“Spirit.” Art Exhibition Opening Night

During this 55th year of the Peace Corps, 70 South Gallery’s owner in Morristown NJ initiated an exhibition of photographs from current and returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Owner Ted Baldanzi recognized that many of today’s youth are not as familiar with the Peace Corps and wanted to help increase the awareness of the Peace Corps with the exhibition. The photographs represent not only the true spirit of the villages the volunteers served in, but also the spirit that developed between the Volunteers and the people that shared their everyday life.

IMG_1555-Wall of Honor - nonfeatured photographer photosIMG_1571-Private Opening

Almost 100 RPCVs from across the country submitted photographs. Among them 15 were selected to be featured and their photographs were on exhibit in the gallery. One photo was also selected from each of the other RPCVs who submitted photos and they were on display on a wall in the gallery.  All photographs were beautifully enlarged and mounted by the store and are for sale. A portion of the proceeds will go to fund sustainable, grassroots community development projects around the world.

The gallery held an open house on Saturday, July 16th and the exhibition will be in place through September 2016. For more information on the exhibit, visit the NPCA website.

RPCV-NJ Family Picnic 7-16-16

By Doug Garatina

On a bright, sunny July day, nineteen RPCV’s and family members gathered together at the Wells Mill County Park for a potluck picnic. This was the second annual South Jersey RPCV-NJ  picnic. Wells Mill Park is located in Waretown, Ocean County.  Although it is called the South Jersey Picnic, RPCV’s from across the state are welcome (the same is true for our North Jersey Picnic).  At this picnic we had people from as far North as Phillipsburg and as far South as Salem County.  The Peace Corps service years of the attendees basically spanned the entire existence of the organization from 1962 to the 21st Century.  We introduced ourselves to each other by showing and explaining three photos from our Peace Corps experience.

Phil Levy was the gracious and very organized host for this event.   He created the event last summer and has grown it in its second year.  A retired science teacher, who served in El Salvador in the 1970’s, Phil also volunteers at the Park’s Nature Center where he provides nature hikes to visitors.  Several of us joined him on a short nature hike near the end of the picnic.  We took a path near the edge of a man-made lake and through a stand of beautiful cedar trees.  Phil pointed out a variety of fauna and flora, including two species of carnivorous plants — pitcher plants and sundews. Also a few people rented a canoe for a fun ride on the lake.

In summary, we had a pleasant day sharing our experiences with other RPCV’s and family members as we enjoyed American and ethnic foods.   Although it was a hot day, none of us melted. (The fact that most of us had served in tropical countries might have helped.)

Photo: Attendees gather with the new Peace Corps banner at Wells Mill County Park.

IMG_1620-NJ RPCV Picnic w banners

“Spirit.” Art Exhibition features Peace Corps Volunteer Photos

To celebrate the 55th Anniversary of the Peace Corps, 70 South Gallery, a premier exhibition gallery space and photography print services center in Morristown, NJ is pleased to announce their Spirit. exhibition which will run from Saturday, July 16, 2016 until Friday, September 2, 2016.

Spirit Exhibition Poster 6x9 new version WEB72dpi

Read more on the NPCA website

Trenton Thunder Baseball Game and Picnic – July 31

Sunday, July 31, at 5 PM
(Picnic buffet 4:30-6:00pm)

Join us this summer for an evening enjoying “America’s Pastime” as the Trenton Thunder take on the Altoona Curve at the Arm and Hammer Stadium in Trenton. Enjoy the baseball game from a table in the stadium’s private picnic area, located above the visiting team bullpen. We will have access to a delicious buffet-style 90-minute picnic (see menu below).

Pricing: $26 per person (includes ticket to the game and the picnic buffet) Non-refundable.

Picnic Menu: All beef hot dogs, Hamburgers/ Cheeseburgers/Veggie Burgers, BBQ Chicken, Potato Salad, Garden Salad w/dressings, Baked Beans, Watermelon Wedges, Ripple Chips, Thin Pretzels & Cookies.  Water & Fountain sodas are complimentary for 90 minutes, ending one hour into the game. Other beverages are available for purchase throughout the game.
Outside food and beverages are NOT allowed in the ballpark. 

More Details: 
Cost for Parking = $5 per car. Parking lots are located in front of the ballpark, in the parking garage near Rho Restaurant and across Rt. 29.

Picnic Times = 4:30 to 6:00 (1/2 hour before game time to one hour into game)

Young Children:
Children 3 and under are free, but they will not have a seat. They must sit on your lap or stand.

IMPORTANT GPS NOTE: If using a GPS device to locate the stadium, you may need to enter the stadium neighbor’s address: “50 Riverview Plaza”. Not all GPS devices contain the stadium address of “One ThunderRoad”.

Rain Date— if the game is called due to rain before anyone is allowed in stadium, they will reschedule us for another picnic/ ball game. But if people are allowed into the stadium and then the game is cancelled due to weather, they will only reschedule our game seats (not the picnic, and there will be no refunds). This is because the picnic buffet starts at 4:30 (before the game begins) and people could have already eaten their food before the game is called for rain.)

There is a FIRM RSVP date of July 8
The RSVP for this event is a two-step process, and BOTH steps must be completed by July 8. First, RSVP by email rpcvnj.social@gmail.com and tell us how many people will be in your party and their full names. Second, send a check made out to RPCV-NJ (and write “TrentonThunder Game” in the memo section) — cost is $26 per person. Mail to: Doug Garatina, 231 Teakwood Drive, Bayville, NJ 08721.
Your check must arrive by July 8 at the very latest.

How To Get Your Tickets-— After your check is received, your name will be put on a “Will Call List”. When you arrive at the stadium on game day, go to one of the “Will Call” windows, tell them your name and tell them you are in the Returned Peace Corps Group, show them your I.D. and get your ticket. Then go to the area with the many flags and look for your host — RPCV Carmine, who will greet you and direct you to the picnic area. Carmine will be wearing a red t-shirt and or holding a sign that says “RPCV”.

Polynesian Outrigger Races and Festival – June 11

Hokulea in NYC on Worldwide Trip
* Outrigger Canoe Races on the Hudson River
* Free Polynesian Festival

Saturday, June 11th 2016
Meet at 10am
Hudson River Park’s Pier 26, NYC

This event is being held in coordination with RPCVs in NYC.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society’s sailing canoe, Hokulea, will be making a stop in the NJ/NY harbor in early June, on its three year worldwide journey.
The crew uses traditional navigation methods on this trip, which is an amazing accomplishment. RPCVs who have served in Micronesia etc. have an appreciation for this means of transportation and the skills involved in this endeavor.

The Hokulea will be docked at Pier 26.
Also taking place at the Pier:
The Liberty Challenge outrigger canoe races on the Hudson River &
The Free Public Liberty Festival including educational and environmental presentations by the Hokulea crew members, Polynesian cultural presentations, family tent with varied activities, ethnic foods etc.

PCVs are invited to meet at
Pier 26 in NYC at 10am. 

A couple of transportation options are: 1. Take the PATH train to the World Trade Center PATH station and walk/take a taxi the .7 miles
(~13 blocks) north to the Pier or
2. Drive into NYC and park in lower Manhattan near Pier 26 (Icon Parking is an option for finding parking).

To get together at the Pier, look for RPCV Christie Musa in a red shirt and/or a Peace Corps sign. 
For questions contact:
Christie Musa rpcvnj.president@gmail.com~ 908.283.9990
or RJ Harper rpcvnj.pr@gmail.com~ 917.885.9171

Hungarian Festival – June 4

New Brunswick
Saturday, June 4, 2016
Meet at 12 noon

Corner of Somerset & Plum Streets

Come and enjoy a wonderful day of great food, song and dance at the 40th Annual Hungarian Festival

The festival area is from the intersection of Bethany St & Somerset St to the intersection of Division St and Somerset St. 

It’s a great time if you’ve never been.

RPCV George Dusichka is the “leader” for this event and he plans to be at the festival for lunch and at least a few hours in the early afternoon.

Meet George at 12 noon at the corner of Somerset & Plum Streets.He will be wearing a red t-shirt and if you would like to see a picture of him ahead of time, just look up his name on LinkedIn.

Parking — The best place to find a parking space is at the intersection of French Street and Route 27 or any of the side streets in that vicinity.

The food is plentiful and delicious and the music is fantastic.
George especially likes this group: Életfa Hungarian Folk Band was founded in 1987 by children of Hungarian immigrants and presently consists of first-generation Hungarian-Americans and Hungarian immigrants living in New Jersey, New York and Washington, DC. Életfa, which means the Tree of Life, symbolizes the core mission and passion of the band, which is to preserve the past while passing it on to the next generation.

RSVP to rpcvnj.social@gmail.com by June 2.

Peace Corps Send-off & 6th Annual Skylands RPCV Family Picnic

by Doug Garatina

The RPCV North Jersey Picnic and Send-Off on May 15 — in a word — was —-” Brrrrrrrrrr!”  Unseasonable weather, which included chilling winds and a brief period of hail, dominated the day.  Nevertheless, 40 people attended the event, and in true Peace Corps fashion, pulled off one of the most meaningful events we have hosted.  More specifically, the main objective of this activity was to bring RPCV’s together with Peace Corps invitees, applicants and prospective volunteers in an informal setting so that the new people could learn more about the Peace Corps experience from RPCV’s.  To this end,  we can assure you that the event achieved its goal.  Peace Corps recruiter Dan Turkel was instrumental in helping to arrange the Send Off for the Peace Corps invitees which was coupled with the traditional Skylands picnic. He also braved the cold to come early and stay late for the set up and pack up efforts.

It was clearly evident that the “newbees” got a variety of advice, helpful hints, and no shortage of PC stories from the RPCV’s.  This interaction seemed to put them more at ease about their future adventure and more confident in their commitment to serve their country in a foreign land.  It was also pleasing to note that the RPCV’s seemed to be exuding a warm heartfelt glow ( definitely needed in those weather conditions) as they proudly shared their knowledge and experiences in such a direct and meaningful way to a group of people who truly appreciated the information.

To enhance the theme for the picnic, several RPCV’s brought displays of items from their country of service.  We were surrounded with wonderful displays from Guatemala, Chile, Peru, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Vanuatu, Albania, Ethiopia, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, and Mali. Many thanks to all the people who took the time to put together these displays for the event.  This “Around the World” display was very impressive and was yet another way to share our experiences with the new people.

Even though the weather wasn’t ideal, the food was just the opposite — delicious, plentiful, and varied. The picnic was a pot luck event.  People brought American food as well as ethnic dishes from their countries of service.  Lots of time and effort obviously went into preparation.  Once again, thanks to everyone for bringing such culinary delights for everyone to enjoy.

We ended the picnic with a “Send-Off Ceremony” for the people who have been fully accepted into the Peace Corps and will be leaving for their country of service in the not too distant future.  The ceremony was a candle passing ceremony (Peace Corps resourcefulness and ingenuity was required to keep the candle lit at the top of a hill with winds gusting close to 30 MPH — and we accomplished it!) in which the candle was passed down a chronological line of RPCV’s to the new invitees as each person stated their name, country and dates of service or future dates of service.

We try our best to pick warm and beautiful days for our annual picnic (LOL), but the weather for the past two picnics has been unfavorable.  So, for next year we are looking to have an INDOOR Picnic / Send-Off in a more central location.  If anyone knows of a free or inexpensive indoor venue (preferably with an adjacent protected outdoor area to be used if the weather is nice), please contact Doug at rpcvnj.social@gmail.com.IMG_9480 Group*IMG_9494 Serge & displayIMG_9514 Doug&Dan

Central Jersey Dinner Draws Large Gathering

by Donna Chmara

Twenty-eight people gathered on April 17 at Rozmaryn restaurant in Trenton to enjoy Polish dishes made fresh on the premises such as cabbage rolls, pierogi, chicken cutlet with mushrooms, and potato pancake over beef stew.

Donna Chmara, who organized the dinner with Carmine Grasso, opened the event with a review of the Polish items she had on display and a brief personal background. “I had organized a few dining events for the group but felt like I was on home territory for this one because I was born in Poland. But this was during WWII and I never got to live in my country of birth.  When I was 10 weeks old, my town in Eastern Poland was burned to the ground by German troops and the people were deported to Germany for forced labor. I spent the first two years of my life in a Nazi labor camp in Germany, then five homeless years in various displaced persons camps. Came to US when I was 7.  Couldn’t speak a word of English.  The little immigrant child became an English teacher and represented America in the Peace Corps. Isn’t that a wonderful American story?”

RPCV-NJ President Christine Musa then explained some of the activities of our NJ group. As described by participants, it was a delightful afternoon with excellent company, delicious food, and a beautiful display of Polish ceramic items.  In addition, six of George Dusichka’s ESL students were able to attend and practice their English in a social setting.

IMG_2761-polish dishIMG_9398-polishIMG_9399-polish

Participants included the following:  Martha Asinobi (Jamaica 67-69) and friend Carol Szymanski, Anne Bloomenthal (Zaire 74-76) and husband Marty, Donna Chmara (Turkey 66-68) and husband Henry Talarsky and friends Marilyn and David Jose, George Dusichka (Bulgaria 2000-02) and six students, Doug Garatina (Ghana 71-73) and wife Virginia, Mary Gethard (Albania 96-97) and husband Dwayne, Carmine Grasso (Kiribati 79-81) and companion Linda Berezny, Nancie and George Gunkelman (Kenya, Brazil), John Lawlor (Dominican Republic 74-76) and wife Lynn, Christie Musa (Sierra Leone 81-83), Anthony Privatera (Dominican Republic 2007-09) and wife Gaby.

We had so much fun getting to know each other, we hope to have a gathering in the Mercer County area at least once a year.  Please pass on your ideas for social events to Donna Chmara (dchmara@gmail.com) or to Carmine Grasso (onotoa@optonline.net) who were the organizers of this event.