Dear Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,
Year-end is always an excellent time to Pause, Reflect and Reset! In our Culture Watch, we’ll look at some images and stories that stood out and will be with us during the coming year. Amongst all the craziness, a sense of humor is a must, so I’ve included Just Keep Laughing. My Writing, Interviews and Reviews, Voices of the Day, and What Others Are Saying will include highlights of the year and, of course, an updated Calendar.
The one story that sticks in my mind this year is the parody from Ghanian journalist K. Sakyi-Addo from early this year, “Millions of American tribesmen and women are voting today to elect a president and lawmakers… Due to the levels of illiteracy, candidates are represented on the ballot by animals, the elephant for the Republicans and a braying donkey for the Democrats.”
Addo goes on to mention the rampant spread of Covid killing 230,000 citizens (make that over 800,000 today), “more than any country in the world, leading to widespread poverty and joblessness unseen in the vast country in a century. All of which is ironic coming from a citizen of a “shithole” country commenting on a nation once revered for stability and democratic values. https://desertherald.com/americas-tribes-go-to-the-polls-amidst-uncertainty/?fbclid=IwAR0Q2gkjBr_euQzsaHsAB_FbnWBGJ4TSdNLWKV8zUMtIA0wfM7PKUyMRgtc
This sense of pity and damaged reputation of the U.S. has only grown over the years, as none of the leaders of the assault have been brought to justice as they refuse to testify or provide documents necessary to determine who did what and why. Arizona has played a central role in promoting the “Big Lie” by financing a sham voter “audit” promoted by the GOP and implemented by an incompetent “Cyber Ninga” group, despite innumerable court rulings that no “fraud” existed. Although the audit cost our state millions of dollars, only to identify an additional 320 votes to add to the 40,000 already for Biden, yet a majority of Republicans in Arizona and around the country still believe the “Big Lie.”
This phenomenon inspired an insightful article in this month’s “Atlantic Magazine,” entitled, “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun,” which reveals that the majority of those participating in the attack were not unemployed or members of one political party or another, but that they came from counties where the percentage of the white population was declining, which is why “fear” is such an effective tool to manipulate their opinions. The article asserts that January 6 was merely “practice,” and that Trump’s GOP is better positioned than ever to subvert the next election. How Donald Trump Could Subvert the 2024 Election – The Atlantic
Just Keep Laughing
Arizona-based Jacob Chansley, better known as the QAnon Shaman, was sentenced to 41 months in the slammer for his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol, to which Jimmy Kimmel quipped, “He apologized for storming the Capitol and said he often looks in the mirror and tells himself, ‘You really messed up, royally.’ Maybe if he’d taken a look in the mirror sooner, he would have noticed he had a dead raccoon on his head.”
And between this and our bogus “fraudit,” I continue to respond to the question of where I’m from with, “I was born in New Jersey,” or “I was brought up in Colorado” or “I worked for many years in Guatemala…”
My Writing, Interviews & Reviews:
Holiday greetings in the form of “Christmas in the Land of the Eternal Spring (Guatemala)”, published in Peace Corps Worldwide on Christmas day. One of my favorite stories, it’s been published in “Literary Traveler” and “Wising Up Press.” https://peacecorpsworldwide.org/christmas-in-the-land-of-the-eternal-spring-guatemala/
Overall, the year got off to a good start with an interview on Global Connections TV, about the making of my book Different Latitudes https://www.globalconnectionstelevision.com/video-gallery. A second interview in the SIETAR newsletter (Society of Intercultural Education, Training and Research), focused on iconic writer Moritz Thomsen, who is the subject of my next book https://www.sietarusa.org/blog/9430281.
My book, Different Latitudes, continues to sell and is ranked 75th for “Guatemalan History.” It’s been reviewed 30 times, so if you’ve read it, please rank it! A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who purchased a copy this month simply said, “Love it. Thanks for all you do!” The President of the National Peace Corps Association, who also served in Guatemala, agrees with, “This is one of the best RPCV memoirs I’ve read (and I have gone through quite a few).” https://www.amazon.com/Different-Latitudes-Peace-Corps-Beyond/dp/1935925814/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1492458282&sr=8-7&keywords=Mark+Walker
You can find my essay, “Ramon and Moritz: A Partnership of the Black Coast,” in the “Arizona Authors Association 2022 Literary Magazine,” along with other winning entries of unpublished novels, essays and poetry from authors in Arizona and around the world. https://www.amazon.com/2022-Arizona-Literary-Magazine-Winning/dp/B09J7FZYT2/ref=sr_1_6?crid=15JVCVH461GAB&keywords=Arizona+Literary+Magazine&qid=1640269058&s=books&sprefix=arizona+literary+magazine%2Cstripbooks%2C126&sr=1-6
Two versions of, “Tschiffely’s Epic Equestrian Ride,” can be found in “Literary Travelers” and “Revue Magazine,” where I’m a contributing writer with 13 articles published to date: https://www.literarytraveler.com/articles/tschiffelys-epic-ride-part-of-the-yin-yang-of-travel-series/
“Uncovering the Art of Francisco Goldman,” published in “Revue Magazine” is a profile of the Guatemalan writer extraordinaire who wrote “The Art of Political Murder,” which was picked up by HBO documentaries and nominated for an Emmy. You can also find my review of his latest book on my website. http://www.revuemag.com/2021/10/uncovering-the-art-of-francisco-goldman-by-mark-d-walker/
” La Pulsera, (The Bracelet),” my third article in “Literary Traveler,” where I’m also a contributing writer, is out and also includes a “comment section” at the end, so let us know your experiences in Mexico and your response to the essay. https://www.literarytraveler.com/articles/la-pulsera-the-bracelet/?fbclid=IwAR2wYYqErOvddRwmxz9N4qKC4b-HPW-5_QhPnJ9MGYf2d-uetjxl-g3gUeA
Crossing Borders, Building Bridges is about a “Journalist’s Heart in Latin America,” written by Maria Martin, who produces groundbreaking work for NPR and founded a training center for Maya journalists in Antigua, Guatemala. She is also the new Executive Producer of our documentary film, “Trouble in the Highlands.” http://www.revuemag.com/2021/07/crossing-borders-building-bridges-a-journalists-heart-in-guatemala/
The Future Peace Corps Guatemala tells the story of the 164 volunteers forced to evacuate the country last year with only a few days lead time to say good-bye to friends and collaborators. I interviewed several Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), as well as noted Guatemalan film producer, Luis Argueta, to discuss lessons learned for the future when volunteers are able to return. The Peace Corps just announced they’ll send volunteers next year to five countries, but not back to Guatemala, yet. http://www.revuemag.com/2021/02/the-future-of-the-peace-corps-in-guatemala/
The holiday Issue of The Arizona Authors Association newsletter where I have a column, “The Million Mile Walker Review: What We’re Reading and Why,” includes two of my book reviews and the links to several articles —including the essay winner of their Literary competition. https://mcusercontent.com/32626181c020ab6b3ff1aefd0/files/922215a6-28ac-506d-87cf-22dc6f435fa4/AAA_Newsletter_DecemberJanuary_presidente_rednation_2_articles_2021_22.pdf
Here’s a link to one of my book reviews, whose author, Evelyn Kohl La Torre, was awarded the prestigious 2021 Moritz Thomsen Peace Corps Experience award. She met her future husband while serving in Peru, and cross-cultural relationships are one of my favorite themes. This is one of 60 book reviews you can find on my website under “Library.” https://peacecorpsworldwide.org/winner-of-the-2021-moritz-thomsen-peace-corps-experience-award/#comment-183302
Voices of the Day
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
– Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”
“A lie is a fiction made up to take away someone else’s power.” On fake news, propaganda, and other uses of fiction.
What Others Are Saying
On a story in last month’s Dispatch, “The Yin & Yang of Travel: Post Pandemic,” a journey through New Mexico and Colorado:
What a trip! You covered more miles on the ground in those weeks than I’ve done in the last year and a half. I’ve been to a few of the places you write about, and the piece calls up both memories and thoughts that I might head back to the Southwest sometime, to breathe in that landscape again.” – John Thorndike, on the article I’m working on now, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer/El Salvador and author of A Hundred Fires in Cuba.
Guatemalan author Francisco Goldman, upon reading my review of his latest book, Monkey Boy –
Wow, thank you Mark, I really appreciate it!!!!!
I don’t know if you saw it, but our Art of Political Murder doc[umentary] was nominated for an Emmy. Best of luck with the fundraising [for my documentary]! … What incredible days these are in Guatemala, in a bad way of course, but also in a promising way, given the widespread resistance being demonstrated.
Cutting back responsibilities, even with organizations we love, is one of the most challenging parts of the “Reset.” I handed off my responsibilities as Membership Chair of “Partnering for Peace” after five years. It’s an affiliate of the National Peace Corps Association and promotes the ongoing partnership between 1.2 million Rotarians, Peace Corps Volunteers and RPCVs around the globe. https://rotaryserviceblog.org/2017/05/31/how-the-peace-corps-and-rotary-led-me-to-a-life-of-international-service/
Unloading some responsibilities has made this a very productive year, with a column in the Arizona Authors Association newsletter and as a contributing writer for the “Revue”, “Literary Traveler” and “The Midwest Review.” I’m working on several new articles, which should be out over the next few months, and producing several book reviews each month. Obviously, I’ve identified some publications, which share my vision of travel going beyond simply a “place,” as well as a formidable group of writers and editors I’m able to work with.
Although I continue interviewing and writing articles about the challenges of the Maya community in Guatemala, which will eventually be part of our documentary, “Trouble in the Highlands,” the rampant spread of COVID in Guatemala has prevented us from continuing to film. We do have a new Executive Producer, Maria Martin, several new Maya advisors and advocates, so we have the right people on the bus to produce an important film, which will bring a new perspective to the existing immigration crisis and how we perceive our responsibilities as a country to Guatemala. Here’s our last trailer and stay tuned! https://www.troubleinthehighlands.com/
I’ve identified a publisher interested in my second book, which I’m now calling, Moritz Thomsen: The Best American Travel Writer No One Else’s Heard Of. They expressed interest in republishing one of Moritz’s books, which would be outstanding, since one of my goals is to broaden the audience of readers for this amazing writer.
I’m looking for new media and venues to share my work, so I’m thrilled to be asked to present a version of my latest article, “La Pulsera (The Bracelet),” to a live audience at the Carefree pavilion here in Arizona. This is part of the “Love of Story” initiative, and it’s an excellent opportunity to tell my stories in a more dramatic way.
The highlight of the year was undoubtedly to finally get out on the road again. My last few journeys have been with my wife and children, which is an opportunity to share my love for cross-cultural travel. And, with three children and eight grandkids within an hour radius, I’ll have lots more opportunities to trek on and add some stories to the Yin & Yang of Travel Series!
- March 27th – A performance of “La Pulsera” (TheBracelet) for “For the Love of Story” at Carefree’s Sanderson Outdoor Pavilion at 3pm.
- My review of Paul Theroux’s, Under the Wave at Waimer will be in the February issue of “The Scarlet Leaf Review,” my fourth book review there.
You can find my 60 book reviews and 28 articles, plus several videos
at www.MillionMileWalker.com “Follow” me on Twitter. https://twitter.com/millionmile, @millionmile_wal and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/millionmilewalker/?modal=invite_friend for the latest on international affairs and literature. And, as always, if you’ve read “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” by all means, rate it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and GoodReads, or if you don’t have it, please consider purchasing it.
Happy Holidays and a Most Prosperous New Year!