September 14, 2004: Headlines: COS - Nepal: : Heather Hosterman is going to Nepal - a country that, her father notes, "is a lot closer to Pakistan and Afghanistan than we are."

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : The Peace Corps in Nepal: September 14, 2004: Headlines: COS - Nepal: : Heather Hosterman is going to Nepal - a country that, her father notes, "is a lot closer to Pakistan and Afghanistan than we are."

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Heather Hosterman is going to Nepal - a country that, her father notes, "is a lot closer to Pakistan and Afghanistan than we are."

Heather Hosterman is going to Nepal - a country that, her father notes, is a lot closer to Pakistan and Afghanistan than we are.

Heather Hosterman is going to Nepal - a country that, her father notes, "is a lot closer to Pakistan and Afghanistan than we are."

Pleasanton woman headed to Nepal

Peace Corps assignment takes Hosterman to Asia

By Matt Carter, STAFF WRITER

PLEASANTON -- Joining the Peace Corps is a little like joining the Army -- it's a two-year commitment, and volunteers don't know exactly where they'll be sent.

A 23-year-old Pleasanton woman will leave next month on a journey that will take her first to Seattle and then, two days later, to Nepal.

Heather Hosterman is going to a country that, her father notes, "is a lot closer to Pakistan and Afghanistan than we are."

Nepal is also among the most requested of Peace Corps postings. Since 1962, more than 3,500 volunteers have served there. A rich culture and spectacular natural beauty -- including Mount Everest and the Himalayas -- also have helped make Nepal a popular tourist destination.

Having lived and traveled in Africa, Hosterman's first two choices for her Peace Corps assignment were Nepal and Thailand.

"I am so excited, but I am also apprehensive about the political situation there," the recent University of California, Santa Cruz, graduate said of her assignment.

Traditionally ruled by hereditary monarchs, Nepal's experiments with democracy have yet to be sustained.

An estimated 8,000 Nepalese have died since Maoist insurgents began a campaign against the government in 1996. King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev dissolved Nepal's parliament in 2002.

Last month, Maoist rebels staged a weeklong blockade of Katmandu, preventing trucks from

bringing food and other supplies into the nation's capital.

The U.S. State Department has advised Americans to defer "non-essential" travel to Nepal.

So far, the Communist Party of Nepal has issued warnings to foreigners before burning or bombing tourist resorts. But the rebels have threatened to use "more violent means" if talks with the government aren't successful, warned a July 21 State Department advisory that is still in effect.

"Because of heightened security risks, U.S. official personnel do not generally travel by road outside the Katmandu Valley," the advisory said. "U.S. citizens who travel or reside in Nepal despite this travel warning should factor the potential for violence into their plans, avoid public demonstrations and maintain low profiles while in Nepal."

The duties and living arrangements of about 130 Peace Corps volunteers in Nepal are changing.

"Usually the Americans live apart from each other, in more rural settings," Hosterman said. "They've been kind of clustered together in the main cities. It will be interesting to see how it works ... if we can still integrate into the culture."

For Hosterman, who has long dreamed of being a Peace Corps volunteer, it won't be the first time away from home. As a senior at UC-Santa Cruz majoring in political science and environmental studies, she spent a semester in Ghana.

Hosterman worked on a plantation where hardwood trees were raised together with food crops.

"When Ghana was colonized, there was a lot of deforestation. Women had to walk further to get firewood, and it was more difficult to plant crops," she said. To recreate some of the lost ecosystem, women at the plantation planted hardwood trees like teak. "With that shade canopy, they were better able to grow bananas, coffee and everything else they needed."

Although Hosterman's not sure where she'll be assigned to work in Nepal or what her duties will be, she's still eager to go. Her parents -- Pleasanton City Councilwoman Jennifer Hosterman and attorney J. Michael Hosterman -- are proud, but apprehensive.

The Hostermans have another daughter, Sara, 21, living in Chile as a UC Berkeley exchange student.

"Every day, my dad tells me I don't have to go if I don't want to," Heather said.

"I told her that just because she told everybody this is what she's going to do ... that she's not locked into it," Michael Hosterman confirmed. "I find it hard to believe they'd send her to places that are not safe. If she decides it's not working out well, or safety is an issue, they will fly her back after a couple months."

His daughter is getting additional time to mull over her

decision. She was originally scheduled to depart for Nepal from Seattle last Saturday. But the Peace Corps has put off sending the latest group of volunteers to Nepal until Oct. 4. The execution of 11 Nepalese citizens working in Iraq set off anti-government unrest in Katmandu.

In an award-winning investigation of the Peace Corps' safety record, the Dayton Daily News last year reported that more than 250 Peace Corps volunteers have died since 1961, including 20 who were murdered. The News reported that the number of assaults against volunteers more than doubled since 1991. The newspaper investigation prompted a March 24 hearing before the House Committee on International


Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez told the committee the group is "diligent in monitoring the safety and security at each post, and will not hesitate to take action should the need arise to move our volunteers out of harm's way."

The Peace Corps has evacuated more than 900 volunteers from 10 nations since the fall of 2001, Vasquez noted, and hired 80 new employees to help staff a new office of Safety and Security in 2002.

Heather will get two days a month off -- more than 40 days altogether -- and hopes to visit home during Christmas 2005. Her mother -- who's finishing her final year of law school and running for mayor of Pleasanton this November -- said she's planning to visit her daughter in Nepal before then.

When Heather returns, she thinks "there will definitely be a lot of culture shock. When I came back from Ghana, I kept going back to the bathroom on the airplane to wash my hands. There was no hot water in Ghana."

After the Peace Corps, Hosterman said she is thinking about attending graduate school, and either becoming a teacher or working for a non-governmental organization that promotes sustainable environmental practices in developing countries.

When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Director Gaddi Vasquez:  The PCOL Interview Director Gaddi Vasquez: The PCOL Interview
PCOL sits down for an extended interview with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez. Read the entire interview from start to finish and we promise you will learn something about the Peace Corps you didn't know before.

Plus the debate continues over Safety and Security.
Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention
Governor Schwarzenegger praised the Peace Corps at the Republican National Convention: "We're the America that sends out Peace Corps volunteers to teach village children." Schwarzenegger has previously acknowledged his debt to his father-in-law, Peace Corps Founding Director Sargent Shriver, for teaching him "the joy of public service" and Arnold is encouraging volunteerism by creating California Service Corps and tapping his wife, Maria Shriver, to lead it. Leave your comments and who can come up with the best Current Events Funny?
 Peace Corps: One of the Best Faces of America Peace Corps: One of the Best Faces of America
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and can you come up with a Political Funny?

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Story Source: Tri Valley Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nepal



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