The Million Mile Walker Dispatch, 50 Years on the Road: A Journey from Peace Corps Volunteer to Author, April 2023


Dear Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,

Today’s Culture Watch will focus on growing homelessness, as well as yet another tragic death of 17 Guatemalans in Mexican immigration centers on our border. My Writing and Reviews will include my latest book review in the “Wanderlust Journal,” and several articles about me in “The Westerner Magazine,” plus an introduction of several must-see movies.  What Others Are Saying, and Let’s Keep Laughing will include a quip from one of our great writers, plus an updated Calendar that highlights several international events hosted by PEN America.

But first, the alumni Magazine of Western Colorado University, The Westerner, ran an article on my writing career in their spring issue, “50 Years on the Road: A Journey From Peace Corps Volunteer To Author.” The photo with the winter scene in Crested Butte, Colorado, goes back to 1972 when I managed houses to get through college. At that time, “Western State College” didn’t have a writing program, and now they offer a master’s in creative writing. Although I wouldn’t have taken it, as I believe in Ernest Hemingway’s quip, “In order to write about life, first you must live it.” Here’s the article:

The Winter 2013 issue entitled, “Alumni Making an Impact,” also ran a story, “Mark Walker Lives a Life of Service To Those In Need,” which included several photos of my Peace Corps days, including the one on the Pan American Highway, which is on the cover of my new book, My Saddest Pleasures. This time they tell the story of why I wanted to attend a small, liberal arts school, joined the Peace Corps, and how that led to a career with various overseas development agencies. Here’s that article:

Culture Watch


Homelessness in Phoenix has grown to one of the top concentrations in the country. The focus is on the “tent” city downtown–close to the Andre House has tripled in size to over 3,000 tents. Who are these people, and how has this phenomenon impacted the long-established restaurant business?

I know the area, which is packed with tents, although the City has been “cleaning up” the streets by outlawing “camping.” They’ll now have to deal with the underlying cause of the problem; a lack of viable, low-income housing…This podcast profiles those who are living on the street, as well as the local residents and businesses in the area.


This article is a stark reminder of the plight of migrants on our southern border –how they got there (paying up to $15,000 to coyotes) and their tragic return home–to a Maya highland community in Guatemala to be buried.

17 Guatemalans were among 40 killed in a fire at a holding center in Mexico. So far this year, Guatemalan authorities have repatriated 58 dead nationals, so this is not uncommon. The immigrants are in limbo on the Mexican side of the border, waiting up to years before their cases – requesting asylum in many cases, can be heard in court.

 My Writing, Interviews and Reviews

I continue submitting proposals for my forthcoming book, The Guatemala Reader: What You Don’t Know And Why You Should Care. Not the report of a journey, but a memoir, an autobiography, a confession, a foray into Central American topography and history, a travel narrative, with observations of books and profiles of Guatemalan artists and advocates struggling for better lives and a more inclusive, just society.

My latest book review was just published in the Wanderlust Journal where I’m a contributing writer. I’m always attracted to any adventure delving into the “heart of darkness” in Africa. And in this case, a book inspired by Conrad’s epic trip in 1890 down the Congo River on a steamer after being appointed by a Belgian trading company. This story came to mind while floating down the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, where the dense tropical forest came up to the river’s edges, and one could hear different languages on shore (mostly Q’eqchí).

But Tayler’s travel adventure is on an entirely different level as he follows the Congo River on a barge for 1,100 of the river’s 2,900 total miles in a country where over 220 languages are spoken. The width of the river ranges from five to seven miles. The barge is steaming with deckhands, merchants, prostitutes, spiritual followers, fishermen, and children.

He was also planning the descent in a native, dugout canoe (pirogue), which hadn’t been attempted since Stanley did it. Henry Morton Stanley coined the term “Dark Continent of Africa” around 1876 as he led an expedition that King Leopold I of Belgium set out to “prove that the Congo basin was rich enough to repay exploitation.”

This colonial past explains some of the mistrust of foreigners, especially white foreigners, which Tayler had to deal with. This passage from the Lonely Planet provides an overview of the conditions the author would encounter on his adventure:

Because of the ongoing chaos in Zaire…security is a significant problem throughout the country…Regarding danger, Kinshasa is unrivaled in Central Africa… groups with knives and guns have attacked travelers in broad daylight, so even walking around Kinshasa during the daytime poses serious risk…Foreigners have been dragged at gunpoint from their cars at major intersections and murdered…

Here’s my take on the rest of what I consider one of the best travel adventure books.

Here are a few of the excellent movies from Netflix we’ve come across lately. First, a compelling historical fiction drama about the true story of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee in Marseille, France in 1940. A scrappy team of multi-talented people saved 2,000 refugees from Nazi death camps. They were part of the precursor to the International Rescue Committee, where our daughter has worked for 17 years–they helped set up a committee for workforce development for immigrants here in Phoenix–much work still to do…

Theatrical Release Poster

Based on a memoir and international bestseller, Guantanamo Diary, The Mauritanian depicts torture and violence in this infamous person in Cuba. Quid Slahi was never charged and, after 15 years, was freed. He went on to marry an American lawyer and is a certified life coach. Over twenty years, 730 “terrorists” have been imprisoned; 7 were convicted and 31 remain. This, by a government (the U.S.), which promotes the “rule of law” around the world.  Jodie Foster plays a stellar role. And, yes, President Biden shut this prison down!

What Others Are Saying

In response to the proposal of my forthcoming book, The Guatemala Reader:

I love the subtitle, “what you don’t know and why you should care,” … that will grab them! Good luck with the Guatemala Reader, Mark

 Kathleen Cook, Editor Arizona Authors Association newsletter, Author’s Dispatch.

About a forthcoming essay, “Why Some White Folk Have So Much Trouble Talking About Race:”

 As always, you’ve put a great deal of thought & effort into this essay.

I have no problem with the title as you move into the topic easily and

cover a great deal of ground through your book reviews. 

 It’s ironic that it is easier to have a cross-cultural experience overseas

than in our own country. There is much food for thought in this work as

well as a call to action through your own example…

 Finally, the conundrum as I see it is, how do we even

get a majority of white people to acknowledge or actually believe, there

is a major problem with regard to racial inequality? 

 Thanks again for sharing this thoughtful essay with me and providing some

learning moments.

 Bob Forbes, Fellow author


Let’s Keep Laughing

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Mark Twain


A Celebration of World Press Freedom day!

In honor of World Press Freedom Day (May 3, 2023), join PEN Arizona for a panel discussion between journalists from Arizona news outlets and USA Today.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023 | 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm MT
Changing Hands Bookstore
300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ 85013

 PEN America—World Voices Festival!

May 10-13: I plan to participate in several Zoom presentations. The festival was founded in the wake of 9/11 to counter U.S. isolationism and broaden the channels of dialogue between the United States and the world.

It features more than 100 writers from 27 countries. The 2023 festival will celebrate great writing and the power of storytelling against the current headwinds of attacks by those who seek to censor and silence. This gathering of writers from every part of the globe is a potent reminder – in fact, an antidote in an era of censorship – that books drive culture and identity, while empowering and transforming our lives.


You can find my 75 book reviews and 28 articles, plus several videos, on my website, including a reduced price for my new book if you read it and pass it along to your local library. “Follow” me on Twitter., @millionmile_wal, and Facebook at for the latest international affairs and literature. And, as always, if you’ve read “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” rate it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads, or if you don’t have it, please consider purchasing it or, better still, purchase my latest book, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road


Mark D. Walker


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