February 12, 2005: Headlines: COS - South Africa: Vietnam: Anchorage Daily News: South Africa RPCV Chris Aquino visits mother's homeland of Vietnam

Peace Corps Online: Directory: South Africa: Peace Corps South Africa : The Peace Corps in South Africa: February 12, 2005: Headlines: COS - South Africa: Vietnam: Anchorage Daily News: South Africa RPCV Chris Aquino visits mother's homeland of Vietnam

By Admin1 (admin) ( on Friday, February 18, 2005 - 9:16 pm: Edit Post

South Africa RPCV Chris Aquino visits mother's homeland of Vietnam

South Africa RPCV Chris Aquino visits mother's homeland of Vietnam

South Africa RPCV Chris Aquino visits mother's homeland of Vietnam

Man who travels the world finally visits mother's homeland of Vietnam

Published: February 12th, 2005
Last Modified: February 14th, 2005 at 04:00 AM

Chris Aquino is an Anchorage resident whose experiences visiting his mother's homeland of Vietnam will be the subject of columns appearing periodically in Life.

Looking at the random objects still scattered about my living room floor, I take a deep breath and assess my packing situation. On one side, I've filled a suitcase with some usual international-travel items: a small first-aid kit and Pepto-Bismol, a power converter, easy-to-layer clothing, good walking shoes. Also with complete earnestness, although perhaps some wishful thinking, I threw in some books and schoolwork for my Ph.D. studies.

My flight to Vietnam leaves in a few hours; however, there are still several things to stuff in before I head off to 90-degree temperatures and fragrant outdoor food stalls.

On the other side of my living room, there are two other bags, neatly packed and prepared several days in advance. These boxes, prepared by my mother, are filled with various gifts, including American brand-name clothing and makeup, a video camera battery, a DVD burner and special cheeses.

These items are to be given to relatives on my mother's side who live just outside of Saigon in the south, where I will be staying.

A strange but amusing image enters my mind: There I will be, set to live in a country (a continent!) that I've never been to, unable to speak the language, giving large blocks of cheese to relatives I have never met.

At this moment, I am nervous. Why on earth am I getting myself into this situation?

I am an Alaskan. I was born and raised in East Anchorage; I was a Scenic Park Elementary Wolverine and a Bartlett High Golden Bear. But, after studying political science and psychology in California, I took the opportunity to do some traveling before my return to Alaska.

For almost three years, I lived and worked in the rural north of South Africa, serving as a volunteer for the first Peace Corps presence in the country. This experience proved to be integral in the development of my passion for learning about different cultures and working to engage communities in development projects. After my Peace Corps service, I spent two years in France earning my master's in business administration and working for the United Nations in Paris. I returned to Alaska over three years ago, still excited to travel and learn with other cultures.

A state job was a perfect match for my background and my interest in other cultures. I was fortunate to work as coordinator for the Community-Based Suicide Prevention Program, a health promotion and community development effort. I traveled to villages and towns around the state, working closely with staff and organizations on the development of their own community projects.

During my stay in Vietnam, I will be volunteering with the Saigon Children's Charity, a nongovernmental organization that works with poor youths throughout the country. Organization members have asked me to assist them with grant-writing and organizational development. With all of my travels, I have been lucky to have numerous chances to develop skills in working with other cultures.

Then what makes this two-month trip to Vietnam so special, so different?

I am an Asian-American. My mother was born in Vietnam. In true war-romance form, my young soldier-father wooed and married my teenage mother in Saigon before bringing her to Fort Rich, where he served his final military days. I have been fortunate to experience Vietnamese culture through my mom and her family. I have also helped out with local Asian organizations and events, and I have experienced mistreatment for being Asian. Despite my connections, I have not yet been to Vietnam. This will also be the first time I will be in a Vietnamese community without the translation and the caring eye of my mother.

As I look upon all of my belongings for the trip, I know that I am bringing many other things to Vietnam. This trip has given me much to consider.

Will my family in Vietnam like me? Will I like them? Will I represent my family and culture in a good light? Will I be too proud of (or too down on) Alaska or the United States? Will I be able to stand that darn heat?

This trip has given me much more to be hopeful about. I am hopeful that I will be able to effectively use lessons from my loved ones and my previous adventures: lessons of respect, patience, open-mindedness and a sense of humor (especially at myself). I am hopeful I will be able to learn enough of the language to share stories with my relatives (though surely in broken Vietnamese). I am hopeful that, through my nonprofit work, I will be able to "give back" to this country that has given me so much.

I am also hopeful that the blocks of cheese will not be crushed by the time I arrive in Saigon.

When this story was posted in February 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

The Peace Corps Library Date: February 7 2005 No: 438 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in over 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related reference material in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can use the Main Index to find hundreds of stories about RPCVs who have your same interests, who served in your Country of Service, or who serve in your state.

WWII participants became RPCVs Date: February 13 2005 No: 442 WWII participants became RPCVs
Read about two RPCVs who participated in World War II in very different ways long before there was a Peace Corps. Retired Rear Adm. Francis J. Thomas (RPCV Fiji), a decorated hero of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, died Friday, Jan. 21, 2005 at 100. Mary Smeltzer (RPCV Botswana), 89, followed her Japanese students into WWII internment camps. We honor both RPCVs for their service.

February 12, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: February 12 2005 No: 443 February 12, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
Peter McPherson keeping busy in DC 12 Feb
Martha Ryan wins Award for pre-natal program 12 Feb
John Perkins reveals dark side of U.S. aid 10 Feb
Kathleen DeBold involved in lesbian activism 10 Feb
Jim Doyle to fix Wisconsin deficit without raising taxes 10 Feb
Chris Dodd proposes Class Action Fairness Act 10 Feb
RPCVs create Tsunami Assistance Project for India 9 Feb
Donna Shalala talks about her Peace Corps days 8 Feb
Senator Frist proposes Global Health Corps 8 Feb
Bush's budget to end Perkins loan forgiveness for PCVs 8 Feb
Tom Petri's Direct Loan Reward Act to save $18 billion 8 Feb
Izaak Edvalson helps educate a Doctor 7 Feb
Carol Bellamy condemns Female genital mutilation 7 Feb
Carl Pope criticizes Bush environmental priorities 7 Feb
Mike Tidwell defends wind farms 6 Feb
Kinky Friedman for real? Voters may not care 5 Feb
Bruce Anderson's Newspaper folds amid money woes 5 Feb

Bush's FY06 Budget for the Peace Corps Date: February 7 2005 No: 436 Bush's FY06 Budget for the Peace Corps
The White House is proposing $345 Million for the Peace Corps for FY06 - a $27.7 Million (8.7%) increase that would allow at least two new posts and maintain the existing number of volunteers at approximately 7,700. Bush's 2002 proposal to double the Peace Corps to 14,000 volunteers appears to have been forgotten. The proposed budget still needs to be approved by Congress.
RPCVs mobilize support for Countries of Service Date: January 30 2005 No: 405 RPCVs mobilize support for Countries of Service
RPCV Groups mobilize to support their Countries of Service. Over 200 RPCVS have already applied to the Crisis Corps to provide Tsunami Recovery aid, RPCVs have written a letter urging President Bush and Congress to aid Democracy in Ukraine, and RPCVs are writing NBC about a recent episode of the "West Wing" and asking them to get their facts right about Turkey.
RPCVs contend for Academy Awards  Date: January 31 2005 No: 416 RPCVs contend for Academy Awards
Bolivia RPCV Taylor Hackford's film "Ray" is up for awards in six categories including best picture, best actor and best director. "Autism Is a World" co-produced by Sierra Leone RPCV Douglas Biklen and nominated for best Documentary Short Subject, seeks to increase awareness of developmental disabilities. Colombian film "El Rey," previously in the running for the foreign-language award, includes the urban legend that PCVs teamed up with El Rey to bring cocaine to U.S. soil.
Ask Not Date: January 18 2005 No: 388 Ask Not
As our country prepares for the inauguration of a President, we remember one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century and how his words inspired us. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."
Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion Date: January 8 2005 No: 373 Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion
Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
RPCVs active in new session of Congress Date: January 8 2005 No: 374 RPCVs active in new session of Congress
In the new session of Congress that begins this week, RPCV Congressman Tom Petri has a proposal to bolster Social Security, Sam Farr supported the objection to the Electoral College count, James Walsh has asked for a waiver to continue heading a powerful Appropriations subcommittee, Chris Shays will no longer be vice chairman of the Budget Committee, and Mike Honda spoke on the floor honoring late Congressman Robert Matsui.
RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid  Date: January 4 2005 No: 366 Latest: RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid
Peace Corps made an appeal last week to all Thailand RPCV's to consider serving again through the Crisis Corps and more than 30 RPCVs have responded so far. RPCVs: Read what an RPCV-led NGO is doing about the crisis an how one RPCV is headed for Sri Lanka to help a nation he grew to love. Question: Is Crisis Corps going to send RPCVs to India, Indonesia and nine other countries that need help?

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Anchorage Daily News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - South Africa; Vietnam



By wiley (user-31f46a.user.msu.edu - on Monday, August 13, 2007 - 11:49 am: Edit Post

See a new memorial website for RPCV Kimberly Rosario Perez (South Africa) at www.africa.msu.edu/kimperez.

This Tuesday, August 14, is the one-year anniversary of our loss in a vehicle accident in Ghana of Kim Perez, an MSU Ph.D. candidate in Sociology and an African Studies graduate fellow.

We have created this memorial website with photos, remembrances, and documents to help us to remember her and her truly unique and wonderful 30 years of life, including her PCV years in South Africa - as well as the loss that we have experienced.

David Wiley, Sociology/African Studies Center, Michigan State University and her academic advisor

Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.