

The then President of the Academy of History, Dr. Eduardo Lemaitre (R.I.P.), after knowing me for fifteen years, commisioned me to translate one of his books, "A Brief History of Cartagena", one of my proudest accomplishments. I met Dr. Lemaitre within days of terminating PC and accepting the teaching post at the Naval Academy--he contracted me to come to his office daily for some weeks and help him refine his English before he departed for NY to represent Colombia at the UN. It was a friendship that matured and endured even after I left Colombia. Dr. Lemaitre also wrote and produced two historical programs for television. He was a former governor and one-time candidate for President.

By the time I left Cartagena in 1989, I had lived the second half of my life in that city, 17 years of it in the same neighborhood (the first 13 years I occupied the enitre second floor of the Swedish Consulate located right on the beach--then I married, had a son, put my wife thru law school, bought a house. Then, some disgruntled drug trafficker set off a bomb in the Cartagena Hilton with his rivals in the suite, tourism dried up overnight for the next two years and I hopped on a plane for Huntington Beach and started over. You can find me at www.courtinterpreters.net

So, Dave, you can see staying behind after Peace Corps allows one to wear many sombreros with many adventures. I lived in Colombia under six different presidents. It is my other life, my other country from which I will never be far.

Thanks for listening.


Other unforgettable moments of Peace Corps Service in Colombia

Read more about other unforgettable moments of Peace Corps Service in Colombia at:

Other unforgettable moments of Peace Corps Service in Colombia:

.....five motorcycle accidents (including a head-on with a taxi and one with a bus a week after getting married--three of the motorcycle accidents were not my fault, despite what the judge said),

incarceration and near deportation for operating a CB radio (even tho I worked with the Defensa Civil Colombiana),

being attacked in the newspaper by the head of city planning for vandalism,

catching thieves stealing my motorcycles (on 3 occasions),

losing 4 of my 5 dogs to the parvo-virus which killed more than 50% of all Colombian dogs,

planting a papaya tree next to a septic tank which grew to be gigantic,

road racing (and winning) on a familiar pot-holed road against the owner of the dealership who sold me my truck,

having an American roomate jailed the day after his visa expired,

working for the Civil Defense and catching one of my friends and neighbors polluting pristine beaches with drums of used motor oil,

having my tonsils removed for the second time (during semester break while teaching at the Naval Acedemy) by a Navy Surgeon whose real name was Dr. Lengua,

joining JCs International and helping organize their world conference just before terrorists attack the Supreme Court building in Bogota killing 11 of the 12 justices

waking up in the morning to find burglars had cleaned out my house as I slept; capturing a neighborhood security guard with a harpoon gun inside my house

learning from a Colombian Carabinero (Special Forces) how to train my shepherd-collie mongrel in Colombianized German,

learning how to assist your bitches during birthing when a pup gets stuck or when momma-dog neglects to remove the amniotic sac,

losing my white German Shepherd female to heart worms because the maid said she was giving her the daily pill to prevent them (meanwhile vaccinating the dog while holding a flashlight in my mouth during a monsoon/power outage).

learning that the father of your cat's kittens has returned to eat all of his male offspring, leaving only their heads,

learning that bitches experience multiple fertilization and that every one of her eight pups has features of a different father,

learning that iguana meat, rocky mountain oysters and sea weed are very tasty when prepared right,

learning to tell anybody who wants to "borrow" money that if you had any, you would gladly lend it to them,

watching the infant daughter of a close friend scramble around the floor of his restaurant in a diaper grow up to be elected Miss Colombia and then go on the David Letterman show to scold him for tastelessly joking about her and cocaine.

...none of the foregoing may be usable, but it crossed my mind as I replied to your email.

Cheers, Dennis Lynch (Colombia 67-89)

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Colombia; Stories; Humor



By maria eugenia (dsl-189-140-42-146.prod-infinitum.com.mx - on Sunday, June 24, 2007 - 12:57 pm: Edit Post


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