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.

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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.

RPCV-NJ Persian New Year Celebration Event

Gerry Gillio, past President of the RPCV-NJ organization for many years, served in Iran from 1966 to 1968.  She was very gracious to share her home and Peace Corps experiences with a group of RPCV’s (and their family members) on Saturday evening, April 2.   The special event was in honor of the Persian New Year known as “No Rooz.”   No Rooz is the first day of spring each year and people celebrate for ten days.  There are traditional ceremonies, games and lots of special holiday foods that are associated with the celebration.

The room was filled to the max with guests and we all got a meaningful glimpse into this joyful occasion at Gerry’s home where she had prepared a variety of delicious Iranian dishes and desserts.  Several people opted to eat dinner on the floor in traditional Iranian style, as Iranian music played in the background.  We also drank tea in traditional style by putting a sugar cube in the front of our mouths and letting it dissolve as we sipped the hot tea through it (not an easy task!).

The host also put out a “7S” display of food and other items that had significant meanings related to the holiday.

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The evening ended with a slide show of photos taken when Gerry was in Iran.  She showed us pictures of many historical places and also pictures of people with whom she became friends during her Peace Corps years (and beyond.)  We heard insightful stories about the Iranian people and some humorous stories about the good times that Gerry enjoyed during her stay in Iran.

Another highlight of the evening was the opportunity to meet several RPCV’s that most of us have never met before (even though they had been to RPCV events in the past.)  It was great to meet new people who have also served in the Peace Corps, and share some common experiences that typically join RPCV’s with each other.
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One of the guests at the celebration, Jim Sutherland, would also shared his views on the event:

“Besides the delicious ethnic food, Bron [my wife] and I were particularly impressed by the slides Gerry showed from her time in Iran and the stories that she and Nick and Gloria Montaldo [Iran 1969-71] told of their more recent trips to the country.  It was very interesting and enlightening.  It was good to be among people who have an interest in and appreciation for other cultures and countries.”

Events of this type, at which volunteers share their Peace Corps experiences with others, are always very rewarding and informative. They highlight the unique aspects of each Peace Corps Volunteer’s experience, as well as reveal the common threads that span the Peace Corps experience in general.
If you would like to host one of these events, please contact Doug at rpcvnj.social@gmail.com.

Jersey Cares Day 2016

by Peter Arney & Kelly Matthews

On Saturday May 7, 3 RPCV-NJ members participated in Earth Keepers at Liberty State Park in Jersey City where we joined approximately 47 other volunteers and Park staff in weeding and mulching gardens at the park including a grove of trees planted in memory of people who died on 9/11 in New York City.  Despite the overcast skies, the rain held off and by the time we were finishing up the clouds were clearing and we could see the beautiful New York skyline including the top of the Freedom Tower.

Members Peter Arney and Doug Garatina welcomed Dave Brandwood, just returned from service in Vanuatu, and his brother Steve.  Dave comes from a Peace Corps family: his mother served in Botswana and his sister recently served in Ethiopia.  Despite some sore and aching muscles, a good time was had by all.

Also on May 7, RPCV-NJ members from South Jersey participated in a project titled “Clip, Cut and Cultivate in Camden” in conjunction with the South Jersey Land & Water Trust.  RPCV Andrea Wendell joined our South Jersey volunteer coordinator Kelly Matthews and her friend Meghan for three hours of work removing weeds and other shrubbery that were inhibiting the park’s growth, picking up garbage at the water’s edge of the park as well as cutting down overgrown tree branches.

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North Jersey Cares

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North Jersey Cares

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South Jersey Cares

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South Jersey Cares

April 23 Howell Living Farm- Potato Planting

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by John Lawlor & Pete Watson

On Saturday, April 23, a dozen or so RPCVs participated in the annual potato planting at the Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, NJ.  It turned out to be a beautiful day after starting a bit gloomy in the morning. In addition to the RPCV turnout, the local community also came out in force.

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In August we will be back out there to pick the (hopefully) huge crop of potatoes.  In some years in the past we have harvested close to a ton of potatoes.  All potatoes will be donated to local food banks.  See you in August!

Pete Watson reported that the average donated to Trenton area soup kitchens and food pantries is one ton per year, since 1986…so, 30 tons so far with another ton, hopefully, on the way this year. We also figure that on average 150 visitors help plant, and another 150 help harvest. When you add in the additional visitors who help with cultivating, hilling and potato bug de-bugging, we are well over 10,000 participants…. all led by NJ-RPCVs.

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IMG_1381 gerry at table

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RPCV-NJ Annual Meeting Recap

The RPCV-NJ annual meeting took place on April 9th at the Cranford Community Center. All NJ RPCVs were welcomed. A review of the organization, committees and past and planned activities took place, followed by a luncheon at a local Irish restaurant, the Kilkenny House.  Thanks to Gloria Montalto (RPCV Iran) for helping to arrange the annual meeting and luncheon.

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Submit Your Peace Corps Photos

Your photos can help educate the public about the Peace Corps experience as well as raise funds for the Peace Corps and your country of service or country of your choice.

Announcing a Call To Peace Corps Photographic Artists Who Have or
Are Currently Serving as Volunteers in anticipation of
Spirit. Exhibition at 70 South Gallery.

70 South Gallery, a premier exhibition space and photography print services center located in Morristown, NJ USA invites you to submit images for possible inclusion in their upcoming Spirit. exhibition. This exhibition is intended to highlight and include photographic work and spirit of help of Peace Corps Volunteers (current and returned) from around the world. The theme of the exhibition is to showcase portraits of the local people taken by Peace Corps Volunteers.

More about this exhibit and how to submit your photos

Submission Deadline May 20th 5pm